Posts Tagged ‘jfk amherst’

Looking Forward to Grace and Beauty

Posted 11 Aug 2014 — by Jennifer
Category environment, image of the child, materials

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The building where I had my workshop for DCPS is, to put it mildly, depressing. It seems empty, until you peek in the small windows of the old classrooms and see people working away in their cubicles. The cinderblock hallways and stairwells are clean but lifeless, and the tan wall color does nothing to brighten up the space.

For a painting workshop, I brought in plants and flowers–weeds really– from my yard and neighborhood, and an assortment of fruits and vegetables.

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As I was setting up, every single person who walked by commented on how beautiful it was, how good it smelled (there were some herbs in there), and asked if they could come to the workshop. People stopped at the table and spent time looking and touching. They congregated in the area and you could feel a change of mood–smiles, chatter, and laughter filled the hallway. Some people asked if they could have the materials after I was done with class.

Even the process of gathering the materials was a beautiful experience–I had so much fun selecting the plants, arranging them, considering their texture, smell, color and size.  My two sons were exuberant at Best World –“Mom, you have to get them the tamarind”– picking out  veggies for participants to study and paint.

I thought about the participants as I collected materials. I wanted them to be surprised, delighted, interested. I wanted to make the environment beautiful for them, because I cared about them.

Try talking about beauty in education circles–no one takes you seriously. You are labeled a flake, or at best, an idealist. Test scores, data, results–these are the things that make people listen to and respect you, that attract funding and resources and attention. But I know, and many of us know, that the roots of beauty are in care and empathy, and without it there are no real results.

I was struck by this quotation by John F. Kennedy, on the walls of the Kennedy Center in Washington, DC. Unfortunately, we aren’t there yet…

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