Saturday, March 10, 2012

Peace like sleeping in a new bunk bed

I knew there was no way I would get away with mentioning a "Peace Potion" on the Twitterz, without doing a follow-up blog post. Plus, I want to record every bit of this little project, because it blew away my wildest expectations.

So, first, you need to know about this group of children. They are so many things: bright, articulate, impatient, talkative, curious, enthusiastic. They are FUNNY. They are quirky. They are LOUD. They are generous. They are chaotic. They are reflective. They are emotional. They are so many wonderful things.

They are rarely peaceful.

Because of these children, our classroom is many things. It is friendly, it is busy, it is active, it is colourful. It is LOUD. It is full of laughter and songs, questions, investigations and tangents. It is messy. It is FUN. Did I mention it is LOUD?

It is rarely peaceful.

And, while I am certainly NOT of the belief that silence is required for learning, I do think we all need a little more peace in our lives. And I definitely have some kiddos this year who need support to find peace within themselves. Whether it is anxiety, anger, impulsiveness, or agitation, many of them have times when they struggle to have peaceful bodies and minds. We do a lot of "balloon breathing." We do a lot of yoga. We listen to a lot of ocean waves and dolphin calls.

So then, on Pinterest, I came across the idea of a "Calm-Down Jar": basically, a jar of glitter and coloured water, which a child shakes, then watches (and relaxes) until all the glitter settles.

So simple. So brilliant. So perfect.

Ok, we need one in my class. But the kids need to help make it. And we need to call it something else (because a "calm down jar" sounds little too much like a "time out jar," which these kids will interpret as an "in trouble" jar.) A Peace Potion? Perfect. And the alliteration works in French AND English!

While the kids were at the gym, I set the stage. On a towel in the middle of our circle, I put out a wide-mouth plastic jar (not brave enough to encourage kids to shake a glass jar over a tile floor), a jug of water, a dish of blue food colouring with an eye dropper, blue and silver glitter glue, and big shakers of blue, silver, and purple glitter.

When they returned from gym, I stopped them in the hallway, explained that we were going to make a potion, and for it to work, we had to be very very quiet and peaceful before we even went into the classroom. We did deep breaths and shook off our sillies, and moved quietly into the dim classroom (peace, of course,  is much easier to achieve with the lights off.). The children sat in our circle, around the "ingredients." and we talked about peace: what it feels like in your body and your brain,  times and places we feel peaceful, why it is good to have peace in your mind, heart, and body, why sometimes we don't feel peaceful.  (They are very comfortable with this kind of conversation, as we have been talking a lot about how feelings FEEL in our bodies, minds, and hearts, and when/where/why we feel different things.)  Their answers left me misty: "Our classroom is peaceful at rest time when everyone has a book they love." "Peace feels calm like water, or sleeping in a new bunk bed."  "I feel peaceful when my whole family puts on our snowsuits and we go outside and lay on the ground and look at the clouds." "Peace feels like love. Like when you see your mom after school and you love her."

Lots of their answers included mentions of the sky and/or water, which made a nice lead-up to how blue is a very peaceful, calm, colour, and therefore the best colour for our Peace Potion. I then asked them to close their eyes and think peaceful thoughts, and said that, when they could feel peace in their bodies, minds, and hearts, to raise their hand and I would invite them to come add the ingredient of their choice to the jar. (The choices: a drop of food colour, a spoonful of glitter glue, or several hard shakes of loose glitter.) Each child took a turn, carefully adding the ingredient that most appealed to them. It is worth mentioning that this whole series of events took more than 20 minutes, and they were COMPLETELY engaged and quiet THE WHOLE TIME (this never happens. N.E.V.E.R.)


Once everyone had added their ingredient, I had them close their eyes again and think their most peaceful thoughts, while I filled the jar with water. Some of them were so completely caught up in the "magic" of the moment that, when they opened their eyes, they thought the jar had magically filled up, all by itself. I put the lid on the jar, and we passed it around the circle, each child shaking it 3 times until all the ingredients were mixed up. I then said that the potion needed to rest until after lunch recess. (This was because I wanted to hot glue the lid on before putting it in the kids' hands.)

The children talked about peace, and The Potion, all the way through lunch and recess. They urgently reminded each other to stay peaceful "so the potion will work!" One of my most scientific, analytical, little dudes came over and said: "Mme, the glitter in the jar is OUR THOUGHTS! Our peaceful thoughts are IN THE JAR!" After recess, I heard many reports that students in other classes had been "not very peaceful outside."

And, while all of this was very wonderful, the real magic was only beginning...

More tomorrow, when I am recovering from Daylight Saving.

Peace on Earth.

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