Thursday, July 22, 2010

today's walk

My adventures this summer include spending two days a week at a daycare in DC. Part of the day includes walking with the children, whether to one of the many parks in the neighborhood, to a basketball court, or just slowly walking the sidewalks, enjoying being outside. I'm seeing the city through the eyes of two, three, and four year olds- looking at fire trucks with new found excitement, having conversations with pigeons, and viewing cracks in the pavement as reasons to jump and dance.

On the surface every walk is the same. We get out the rope, the kids take hold, we walk down block and around the corner, past the same buildings everyday. But can anything actually be the same from one day to the next when you are two?

Today I walked with the two year olds- children on a rope, each grasping onto one colored ring. Each hand on the ring promises that at least it is busy doing something- holding on- leaving only one hand on each child free to explore the city's textures as we walk.

Everything must be felt. The smooth medal fences separating us from the restaurant patios, the poles holding stop signs. The rough bricks of the building, the freshly painted exterior of a row house. The pebbles on the ground from where the sidewalk is breaking apart. The flower boxes with their yellow and orange flowers, so tempting to pick if one has the fine motor skills to pinch off a blossom with one hand before a teacher can remind, "look with your eyes."

Anything that cannot be felt must be invited into a conversation. "Hello statue. Hello statue. Hello statue. Goodbye birds. Hello car. Goodbye car. Goodbye car. Hello airplane. Goodbye Fire truck. Goodbye fire truck. Goodbye fire truck" And hola, hola, hola, to all the people we pass. I am forever amused that the children speak in English to the objects we pass, but when we pass people, 9 times out of 10 they greet them with "hola".

As teachers we search the paths in front of us for what will give us the most shade, but the children don't seem to notice the heat. The fire trucks going by- two today- take precedent over everything else- leading us into a chorus of "whooo, hoooo, whoooo, hooooo" for another block.

Spontaneously someone begins to count, and the others join in, "1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10!" over and over again. They swing the rope in rhythm with their choral counting. A counting activity that was completely child-led. If any adult had attempted to start the chant it would have been abandoned after getting to 4. But since it was started by the little boy with big brown eyes at the end of the rope- everyone else joined in.

One boy leans down to grab a small unseen item from the sidewalk and a chorus of "look with your eyes" arises from his friends. That turns into song too, until we see the basketball court. "My basketball court!" a girl shrieks, and her friends argue back, "My basketball court!" "Mine!" "Mine!" Until someone hits someone else over the questioned ownership of a city structure that is too big to be grasped and held in a two year old's fist.

Distracted by the colorful flags flying above us, we start to call out colors, "red, black, blue" until all hurt feelings have disappeared. We walk back, chanting nursery rhymes, until one friend reaches up and smacks the teacher in front of him.

She turns and sighs. "They are training him to be a man" she says, shaking her head at the little one, whose hard two year old eyes have already moved on, scanning the sidewalk for something new.

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