Inspired by one of our children’s interest and knowledge of fairies, several weeks ago, we decided to try to create a fairy kingdom for ourselves at Mairtown.
At the very beginning of our work together we began to talk about what we already knew about fairies. Some of our children are already great experts with Sienna telling me ‘If I wasn’t here you would know nothing so I’ll help you’. This statement was a great way to open the dialogue even further and really look and think in-depth about the wondrous world of fairies.
Here are some of our children’s initial thoughts:
Fairies only come out at night.
All fairies are nice.
Fairies and gnomes like one another as they are similar. Gnomes wear different colour coats and fairies wear dresses and other stuff.
Some gnomes have pets like bunny rabbits and reindeers
Fairies, they only like to be seen by one another. Gnomes like to be seen by people.
There are boy fairies, they have butterfly wings.
Fairies can turn people into the size of fairies with their magic wand.
The beauty of nature instinctively immerses children in wonder, a fundamental instigator for establishing and promoting a love of life long learning amongst children (Deviney et al, 2010; Wilson 1997).
Lali: I wonder what’s behind the door? May be there’s a fairy in there.
Penni-May: Yes, I think there is a fairy in there but she’s asleep so she can’t hear us. So…she must live in that house, here in fairy-tale land.
Lali: Is there fairies in there? I have fairies ay my daddy’s house, they might like to visit these ones.
Pippa L: I can’t see them. (Calls out) Fairies, where are you? Hmm, they won’t come out.
Lali: This is their home; I think they do live there as there are pictures on the wall.
Pippa L: (Calls out) –Come here, we can’t see you. Shall we wait for them?
Lali: Yes, we have to cover our eyes for 6 minutes or they won’t come out.
Sienna: (who had been watching with interest) I don’t know, but perhaps fairies are invisible.
Lali: I have a good idea; we could go hunting for fairies.
Sienna: I go hunting for fairies but I never do see one. You know that fairies are quite shy.
Max: This place is only for real fairies.
Toby: They must be in the house cause the lights are on in there.
Cleo: (head to the glass) I can hear something inside…I can hear sound.
Lily: Shush, shush (to everyone)
Sienna: Hmm, if you hear a noise inside, then there must be a fairy in there.
|Images from Sheree Wagener|
As the weeks have gone on our fairy corner has been transformed. The children have built fairy worlds at kindergarten, using their imagination and all the natural resources on offer to them. Many children have shared treasures from home – Sadie brought in a fairy house her and her dad built together - whilst many have brought in books to share or other special items to add to the already beautiful fairy corner. Fairies have been drawn, made from wire, discussed in depth, transferred into imaginative play, and many creative stories have been told.
As I worked alongside the children in their fairy kingdom, I encouraged the wonder and imagination of the children, I also modelled for them that life is not always about having the right answers. In fact, having the right questions can actually prove to be a more important and rewarding skill in life. I encouraged the children to explore, look, listen, touch, pick apart, compare, collect, sketch, and anything else that came naturally to them; this in turn allowed for their own open-ended investigations that were of course lead by their own curiosity and desire.
Of course after several more weeks the children began to wonder if any fairies were indeed visiting this special place they had created. Sienna, our fairy expert, told us, ‘They haven’t come to us yet as when they do they move your things around. They leave notes, but not all the time and they leave fairy dust and sometimes presents’
After this comment suddenly the children set about creating gifts for the fairies in the hope that they may visit us. Again totally independently the children demonstrated their care and respect for this special secret world by making a tiny necklace from beads, a crown, collecting shells, decorating a pine cone with gold paint and glitter, picking flowers, making a fairy peg doll, writing a note and leaving this all out on a collected leaf in the middle of fairy corner one Friday before they all went home for the weekend. They also made sure to give me instructions before they left telling me, ‘Fairies will only come if it’s quiet so no music or anything, and lights off too, everything off’.
|The gifts are prepared and waiting for visitors.|
I must have done a good job of following these instructions as one morning as we headed to fairy corner we were in for a lovely surprise; some flowers, a precious rock, a tiny note and something sparkly. Sienna was the first to come across the scene telling me ‘I told you they would come. Heaps of fairies must have come as there’s lots of fairy dust. Look, I think those are footprints’.
Slowly others joined us and we debated about the gifts, the note and where the fairies are now.
Pippa L: I know where the fairies are, they went into the house maybe, into the secret door.
Sienna: Well, if fairy dust is here it means they live here.
Sadie: Look at the crystal they left, they went to their workshop and made it for us.
Sienna: Yes, as they do make things.
Sadie: This is to say thank you to us.
Pippa L: Maybe it came from crystal land, ssh everyone we should go now and leave the fairies alone.
Imagination is more important than knowledge. For knowledge is limited to all we now know and understand, while imagination embraces the entire world, and all there will ever be to know and understand' (Albert Einstein)
This is just a small snippet of the learning and wondering that has happened in this special little corner of Mairtown over recent weeks, there is so much more I could tell you, but not enough space or time to write it all down. What I have really enjoyed is watching the children take such care over their play with the delicate resources, how they have worked almost everyday to add something new and special for the visiting fairies and perhaps what I have enjoyed observing the most is just how special childhood is, when we allow and encourage children to wonder, to be imaginative, to believe in fantasy and to be children.
A couple of years ago I wrote an article where I stated ‘Remember back to your own childhood, the thrill of spotting a sparkling rainbow inside, reflected from the window, or your mind imagining all sorts of creatures hidden in the trees as you listened to the wind making music with the leaves. For most of us, these times are long forgotten and as adults we rush from one job to the next. Perhaps we too should slow down, take the time to observe nature and become filled with wonder, excitement and imagination once more…Childhood should be a time of magic and wonder; let us honour this’ (NZ Education Gazette, 2013).
More than anything I believe we should want children to be captivated in what they learn, as it is that captivation that will lead to the desire of deeper understanding and the seeking of knowledge. The world around us holds an infinite number of lessons for us and is filled with what can seem like magic.
“If a child is to keep alive his inborn sense of wonder, he needs the companionship of at least one adult who can share it, rediscovering with him the joy, excitement, and mystery of the world we live in.” (Rachel Carson)
Until next time,