Breaking New Ground

“The beginning is always today.” ~ Mary Shelley

Dear Families and Friends,

Through the woods they came, embarking on a brilliant new journey. Twenty-three St. George School kids, heading for Jackson Memorial Library, knew that today was the beginning of something BIG. And they had just begun to imagine the role they’d be playing.

Greeting the children were LEAPS’ local artists, Susan Beebe, Avis Turner, Dee Peppe, and Alanna Hernandez, who shared their artists’ notebooks before distributing new ones to students. At LEAPS we are always finding a way to break new ground. Erasing the boundaries between science and art, the school and the public library, between 9 year olds and 5 year olds (we’ll welcome kindergartners on our journey a few weeks down the road) we offered fourth graders a challenge. Could they envision themselves as creatures and design a gall to protect themselves from the oncoming winter?

“What is a gall?” you ask. A gall is formed by a plant to protect a living creature.  Once you start looking for them you see them everywhere. But oak leaves are a good place to start. Children opened their notebooks and began to imagine.

“What sort of creature might they become?  How would they guard themselves against the fierce winter to come?”  Choosing papers of different hues and textures, and natural items in bits and pieces, they began constructing their galls – each an original configuration. Then they imagined what they would see if they peered out of a crack from inside of it.

“I’m in a tree. You can see it’s raining.”  “My gall is in the habitat of a swamp.” “My gall is in a specific place in Africa. Near Mt. Kilimanjaro.” “My gall is a shed. Animals can go in it.” “I used leather underneath.Then I used tissue and ferns as food.” 

When it came to our end of morning reading of Ashley Bryan’s book Beautiful Blackbird, fourth graders stood their ground, speaking about the importance of being oneself. “It doesn’t matter what you look like.” ” It doesn’t matter of you’re pretty or you have a lot of cool stuff. Or if your family has more wealth. As long as you be you!” “We’re all different in our own way.”

                               Mentor Artist, Alanna, Taking the LEAP

We told fourth graders that they’ll be taking a leap, knowing that kids never stop imagining. Our goal is to push their thinking and help them embark on something new. We’ll be asking them, “How can humans protect the natural world from harm?”  “How can we give our local animals a healthy environment in which to thrive?” Tomorrow we will be visiting Wheeler Bay Wildlife Sanctuary. There more than a hundred species live harmoniously, cared for in part by Jocelyn Paquette and Len Greenhalgh, who have taken an old quarry and transformed it into a glorious refuge. They’ve singlehandedly made life better for creatures close by.

Today, tomorrow, and each day that follows are new beginnings for LEAPS’ kids and for each of us as stewards of our planet.

Imagining a better future, Nancy for the LEAPS Team of Artists

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