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A few weeks ago, I walked through the kindergarten after the children had left and noticed the light, details, and the beauty in the rooms where the children spend their days.

Vea Vecchi, an atelierista at the Diana School in Reggio Emilia, Itlay, writes, "Gestures of care, research into the quality of form and beauty are testified to in objects which are not only great works of art but ornaments for the body and simple objects for everyday use. This form of inspiration can be found in all peoples and cultures, past and present. It is a filter for interpreting the world, an ethical attitude, a way of thinking which requires care, grace, attention, subtlety, and humor, a mental approach going beyond the simple appearance of things to bring out unexpected aspects and qualities."

I have heard Vea speak twice, and each time she insists that attention to beauty is a primal need for humans. I believe if a community gives priority to the care of its environment, the members will absorb these priorities and strategies. Beauty demands noticing the moment, reflection, and a compassion for people and animals that live within the environment. Beauty generates a response. It might be a gesture, a smile, adding a rock to a growing cairn on a hike, sketching something that catches your eye, lyrics of a song, a poem, or even a meal made from the fruits of the garden.

As I walk around our room I see responses made by children to the environment that they live in at school and home.

Beauty in Nature

A nest given to us by Marla to support our observation and study of birds inspires awe and reverence.

Beauty in the Diminutive

This is a box of little books which were authored by children who were just beginning to view themselves as writers. The spark was lit by an even tinier book made in the studio early in the year by Caroline. The size of the books made them intriguing.

Beauty in Story

On the block table, city people - with a multitude of expressions - lead interesting lives. They each have their own story cultivated by the children. The characters are whimsical, and no one person resembles another. These city people include dog walkers, crossing guards, DJs, spies, Egyptian immigrants, Anna Golden (Sabot's Atelierista), and a mom working at Union Bank. They are prone to dramatic stories that are often solved with magical powers.

Beauty in the Unexpected

Many people who live, work, or play in the city have visited our classroom during the last month. They have shared with us the photographs they have taken in the city, the reasons they bought their homes in the city, thoughts about traveling through the city, places that they like to eat and parks where they play with their families. We learned that most interviewers document in some way, and so we decided that we would take notes to document. Mary and I review the notes later in the day and are struck by the richly nuanced thinking evident in the note-taking. Children easily and lucidly move from letter symbols to graphics and back again. It was unexpected and yet profound.

Beauty Includes the Senses

The children have conveyed the sights and sounds connected to life in a city. The instrument summons sound and song in our head. The police officer commands attention with his whistle as the street lights shine above his head. The ambulance drivers move with urgency. Scaffolding in the studio has slowed the work of the children and provoked conversation and debate regarding the people of the city.

I see beauty in the use of words to accentuate the drawings with the words spoken by the city people.

Julia's urban landscape reveals an unfolding story.

The architectural emphasis is prominent in Kenny's sketch.

Caroline's rendition of Richmond fills me with happiness because I am overwhelmed with memories of Cinque Terra in Italy. Century old buildings perched on the rocks towering over the ocean. As we passed MCV in the train, it did appear that the buildings were perched high above the tracks hugging the side of the hill.

The beauty in Zack's landscape is the one face peering out against a backdrop of city skyscrapers.

Accuracy and realism is clearly important to Samuel. Great care was given to the letters scripted on the building. The residents in the city have defined purposes, and it is evident that the city is full of life and activity.

The beauty that speaks to me in Zoey's is the abstraction and the freedom that she feels as an artist to take risks and work large and boldly.

About the Author: 

Mary grew up inspired to teach by her family of educators. In addition to teaching for over ten years at the lower school level, she spent several years implementing a state Instructional Support Team initiative designed to enhance teachers’ skills in the application of best practice. The initiative sought to provide instructional support through collaboration, problem-solving, and the utilization of data for classroom and school decisions. Subsequently, she continued her work with the Instructional Support Team initiative as a Virginia Department of Education consultant, visiting sites across the state, developing curriculum, training teachers to facilitate local teams, and working to develop assessment and validation tools to evaluate progress at each site. Mary s educational background includes a bachelor’s degree in Education from St. Joseph's University in Philadelphia and a master’s degree in Reading Education from Virginia Commonwealth University.

Mary has been teaching Sabot at Stony Point since 2006. "It is a joy to be present with children as they take ownership for their learning in the midst of a collaborative and creative environment." Mary has had an instrumental role in the curriculum development for the Lower School. She was one of several professionals researching, writing and supporting the literacy curriculum and Sabot's progressive student assessment report. Mary has presented at several institutes and conferences including the 16th Annual SURN Leadership Academy, a partnership between the School of Education at the College of William and Mary and Virginia K - 12 school divisions to conduct relevant research and provide professional development in order to provide quality teaching and learning. She also presented at the Sabot Institute - Personal Pathways and Paradigms.