We received our collection of blue Takoma Totes from Cosy in October, just in time for the Tracks’ class first trip down to the forest for the year. Usually, I will pack clipboards and drawing materials for these trips in our Land’s End basket pack and hand these out when children ask for them. The Takoma Totes changed all that!
The totes are designed to carry small clipboards, drawing materials, and any additional items we need for the day. They also double as seating! They are inspired by Girl Scout “sit-upons” with the exception that these totes can carry items picked up along the way or that are brought from school. For instance, I found a half-eaten rice cake in one of the pockets after our last trip. Saved for later, I suppose, oh well. They can be washed. And most importantly, they belong to the children and are lightweight enough to carry easily.
Like many ideas that are sparked by inspiration (“Wouldn’t it be great if there were a tote that could also serve as seating?”), we discovered other benefits as well. Honestly, I was focused on the carrying and the seating part. That would have been enough for me, but that very first day we found out that the totes were ever more useful than that! The first benefit being that if the children are told to carry the tote on their right side, it was easy to direct them during our walk. “Stand to your right,” on an escalator became a seamlessly-followed instruction. When we wanted to cue the children to walk on the inside of the sidewalk, away from the steady flow of traffic on our neighborhood streets, the tote gave them that tactile reminder of where to walk. Brilliant I tell you! The children walked with a different kind of confidence, informed and independent!
The other benefit was that the children simply had ready access to drawing materials, While that was the idea, I was pleasantly surprised at how it changed their interaction with sketching. Suddenly everyone wanted to.
When we visited the Renwick last week, the children would suddenly stop, sit down, and begin sketching. We walked through Maya Lin’s exhibit, Folding of the Chesepeake, which features a steady flow of clear green marbles that spread, tendril-like along the floor and up to the ceiling. There is a rope along the floor clearly delineating the walkway for visitors. It directs them along a narrow passage across the back of the room. The children lined up and suddenly sat down, to a one! Suddenly 17 children were sitting along this rope, sketching. Other museum visitors and tourists suddenly felt compelled to take photos of these children looking at the exhibit rather than the stunning exhibit itself!