Alanna Blecha, our current co-President addresses the families gathered on the National Mall for our 19th annual Lantern Launch. This is a tradition that marks a farewell, a sailing away, of children making their way to other schools and a continuation of the community we hold dear. This is what she shared . . .
"Hello Cooperative School Families. Here we are, gathering together for another beautiful Lantern Launch event.
We gather together, as the summer solstice creeps near, to celebrate a dynamic year together, to thank our dedicated and loving teachers for all they have done, and to recognize the Tracks class as they embark on the next phase of their young lives.
As us Tracks families now reach this point, and face this big transition, I need to remind myself, and in turn I am reminding you all, that the magic of our school that we love so dearly is not something that simply stays put on the play yard or in the purple bungalow.
Of course it is there. Many of us felt it as soon as we walked through that Garden Gate for our first information session; when we looked at the artwork on the brightly colored walls in the rooms; or when we saw old motorcycle helmets, computer keyboards and moon boots in imagination station all ready for a unit on space and exploration.
The children felt it right away as they walked through the Garden Gate and entered a space that said “this place is for you”.
But the children haven’t just been passing time in this magical world around them. They have been holding it in their hands and working with it every day.
From the literature they read from countries near and far, they then explored the themes in drama, and expressed them even further with art. The ideas were tried out on the play yard and brought to the forest. Bonds were built between classmates as they learned to truly see each other and hear each other. Questions brewed as the children acknowledged a dead fox or sketched the fallen bird.
And slowly, slowly the magic started to weave its way into each child’s identity.
The children would write stories, and begin to grab something interesting from a book they heard, and then a little something else from a peer’s play. They made connections between the rain and the bones they discovered. They played with someone new and discovered hidden similarities.
And then, as time passed, and as our teachers guided our children through the curiosity and wonder and big emotions of childhood, they began to learn that they can create this magic themselves.
Because now, when our children see golf balls they definitely don’t think about golf. They probably aren’t even going to think about throwing them or rolling them. They might just look at those golf balls and think “Oh my gosh, Snowbird eggs, here in my basement! How did they ever get here?!”
And when the children might happen to stumble upon some old fishing net or a tattered piece of material, they aren’t going to think about fishing, or what that material used to be used for. They are going to think “A selkie skin! A real selkie skin, here in front of me!” And then that tattered piece of fishing net will be wrapped around their bodies, transforming the children into mythical sea creatures, busy searching for treasures or rescuing ships in distress.
And because they have been coached and guided on opening their hearts to others, it isn’t a problem that there are ninjas and mole boys and veterinarians and superheroes and secret agents and selkie queens all in the same space. Because that probably means that something new and unexpected and even better will happen, and the kids are prepared for that. They in fact wish for that!
I was actually waiting for something, I don’t know what, to happen when I watched Mabel walk through that Garden Gate one last time as a Track. Maybe a puff of smoke like she was stepping out of this magical universe of childhood and “poof” it would suddenly be different. But you know what- nothing happened as she stepped through that gate but huge smiles, claps and cheers, and an overall feeling of jubilation.
They walk through the Garden Gate, but they are carrying with them everything they need for the next big adventure. The magic is a part of who they are. The children know it and they are ready for more.
I love how the school literature says “As children and parents walk through the garden gate, they enter a place that invites exploration, welcomes play, and ignites creative thinking.” Because the transformation happens for children AND adults. This magic is actually in OUR hearts as well now.
And so, my dear Tracks families: We’re off! All of us together, fully equipped for the next step, forever tied together by Survival Guides, steam mops, and sand filled shoes, moving forward knowing that we are giving our children a childhood fit for a story, fit to change the world."