I’m so happy to have my friend and colleague, Diana Suskind, guest blogging for me. Diana is an international early childhood consultant and artist who brings her creative spirit to support children with their personal, emotional and social development.
Diana has shared her passion working overseas with colleagues and children, teaching for many years as an associate professor at Fitchburg State University, Boston, Massuchusetts, United States of America.
“This is me and my mom and we are a family and both have a heart” stonework logo
“I guess we can’t be a little rock but rocks, especially stones, can inspire us to play with them for they are simply a natural resource. They do appeal to children and adults alike in any country or culture. No two stones are the same. They have their own shape, their own weight, color and markings. They are one of a kind just like each of us. Different stones, but made of the same matter, scattered at times, may seem useless however if with time and patience we combine them and put them together, they can even give us shelter.
Welcome to Stonework Inspires Storytelling
What is it?
‘Children’s stonework’ is the child’s open-ended response to the invitation to work with the stones. Stonework can be a work in progress and the child’s creation. In other words, stonework is simply the act of working with stones, getting back to nature.
Children at HEMS School in Kathmandu, Nepal express their own thoughts by using stones to create what is important to them through stonework. It can be a helicopter, a temple, a flower, or ‘Five Birthday Cakes’ with a smaller stone on top as candles. Stones, a ready natural resource allow children artistic expression. They can create and recreate. Stonework offers a child a tangible mirror of self in their impermanent world.
What it can do?
This opportunity promotes self-reliance, opportunities to make decisions on their own, such as to create by themselves or possibly partner up. Children learn to solve social challenges such as not to take another’s stone to getting/sharing a stone for another and honor other’s space. They learn to handle the actual construction of their creation and give it a title (name). The child then draws a pictorial copy of their stonework, and writes or dictates a story about their stonework.
Why is it important?
The honesty of a child’s creation is an essential part of its beauty. Stonework’s unique characteristic is that it allows that creative beauty to come out it many artistic forms, in the abstract, in the concrete, and in the colorful world of storytelling. Like all art, it is never quite finished, always waiting for the next creative touch. It is, like the child him or herself, always a work in progress.
This process encourages children to view themselves as active, socially competent, learners. It is a unique opportunity for both the child, whether they live in the world, where education values rote learning and copying, or if they live in the world where the child who spends the majority of their free time on the cell phone, playing computer games. That child also may never have the opportunity to work with stones, and be with nature. Stonework offers a child a tangible mirror of self in their impermanent world
How does it work?
I invite everyone to try stonework with children as well as adults. Stonework encourages participants to reach inside their creative selves, often revealing what is really important to them.
Step 1. Watching ‘Five Birthday Cakes’ on You Tube helps provide a baseline of understanding. I sometimes share the following poem.
Step 2. Recite “I Wish I Was a Little Rock”
Step 3. The stones are gathered and stonework is about to begin. This is a time to be quiet so one can really focus. It is amazing no one talks. Stonework, if possible, will be done in silence. This encourages total immersion and focused attention. Although the children may be part of a group, each child works independently at his or her own pace, creating from a wide variety of stone fragments.
Step 4. After sufficient time for stonework, paper is provided with a pencil to copy their stonework. You might have to remind the stoneworkers to actually draw the stones. Sometimes they start off just line drawing the entire shape. To get math into this experience it is great to actually count the stones. This is providing an opportunity to master one –to-one correspondence from the stones to the paper.
Step 5. Fifth process is to write a story about their work or dictate it to the adult. In Nepal, the 3-5 years old dictated a title; they wanted to give their work, like ‘Five Birthday Cakes’. A book with a title can be shown to explain what is meant by a title. Developmentally dependent on the child’s ability, you will have to decide what is possible to document.
Step 6. What is wonderful about Stonework, a child can revisit, create and recreate all over again. Before putting the stones away, the children can have a museum walk/talk. This is where the children can silently have a tour of everyone’s work. And the talk portion children can tell about their work and or read their story. Photos from the teacher, drawings and the children’s stories can be put into a notebook or book. This would allow the children to revisit this experience till the next time. Enjoy and let us hear about it.
What is the action research part of this project?
I strongly recommend having a colleague observer beside you, to really observe and be in the present.
For more information on how to carry out an action research project using the stonework principals, please contact me for further information and advice.”
I Wish I Was A Little Rock
I wish I was a little rock,
A-sittin’ on a hill
A-doin’ nothin’ all day long
Just a-sittin’ still.
I wouldn’t eat
I wouldn’t sleep
I wouldn’t even wash
I’d just sit and sit
A thousand years
And rest myself