Saturday, April 23, 2011

The Fellowship Of Middle Class Bag Ladies

One of the biggest reasons that Seattle is the place to be during the month of May is the annual International Children's Festival (May 10-13), which brings in performing artists from around the globe to Seattle Center to introduce young children to the world, its people, and customs. Over the years, I've been absolutely enthralled by the performances I've experienced there, often attending without a child in tow. This year they've partnered with China's Ministry of Culture to bring in 3 mind-blowing troupes covering a variety of traditional Chinese arts from puppetry, to drumming and acrobatics. There are also acts from Ecuador, Tasmania and India, as well as the US, including the very popular interactive children's band Caspar Babypants (formed by the lead singer from The Presidents of the United States of America, and graduate of my daughter's school).

The bad news is that many of the performances are already sold out and several others are down to their last few tickets. The good news is that you can get free tickets by volunteering to help out. My friend and fellow costume-wearer-even-when-it's-not-Halloween Oleana is the volunteer coordinator and she's looking for a bunch of you to jump on this chance to see world class entertainment with your kids for free. So, if you're a Seattle-ite (or otherwise in the neighborhood), and I know many of you are, hop on over there and get yourself involved in the fun.

Now for the really bad news. This is the 25th and final International Children's Festival. Non-profits are going belly up all over the country these days, and non-profit arts organizations seem to be in the vanguard of this depressing statistic, with non-profit children's arts groups feeling the pinch more than any other. So, even if you can't volunteer, I'd still urge you to grab your tickets now because once it's over it's really over.

Unless, of course, you belong to our little Woodland Park community, in which case there is a small, but exciting silver lining. Giant Magnet, the producers of the festival, in the process of cleaning house before shutting their doors, has made this teacher happy indeed by donating a pretty remarkable collection of supplies to our school.

Check it out: more than 200 bottles of liquid gold (which often goes by the name liquid watercolor). And not only that, but it includes a quantity of hues that I rarely buy as I tend to stock up on the primary and secondary colors: fuschia, magenta, pink, teal, peach . . . with some yellow, green, orange and purple thrown in for good measure.

Holy cow! These are the days we middle class bag ladies live for!

Perhaps even more exciting, however, is this supply of wooden boats.

I mean, there are literally hundreds of these vessels that were made by the inmates at the Monroe State Penitentiary. Those little holes in the top are drilled perfectly for chopstick masts, which we also now have.

And while many of them are simple, cut from a single piece of scrap lumber which will be great for painting, some of these are works of art, so nice that we might just put on rubber gloves and work with sandpaper and stain (or just mineral oil, which does a pretty good, non-toxic job of bringing out the grain in wood).

I have no idea yet if they float or not, but we're sure going to be having fun finding out! In fact, I'm pretty sure we'll be hopping the bus in the near future to try our vessels out in the new model boat pond that just opened in the not-too-distant South Lake Union neighborhood of Seattle.

Which is just across a little bridge from where the float planes live. A nice, tidy "transportation" field trip (bus, boats, planes) brought to us by Giant Magnet!

We've also acquired a nice stock of kite making supplies, including the tails and string . . .

. . . sidewalk paint . . .

. . . large sheets of canvas . . .

. . . googly eyes, chalk, glitter, construction paper and I don't know what else.

It's hard to feel the unbridled enthusiasm I get from coming across a score from someone's "free" pile along the side of the road, but I'm nevertheless pleased that these things have wound up with us.

I write a lot here about begging, scrounging, and borrowing, which I've come to think are necessary skills for those of us working in early childhood. I would go so far as to suggest that our colleges offer courses in the art form, so central is it to many of us as we haunt garage sales, befriend local businesses and their owners, and even dive into the occasional dumpster. In fact, even well-funded schools (and we ourselves are on a tight, but comfortable budget) should make this kind of effort, not only because it's good for the school's finances and reputation, but also because it's good for the children and the larger society. 

I often think of preschools as giant sponges capable of soaking up so much of what otherwise gets tossed aside as waste and turning it into education. I love buying shiny, new things as much as the next person, but when I look around and see all the incredible things we in our profession do with what most of society looks at as mere surplus or garbage, I'm even more proud to be in this fellowship of middle class bag ladies.

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Mullin Avenue Workshop said...

Nice post here, with great pictures of your new treasures!
How exciting for you and your kids.

laurie dyer said...

Oooh! LOVE this stuff! I've been following your blog for ages now. I'm a public school elementary art teacher that uses student based curriculum (TAB) . . . Although I work with older kids, I find your blog motivational, your excitement comes through and reinvigorates me.

Keep up all your good work!

Laurie Dyer

Marilyn623 said...

I'm hyperventilating at your big score! All that liquid watercolor~~~died and gone to heaven! Can't wait to see all the great learning that comes from your new goodies! Congratulations!

Barbara Zaborowski said...

Didn't your mommy teach you to share? And I mean "share" in the usual preschool sense, i.e., stop playing with that and give it to me right now.
I'm so jealous!

Heather said...

I, too, have become a bag lady! I'm part of a crafting group, and whenever people have leftover bits and pieces, they all get channelled to me. In fact, one of our members left for overseas recently, and when we went through her leftover stuff, all the other girls were thinking of things I could do with the leftovers. There was even a stash of foreign coins that another girl snagged, suggesting that this children could use them for sorting. I LOVE these kinds of free finds!

Unknown said...

I'm jealous! Those are some great finds!

Gardenbug said...

We live a few miles from an organ factory (3 people only!)and are friends with one of them. When he comes to our place to romp with our dog, he brings loads of wood "scraps" that would ordinarily be sent to the dump. They have heated our home this winter.
I think being a good friend to all sorts of people (and pets)lends itself to collecting "great finds".

Launa Hall said...

It makes me so happy to read this. Just today we constructed the world's smallest art museum from all kinds of very small found materials. The kids were enthralled with bottle caps, screws, plastic lids, etc. Awesome. I'll be doing more of this.