Monday, October 30, 2023

Why We Visit The Trolls In Their Caves

We set out into a storm. The cold wind blew the rain sideways, under our hoods and into our faces. It was a storm that was blowing across the relatively flat, treeless island of Iceland on its way to mainland Europe where it would, several days later, be so severe that planes were grounded.

Yet here we were, twenty or so children from the Tjarnasel school in a town 50 km southwest of Reykjavik, and six adults bent into the wind. We were making our way toward the cave of Giganta, the troll who lives there along the harbor where these children and their families live as neighbors.

The Fremont Troll

I was excited to see this troll. My own school in Seattle also has a neighborhood troll, the Fremont Troll who lives under the Aurora Bridge, munching a Volkswagen Beetle. 

These children, despite the weather, were in no particular hurry. They wanted to stop and investigate an old well with a cast iron pump, for instance, gathering around to peer into its depths and tell stories of things that have fallen in. They paused to comment on local businesses or to notice aspects of a mural or even shake their heads over a bit of graffiti that they didn't understand, but knew didn't belong. We crossed at least a dozen streets as we made our way to Giganta's cave. The drivers waved and smiled to us as they waited for all of us to cross in front of them.

I've taken countless children on field trips like this, every day adventures into the world beyond our schoolyard gates, often in the rain. Like with this group of Icelandic children, we usually had some sort of destination in mind, but the real objective was simply being together, out in the world, seeing and being seen, taking detours, stopping at the local sites, be they trolls or wells or graffiti, noticing and being noticed. Drivers in Seattle weren't always as patient as these Icelandic drivers, but when we took the bus, our fellow passengers were always kind, offering their seats, and chatting with the children who were always a bit too loud, a bit too excited, for public transportation. When we left the bus, we always left a bit of our excitement behind in the smiles of the commuters.

This is what my friend John Yiannoudis calls "life derived learning" which is at the end of the day the basis for all learning. 

Giganta, the creation of Icelandic author and educator Herdís Egílsdóttir, was snoring when we arrived, so we were careful not to wake her. Every now and then she would fart. I didn't need to speak Icelandic to know that their teacher joked, each time, "That wasn't me!" The children, as they would anywhere in the world, shrieked with laughter, pointing to Giganta, shouting, "It was her! It was her!"

This is the most important learning of all because it is about community. Tjarnasel has strong connections with its community, and especially the families of the children. Their playground is a community project that was built and is maintained by the families.

Our children spend much of their lives walled into their designated places, while the rest of the world is walled out. A world without children is both unnatural and harmful to everyone. The central project of every civilization has ever existed is to care for the children. Without that, our species is not long for the world. When we keep our children separate from life itself, we rob both the children and the rest of society of what it means to be whole.

Lev Vygotsky wrote, "Through others we become ourselves." When we remove children from our day-to-day world we all become less ourselves.

And to become ourselves is why we must visit the trolls in their caves.


"This inspiring book is essential reading for every family choosing a preschool, every teacher working with young children, and every citizen who wonders how we can raise children who will make the world a better place." ~Dr. Laura Markham, author of Peaceful Parent, Happy Kids

If you liked reading this post, you might also enjoy one of my books. To find out more, Click here!

I put a lot of time and effort into this blog. If you'd like to support me please consider a small contribution to the cause. Thank you!
Bookmark and Share

No comments: