Shared Experiences 2016 – Part 2

November 13 : Belonging to One Universe

“We are here to awaken from our illusion of separateness,” says Thich Naht Hahn, Buddhist monk and peace activist. For we are all part of one universe, together, equally belonging and equally special. When asked what they thought of when they heard the word ‘Universe,’  children talked about space, stars, planets and sky as well as trees, creatures and all living things.
When we lit our candles for meditation time, we thought about how candles are a symbol of the light within us and the light within every living thing, every part of the universe; the light that comes from the Creator, the light that comes from God.
We shared silence together, peacefully, at ease in this space. We greeted one another, as always, with our special word ‘Namaste.’ 

We then welcomed some special visitors to Kaleidoscope.
They came to help us learn a little more about what it means to belong to the universe…

These delightful puppets acted out a story for us called ‘Let Me Show You the Universe.’
The cheery, lively Seagull finds a basket which she takes to her dear friend Old Turtle. She wants him to climb in, so she can fly him up into the sky to see the universe. Seagull is sure that in the vast, beautiful sky she even experiences God and she wants to share this with Old Turtle.
Turtle points out that there is no way he can fit in the basket or that she can carry him up so high. Seagull is most upset but realises that this is true. Old Turtle then explains that the universe is not only the day or night sky but that everything is part of the universe, even we are part of the universe. He explains that everything that God made has a little of God in it – and that this is how we are all connected. Old Turtle says that, because he is a turtle, he experiences the universe and God in his place, the creek and the trees and the earth, whereas Seagull, as a bird, experiences the universe in the wide open sky. Seagull suddenly sees the truth of this and is full of joy! She flies off happily, sharing the news, and Old Turtle returns contentedly to snoozing. 

There was great enjoyment of the puppets and their personalities and wisdom.
To enjoy  this story again, you can find it here: universe-story

Kindness Shells
Another very special part of our afternoon was a gift and activity offered by two members of the group. A young boy had been at the beach and found a shell that was a bit hard and dull and sandy on the outside but was beautiful on the inside. He told us that this was like a symbol for kindness. He explained that people can be hard on the outside but have kindness within them because kindness comes from inside of us. He and his sister collected enough shells for everyone and wrote the word KINDNESS on them. They also made cards with thoughts about kindness which children collected into a little bag. They also helped us make posters with all the words that describe kindness


This was a truly delightful offering and such an insightful idea. It was also a lovely way to remember how we are connected to everything in the universe and can learn from the world around us, when we pay close attention to things.  

We also made posters of poetry about caring for all creatures great and small, painted watercolour pictures of the beauty of Mother Earth and made more bird feeders for our gardens.
The favourite art activity of the afternoon was painting terracotta turtles to remind us of the wonderful character of the turtle in our play. 

We also shared the wonderful book ‘Old Turtle’ (by Douglas Wood and Cheng-Khee Chee).
This story poetically reminds us that there are many beautiful, gentle ways to know, name and experience God.


October 16 : Surprise and Delight

To feel delighted is to feel very glad, deeply happy, joyful…it is a lovely word for a special feeling. Sometimes we are delighted about something ourselves. Sometimes we are delighted for someone else.
We gathered today and talked about the things that surprise us and give us delight. Children’s thoughts about these ideas helped everyone to recall times when we were surprised by beautiful things in nature like birds and blossoms; and when we were surprised by things others did for us like giving us parties, present or awards. Some people shared the little surprises that brightened a day like a bunch of flowers or seeing the greenness of the grass after all the rain. We noticed that delights are all around us, everyday.

One of our meditation experiences today was to go outside, find a quiet spot, notice what was there, and then spend a whole minute looking at it. Some of us noticed bright daisies, colourful flowers and buzzing bees. Others noticed green foliage, trees and the sky. It was a bit of windy afternoon but we still experienced the gift of a quiet moment in nature. We can do this ourselves at other times.

We shared three stories over the afternoon: The Tin Forest (by Helen Ward & Wayne Anderson), Extra Yarn (by Mac Barnett), and A Child’s Garden (by Michael Foreman).

Hope can transform…
One of the themes threading through these beautiful stories was how hope and love can transform any situation and restore goodness and delight. Sometimes how this happens is very surprising – a tin forest comes to life and ugly rubbish becomes a colourful new world, one ball of wall makes jumpers and cosies for a whole village, a tiny seed becomes a vine that brings children together in a troubled community. The characters in these stories felt happy and glad, they felt renewed hope, they experienced the delight of being surprised! 

Our art and craft activities gave children ways to express these ideas in little, creative ways. We made surprise boxes that, when opened, popped up with a funny, kind or happy message. There are plans afoot to bring a smile to the faces of friends at school in the coming week. 

The advantage of the windy afternoon was the way it made our pinwheels spin and spin. Having used a pointy pen to uncover rainbow colours beneath the black paper, we made colourful pinwheels and played with them outside together.
It was delightful to laugh together about such simple pleasures.

So many of us have been enjoying the spring blossoms near our home and schools. Children commented on how some flowers appear slowly and others burst into bloom!
We made blossom trees to celebrate the delights of spring…

 May each of us continue to be surprised and delighted!


September 25th : Interconnectedness

“A mystery is something for everyone to wonder about together,”  says Annaka Harris, in her beautiful book, simply titled ‘I Wonder’, that we shared today at Kaleidoscope. We were exploring the theme ‘Interconnectedness’ and wondering about the way humans are connected to each other, to all living things, to our earth, and through all this, to God.

We thought about how sometimes we feel big in the world – when we look at tiny creatures like ants and bees or tiny flowers and grass in the fields… and sometimes we feel small – when we look at the stars in the night sky or the sit beneath a towering tree. We talked about how our interconnection – our sense of the belonging between us and all living things – is both inspiration and invitation. We can appreciate being part of this beautiful world and we need to commit to caring for it, in every small detail. Children shared their ideas about parts of the natural world to which they feel a special connection – a favourite stretch of beach, a special shell, a backyard tree or secret hiding place in bushes, places near rivers and waterfalls, and in gardens.

We read the story ‘Bee’ (by Britta Teckentrup) which poetically and colourfully explores the miraculous lives of honey bees. We talked about the significance of bees for our food crops and how important the bee is for the survival of the planet. The journey of this tiny creature, as it travels around each day pollinating the flowers, inspired our artwork today:

We celebrated honey bees and butterflies…

…and all living things that together create gardens…places of nourishment and happiness and life! We captured this in miniature form, in our delightful teacup gardens:

Our final story ‘For All Creatures’ (by Glenda Millard & Rebecca Cool) uses alliterative text and wonderfully descriptive (and unusual !) words to capture the interconnectedness of all creatures, and their shared place in the world. The repeated line “We are thankful” reminded us all of the  many wonders of our world for which we can give thanks, which we can enjoy and about which we can learn and wonder. We can be thankful, as we also learn to balance our place, with the place of all people and creatures on our earth. 


September 4th: Seeing Possibilities

Spring was in the air as we gathered today. Spring is a season of possibilities, as we notice new life sprouting and bursting. We celebrated this today with some planting of flowers and seeds and by reflecting on how we may see possibilities in our lives and thus feel hopeful about our daily world.

The delightful story of ‘Miss Rumphius’ (by Barbara Cooney) inspired us to see that each person, in even small ways, can make our world more beautiful. She did this through spreading flower seeds all over her town. Part of our growing is to discover the ways in which we too can make our corner of the world more beautiful – both by actions or by ways of being. 

We made flower cups to enjoy and tiny seed cups to observe. Seeds are full of possibilities and it will be a surprise for everyone to watch what the seeds grow into… We remembered that seeds will need care to grow – some water and sunlight, and sometimes planting into bigger spaces. So too we need good things to help us feel well and grow beautifully, just as we are meant to!


In our Gathering Circle we thought about how we sometimes feel stuck or sad or worried about life but that if we can remember that there are always new and different possibilities, we can restore our sense of hope. We reflected on how there are always many ways of looking and seeing, ways of being creative and ways of connecting with others that can help us believe in possibilities and feel that hope is alive. 

We shared mini story sentences that told of a feeling and a hope. For example:
“When I feel happy, I hope I can remember what gives me this feeling.”
“When I feel sad, I hope I can remember who can give me a hug.”
“When I feel grumpy, I hope I can find someone to talk about it with.”

We also shared specific examples, like:
“When I feel sad, I remember that I have such a comfy bed to snuggle in.”
“When I feel mad at my brother, I go and do something by myself to calm down.”
“I always feel happy when I climb a tree, so I remember this.”
“When I feel sad, I remember the things I did on other happy days and do them again.”
“If I am upset I know that I can talk to my friends.”

A beautifully imaginative and poetic story, by Cooper Edens (Chronicle Books, 2003),
had delightful sentences and illustrations with ideas like:
“If you’re afraid of the dark… add one more star to the night.”
“If your eyeglasses wear out… put them on your back and call them your wings.”
“If your elephant forgets… perhaps your aardvark knows the answer.”
“If you become lost… make wherever you are look like home.”

Imaginations and curiosity were sparked by such ideas and children loved talking about what such seemingly outlandish ideas could possibly mean! Their uninhibited thinking added to the ideas of the story, in unexpected ways. 

Zen Tangles are a meditative drawing style, full of possibilities. It is a way of drawing that captures the way a line or shape can become something new. We played with black-on-white and white-on-black zen tangle drawings…


When we first started Kaleidoscope, every child made a kaleidoscope and we talked about the name for this group. Kaleidoscopes use broken or small pieces of coloured glass to create beautiful patterns in the light. Kaleidoscopes use colour, shape and movement to create different images. Kaleidoscopes offer us different ways of seeing things.
Kaleidoscope afternoons also hope to do this – to share new ways of seeing ourselves and our way of being in the world. Today we made kaleidoscopes again, so that all the new children who have joined us could make one too.



August 14th: The Warmth of Kindness

On a stunningly sunlit, winter afternoon we gathered to share ideas and experiences about kindness. In the warmth of the sun we talked about the warmth we feel when we offer and receive kindness. We talked about how we feel warm in our hearts, when we show kindness to ourselves, to others and to our earth. Children made some delightful comments about ways they have shown kindness to the earth: caring for a hurt magpie, playing with a skink, sitting in a tree, picking up rubbish, recycling paper, and even letting a fly out of the house!

We also talked about how we feel when we receive kindness and the warmth of this experience. Children made comments about the things for which they are grateful. We reflected on how kindnesses keep going, keep giving, spreading out into our world. 

We enjoyed out beautiful pot of jonquils that we planted back in April. When we planted these, we buried pieces of paper bark in the soil. On the bark we had written our own names and the name of someone we intended to be kind to that week. The bark became part of what nourished the bulbs and they bloomed beautifully. Some of the children told us about the bulbs they took home and how they too had grown into fragrant flowers. 


Blanketed in Love
Our afternoon activities focused on three ways of spreading the warmth of kindness – to ourselves, to other people and to creatures of the earth. We made rainbow-fringed blankets for ourselves and for giving away to other children in the community. Children loved this activity, happily tying strips of fabric into knots around their fleece squares. Each blanket had to pass the test – could it wrap around you completely and snuggle you up?  Everyone wanted a turn with a leader helping test their blanket – the warmth of a happy hug so openly delighted in by children. In our final gathering circle, with everyone sitting snuggled in their 
blankets, the metaphor of the warmth of kindness as both a physical feeling and an inner experience was clear.
A few of our regular participants were disappointed not to be able to attend – we made blankets for them, as well as eight blankets for others in our wider community. The warmth of kindness spreads… 


The children listened to three stories and made thoughtful comments about each one and how it related to our theme.

Kindness to all creatures
‘Extra Yarn’ (by Marc Barentt & Jon Klassen) tells the story of one girls’ passion for knitting jumpers – jumpers for everybody and everything in her community, using a ball of wool that never runs out. When the wool is stolen it doesn’t work the same way. Children understood that kindness has a power and generosity that selfishness just can’t match, commenting that ‘The wool only worked when there was kindness helping it.’ Our blankets were a response to this story.

‘A Bus Called Heaven’ (by Bob Graham) tells the story of a girl and her community’s commitment to saving an old bus that has become a central gathering place that is uniting people who were once strangers. There are so many acts of kindness here – birds and snails are protected, everyone’s offerings are appreciated, a gang is accepted and in return share their painting skills. One child commented on the self-kindness she saw in the way the main character encouraged herself to be more brave and confident. A beautiful insight! Someone else liked that the tiny bird chicks in the engine were kept safe. We made bird feeders in response to this story. 


For our final story we revisited ‘God’s Dream’ (by Archbishop Desmond Tutu & Douglas Abrams & LeUyen Pham ) in which we are all reminded that God’s Dream is as simple as sharing, caring and including, and remembering that we are one big family on earth together. The photo below captures two little girls who had cuddled up together in a shared blanket and excitedly exclaimed at the end of the story:
“I think we are making God’s dream come true right now!”
A delightful testimony to the friendship, joy and sense of community that this afternoon embodied.

twin blankets 

One thought on “Shared Experiences 2016 – Part 2

  1. At bedtime tonight, I asked Lila ‘What went well today and why?’. Of her three positive experiences, one was Kaleidoscope. “I love Kaleidoscope”, Lila said, “because we have choices; we don’t have to do every activity and the one we love the most, we can spend as much time on it as we like. That makes me feel happy.” What a gift!


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