Shared Experiences 2017 – Part 1

June 25th – The Wonders of the Universe

Today was a day for wonder. With short winter days we are often out when the sun is rising and setting and the stars are appearing in the night sky. We shared our sense of wonder at the beauty of the vast sky at these times. Children shared their favourite places or times for looking up at the sky – dawn when the sun wakes the day, sunset when the sky looks like it is on fire, night when looking at the moon from their bedroom window or outside looking up at the stars.

The lovely watercolour pictures and poetic words in the book ‘I Wonder’ (by Annaka Harris & John Rowe) inspired further wondering and inspired us to think about the mysteries of the universe and the big questions that we all wonder about together.

The children made themselves a soft, cosy cushion – the perfect head size for lying on to look up the stars. Some children lie on their trampoline to do this – with a blanket as well in the winter! Other children had various ideas for their cushion and how it would be a comfort to them in different places like traveling or school camps. Afterall, we each need things that comfort us and remind us that we are wrapped in love wherever we go.

Children also explored the solar system by creating their own models of the planets – some were accurate, some were imaginative, some played with concepts of alternative universes!!

And we made starry pictures for our windows – when the light shines through the paper the stars and moon appear on the black page.

The book ‘No One But You’ (Wood & Lynch) reminds us that we each have unique experiences of how things look, taste, sound, smell and feel. The world around us is filled with delights for our senses and vistas at which to wonder, from dandelion seeds to nectar drops, from sunshine on flowers to stars scattered across the night sky. We shared our favourite parts of this story and the memories we have of nature experiences.

We gathered in our sharing circle to remember that both the vastness and the smallness of the universe is created by God and that we can wonder and delight in all things. This same creative energy of God’s is within us.
The light in each of us is the light of God.

 

June 4th – The World in Tiny Things

Today we paid attention to the tiniest things in nature and how they are connected to the whole, how each tiny thing is part of the universe, holds something of the universe in itself. Many poets write about the way one small leaf or creature or grain of sand holds meaning and can show us something about the whole world and the timeless space of eternity. We thought about how the most beautiful and important things in the world can be understood by paying attention to the tiniest things in nature.

We looked closely at leaves and made sunprints of their shapes.

As we shared our ideas around the circle, we reflected on how things are connected: like how one tiny grain of sand is part of all the sand which is part of all the oceans and all the world. A little flower or leaf is part of a shrub or tree which is part of a forest and connected to all nature across the whole world. We too are individual people but we are part of a community of people across the world. Everything, from each of us to each tiny bird or flower are part of the whole world that God holds in God’s hands.

In our acknowledgement of Country today, we looked at a beautiful artwork called Tree of Life, painted by a group Amata artists. It reminded us f the way Aboriginal peoples have cared for all parts of the natural landscapes, for thousands of years.IMG_1241

We took small natural items out of a mystery bag and shared our ideas about them: what they were connected to, what they reminded us of, what they meant to us.  Flowers reminded children of different gardens, bark or sticks reminded them of climbing trees, berries and shells and pebbles reminded them of places or experiences. We talked about how we might pay attention to tiny things in the coming week, what we might try to notice and appreciate. 

We painted terracotta vases with bright colours and filled them with gorgeous red leaves:

We made paper cactus pots and turned them into imaginary homes for tiny creatures likes spiders and butterflies:

We shared a selection of lovely stories together that captured the ideas we had discussed:
It Starts with a Seed (by Knowles and Webber) tells and shows the journey of a tiny seed growng into a wildlife wonderland.
When Dad Showed Me the Universe  (by Stark and Eriksson) humorously tells how a Dad wanted to show his son the universe as seen in the stars in a vast night sky, and how the child also taught the Dad that the universe is in the snail, thistle and grass at their feet!
Florette by (by Anna Walker) inspired us all to see that a garden can be made by one small person from one tiny plant, when we are committed to creating community and places of beauty in the world.

As one small person explained to us all:
“I love leaves because they remind me of trees and I love trees because they are homes for animals and insects and they are part of all the nature in the whole world even into space and all the planets and we need all of it together.”

 

May 7th – Silence and Stillness

Today we thought about ‘Silence and Stillness’ and how both these things can be a gift to us in our lives. Most of us live in noisy worlds and we are busy. We may think we have no time to be still or to be quiet. Over the afternoon, we explored some ways we could have moments of stillness and silence in simple ways. These moments can be very important for us: they can relax our bodies, calm our minds and nurture our souls. In moments of silence and stillness we can remember who we are, how we are connected to all that is around us and how we are held in the love of God.

In our Gathering Circle, we shared places and ways that we find silence and stillness. Some children admitted that they found it hard to be quiet or to have times of stillness! But they also shared the places they loved to be – like the beach or their backyards or near trees or in their cosy bed.

We read a book called ‘A Quiet Place’ (by Douglas Wood) which described all the places that we could go to find quiet – from under bushes, to the desert, to the library and ultimately to the best quiet place of all – the one within ourselves. We talked about how remembering this quiet place within ourselves can help us to be more peaceful, unworried, unhurried and calmer. Even when we are upset or bothered, we can take a deep breath and remember the quiet place within us that is our soul, our centre; we can remember God’s love for us.

Altogether we painted our favourite quiet places, real or imagined, outside or within us. We listened to peaceful music and used watercolours for this art activity. Here is a slideshow of some of our paintings:

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We shared another art experience as a whole group today. We did a ‘Sketching Walk’.
A sketching walk is a way of learning to pay attention. Often when we are outside we rush past everything, without really looking and noticing. Today we went outside, on a warm and colourful autumn afternoon, with a sketch book and a pencil. We found somewhere to sit and we sketched what we could see. When the gong sounded, we quietly moved to a new spot – either just one step away or a little walk away. Again we paused and noticed and sketched. We did this a few times, noticing and sketching both the big things like sun, sky and trees, and the little things like bees, ants and flowers.  

We shared another beautiful story, ‘Grandad’s Prayers of the Earth’ (D. Wood), in which a young boy chats to his Grandad about what prayers are. His Grandad points to everything in the natural world around them and explains that all beings pray – birds as they sing, trees as they reach for the sky, rocks in their meditative stillness, grass as it bends in the breeze, water as it flows and splashes. He also explained that people prayed wonderful prayers when they watched the sun slowly rise, or bent to smell a fragrant flower, make music, paint or when people tried to express in words what was in their hearts. Prayers are made out of thankfulness for being here and out of hope for wholeness for ourselves and the world. Praying is about being and loving and listening…

We made some collages about the beauty of nature:

Some of them included a quote from the book:
“Each living thing gives its life to the beauty of all life and that gift is its prayer.”

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April 9th – Creating Community…

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Today we celebrated the second anniversary of Kaleidoscope and the community we have become; a community of warm welcome, shared experiences, reflective conversations and caring friendship. In our Gathering Circle we made these rainbow pictures about Kaleidoscope. Then we each commented on what we particularly liked about coming to Kaleidoscope. Children said:

“I love all the art activities.”
“I like doing the meditation because it makes me feel calmer and peaceful.”
“I really like the finger knitting.”
“I like being able to do all the things, however I like, in any order.”

“I always feel happy here.”

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We shared the delightful story of Mama Panya’s Pancakes
(by Mary and Rich Chamberlain) which celebrates the gathering of lots of unexpected people for a feast of pancakes. We too celebrated our community by making and eating delicious pancakes!


Easter Thoughts
Life and I (by Elisabeth Larsen and Marine Schneider) is a sensitive and beautiful story about death. Personified as a young girl, Death explains her role in life and gently describes the connection between all that lives and all ending of life. The ultimate message of the story is that love never dies. We made connections between this message and the message of Easter. For the gift of Easter is the gift of new life – new possibilities, new ways for being human and new ways for living a life of love. Love never dies but lives on many ways; like in open hearts, in gentle memories and in caring communities.

Light is often used as a symbol for things that are eternal and for the presence of God. At Kaleidoscope we greet each other with the special word ‘Namaste’ –  the light in me honours the light in you. We made candle holders for tealights, to light over Easter and help us remember the special gift of God’s light and love in our lives.

Celebrating Kaleidoscope
Children made kaleidoscopes, just as we did at our very first gathering two years ago.
Children decorated bags to use for all the things they make each time!

We shared a lovely afternoon in the warmth of the space whilst a storm blew wildly outside. The heavy rains and darkening skies outside made the peace of our gathering and the light of our candles even more noticeable and beautiful. We felt glad to be together and to know ourselves safe, held and loved, today and always. We revisited Desmond Tutu’s tender book ‘God’s Dream’ and remembered how our love and care for each other make God smile like a rainbow. 

March 19th – Seasons and Change…

Today we reflected on the theme of Seasons and Change. At present the season is changing from summer to autumn, from heat to cool. We talked about our favourite seasons and why we like them in particular. We talked about the continuous changes that occur in the natural world.

We reflected on how change is a constant part of the world and our lives. We often think we want everything to stay the same – but change always happens, whether in big ways or small ways. And just like the changing seasons, there are things we like about change and things we sometimes find difficult. We shared some of our thoughts about this – how friends might move away and new friends might appear, how holidays start and end, how sometimes we wish something would last forever (like our birthday!) but we wish other things would end (like a test!)

We lit our meditation candles and remembered that whilst all else may change, God’s love is unchanging; that we are held in God’s love through all the seasons and changes, big or small, that happen in our lives.  The candle light reminds us of the light within us, the presence of God. 

To everything there is a season and a time for every purpose under the heavens.
Ecclesiastes 3:1

A beautiful painting and a story about this verse helped us to think about the meaning. We decorated glass pebbles with words and talked about how this pebble could remind us that change is natural and need not worry us; that there are ways to remain peaceful and trusting throughout all the seasons of our lives. 

‘Four Seasons in One Day – the Story Orchestra’ (by Jessica Courtney-Tickle) depicts the changing seasons and one girl’s adventures through them, accompanied by musical excerpts from Vivaldi’s Four Seasons. After listening and moving to the music, considering how it captured the seasons for us, we thought of visual ways to show the seasons and what words or pictures could help us to remember the beauty of the seasons and the possibilities of change. We made door handle booklets, with pages that flip over so that a different one can be looked at each day. 

‘Tree – a little story about big things’ (by Danny Parker & Matt Ottley) shows the lifetime of a tree and the changes that happen in its surroundings and circumstances. The tree faithfully, quietly grows through all this, remaining steady and accepting throughout all things. We used our hands to make tree trunks and paint to make leaves of all kinds of seasons! We made woven leaves that showed the change from green to autumn colours. 

 

A Noticing Walk...
Our afternoon concluded with a noticing walk. A noticing walk is a silent walk during which we pause often to notice things. Walking and standing still become a rhythm.
We had a noticing walk around the different garden spaces, paying particular attention to what showed us beginnings-and -endings or seasons-and-changes. Magnifying glasses helped us pay attention to small details. The silence helped us to focus on the nature around us. 

Children returned to our circle and shared their observations about bees on flowers, daisies in the wall gap, tiny flowers on shrubs, curls on leaves, colours in the trees and even a small lizard. The experience of the noticing walk is summarised beautifully by these comments: 

I really liked walking silently
because I noticed things that I would usually walk straight past.
It was peaceful for me.
I found very tiny things like flowers. 

Perhaps some ‘noticing walks’ in all of our days would be a gift to our spirits.

February 26th – Look at the birds of the air…

Today we thought about the small creatures that are part of our everyday life, the birds of the air. We shared our favourite birds and why we liked them – from magpies and sparrows to spotted ibises and crimson rosellas. We remembered that birds have lived in Australia for thousands of years and are part of the many stories that Aboriginal people tell; part of the ancient paintings on rocks and caves. 

We thought about how many things we can learn by observing birds – how they communicate, how they help each other, how they care for themselves, how they have such happiness in simply being birds, singing and flying through their days.

We also shared how birds can remind us of one of God’s special messages to us. When Jesus was walking through the fields with his friends he told them that when they looked at the birds they could remember that every tiny bird was known to God and that we too could trust that we are known to God. Jesus said ‘Look at the birds of the air. God cares for each of one of them.’

We lit our meditation candles, remembering that each of us is known to God and cared about for who we are. Just like the creatures in our world, we are held in the love of God.

We shared some wonderful stories together: ‘Seagull’ (by Danny Snell), ‘Millicent’ by (Jeannie Baker) and ‘Edward and the Great Discovery’ (by Rebecca McRitchie & Celeste Hulme).
Each of these stories inspired us in different ways.
Like Seagull, we can remember that we can always find others to help us when we feel a bit tangled or tired.
Like Millicent, we can care for birds in gentle, simple ways because they are part of our beautiful, natural world.
Like Edward, we can remember that we can learn surprising things from our experiences, like the importance of friendship and the need to care for all creatures so they don’t become extinct.
Our different artworks were based on these stories:

We made Bird Baths to hang in our gardens, so that we could help our local birds through the hot times. We reused old materials and added artistic touches to create these. Some great messages were written for the birds too!

We made frames to hang up at home, to remind us of the wisdom of birds and what they can show us. We used lovely quotes, pictures of birds and our own special touches:

We also made creatively coloured and patterned birds to glide and fly with:

This was a delightful way to spend an afternoon, with children enjoying the gathering of our Kaleidoscope community, reconnecting with friends and meeting new ones, playing outside with bubbles and bird kites, and sharing our hopes and gladnesses together. 

January 29th – Beginning Well

Having a calm start to the school year matters. It is often a time of unsettled emotions and worries about the new experiences ahead. It is a time to remember reassuring words to say to ourselves and calming strategies to help us through the day. Being able to comfort ourselves is an important life skill. 

Our puppet friends, Old Turtle and Seagull, visited again today. Seagull was in a flap and Old Turtle helped her to calm down. Old Turtle reminded Seagull about taking a few deep breaths, being still for a moment, looking up at the stars to feel peaceful, remembering the friends who help us and saying positive things in our minds. Seagull decided she would be able to have a really good day at school! Their story can be read here: no-need-to-be-in-a-flap

Inspired by their story, art and craft activities helped everyone to remember these ideas…
We made footprint posters to remind us that there are always people who care about us, people we can ask for help, people who share our journey with us. We are together, not alone. After a ticklish, giggly experience of having our feet painted, we made footprints on our posters:

We also made colourful stars to hang up, to remind us that the stars are constant in the beautiful night sky. They remind us of the constancy of God’s love for us. Whatever happens in our day, whatever we are feeling or experiencing, some things stay constant. Remembering this can bring us a feeling of peace. 

Dreamcatchers are a traditional symbol amongst some ancient Native American tribal groups. They purpose was to remind children that they were always looked after. Dream Catchers are a symbol. When we look at them, we can remember that we are cared for, even when we sleep, and that we can have good thoughts in our minds. 

One of the stories we shared today was ‘Mr Huff’ by Anna Walker. In this poignant tale, a child needs to learn to befriend his struggles and worries so that, by being kinder to himself and more accepting, he can see his day differently and feel more positive.
We had a very thoughtful time together, responding to this story. Each of us made our own Huff character. We gave it a name and explained what it represented for us. There were tired, wobbly, angry, impatient, muddly, big and small huffs with an imaginative array of names. 

Children were invited to think about what might be on their minds about the new school year, perhaps a worry or uncertainty or it could something they were really looking forward to. Whatever it was, they were shown how to express this as a hope. So if they were feeling excited they could simply say ‘I hope I have a really fun day!’ but if they were worried about something they could turn it around from a worry to a hope. Instead of saying they were worried about making friends, they could say ‘I hope I make some new friends.’ Each hope expressed, was recorded on a piece of paper and collected in a basket. At the end of our time together we lit a peace candle and talked about how we cared for each other and could remember this care during our week ahead. We said together: 

‘We remember the friendship we happily share.
We hold each other’s hopes with gentle care.’

One thought on “Shared Experiences 2017 – Part 1

  1. It was a beautiful idea to talk about the children’s hopes and worries for the start of a new year. I loved what you all said together during candle time:
    ‘We remember the friendship we happily share.
    We hold each other’s hopes with gentle care.’
    I shared this with my son and we talked about his hopes for this coming school year.
    Thank you for helping us prepare for a calm start to the year.

    Like

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