This fall, we were invited to engage with our community on a musical journey. As with all projects, it’s often the sideroads and scenic stops that are most mesmerizing.
We would meet Rachel Ries and collaborate with her, create our own song, share it with our city, and engage with our community. But first, we needed to know Rachel. So, we introduced her through her music. We watched her video Words. This video is full of whimsy and delight, but it was the planting of words and the growing of a “word bird” that so fascinated the children.
Birds don't really grow and it feels like magic.
Do you think the seed was magic and it grew a bird?
Or do you think her words were magic and told the bird to grow?"
--Callum, age 4
Some of the children tried to replicate. But day after day, no word bird grew. We knew we were missing something.
We wrote a note to Rachel and asked her Callum’s question. She replied simply,
“The magic comes from everywhere.”
Hmmm....that was not quite the concrete answer we were hoping for, but we started to look around us, searching for magic. We didn’t find any that day. But while we were looking, Brooks, age 3 clutched his belly and shouted, “The magic is IN me!” We all stopped in our tracks, looked at Brooks jumping up and down and one by one the others clutched their bellies, started jumping and gleefully shouting and giggling, “It’s in me!” “It’s in me too!” “Me too!” “Magic is in me!” It was a moment of pure delight that couldn’t have possibly been planned—a group of small children joyfully discovering magic within themselves.
But we had to come back to Rachel’s statement that the magic was all around. Since we couldn’t see it, we decided we needed to sniff it out. We grabbed a bucket, went on our playground, and started searching for magic. Suddenly, an ordinary leaf, when smelled, touched, and examined carefully was not an ordinary leaf, but a magical one. We had to find just the right ones--not all leaves, petals, acorns, sticks, and stones are magical. We discovered we could find them by their smell and touch. Magic ones smell good and feel,,...magical!
So, we had our bucket of magic from around us. Next, we needed to add the magic from within us. We used Rachel’s video as a cue. We reached into our minds, hearts, and bellies and got our magic out and put it onto paper. We wadded up our magical words and planted them in our pot with the magic from around. We added a little dirt and water. Still nothing.
One day, while reading a book we had read many times before, something caught our attention. A page in the book reads “Music fills our lives with magic….music is a magic potion.” That’s it, that’s what we’d been missing, the magic of music! It was just days before Rachel would be visiting. We wrote her a quick note asking her about this idea and her response:
"Music is indeed a special kind of magic which lives inside each of us."
On the day she arrived, we had much to do—practice our song with her, draw pictures to give to her, prepare a snack of jam and bread, get coffee ready for Dave. But perhaps the most important was to get our pot of magic ready for the final thing—Rachel’s magical music and the music inside all of us.
Things moved pretty quickly after that—we got our voices, buckets, and hearts ready for our big night. It was an amazing event—the Englert stage made a beautiful and magical final destination to our musical journey. But the magic was just beginning because the next day something was stirring in our pot. Each day, a little more happened until finally, an actual “word bird” popped out! We couldn’t believe our eyes! Was it magic? Would it fly? Why did it look different from Rachel’s? Was it shy or afraid of us?
We kept a careful eye on it until one day, it was gone from the pot! We searched and searched and finally found it outside, perched upon a branch in Opportunity (the name of our biggest playground tree, so named by a past preschooler).
What is magic? As adults, we throw the term around loosely—we often use it when we don’t want to go through a long explanation to questions we don’t quite know the answers to (It’s magic!”). The term is used sometimes to elicit good behavior—the “magical” elf on the shelf that is watching closely at Christmas time. But what is magic for children and why is it important? I’m not quite sure I know the answer to that question yet, but I know this magic didn’t just happen. No, we needed to create the magic here by looking for it around us and inside of us, and finding the tools to make it grow.
We aren’t sure what will happen next. Will she have babies? Will she fly south? Will she nest for the winter? While Word Bird’s future is uncertain, one thing is for sure:
MAGIC is indeed around us and in us, and today a bird grown from magic and music sits in a tree named Opportunity.
5 day teacher