Hello and happy Monday! Between our ‘Under the Sea’ Exploration Camp and ‘Nature Fun’ Extended Day Camp, the children spent the week learning about our biggest shared space: the environment. Thinking about the massive scale of our community when it comes to our environment—a worldwide community—can be overwhelming. As Westmont does with all its lessons, however, it starts with the small, manageable, and understandable before expanding outwards. While children are encouraged to work independently—building self-esteem and capability—Westmont also cultivates an environment that is inherently communal. The work on the shelves is for everyone to have a turn with, the rug at the center of the classroom is for everyone to sit around, and the garden is for everyone to take care of and harvest from. This community-centric mindset is not learned like a math formula or a set of instructions; the children learn this mindset from each other every day. The children learn to step forward to help one another with a problem and care for a sad friend without hesitation because for them—because of Westmont—there is no other way to be. I see it every day when I sit down next to them as they decorate their own seahorse crafts or gather around to marvel at a grasshopper on the playground. While it sounds contradictory, Westmont simultaneously teaches children to be both independent and community-oriented.
I can’t think of anything more representative of Westmont’s emphasis on shared space than the garden in the playground, which was possible because of money raised through the ’18-’19 Ray of Light. Filled with flowers, kale, celery, strawberries, basil, and more, the garden encourages and represents the communal energy of Westmont. This past week the garden has flourished, nearly overflowing, which seems fitting given how much time the children have spent learning about the importance of our environment. From filling up watering cans and rushing over to help the garden grow to simply wandering over to check on the plants, the children love having that shared space—something they can all contribute to and take responsibility for. While we were out on the playground this week I asked the children if they’d like to go check on the garden. As always, they ran over to the garden before I could get another word out. With the garden being so full at the moment, the children and staff are encouraged to eat or take home the produce they’ve grown. As they each pulled off a piece of celery, one child said, “We’re all gardeners!” In one moment he seemed to sum up everything I’d been thinking about: the inherent understanding that everyone has responsibility for the garden. Like I discussed in my previous blog, however, this responsibility actually becomes empowering and satisfying for children at Westmont. Most importantly, just as the garden enhances the children’s community-oriented mindset, the Ray of Light Fund allows Westmont to further cultivate its uniquely communal and independent environment. Have a wonderful week!