I'm currently assisting with a theatre workshop for 8-13 year olds. They astound me in more ways than one. One of these ways is how open they are about their religion. They are still too young to know that theirs is not the only one, or that others could be offended by their constant referencing of their beliefs. I'm probably the only person involved in the workshop who isn't Christian, though one other person at least has similar tastes for metaphysical things along with her beliefs.
I know the kids are being raised Christian because they wear shirts from their church groups, camps, or other events all the time. (Adults who come through the building sport similar attire.) And when we play games with the kids where they get to make up stories or responses, it always turns to a stream that goes something like someone falls down > they got shot > death > Hell > the devil > Satan > evil. That is an exact train of thoughts that happened when I had them play "I Am the Sun," which should be a very happy and positive game. And the children seem happy while saying these things, of course. I don't mean to say they're miserable and plagued by thoughts of demons. But I think it's even more disturbing that they bring up Hell and Satan and evil as part of game-play, laughing and smiling about it.
So yesterday, I decided to have a little fun of my own and introduce some magick.
We are working on a performance of The Secret Garden, which is about ghosts and family and the earth and nature and magic and growth and change. When the director talks to the kids about the magic in the play, they don't seem to get it, or care. I know it's because, while they are children and still young enough to be mystified by fantasy, they have been taught not to believe in magick. The boy playing Dickon, a character who speaks to animals and has a green thumb, does not understand why Dickon talks to animals, because he never talks to his animals, that's silly. These kids are performing a show that is so much about nature and magick, and they don't believe in it. They say the lines, "You have to believe, or it won't work," but blankly, empty of any truth for them.
In order to introduce a bit of magick to them, yesterday I cut out a bunch of flower and butterfly shapes from colored paper, using some foam shapes that were in the classroom as stencils. At the end of the workshop, I had them each take a colored shape and a marker. I told them:
We're doing The Secret Garden, where Mary and Dickon grow flowers and vegetables and other things you can grow in a garden with seeds. But these are not the only things you can grow. For instance, you can grow fond of someone. You can grow your talents. You can grow happier and happier each day. (Here, a boy shouted "You can grow taller!" and I said) yes, exactly, YOU can grow. Mary and Dickon and Colin grow in the garden, too, though not the way plants grow. Animals grow. People grow. Love grows. I want you to take your marker and on one side of the shape, write down something you would like to grow that could NOT be grown in a real garden. You can decorate the other side any way you want. I will string them all together and we can hang them in the lobby, as our garden of what we want to grow in our lives.
Some of the kids were absent yesterday so they'll do this next week, but here is what the rest chose to grow, exactly as they wrote it (so forgive any spelling) on one or multiple shapes. This is the first time I'm reading them, as well:
- a fun time
- I want to grow a cliff made of sausage (a flower and yin yang drawn on the back)
- Music (with a treble clef next to it)
- I want to grow Life
- I want to grow Happiness
- I want to grow a money tree, a hat bush, Love flowers and happiness
- I would like to grow a dog tree
- A star Tree; And A candy Tree
- A candy tree
- I want to grow a Money Tree
- I'd grow Seacret Garden (decorated with spirals, hearts, and peace signs)
- A Shoe Tree! (decorated with smiley faces, butterflies, spirals, and curls)
- Candy Tree
- You can grow new friends
- I would like to grow a outfit plant
- cheeseburger bush
- A sewing machine Tree
Now, of course some of them are going to be disappointed, because I don't think a candy tree or a shoe tree are going to bloom anytime soon. But I did tell them it could be anything silly they would want, because explaining why it couldn't be would mean telling them what positive affirmation is, and that this was a kind of magick like in the play, and well, we were just out of time. =) But I think those that want to grow friends or happiness will get it, or a fun time, music, or life. In any case, maybe someday they'll learn a bit about it on their own and remember this activity and connect it somehow.
It's my own little teachable moment.