Dandelions, sticks, wrapping paper tubes, and rubber bands…

What do these items have in common? These rudimentary objects transform when the imagination of a child is applied. How is it that, as adults, we lose touch with that transformational imagination, forgetting that learning can happen with the simplest of objects?

During COVID-19 school closures, technology was vital to bridging the distance between teachers and students. Zoom made it possible for North Carolinian Teaching Artist David Novak to meet with Ms. Nolan’s early learners at Froebel Elementary in the St. Louis Public School District. Mr. Novak, a performing artist and storyteller, integrated his artistic medium into Ms. Nolan’s science curriculum during their five-day Wolf Trap residency. The class engaged in dramatic play, bringing imagination to life through the rudimentary objects inside a “story box.”

Ms. Nolan recounted that one morning, the topic of interest with her students was all about what was inside the “story box.” Some thought there was a ball, another suggested a dog, and someone guessed candy. But a student named Donte said it had to be something from the book Oscar and the Cricket, because everything in the “story box” connected to the book. “I could have read that book to the students every day for a month and not had the story comprehension that I saw happening!” Ms. Nolan said. “They were recalling details, sequencing the events, and making predictions – and they had fun doing it!”

Ms. Nolan went on to say, “This week made me remember being a kid. I remembered making dandelion crowns and pretending a stick was a magic wand. I remembered my brother taking the tubes out of my mom’s rolls of wrapping paper and using rubber bands to make a guitar. I’ve been thinking about all the things kids learn by playing and using their imagination. Teachers get so caught up in lesson plans and addressing the standards that it’s easy to forget what it’s like to be a kid. Thank you for jogging my memory.”

Do you remember those teachers that helped you tap into your imagination? I certainly do, and it’s those experiences that I most recall. If our mission touches your heart, will you consider joining us in this inspiring work? If we apply our imagination, our possibilities can be limitless.


Cathy Hartmann