On a recent Sunday morning, I sat, a bit groggy and grumpy, in an uncomfortable chair in the DFW airport, waiting for my highly-anticipated flight home. I was early and decided to take a walk to pass the time (and, to drive up that step count on my fitness tracker). Within a couple dozen steps, I found myself looking over a beautiful tile mosaic, inset into the otherwise bland and shiny floor. A plaque on the wall told me about the art I gazed upon and the artist who created this masterpiece. It also alerted me to the existence of many more of these mosaics throughout the terminal. Soon, my mood changed as I quickened the pace of my walk, eagerly anticipating the next piece of art that would brighten my previously uninspired business commute.
This interlude with art in an unexpected place reawakened me to the value of beauty just for beauty’s sake. Whoever designed that airport recognized the import of not only addressing the frazzled traveler’s physical needs, but that by interjecting these pockets of beauty, s/he honored the soul of the weary who tread those corridors. Beauty is refreshing; it makes the viewer stop and take a deep breath. Beauty calms those that are in its presence as the images wash over those who pause to take it in. There is great power in beauty. Especially in beauty just for the sake of beauty.
I spend a significant amount of time in hotel rooms. The people who design the spaces in which I lie my head recognize this idea. The prints that adorn the walls of your average hotel room serve no function. They are not there to teach me something or to cover up holes in the wall (I know, I’ve checked). They are just there to provide a pop of beauty in an otherwise mundane hotel room. The architects of the rooms are respectful enough of travelers to provide them with beauty that serves no function other than to delight.
This is something to remember as we design spaces for young children. Just like the harried travelers that frequent airports or hotels, children are deserving of beauty, just because it is beauty. As those that care and educate children, we must not forget to honor their souls as much as we strive to educate their minds and care for their bodies. Instead of filling the walls with teacher store purchases designed to teach or with cutesy projects, look for opportunities to incorporate beauty. Pieces of art, natural items, decorative ornaments can all delight children’s senses and compel them to pause in appreciation.
The learning spaces we create for children has a huge impact on children’s behavior and engagement. As teachers, we should take a page from the design book of the DFW airport and be intentional about incorporating beauty; just for the sake of beauty.
Thinking about beauty reminds me of a time I took children in my class to the art museum. Before our field trip, we talked about what we might see; including that there might be some nudity in the pieces of art we would encounter. We discussed the human body and how artists often depict it in their art and that what it means to appreciate art and look at it critically.
While we were there, we came upon a painting that depicted Mary and a naked baby Jesus. Kaleesa stopped in front of the painting and pointed, saying “ehhhhhhhhh”. But quickly she turned in my direction, looked back at the painting, tilted her head, put her hand on her chin, and said, “I mean, hmmmmmmm”. While we want to be intentional about incorporating beauty, some pieces of art may be better off on the walls of museums until we are ready to have certain conversations.
What do you think? Engage with me and others in the ECE community on my social media outlets. You can also find more information about my book and available training sessions, on any of the following:
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My book, Uncover the Roots of Challenging Behavior: Create Responsive Environments Where Young Children Thrive can be purchased at Amazon or Free Spirit Publishing