“Canyons are symbolic to me of the beauty of authenticity and vulnerability. When we expose the layers of our history and who we are it reveals deep truths about life that we can appreciate and will help lead us. I am thankful for this painting now as a reminder to be brave!” –Erin Chinworth (one of my very best friends)
A Layer of My Life: Snapshot of my Teaching Years
Welcome to the 4th installment of a mini-series on the 7 natural wonders of the world. Today’s blog post features the Grand Canyon.
I have never been to the Grand Canyon, but some of my favorite teaching memories are of my 4th grade students pretending to explore these canyons during a Science unit on erosion + land formations and a Social Studies unit on the Southwest region of the United States.
Picture one side of the classroom with tubs of clay, sand, and rocks spread out everywhere. It was messy. It looked chaotic. They tested the different types of soil, and then worked in teams to design their own reservoirs.
At the front of our classroom on a big smart-board I displayed a photo of the Grand Canyon for a backdrop.
After experimenting with the soil and water, we transitioned to rehearsing a reader’s theater. Using a script students practiced their reading fluency while learning new vocabulary and information.
The students acted out different scenes at the canyon: a scene from the past of Spanish explorers searching for cities of gold, a river rafting scene at the bottom of the canyon, and a scene of tourists horseback riding on the canyon trails.
One year the students totally surprised me by bringing hilarious props on the last day of the unit. The ‘Spanish explorer’ group had mustaches and hats. I am not saying the props were historically accurate; but definitely fun.The rafting group brought a blow up raft, bike helmets, and oars!!! The horseback riding/hiking group brought their old childhood toys; those horses on a stick, and bandanas.
While the kids were performing a kindergarten class happen to walk by, and the teacher asked if they could come in and watch. So we even had an audience!
It brought me much joy seeing the students be creative and silly while learning. Also, it reminded me of my own year in fourth grade long ago. I had such a wonderful teacher in 4th grade. She encouraged our passions and gave us rich learning experiences. It was a life-giving year for me, and our little classroom community felt like a close-knit family.
I wonder if this was a result of the vulnerability she allowed for in the classroom. She had us share lots of our own creative writing with each other. We gave persuasive speeches on topics we were passionate about. It was a safe place to imagine, to share our dreams and to be creative. Ideas were met by her with gentleness, excitement, and encouragement. I think I became a bit braver that year, especially in sharing the creative side of myself with others.
It’s amazing how a little bit of vulnerability met with gentleness can help us experience a Grand Canyon type of life or community, giving us a glimpse into the kind of love described in Ephesians 3:17-21
And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the Lord’s holy people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.
Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen.