Looking down on top of a wooden table, on which are a sheet of paper and cups of water in different colors- red, yellow, green and blue). A child’s hands with light skin are seen reaching from the top of the photograph to place a plastic dropper into a cup of red water.
This time of year, as days get shorter and colder, many of us take time to pause, take stock of the year, and express gratitude. To say that 2020 has been a wild year, would be a massive understatement. Like all of you, my reflections over the past year are filled with moments of true grief. At the same time, there have been moments of joy and plenty to be grateful for. One thing I continue to be grateful for is the community of early childhood educators, who continue to do the exhausting and important work of raising the next generation of kind and compassionate humans. This includes both teachers who work in preschools and childcare centers around Columbus AND it includes the caregivers inside homes- parents, grandparents, aunts, uncles, siblings, friends, etc who are a child’s first teachers.
As an educator and a parent, I know first-hand how hard this pandemic has come down on working families. As someone with enormous privilege, I know that as hard as it has been for our family, it is nothing compared to those folks who are without a co-parenting partner, or without flexible employers, or who may be navigating the cascading crises brought about by an unjust society, including racism, food and housing insecurity or violence.
When thinking about all the challenges families with young children are facing today, we at the Columbus Museum of Art realized 3 things. The first, is that creativity is absolutely necessary- now more than ever. The second, is that while we can’t fix food insecurity or the injustices that create wealth disparity, we CAN provide ideas and resources for families about how to cultivate and practice creativity (in both grown-ups and children) in accessible ways. In doing so, we’re all doing our part to make sure the next generation has the creativity and compassion needed to find solutions to the world’s thorniest problems. The third, was that ‘many hands make light work’- to do this work well, we needed the help of community partners.
PNC has long supported early childhood initiatives at CMA, from classroom visits, to family workshops to providing high quality professional development for preschool teachers. This year, we are so grateful for their support of our Young Child Studios at Home program. YCS at Home has three goals:
1. To provide families with young children experiencing material poverty with materials to create high-quality, inquiry based opportunities at home.
2. To support already overburdened caregivers with ideas for easy to set-up independent play.
3. To offer ideas for whole-family creative exploration using materials that are easily accessible.
To meet these goals, CMA educators have begun to create 1000 boxes of supplies, including a wealth of print resources to support families. All materials are available in English, Spanish, Arabic and Somali. Our partners at PNC are helping to connect the museum to the amazing staff at early learning centers throughout the city who will make sure each kit ends up in the hands of a family in our community. While 1000 may feel like a large number, we know that it’s truly just a drop in the bucket. For this reason, we’re also offering digital versions of all printed resources for free to our entire community (see links below for download)
In addition to the financial support from PNC, this program could not happen without the heads, hands and hearts of our other partners. These include the various museum staff and Cristo Rey high school interns who helped to assemble the kits themselves, our friends at Farhat Interpreting who helped to make our materials more accessible, Columbus-based artist Bryan Moss who helped make our materials more beautiful and the staff at the early childhood centers who are helping to distribute the kits. And, of course you! Whether you’re a member or just a fan, your support of the museum helps to support the work we do and in turn helps us to be better neighbors in our community and stewards of our resources. Thank you.
Additionally, below is a link to a YouTube playlist to help inspire you during your creative moments!
Caitlin Lynch is CMA Lead Teaching Artist & Coordinator for Young Child Programming including Wonder School, an arts-rich laboratory preschool launched in 2018 in collaboration with Columbus State Community College, Columbus Museum of Art, and The Childhood League Center. Wonder School fosters purposeful play, critical inquiry, and a collaborative community approach to education—for children, for their educators, for a more creative and compassionate society.