by S Hayes · 2015 — paper, I focus on the importance of ritual to human endeavors and share the ://

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Journal of Inqu iry & Action in Education, 6(2), 2015 38 | Page Examining Ritual in a Reggio -inspired Preschool Shirley Hayes SUNY Buffalo State Working and research ing in a Reggio -inspired preschool for one year allowed me to witness repeated rituals of schooling, especially the walk -around -the -candle birthday cere mony. I n this paper, I focus on the importance of ritu al to human endeavors and share the educational, transformational , and caring quality that these rituals hold for children and adults . I give examples of three rituals for three different age groups tha t provide a sense of the importance of these rituals to the continuity and richness of this community of learners. I hope to have made the important point of how parents and others affiliated with any school are partners in each childÕs education, their tr ansformation, and their transcendence into educated individuals, which comes with involvement, seriousness, and responsibility on the part of everyone involved with the childÕs life. I felt my parentÕs tender to uch, the sounds of the street, Birds s inging, water rippling about me on waves of mother ocean When I was born, my birthday was made! Many writers in modern times mourn a decline of rites of passage or rituals that transmit enduring human values and cultural traditions Ñrituals that reflect the uniqueness or specialness of a culture, society, or of a person. Bird (2008) noted that r ituals are Òculturally transmitted symbolic codes that are stylized, regularly repeated, dramatically structured, authoritatively designated and intrinsically valu edÓ ( as cited in Browne, p. 19). Beane and Doty (1975) stated that r ituals require and produce action, performance, and transformation . And of schooling, Bell (1997) noted that many people Òcompare the whole educational process to ritualÓ with the focus on Òfundamental forms of socialization that involve the internalization of cultural valuesÓ more so than imparting information (p. 152). Ritual helps humans cope with those crucial moments of birth, death, marrying, coming of age, graduation, and yes, even s maller transitions or progressions such as birthdays. Dorsa (1995) noted that r esearchers in child development agree that ritualization is vital for a chil dÕs psychological health . Parents in world cultures have always been concerned that their children acquire an appreciation for the awareness of passages that allow smoother transitions from one life stage to another, or that require deeper understanding of the past to make clear the present. i

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Journal of Inqu iry & Action in Education, 6(2), 2015 39 | Page In many postmodern paradigms, a surge of interest in ritual is noted, often through developing a sense of community that is based on the perceived need for a kinesthetic and collective way of making a meaningful life. The popularization of Reggio Emilia inspired approaches particularly in early childhood education in the United States manifests a well -conceived interest in ritual (see ; American Journal of Play ). Schools that abide a Reggio Emilia philosophy employ many rituals, rites of passage, and traditions that ring familiar in school cultures. Among these are gift giving, sing -a-longs, meeting circles, performances, and celebrations of the community and individual children , which include birthday celebrations. Reggio rituals are not just for children; they are for parents, teachers , and member s of the community as well. They are a form of fellowship , or communitas . According to Edith Turner (2011), who continued the ideas of her husband Victor Turner (1969), communitas is a Òrelational qualit y that provides a sense of sharing and intimacy among persons going through some threshold or limen (liminality ) in life together. . . The bonds of communitas that are felt at liminal times are undifferentiated, egalitarian, direct, extant, non-rational , existential, and ÔI -ThouÕ (in Martin BuberÕs sense )Ó (p. 98). Coming from an anthropological stance, o ne of her claims is that , ÒCommunitas is inspired fellowship, a group’s unexpected joy in sharing common experiences, the sense felt by a group when their life together takes on full meaning Ó ( 2011). A form of communitas exists in many Reggio -inspired schools where children look forward to certain daily rituals . In the following sections, the rea der can get a sense of how common experiences are highly meanin gful to children and adults alike, in addition to the importance community involvement plays in these rituals. I taught in a Reggio -inspired schoo l where group meeting times are important daily ritual s. The group always sits in a circle for arrival meetings and final meetings each day from September through June . Some groups even call it circle time. It is a time of bonding, of holding on before daily ritual separation or reuniting . Children seem to find comfort in the security of the circle. After morning meeting circle, parents usually say goodbye and leave their children with teachers and friends for the day. But today, parents hold children on their laps while some children sit nearby on pillows, or snuggle next to other parents or teachers as a special ceremony begins . I share stories of three birthday celebrations at three age levels at one Reggio -inspired preschool. The fir st story is told from what may have been thoughts of a child duri ng a birthday ceremony, known in the school as Òw alk around the c andle .Ó

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Journal of Inqu iry & Action in Education, 6(2), 2015 40 | Page Ritual Number One in the A llen Room , Ages 2 -3 ItÕs my birthday! Why are birthdays so special, I wonder? Why am I so excited? My parents are here for our celebration. They seem excited too. As my teacher lights the big candle and places it in the ce nter of our morning circle of friends and family , she smiles in my direction and says, ÒHello Everybody. Today is a special day. Antonio will walk-around-the -candle three times in celebration of his third birthday. First , we will hear a birthday story from his parents for the year from 0 -1, then the year from 1 -2, and then 2 -3. After each story for each year, Antonio will walk around the candle one more time. We will sing our birthday song, Antonio will blow out the candle, and then we have a special gift f or Antonio from the class. LetÕs begin.Ó Now I get to hear special stories about me as I sit between my Dad on one side and my Mom and little brother on the other. I snuggle closer even though Mom and Dad told me what might happen. Here come the stories: Before I was one: (Mom told the story .) When I was a tiny baby, Mom danced me to sleep as I listened to the sounds of music. The rhythms lulled me to sleep she said. I really like music. Now I get to walk around the candle for year number one. I am ver y brave to do this by myself . I walk around the candle one time. Then I walk very quickly back to my space. After I was one and before I was two: (Dad told the story. ) Mom, Dad , and I often visited the library. Dad and I tried to find CliffordÕs hiding pl ace. I like Clifford and I like reading. One day a man ca me with a guitar. The strings went Òpling , pling , pling .Ó Now, I play my own music . And one more thing, this year MommyÕs tummy grew bigger and bigger, and we went to the hospital when my little brot her was born. I was excited to have a baby brother. I walk around the candle once more with much more confidence that the first time Ôround. After I was two and before I am three: (Dad is telling the story. ) Dad read Goodnight Gorilla almost every night, and I put my finger on the purple house. I like my Spanish book about Margarita and Dolly. Also, I sing ÒThis old man. . . Ó almost every day, and d ress up in my old Halloween costume ; I like Bob the Builder . After I was two and before I am three: (Mom i s telling the story. ) This year we traveled to a special place for my birthday. I had a piŒata. All the boys tried to hit it. . . Now, I really like Caps for Sale. Dad reads it over and over and over. I have many favorite books and songs. IÕm a big boy now . Mom says so. I feel myself smiling all over! My friends are singing ÒHappy

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Journal of Inqu iry & Action in Education, 6(2), 2015 41 | Page Birthday to you. Happy Birthday to you. . .Ó And itÕs time to blow out the candle. I walk to the candle all by myself, blow out the flame with a big Òwhoosh ,Ó and run back to DadÕ s lap. Everyone applauds. I am so proud to be three ! My friends have made a gift, and a special messenger from the class gives it to me. It is wrapped to hide whatÕs inside. I love surprises! And I love presents and opening them by myself! Hastily, I pull back the paper to find a beautiful clay tile with a big ÒAÓ for Antonio on the front. Friends mad e special imprints on the clay with special birthday messages just for me. I love that each of us has a personal stamp so we can send messages to each other an d know who they are from. Mom reminds me to say ÒThank youÓ to everyone! Maybe birthday celebrations are special because thatÕs how I feel today Ñvery special. I feel so good to be me! Ritual requires that we slow down, pay attention, focus our energies as a group and as individuals, and for the time lose ourselves in the concentrated activity. For this event, Harrison (1913) in Ancient Art and Ritual pointed out that we make preparation and in doing so, delay the event, delay expectation, cause a waiting us ually not without ant icipation of the upcoming acts . Through these preparations, people make meaning for lif e through acts that require effort to bring to fruition. Whether art making , music, poetry , or prose accompany such acts, as is true in most rituals , the making slows us do wn in anticipation of the event; often music allows us to ponder the lyrics and/or rhythms in relation to the event. We plan, forecast, anticipate, suppose, remember, imagine, presume, and go beyond the self in this collaborative pr eparation of ritual and artifact . Ritual Number Two from the Bullock Room , Ages 3 -4 During morning meeting, we all form a circle with big long pillows while parents who can stay hold children on their laps or sit close by. After singing our Bullock Room song, ÒFriends, Friends, One, Two, Three; All my friends are here with me. . .Ó we begin the focus on todayÕs birthday celebration for Shawn. On birthdays, many more parents attend the official celebration with us. The two teachers begin to spread a large birthday canvas on the floor and place the candle in the center. The cloth is special; it provides a defined space on which to execute the ceremony. Children tuck their legs tight to make room for the cloth. A teacher lights the candle and smiles lovingly in ShawnÕs direction as she says, ÒItÕs a special day today. ItÕs ShawnÕs birthday. Shawn will walk around

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Journal of Inqu iry & Action in Education, 6(2), 2015 42 | Page the candle four times today!Ó Excitedly Allen spoke out, ÒWhen we were in the Allen Room, we were little, but then we got big and so we moved into th is room, a big room, the Bullock Room. Marty added, ÒAnd next year, IÕll be bigger and go into the Clooney Room. Shawn will too! Ó And the teacher confirmed, ÒThatÕs right! (Smiling) Now , to start the celebration, letÕs sing the birthday song, then ShawnÕs parents will tell us their favorite stories about Shawn. Everyone eagerly sings as Shawn snuggles closer to his parents while everyone sings ÒHappy Birthday to you. . .Ó In preparation for birthday rituals at the beginning of the year, parents are asked to think of a favorite story about their child to share with the group of f riends . Each child is honored on their special day. The stories range from favorite musi c, to tender moments in time, or favorite trips and adventures. Each family decides what to sha re and how to do it. Everyone listens with anticipation as the stories begin. ShawnÕs parents had three stories to share on this day: Story # 1: (Dad is talking .) ÒEveryone knows Shawn likes to wear Spiderman and Batman costumes to school on occasion. W hat you may not know is that every Saturday Shawn and I get up, have breakfast of cranberry juice and cereal, and watch Power Rangers on TV. And then we wrestle together because Shawn pretends he is a S uperhero and Dad is the bad guy.Ó We become conscious of the preciousness of time that parents are able to spend with their children doing routine things they like to do together. In those small repetitious acts are the makings of bonding traditions Ñeven watching Power Rangers with Dad on Saturday mornings is a type of family ritual . (Dad continues talking .) ÒShawn used to play with a whole bunch of these plastic friends, but now he has only two spec ial friends, Santa the Tiger and Gobi the Teddy Bear. He sleeps with these every night .Ó Story # 2: (Mom is t alking .) ÒOne weekend not long ago, our family went down to the Solomon Islands where we rented a boat . Shawn wanted to drive, so the driver helped him drive the boat. He went fast and m ade squiggly patterns. Then we stopped and fished. Shawn caught fish a fter fish after fish, but his older sister didnÕt catch any. She was a good sport though. Then we went back home. Ó When we know that in the Bullock Room, children have been constructing boats in the block area and pretend fishing all year, making their own poles and drawing fish to catch , the

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Journal of Inqu iry & Action in Education, 6(2), 2015 43 | Page idea of reliving a boating and fishing experience is much more meaningful to each child. The children listen in tently. Story # 3: (Mom is talking) ÒShawn used to go to the doctor a lot. He is getting more and more bra ve. The other day he got a shot, and he was so brave that he didnÕt cry at all .Ó Of course, many children eagerly related similar memories of bravery . From the looks in the parentÕs eyes and the admiration in the somewhat shy eyes of the child as he glanc es at parents, teachers, and other friends, one can feel the love an d empathy among those present. When we know that this child has had health problems for many years and that his parents have had great concerns over this condition, these storie s become al l the more poignant. The teacher said, ÒThank you for sharing those stories with us. Now, Shawn, itÕs time to walk around the candle.Ó So, Shawn walked around the candle four times for his four years of life. Everyone in the circle counted aloud, ÒO ne, two , three, fo urÓ fol lowed by energized applause and Ò yeahs .Ó Then Shawn hurried back to snuggle between h is Mom and Dad as his birthday c ommittee, comprised of four friends who m Shawn chose from the class, prepared to deliver his gift . This special gift too k lots of preparation. On the first day, the committee met to determine some words about their friend Shawn. They decided what is unique or special about Shawn, what he looks like, what he likes to do, who he likes to play with, where he likes to go, his f avorite foods, why they like Shawn as a friend, and any other information they can notice from their classroom friendships and perhaps play dates with Shawn. These questions about someone other than the self can be quite difficult for three and four year o lds. Well thought -out teacher questions assure higher quality responses. Finally, a teacher takes the words to put them in some order that will become the frontispiece for the birthday gift book. The words are also read during the birthday celebration just after the gift is opened . The birthday committee met on a second day to draw portraits of Shawn by observing him in a special pose and costume that he could cho ose from the Dramatic Play resources or bring from home . The pose was digitally photographed a nd printed in color for everyone to draw. Friends looked carefully at the pose and costume with the purposeful guidance of the teacher, and put in as many de tails of Shawn as possible . These drawings go into the birthday book along with other drawings by f riends that were drawn over the days before his special

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Journal of Inqu iry & Action in Education, 6(2), 2015 45 | Page Shawn lik es dramatic p lay He loves to be the h ero And wear capes a lot and carry a sword He likes to draw things before he makes them Shawn lo ves to go fishing from the boats we build in the c onstruction area. He even made his own fishing pole and we all made a boat. Nat says, ÒHe always plays with me.Ó We like to play The Nutcracker with everyone Shawn loves to play The Mouse King Sometimes he plays the Prince and dances with Clara And when he dances, he spins and bends. Sometime he paints stories at the painting center Lon says, ÒHe likes to play pirates with meÓ Outside, he likes to jump and run races Especially the marathon He loves playing w ith all his friends. Happy Birthday, Shawn! 1 As Shawn heard the words and looked over the drawings, he smiled a very big smile, and at the end, everyone applauded excitedly again. T hose special words are known, respected, and remembered by each child who contributed. When children invest themselves in a project, they remain highly interested and motivated throughout . They are eager to listen for proof of their investment. The ending of ShawnÕs ceremony culminate d with a ritual wish as he blew out the flame . Again everyone applauded . Parents and teachers hardly hold back tears as the ceremony progresses. The growth and turning forward in time of one more year in the life of their precious child is befitting tears. For all of us, this loss of one year of pre ciousness gives wa y to another year of anticipation , bringing that mixture of bittersweet and hope . The ritual builds on the fellowship and community building that are meaningful to the child ren . 1 This prose is from the authorÕs memory of what friends said about their birthday friend.

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Journal of Inqu iry & Action in Education, 6(2), 2015 46 | Page Cagliari , a central teacher or pedagogista of the Reggio philosophy commented, ÒOur schools are founded on a culture of cooperation as a chosen value. We are deeply convinced that participation is a necessary value for the future of our communityÓ (Cadwell , 2003, p. 186). When parents gather together, they feel the solidarity of one for anotherÉ.a term which may be interpreted as inclusiveness ( Cadwell , 2003, p. 187). The call for children is the same as that for parents: listening, participation, meeting, exchange, discussion, and responsibility (Cadwell , p. 187). Birthday celebrations seem to bring out the best of this culture of cooperation for community, parents , and children . Ritual Number Three in the C looney Room, Ages 4 -5 ItÕs time for another birthday in the Clooney Room. Mila has on a beautiful light gr een, print dress. She wanted to dress up because toda y is her birthday celebration. Forming the circle are nine parents , and fourteen children who are almost, if not already, five years old. Everyone including the teachers sit on the outer edge of the 8Õ x 10Õ colorfully painted birthday mat that was a gift to the school and made by a parent of a child who was at the preschool the previous year. A teacher quietly lights a large white candle placed in the center of the mat, and says, ÒAre we ready to begin?Ó Mom, Papa, and MilaÕs big brother are here, and Mila sits on PapaÕs lap. Mom begins to tell the story of her life year by year: ÒWhen Mila was one year old, she learned to walk. This was a special event for Mila because she spent one whole year in a body cast. She was a very determined little person. Ó (Mila walked around the candle .) ÒWhen Mila was two years old, she started at this school . She was a bit shy in the beginning, but soon made lots of friends .Ó (Mila walked around the candle the second time.) ÒWhen Mila was three years old, she learned to fly! She jumped from a swing two times. She wanted to fly so badly. She believed that if she kissed her elbow, she would turn into a fairy and be able to fly. Of course, she tried to find a way to kiss her el bow! Ó (Mila giggled and walked around the candle the third time.) ÒWhen Mila was four years old, she lost her first tooth. And with her brotherÕs help, she learned to swim. She stopped sucking her finger, and listened to her first chapter book. She also figured out alternatives to the word Ô NO!ÕÓ (Mila walked around the candle the fourth time.)

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Journal of Inqu iry & Action in Education, 6(2), 2015 47 | Page One of her teachers added, ÒThis was also the year that Mila met all the new friends in the Clooney Room. So that is MilaÕs story . What comes next, everyone?Ó The gr oup began singing, Ò Happy Birthday to you. . . .Ó The teacher said, ÒToday, Mila is five years old. ItÕs time to walk around the candle one more time, to make a wish, and blow out the candle!Ó Mila did just that, with smiles and a run back to PapaÕs lap . For the birthday gift, the teachers and children assembled a special book with a story for Mila written and illustrated by a birthday committee comprised of a small group of children. The book, approximately 8Ó x 10Ó in size, contained images from work in children Õs constructed environments and work with light and shadow. F or a long while , children in the Clooney Room had been interested in light and shadow using the overhead projector. This storyÕs theme and method using the overhead projector and small figures was chosen by children and teachers after observing and discussing MilaÕs preferred interests for work or play. The work for this particular book lasted two weeks. The teachers and children spent many hours scanning and printing digitized images, and editing images and text to the childrenÕs satisfaction. Those making the book were sworn to secrecy so that Mila knew little about the product before her special birthday celebration. Thus, this day was filled with the excitement of secrecy and surprise! The teacher asked, ÒAre you ready to hear your story Mila?Ó Mila nodded ÒyesÓ shyly and managed a warm smile as she snuggled on PapaÕs lap. She looked around to see the smiling faces of some of her friends and family in the room. As the teacher showed the beautiful images and read the illustrated story, Mila and th e group listened very intently. Winter Fairies on the Blue Pond Once upon a time there was a BIG snowstorm one winter. Trees were covered with snow and the ground was really white with snow. A po rcupine lived under the tree with his friends. His name was Porkie . Porkie had a rose bush in front of his house , but it was covered with snow. Before the winter, Porkie picked all the rose petals and put them in his little house so he could eat them over the winter. He also had water from the B lue Pond in small cups. He colle cted snow in cups because the snow would melt into water. During the winter, they got really hungry and somehow they ate up all the food! After that they had a fight over who ate more food. Finally, Porkie said , ÒStop fighting!Ó and they stopped. They went outside in the snow to look for food. (They were looking in all

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Journal of Inqu iry & Action in Education, 6(2), 2015 48 | Page different directions.)They came to the Blue Pond. There were winter fairies floating on boats made out of chestnut shel ls. Porkie said to the winter fairies, ÒWe ran out of food. Could y ou please help us?Ó They said, Ò Yes! WeÕll go ask the Spring Fairy Queen to come out and make roses bloom again. When the winter fairies got to the Fairy Palace, the Spring Fairy Queen was asleep. The winter fairies sprinkled snow on the Spring Fairy Queen. She did not wake up. So they had to drop a big piece of snow Ñplop — right on her head. The Spring Fairy Queen woke up and said, Ò Why did you do that?Ó The winter fairies said, ÒWe have so me friends who need your help, so it can be spring again.Ó After a minute she woke up. She waved her friendship wand and whispered a magic word. The magic words were, Ò Spring , Spring Ñmake the nature smell like spring. Make the flowers bloom and squirrels c ome out, birds chirp, and trees grow new leaves!Ó The grass started to grow, and the flowers started to bloom and the ice melted. Porkie and his friends said, ÔThank you!Õ to the Spring Fairy Queen. They found a lot of food. The End. Applause and smiles followed as the teacher carefully handed the book to Mila. With MomÕs prompting, Mila said, ÒThank youÓ to the group and teachers for the lovely gift. A warmth and appreciation beamed from her face as her Mom and Papa smiled, squeezed her arm, and held on tightly to their daughter. With teachers prompting, the group chimed, ÒYouÕre welcome.Ó The sense of achievement and giving of a gift that took time to conceive and execute gave an obvious satisfaction as seen beaming from the faces of all children who par ticipated in the event. Certainly the integration of literacy, aesthetics, technologies, and art studio skills including photograp hy, reflect many of the Òhundred languages Ó of children (Edwards , Gandini , & Forman, 1998 ), as evidenced in this classic examp le of emergent curriculum that Reggio favors (see ). A swelling sense of pride becomes visible in expressions of accomplishing a difficult task that is well received and appreciated by all. Conclusion Perhaps children and everyone involved feel that connection to the energies of life through birthday celebrations. In this Reggio -inspired school, moving from one room to another

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