We have Chautauqua meetings at our elementary school. Chautaquas were named after the adult education movement in the United States in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, held at Chautauqua Lake, New York.
Interestingly, the root of the word’s emphasis is on “adults” not children.
This is because, I think, we, not the children, actually do learn there. We learn about what the children are learning. Sometimes, this can be the most insightful thing, because you aren’t really expecting to learn anything, you’re just here to watch cute faces and voices and snap a few pictures. But most times, the most incredible things just enter your mind, and your heart.
Each class take turns throughout the year, to give a presentation. Videos, slideshows, songs, home-built life-sized animals are presented, eco-systems, donation checks are giving to cancer research (from work they have done), and a community is built and shared. Sometimes, it feels as if I am in some Hollywood-contrived movie, because the plots are just that perfect.
By the time these kids have left the fifth grade, they have held a microphone more times than I have in my entire life.
The last Chautauqua of the school year is cathartic. We say good-bye to the fifth graders, and they select one teacher, give her a rose, and tell her what they remember most about her.
I have so many photos and videos of Chautaqua moments. Many of them break my heart, because they remind me how soooooo fleeting childhood is. In this moment this was all there is… and now it is so over. And, I’m pretty confident that I didn’t take the time to savor that moment, or this one, or that one. I have been attending these Chautauqua meetings for 11 years, back when I had to wake little ones up from naps to get there in time, while I wrestled with toddlers who couldn’t wait to wiggle and crawl across the floor.
Now my lap sits empty. Yet, I’m still learning something new at each and every Chautauqua. I tearfully await my third 5th grade Chautauqua moment, as Fun Size heads off to middle school next year. With two “fifth-grade” Chautauquas under my belt, I have resolved to not get emotional, and let this transition own me, or change me. The results can be devastating, spreading over too much of my life. Grief can be destructive. Instead, with a steel face, I will let the tears fall for the moment while I’m there (it would take too much energy to hold them back), and leave the memory there — and just move on to the next thing.
Here’s what I learned last week at the Chautauqua. The kindergartners studied the moon every single “Fursday.” They used an Oreo cookie to identify the shapes of the moon, as it moves through it’s cycles.
This is a half moon.
If you keep eating, the moon becomes a “wanning crescent.”
What is your most endearing “what the kids learned at school” moment?