The Love of Learning Center at theTJEd Forum

by Mary Ann on March 22, 2011

The Love of Learning Center at the Salt Lake City TJEd Forum was a huge experiment and I was so excited about it. But it was an experiment and you never know how an experiment is going to come out. I am happy to say that it was a success.puppet show pictures

There were times during the two days that I wondered how we were doing. 140 children bring a lot of energy, noise, need and mess with them. However, I have been assured over and over again that it was a rousing success. I had so many parents and children let me know that.

It is so important to plan ahead and visualize a great out come with anything you are going to do with your children but don’t set your expectations in stone. You will need to make adjustments. That doesn’t mean that you have failed, it is just an adjustment.child playing images

I knew how the center was going to go but through out the two days staff would make suggestions and we made adjustments, lots of them. We jettisoned some plans and spontaneously added other things. The goal was to keep the children happy and keep our good natures. So we had to make adjustments.

Being present is the one thing that can change everything. I remember sitting holding a very young child who had been crying. She had stopped but was unwilling to let go of me. And so I sat there as 140 small bodies moved about me knowing that I was needed in so many places. It was the end of a long day and I was feeling it. I was tired. Children were ready for their moms to come and get them. boy reading story pics

Then another very small child came up to me with teary eyes and put her hand on my knee. I asked her what was wrong and she said she wanted her mom. I felt a twinge of irritation at these two small people. I made myself look into the second child’s eyes and I saw a person in need. I hugged her and gave her a drink of water and she hugged back. The tears dried up and we three waited calmly for mom’s to come. When we focus on the child and not on the problems they are creating for us or the inconvenience that they may be, then we are able to send a message of reassurance and caring that sooths hearts and brings a sense of safety and peace.

In the center that first morning there were so many options for children to choose from. The stations were full of fun things. It took all that we mothers and youth leaders had to keep up with all of them. So we made a change in the afternoon. We boxed up many of the options and left out a good but slimmer selection. It was interesting to note the calmer energy from making that one adjustment. I was reminded of the third rule of engagement, Keep it simple. It is a principle which leads to peace.teacher drawing pictures

We had many adults come down to visit the center throughout the day. One father stayed for quite some time milling around, watching and I’m sure feeling a sense of overwhelm. That can happen in a room full of children whether we are talking 4 or 140.

He asked me, “Do you think this is sustainable? Do you think it can be done year after year? I replied vigorously, “Absolutely!”

It doesn’t matter whether the project we are engaged in is with a few children or a lot of children. It all requires the same thing: Structure and consistency; Being really present with them; Making things seem special and keeping them simple so we can all manage; And planning ahead and then being flexible. If you have those skills in place just about anything you do with children can be a success.teacher reading pictures

You know you have success when people want to come back, especially the mom’s in charge. I had mom’s ask to come next year. Yeaaaa. My inbox has been full.

“I had so much fun helping out today! Thanks for letting me participate. What a great day for all those kids including this big one.”

“I just wanted to congratulate you on the success of “The Love of Learning Center”. I have to say that it was amazing. Everything was so well planned and organized. It was nice to see the excitement in all the children, they were all so eager to try the crafts, one after the other.”

“I am taking my entire family next year if you dare do the LOL center again.” 😉

“… thanks a ton for giving me this opportunity to be a part of this wonderful event. It felt so good to help the kids with stuff, and I felt so good to see the happiness in the children’s eyes, when they were through each task. Oh I just don’t have any more words to describe my experience. It was so awesome… It is a talent to inspire any child, and I am so gratified that I could see how it was done.”

I want you all to know I am looking forward to next year!!!

Mary Ann

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{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

Brandi March 22, 2011 at 5:24 pm

I had no doubt you would create something this wonderful and successful! I’m so glad to hear it went so well! Congratulations!!!


Shiniga Ratish March 23, 2011 at 12:01 am

Oh Mary Ann,it was one of the most wonderful things I did in recent times,I loved being a volunteer there.And one thing I missed telling about, was The booth was wonderful too. I loved the “Connect with Us” section. That was so cool. I am already looking forward to next year’s session. 🙂


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