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Rainbow Room Children Warm Up Winter with a Public Performance

By Clare Sanford, Early Childhood Education Enrollment and Nutrition Manager, YWCA of Minneapolis
February 14, 2013
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This month, we feature the Rainbow Room preschoolers of our Downtown Children’s Center! Their January theme was “Winter Wonderland,” and both children and staff dove in with excitement. On January 31, there was to be a public showcase of their learning in Downtown’s Atrium, and they needed to be ready: ready to follow directions, to show off their artwork, to sing, to act — and to do it all not only in front of adoring family members, but (gulp) the other children and staff from the entire Downtown YWCA.

Much preparation ensued. The class learned songs about snowflakes and winter animals and got a chance to build a snowman in their outdoor playground. They really got into winter animal life — quite literally, making acorn costumes and different animal masks. The assembled audience would’ve been happy just to hear a song and see the costumes, but wait! The Rainbows had more in store.

The Rainbows not only read the book The Mitten by Jan Brett, but decided to act it out! This Ukrainian folktale describes a boy who asks his grandmother to make him white mittens. She cautions that white mittens will be easily lost in the snow, but he persists, and Grandma concedes. Surprisingly, the boy loses his mitten! His loss is another’s gain — actually the gain of quite a few others: a series of animals discover the warm, soft place to sleep, and no one is turned away. The mitten stretches and stretches, as first a mole and, later, an owl, a dog, a rabbit and more climb in. The peace is shattered when the bear who takes up residence sneezes, sending all animals and the mitten flying into the air. The boy sees his mitten soar against the sky and is thrilled to regain his mitten. The book doesn’t explain what happens to all those animals, but we can assume they weren’t quite as happy with this turn of events.

The children were decked out in acorns and animal masks, and one group at a time, they ran for shelter under a large canvas “mitten.” First came the moles, then each animal in the book. There was a lot to learn from this story, and from acting it out. Children needed to follow directions, and they needed to listen to and comprehend the sequence of the story so that they were ready for their animal’s turn in the spotlight. Let’s not forget the impulse control being practiced while waiting to run into the mitten: when you’re 2 or 3 years old, it is really hard to wait your turn for such excitement. As the “animals” kept piling into the mitten, they experienced the same emotions and problems as the animals in the book, such as learning to move over, to share space, to empathize with someone else wanting what you already have, and to welcome those who are different from you. They were also building on knowledge of science and nature, practicing fine and gross motor skills, gaining experience with public speaking. Young children get an awful lot of learning done in short periods of time.

Thank you to Lead Teacher Tricia Olson and the staff of the Rainbow Room for the planning and practice that made this performance happen. And a special thanks also to the many parents, grandparents, friends, YWCA staff, and children (including Downtown’s infant classrooms in strollers!) who took time from their days to create an enthusiastic audience.