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The Power of Wonder

Well the circus has left town – forever. I am not really a “circus person” myself. The closest thing I have seen to one is Cirque du Soleil, but they don’t use animals, so it shouldn’t count. Seeing how sad Dumbo was in the circus, I didn’t really care to go to the big top growing up. Elephants are my favorite animal, and if they aren’t happy, it can’t possibly be good.

But then the word got round that Ringling Brothers’ Barnum and Bailey Circus would be closing down forever after over 145 years in business. I think I’m like most history teachers in that we hate to see anything that has survived that long go away. I listened to the stories with a mild interest, until the ring master, recounting his thoughts on the end, made a comment about wonder. With all the gadgetry, fidget spinners, electronics and more available to children today, I think about how imagination may be losing out to pre-packaged creativity. There is a tendency for children besides just the apathetic teen to also feel like they’ve “been there, done that.” But that isn’t what I want for the children in Putnam City.

In so many districts, those places where children can be creative and imagine- art, music, recess, and more- have been cut in favor of putting more time into testing, or because schools don’t have enough money for something they see as less important than reading and math. Though this is not the case in Putnam City (and I hope we are never forced to think that way), it would help our children even more if we allowed space for them to cultivate their imaginations. Maybe we have a Wonder Period, where children can be exposed to new ideas, travel virtually to new places, and meet people totally different from them.

Our efforts to increase exposure to STEM fields in the elementary school is part of that effort to increase creativity in children, but I’d love to see ways that we can push that up into the middle and upper grades. How much time are children allowed to just be creative, imagine, and cultivate that sense of “childlike wonder?” What are we as adults doing to not only foster that behavior, but emulate it in our own lives?

Though I personally won’t miss the circus, I know millions will because it was a place where wonder – exciting amazed admiration- was on the face of young and old for a few brief hours. We must continue to search for places where we all feel just that.

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