by Heike Breuer
Preliminary considerations / goals
In this last practical task, the aim is to incorporate the practical and theoretical contents experienced in the IHVO course. It is important to put this into practice in a meaningful way. This can be (once again) in the form of a project that I carry out in a small group. This should tie in with the interests and playing and learning needs of the child under observation and offer him real challenges. The aim is for the gifted child to have positive experiences of working with at least one other child in the project.
… in brief …
The author helps seven preschool children to approach the concept of „soul“ mentally. She asks the children some questions – and the children’s answers are imaginative and full of ideas. Everyone listens to each other attentively.
In the second part of the project, the children put their ideas about the soul on canvases with brushes and paint; here, too, it becomes apparent that the pictures are quite different from one individual to the next.
In my last practical task, I am also able to stay with my observation child, whom I have chosen from the beginning. Let’s call it a successful coincidence that I am allowed to accompany the child for the entire two years under this theme. It really makes me very happy. Leona is now 6 years old.
I must have thought for two or even three weeks about what I would like to do at the end of the training. Since I like project work in the kindergarten very much, it was quickly clear that it should be another project. But which topic?
Since the project „Under the Sea“ is still running in the whole group, it was clear relatively quickly that it would be a small group project. Since Leona is a pre-school child, I decided to make it a project for the pre-school children.
I still had the question of which topic to choose. So first I had to listen carefully to the children and observe them to feel where their current interests lay.
One boy in the preschool group always has problems with his social behaviour and is often very unfriendly, even physical with the other children. This is always a topic of conversation in the morning/final circle because the other children complain about him. So I thought to myself that the project might have something to do with feelings. During my reflections, the great-grandmother of a preschool child passed away and the children asked questions and talked about where one is when one has died. The children had very different ideas and knowledge about this.
The word soul also came up in this context. That was decisive for me.
I wanted to philosophise with the children on the subject of the soul, using the book „Der Seelenvogel“ by Michael Snunit and Na’ama Golomb from Carlsen Verlag. (See: picture books, non-fiction books…)
I was aware that this would not necessarily be easy, but I also like to tackle somewhat more challenging topics. I was also curious to hear what the children had to say. Of course, I also hoped for a special challenge for Leona.
My goals in this were:
To think about the concept of soul
To express thoughts and feelings linguistically and creatively
To develop empathy
To strengthen self-confidence
Learning new contents
Re-forming and networking synapses
The first session was to be a round of talks to introduce the topic. For this purpose I practised the following questions:
- What actually is the soul?
- Where is the soul?
- Where does the soul come from?
- Can we live without the soul?
- Does the soul have eyes, ears or a mouth?
- What does the soul do?
- Is the soul connected to the heart?
- Can the soul get cracks?
- Can the soul also heal again?
I was really looking forward to our first meeting and was very curious to see what would come out of it. Was it really possible to philosophise about the soul with 5- to 6-year-old children? To be honest, I was a bit excited.
We went into the next room and the children sat down on the mattresses arranged in a semicircle on the floor. (The children already know this from our lunchtime reading session.) On this day, 7 out of 8 preschool children were present.
One boy asked, „What are we doing here, Heike?“
I said, „I want to talk, tell and think with you.“
A girl asked, „About what?“
I said, „About the soul.“
As if shot out of a pistol, Leona said, „I know that, that has to do with God and that’s in heaven and that’s what you light candles for. I did that with my mum when my grandma died.“
Already we had the introduction.
What followed, the conversation, the discussion was just terrific. I had formulated different questions, I started with the question
„What is the soul?“
Cedric, the boy who always stands out socially emotionally, said, „It’s inside a person, you can’t live without the soul.“
Leona: „When you are dead the soul goes away, I think to heaven – my mum said“.
Eren: „Without a soul we can’t grow, then we always stay small“.
Caren: „Death has something to do with the soul“.
Two children, Melvin, a bright boy, and Rena, a very shy, quiet girl, listened carefully, but did not comment even when I asked them directly. But that was completely OK with me.
When I asked them
where the soul could be found,
they all agreed that it was somewhere inside us. But where exactly, the children did not agree.
Leona: „I think it’s in our heart, I can tell because sometimes my heart hurts.
Cedric: „I’m sure it’s when you’re not feeling well“.
Leona: „Yes, when I’m sad“.
Eren: „Maybe the soul also lives in our head and is protected by bones“.
Leona: „Yes, it has to be protected by the bones, because it’s such a soft thing“.
I then asked more specifically,
„What do you imagine your soul looks like?“
Leona: „Maybe my soul looks like a zebra. It’s really soft and protected by the bones and I think zebras are just beautiful.“
Cedric: „My soul looks like a flower and it always grows“.
Eren: „My soul looks like a sponge that absorbs everything“.
Caren: „My soul looks like a circle….maybe“.
Melvin: „I have no idea what my soul looks like“.
Rena: „I don’t know“.
Emmily: „My soul looks like an ocean“.
What great answers these were from 5 to 6 year old children! I was deeply impressed. When I asked
if we could live without a soul,
the children said:
Cedric: „No, we can’t live without a soul, then we would have died directly“.
Leona: „Without a soul we cannot grow, then we always remain small“.
Caren: „The soul is in the heart or in the brain or everywhere“.
Then I asked the children
if the soul had eyes, ears or a mouth.
Leona: „Yes, of course, the soul has eyes, ears and a mouth…I think“.
Caren: „No, the soul is like a skin, it can’t speak…only hear or look“.
You could see that all the children were thinking. But the others did not comment. Melvin shrugged his shoulders and said: „I don’t know“.
In the meantime, 30 minutes had passed and the children were still excited about it.
When I asked the children
what the soul does,
they all agreed quite quickly that the soul is there to make us feel good.
Cedric: „It’s inside a person“.
Leona: „But if I’m not well, my soul is not well either“.
I asked: „Can you see the soul“?
Emmily: „Yes, the doctor can see the soul…on the screen“.
Eren: „I think the doctor can only see the bones….or not“?
Caren: „But there is another device, the doctor can look into the body“.
Cedric: „Yes, and then he can also see the soul, I know that.“
Melvin: „I don’t know that“.
I ask: „Children, is the soul connected to the heart?“
Emmily: „Of course the soul is connected to the heart and that’s what makes you love someone“.
Cedric: „Yes, I know that, and the soul also makes us think or worry…then we are happy or sad or angry“.
Awesome! Even now, as I write it down, I realise how incredibly fascinating it is to philosophise with children on such an abstract topic. What great children! Meanwhile, I was – and still am – thrilled and had a lot of fun. There were also some very interesting answers to my last question from the children.
„Can the soul get cracks? …if so, can the soul also heal again?“
Caren: „You feel it in your stomach, then you have a strange feeling…I think“.
Cedric: „You can also break the soul, and when it is broken, it becomes evil like thieves and burglars.
Emmily: „Evil people are evil because they have an evil soul“.
Leona: „Children are born with kind souls and become evil souls when they are treated badly by their parents“.
Emmily: „The soul can heal again, with a cold pack or maybe medicine“.
That was to be the final sentence of our philosophers‘ round. By now 45 minutes had passed and the children in turn demanded closure and wanted to go out into the fresh air to play. I told the children that I thought it was great how they participated.
„Tomorrow I would like to look at the book of the soul bird with you.“ The children were amazed that there was a book about it and wanted to know directly what the book was like. I explained that we would meet here again tomorrow to look at the book. Some of the children were already full of anticipation.
Some of the preschool children were already there that morning when I started my shift at the kindergarten at 08:30. Leona and Emmily rushed right up to me and asked if we were going to look at the book about the soul bird. After the morning circle, I called the pre-school children together and took them to the next room. The children sat down on the mattresses and waited anxiously.
I showed them the book about the soul bird and Leona was the first to respond. She asked, „Why is there a bird like that, does the soul look like a bird?“
And we were in the middle of it again.
Eren: „Maybe the person who wrote the book thinks so. It’s possible, isn’t it, Heike?“
I replied, „Yes, it’s possible.“
Melvin: „Then let’s read what it says now“.
I replied, „That’s a good idea. We’ll have a look at it“.
And what can I say. Once again, I was so completely enthralled by children that I can hardly put it into words. I would have loved to have had a hidden camera with me. The children were able to put themselves in the story very well and empathise with the soul bird. The boy in particular, who always has problems with the other children because of his social behaviour, found himself emotionally involved in so many passages. He was also able to name it and said: „Yes, that’s how my soul feels sometimes and then I don’t feel so good“. It’s really great that this boy in particular can name his feelings so well, but unfortunately doesn’t always know how to put it into practice.
The children were fascinated by how the soul bird, standing on one leg, turns the key with the other leg to unlock his individual drawers.
Leona said: „I think that’s great, I’d like to open my drawers like that too.“
I asked her, „What’s in your drawers, Leona? Do you want to tell us?“
Leona: „Yes, I would like to. I also have the drawers that the soul bird has, and also one for my most secret secret. I don’t tell anyone that. But I also have a drawer to help others“.
The other children then also told what was in their drawers. The children had great ideas about what could be found in the drawers. It was a lively exchange among themselves. The children talked a lot, except for my very quiet girl. She only said something when I addressed her directly.
Day 3 to 6
Over the next few days I painted the soul bird with the children. I provided the children with canvases, paints, brushes, glitter and feathers. Each child was allowed to creatively depict their own soul bird. The children seemed very happy. Two children could paint at a time in the next room. Here, too, the results were very impressive.
The children all painted a bird on their canvas first. All the children, except Melvin, then painted their own soul to it in some way.
Cedric, for example, painted a flower because his soul looks like a flower that keeps growing.
Leona has painted a heart hold by the soul bird. Inside is her soul, which looks like a zebra. Both are eating an ice cream together, which has been painted above. On the right of the picture you can see the house of the soul bird, which is also inside us and where the bird lives.
Caren has depicted her soul as a red circle with glitter.
When Rena, the quiet, shy girl, painted her picture, all the other children watched because, according to the other children, she is particularly good at painting. They all wanted to see what a great picture the „painting artist“ was making. This made Rena very proud.
Eren spent a particularly long time on his painting, almost an hour. He put a lot of thought into it and told a lot of stories. It was a great pleasure to watch him.
I would say that I have achieved my goal. All the children were very interested in the topic and were very motivated. Since the children were given the topic, they were also very active in it.
They were able to develop basic skills, for example linguistic and cognitive skills, by discussing and talking a lot with each other.
Leona, my observation child, was a particularly active participant because, on the one hand, she is quick on the uptake and can put things into practice quickly and also express them very well, and on the other hand because she is always very good at creativity and design.
Rena, the shy girl, was the only one who didn’t seem to have her head in the game when we were philosophising. In a larger group, she always says nothing of her own accord. Only when addressed directly and personally does she respond, but also reservedly. In individual situations, like when painting, she sometimes talks of her own accord, but also rather little. Nevertheless, I think that even the quiet children can take something away from this.
At the children’s request, we will continue to work on this project for a while. The plan is for each child to bring a cardboard box, a crate or a tin. We will paint and decorate these. Small folded boxes, the drawers, will be placed inside. The children can put things in them that are important to them, or even their most secret secrets.
Date of Publishing in German: March 2021
Copyright © Heike Breuer, see Imprint.