It was another odd theme for the Quilt Groups, but there's something incredibly festive and positive about balloons. I decided to go for it.
With the senior groups we tied in a little history.
We talked about the history of hot air ballooning, starting with helium balloons and some of the impossible designs that were created.
We talked about all the what if possibilities of balloons, using photos like this.
We talked about dreams of flying in a hot air balloon. With my senior groups we had a good number of folks who had all wished for a ride in a balloon at one point in their lives. We also had a few that had no desire at all! I told them my rather long and ridiculous story of talking my way into a balloon ride when I was 17. (written up in Barbie Bucket List Blog)
The Quilt Kids at the Shelter
A Balloon Theme sounds like a no fail plan to do with the kids. But I was stressing before I even arrived at the shelter. I had picked up 2 orange helium balloons on the way to the shelter, with thoughts of a balloon launch...with a note attached. But before I even arrived I realized this is 2013. I can't pretend I don't know about the concerns of sending latex and string up into the air. The kids would probably lecture me about our balloons becoming litter.
So when I gathered the kids outside on that gorgeous October afternoon, I had them help me decorate the balloons like pumpkins. 12 kids and 2 balloons...that already was tricky. But the group actually cooperated with ideas. Some kids helped with the markers and some just gave ideas for nose shapes and eye details. They all agreed on one idea. "One happy face and one mean one!" Then we decorated a tag to hang down from the 2 balloons. The kids put pumpkin stickers on the back of the tag and a message on the other...from the Quilt Kids, which is what we call our group.
To Launch or Not?
Then I had the kids wonder with me about letting the 2 balloons go. I knew it wasn't "environmentally correct" but I opened up the idea, hoping they could make a good decision on their own. "Should we?" I asked. 4 year old Sara reacted first. "NO!" she shouted. I thought she'd cry. But 4 older children begged yes. For many minutes we argued pros and cons, which was an odd thing to do with a group of 2 to 11 year olds. There were eager voices pushing to let them go, with wonderful arguments like, "Think how pretty it will be going up!" and "Maybe a small child who is feeling sad will be the one to find the balloon when it comes down."
The youngest were the most passionate with their concerns about letting the balloons go. "Then we'll never see them again...they'll fly away and pop and be gone!" Little Sara didn't seem to trust me. She kept reaching out to grab the strings from me. I promised I was holding very tightly and told her I understood why she was scared. I told the kids a story of my son when he was devastated as a little boy when he accidently let go of his balloon. I helped Scott feel better by encouraging him to make a wish as he watched it float away. My family has since made wishes when we see balloons flying free. The kids got excited thinking up wishes they would make if we let our balloons go. "I wish I could have a penguin." "I would wish for another balloon." "I would wish that my family could all be together!" That made me a little sad.
None of the children brought up environmental concerns, so I had to be the teacher and share a few. But I let the real decision be made by the kids. We voted and the majority wanted to keep the balloons. We did however end up with a special plan that seemed to please all the kids. We untied the balloons from each other and had all the children hold onto the string of the happy balloon. We counted to 3 and let go...under the shelter of the playground tent. We watched the balloon and string zip straight up and hit the ceiling where it bobbed about for awhile. The other balloon went inside to decorate the Playcare Center. Everyone was happy.
I only brought 2 balloons, but I did have lots of fat, colorful chalk.
We spent the rest of the time until dinner drawing balloons on the sidewalk.
I loved this wonderful balloon family...with hands holding onto the strings!
Some of this art work may not look like balloons, but the children kept running up to me and dragging me over to see their balloons with strings and faces and even dangling messages. I thought they would start drawing ninjas and flowers, but they never strayed from balloon images.
What did I learn?
Such young children of varying ages can actually discuss and plan together and compromise! I so often over plan to avoid problems. I try to bring enough props so there's little waiting for turns. But today I had only 2 balloons and I let the kids figure out what to do with them. They reminded me they are capable of making decisions as a group. These kids could teach the adults in our world a thing or two!
For 20+ years children have called it the Magic Quilt. They've danced and pretended all over these colorful squares. I've dragged it to schools, shelters and studios where children have climbed on top to hear Magic Quilt Stories and to act them out.