Our Beloved Olive Tree

By Eric Eyman

“To climb a tree is for a child to discover a new world.” ~Friedrich Fröbel

During the first week back at school, the Olive Room children reconnected with each other and the teachers, and familiarized themselves with their new classroom environment. There were many changes over the summer, like the construction of a new building, a new kitchen, new classroom names, new teachers and of course, new children. With so many changes to our program, things can feel confusing and a little difficult to navigate. I know a lot of the teachers, including myself, had many questions during the summer about what the new school year would look like. Something I was surprised by after completing our first week is how much the children have embraced many of the changes. I had a few moments where I confused the classroom names, but the Green… I mean, Olive Room children quickly corrected me!

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One thing that has remained the same at Little Owl is our beloved Olive Tree. One of the major reasons that we decided to change our classroom name from the Green side to the Olive Room is because of the special connection the children share with the tree, which became clear to me when we returned to school the first week. During the first few days back, I watched the children reconnect with the tree. Farrah spent a lot of time climbing and exploring different branches to hang on. During one moment, I saw how focused she was as she hung upside down and attempted to pull her legs up. She stopped, jumped down, and gave me a half-smile, trying to mask her frustration. Farrah shared, “I can’t do it yet. Bea can do a flip!”

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Knowing how much Farrah practices every day and how determined she is, I believe that she will soon be able to learn how to do a flip too. I watched as Dylan hung upside down, hugging the tree with his arms and legs. He had a look of amazement in his eyes and a huge grin on his face as he shouted across the yard, “Look at me Eric!” During another moment, I spotted two stealthy, underwear-masked ninjas, Makata and Atlas, perched on the branches cautiously looking around the yard. Carolina requested that I watch her as she hung from a branch with one arm and instantly dropped to the ground. She immediately looked up at me and asked, “Have you ever seen anyone do THAT before?” I paused for a moment to think about her question and responded by saying, “You were hanging by one arm and dropped down pretty fast.” She confidently replied, “I don’t think you’ve ever seen anyone do THAT before.”

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Grace and Madison, two of the new children at Little Owl, quickly got to know the Olive Tree the first week. I supported Grace as she climbed into a few situations where she felt stuck and got scared. I watched as she persevered through these difficult moments and continued to practice. During one situation, Farrah supported Grace by teaching her the way that she climbs up the tree. Soon after, Grace was climbing the tree and jumping down all on her own. Grace beamed with pride and shared her excitement by encouraging Madison, who struggled to climb the tree a few times. There were a few moments when Madison doubted herself, saying, “I can’t do it.” Grace enthusiastically responded, “You CAN do it!”

While writing this, I reflected on everything that the Olive Tree represents to the children, and everything it provides. The Olive Tree is a ninja hideout, a natural gymnasium, a home for whatever animals or creatures the children imagine themselves as. Of course, it is also a home to real-life nature, like birds, insects, squirrels, and many other critters. The Olive Tree is a spot that provides shade while children sit and listen to their favorite stories or flip through the pages of their family books. It is a space for the children to gain a different perspective and wonder about the world beyond the walls of Little Owl. Lastly, I thought about how the Olive Tree is a space for the children to take risks, problem-solve, and build resilience.

The Olive Tree transforms into whatever world the children imagine it to be.

I’m curious to know… When you look at the Olive Tree, what do you see?

 

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