Reinvent the idea of quilting bees
Seek the children’s ideas
Bring people together for meaningful tasks that aren’t always about
cleaning, painting, and repairing. Entice them with an enjoyable
and useful activity, such as organizing their family memories into
scrapbooks and photo albums. With busy lives, this is something
most people don’t make time for. They are usually grateful for the
opportunity to rekindle memories at this type of bookmaking
party. Suggest that families and staff members bring photographs, spe-
cial mementos, or just their memories to create visual stories about
their lives. Offer a variety of colorful background papers, magazine
pictures, stickers, and old greeting cards. Get a frame shop to donate
a supply of recycled mat board or foam core. Provide glue, markers,
scissors, and other tools for making bulletin boards or homemade
books. Offer initial ideas to get people started. They could create a book
or display board around the topic of family history, favorite memo-
ries, holiday celebrations, or special accomplishments. Not only do
you end up with visual stories of people in your program, but as they
work on these projects together, staff and families learn about and
from each other, thus building a caring community.

We so often do things on behalf of children while neglecting to get
their direct input. Part of your vision-building process should include
ways to solicit the perspectives of children on what they value most
in their time with you. Try asking them to draw their favorite places
or activities in the center. Play a variation of the “I spy” game, asking
them to offer responses to statements such as:
• I spy something that makes me feel better when I’m sad.

• I spy a place to go when I want to feel powerful.

• I spy my favorite place.

• I spy something that reminds me of something we do in my
family. • I spy a tool I want to be able to use.

Chapter 1 Guiding Your Program with a Vision 37

Put images and words together
We have offered you a vision of early childhood programs as learn-
ing communities that can serve as the cornerstone for larger social
change. Take some time now to gather your own thoughts and reac-
tions to this idea. If your program was to move closer to this vision,
how might this look in your particular setting? Remember the words
of Sylvia Ashton-Warner: “Dreams are a living picture in the mind
generating energy” (1972, 87).

Try to imagine the feel, the look, the sound, and even the smell
of such a place. What words would you use to describe this picture?
Jot down some phrases that describe how the environment would in-
fluence the interactions and activities of children, staff, and families.

Now look over your list. Do any of your words match your
image of a school? Are they similar to any elements in your current
program? Go through the list again. Can you identify three things
you could do, with negligible impact on your budget, that would re-
flect some of the elements you pictured? Perhaps your list would look
something like this director’s list:
• soft music and seating in our entryway—set up tape player
and wicker love seat by sign-in table
• chocolate-chip cookies baking—have potpourri or scented
candle for interim
• small groups of parents talking about weekend plans together
• monthly toy and clothing exchange for families
• community garden in a section of our play yard
• hosting ESL and citizenship classes for the community—
call Refugee Alliance to discuss and offer space
Develop a vision statement together
After you have spent time with some of the previous strategies, you
will be ready to create a public declaration of the vision you are trying
to build. When the ground has been adequately tilled and fertilized
with activities such as those previously discussed, invite people to col-
laborate on writing a vision statement. With help from the accumula-
tion of notes from your childhood-memory sessions and input from
staff, parents, and children about their values and what’s important to
38 The Visionary Director