At PS1 Pluralistic School, we celebrate childhood. What does this mean? It means that we understand that one’s childhood is a unique period of life. Erik Erikson, a renowned 20th-century child development psychiatrist and theorist, called this time in a child’s life Industry vs. Inferiority. Children between approximately 6 to 12 years old want to feel success and agency connected to their tasks. This ranges from feeling respected when discussing why an author would make a house disappear to making up their own mathematical word problems to writing and mailing letters to the president about climate change to making friends. A successful resolution of this stage produces children who are ready for the highs and lows of adolescence and the identity crises that it brings. They feel solid and secure within themselves.
Something that every educator, parent, and carer of children is thinking about is how this “year like no other,” will affect our children. The thinking and research will be ongoing. As we have said at PS1 since March of 2019, the social and emotional health and well-being of our students remains central. As we come to the end of the 2021 school year, I had a wonderful experience with some students in Olders that indicated that we have had success.
Last week, I enjoyed listening to a group of Olders students pitch their ideas for their end-of-the-year projects. These are passion projects and students get free choice about the topic. Some of the ideas were more thought out than others. Some were positively goofy. The passion was there in all of them, and all of them clearly communicated that these were the ideas and aspirations of children.
For each pitch, one or two students shared their ideas with their teachers and me. They ranged from writing a “great great” story to developing the best recipe for oatmeal cookies, from re-creating a TV show to animating the Norse myths. What was evident in each child’s pitch was their childness, their enthusiasm for their idea and its possibilities, their unique view of the project and of themselves.
When the pandemic hit, schools and educators were thrown a knotted mess of a curveball that upended our lives. We were not alone in wondering about how the pandemic was going to affect these children who are our students. What I saw this week is that however the pandemic impacted these students at PS1 it had not robbed them of their childhood. Their industry and belief in themselves is alive and well. The possibilities are endless, and they are ready to grow into happy, healthy adults.