It ended as things should end, loudly, and with joy.
It all started so quietly.
The truth is a lot of us weren’t sure it would get started at all. “We had so many signups we were turning people away, but many have soccer practice too.” Grow up in this area and one thing that becomes clear after 40 years, even though it is the next door neighbor to “Soccertown, U.S.A.,” Harrison, NJ loves soccer like no other town.
Miss Nelba and the rest of the staff at the library though were positive, confident, and showed a ton of faith when they began telling families, “Try it out. It’s a good program. It’s so interesting!” (faith because I was the only person in the building who’d ever experienced a Self-Organized Learning Environment before, after all. What if it was awful???)
So yes it started and I began to meet some wonderful people like Brian, Chelsea, Annie, Allesandro, and Yusuf, and so many other that I hope to meet again so I can mention you all in this space and thank you too.
But yes, it all started so quietly.
How often are children asked “What do you wonder about?” after all? Wonder about what? How do I narrow it down? What is this guy expecting us to say anyway? Very carefully we took our first steps and once the first person ventured the first question and then another, another felt brave enough to ask another, and a third person felt safe enough to ask and suddenly we had a movement.
HOW LONG WILL PEOPLE LIVE?
And if you are an adult reading this you might think, “Well what kind of question is that? People in America live about 75-80 years and in poorer countries they don’t live as long. Question answered. What’s the point?”
One of the first things we found was that scientists believe that the first person to live to 150 has already been born. We also found that people in different parts of America live longer than others (and when we found out that Hawaiians live the longest, several of us thought it a good idea to get up and move there)
Well these wonderful children and their parents showed that wondering leads to more wondering and this room that started oh so quiet grew louder and louder the more we all wondered.
There were further questions to be asked it seems:
"How do people live longer?" And we found some answers too:
Exercise helps you live longer.
Eat fruit and vegetables to avoid heart disease.
Avoid smoking because it will damage your lungs.
Small simple changes make a big difference.
And you may think, well people know that and that's something we can just tell children, it was Jean Piaget who told us, "in order for a child to understand something, he must construct it himself, he must re-invent it. Every time we teach a child something, we keep him from inventing it himself. On the other hand that which we allow him to discover by himself will remain with him visibly"
We went on and explored further and found more. After all, if you are going to wonder how long you will live and what you must do to love longer, you'll want to know how you know if what you are doing is working. (Funny how children find their own ways of measuring themselves)
What you see here is the Sitting Resting Test (SRT). It tells us that if you can get up sitting on the floor with no assistance and minimal struggle at least three times, you are not in immediately health danger, and well, you just haven't lived until you've walked into the children's section of a library and happened upon a grown man and children repeatedly rising and sitting on the floor and celebrating that we pulled it off (and how I wish I let Yusuf's mother take that picture of it!).
And of course, we wondered what would happen if human beings lived forever and that lead us to our own theories on over population and to discover that there just may be some creatures, like the Hydra and the Tardigrade (both pictured left), that do live forever!
That oh so quiet room from the start of the SOLE, those shy children, became a loud joyous room. Many of us were not exactly anxious to leave and, I know that I can't wait to come back.
Thank you Nelba and all of the staff at Harrison Public Library, and thank you Harrison! Can't wait to see you again.