What a wonderful surprise to see my dear friend Evelyn again after...too many years! The last time I saw her, she was working in Albany as an early childhood expert and I was finishing my Masters in Education with my thesis centered around how the brain learns. Since then, I have worked as a teacher, a job coach, a vendor for the NYS Commission for the Blind, and have started a theatre production company. When Evelyn heard what I had been doing, she invited me to be a visiting artist at the Center. I immediately accepted, of course!
Evelyn and I share a passion for theater and the arts. As young women, we performed together in local theater and have both been engaged in supporting and participating in community theater. In our rekindled friendship, we found that we also share a similar philosophy of childhood development rooted in neurological research and child psychology. To put this philosophy simply, children need secure and enriched environment where they can explore, create, solve problems, build relationships, and make mistakes. In even simpler terms, children NEED play to develop, and this is especially true in the formative years.
We discussed ways to get involved and Evelyn said she would love my help with the Dr. Seuss parade. Since I have never costumed for Seuss, I wasn't sure if I could pull it off, but it turns out that Dr. Seuss and I have a similar fashion aesthetic- polka dots, stripes, bright colors, petticoats, bloomers, and weird hair!
Before I crashed in as a stranger to costume 12 children and 4 care givers (The adults did NOT get a pass!), I asked if I could visit a day before the parade just to introduce myself. I promised to dress to impress toddlers. I think I hit the mark!
I arrived at the Center the morning before the parade in a comically large cowboy hat, a denim vest, a huge petticoat (for the spinning effect, which I am proud to say DID impress the toddlers), cowboy boots, and a briefcase for all my important stuff! Upon arrival, I was immediately impressed by the environment. The Center is a beautiful old home in the heart of the village with all the trappings- high ceilings, french doors, fireplaces, large windows, elegant trim, and fine art work. It ALSO has toys, games, children's artwork, costumes, crafts hanging and little furniture everywhere! I found the children happily finishing breakfast and was heartily welcomed by them. Within minutes, I was in the “big kids” room, telling the kids about myself and peaking their interest in my briefcase.
“Oh, THIS? You guys want to know what's in THIS?” They did. Gathering around me, I first asked them to pick one thing out of my purple bag (filled with trinkets and baubles) and tell me something about it. This engagement immediately calmed them down as they waited for their turn. After that I passed around my other very important things: a folding fan, a small box that opened by turning a crank which turned two gears, very old binoculars, a school bell, and a GIANT clothespin and her tiny baby clothespin who took a nap in the gear box. I left the big kids while they were still impressed and headed for the little ones. I repeated the same process with similar results, then left them with sticks to decorate with flags for our big parade the next day. I tell ya, I was a hit!
That day I worked on costumes. The day became night as I pieced together Sam I Am and his green eggs and ham, Lorax, Horton, a whole bunch of Whoville characters, Things 1 and 2, and, of course, The Cat in the Hat. For myself, the mayor of Whoville!
I knew that Evelyn was not expecting me to be so thorough, but as I worked I remembered the last time I worked costuming pre-school children for theater and a plan began to form. Perhaps Evelyn would be up for a weekly visit from me where I worked with the children to develop a performance, create the set, sing Seuss songs...Then the title came to me- “The PreSchool Seussical!” After the very successful parade the next day, replete with musical instruments, flags, banners, chanting, marching, dancing in the gazebo, and “Follow the Leader” in the square, I told Evelyn my idea. “I have never heard of the preschool Seussical,” she said. I think my excitement shone in my eyes when I answered her. “I KNOW! Nobody has!” It is my great pleasure and honor to be engaged again in my community doing what I love to do and I hope you will check in on us to see how our little musical is coming along! I am aiming for September! For more information about how the fine arts enhance cognition, self-esteem, motor skills, socialization, and MUCH MORE, visit the sites below or talk to Evelyn! She is an expert in the field. Elaine Brundage, Visiting Artist at Hammondsport Childrens Center https://ecc.gov.jm/benefits-of-the-arts-in-early-childhood-development/ https://dana.org/wp-content/uploads/2013/12/learning-arts-and-brain-dana-press.pdf https://www.all4kids.org/news/blog/why-the-first-5-years-of-child-development-are-so-important/