Down the driveway. Pick a piece of lavender, covered with millions of tiny ice crystals. Which way do you want to turn, left or right? Next intersection, right or left?
We walked through the fog, already burning off. We could feel the sparkles entering our lungs with each breath.
Busy road and cars zooming. Three choices, right, left, or straight ahead. "Mama, I used to be afraid of those trees, but I'm not any more." We pick tiny pine cones off the tips of the branches.
Next crossroads, "Mama, that's University Street down there, let's go there." Thinly frozen puddles alongside thinly disguised reading practice: "What does that P stand for, do you think? The one with the red circle and the cross over it? What does the rest of the sign say?" I ask.
Right turn down University and an old dog barking at us across the lawn. "Mama, I used to be afraid of dogs, but now I just don't like their licking."
Find two sticks, clap them together and then we're marching. Left turn. Right turn. Rose street! Find the stone pig, march on home. "I wanna make a map!" the girl says.
She wanted red and blue like the roads in the atlas. We recalled which way we turned, what we saw, remembered the crossroads, one block at a time. All of a sudden, she notices corners and the geometry of the street layout. "I always thought the blocks went in a circle. I didn't know they were squares." The things she loves go on the map (friends' house, stone pig) as well as the things that 'used to' frighten her. Her long battle with anxiety has its landmarks as well.
It may not be to scale, but when we go out again this afternoon to follow our map, the issue of scale might come up. I'm also pretty sure we didn't get all the streets on there especially at the end of our route, but next time we'll bring paper and make some notes as we walk.
Mapping the familiar twists and turns and landmarks of our neighborhood -- bodies first, memories second, paper and pencils third. I marvel at the human brain inside my six year old daughter's head that is so driven toward representation of her experiences and activities; driven toward it even though she is still just learning to decode print and write using 'the rules' .
She makes maps of other kinds, too. Sewing "patterns", also not to scale, but clearly a sequence of steps mapped out:
I recently read a fascinating article in the New York Times about teachers taking their young students on walking field trips as a way to develop literacy. This kind of activity is literally a step in the right direction. Without concrete, kinesthetic, physical experiences like these, no child can fathom the meaning behind the marks on the page or develop full mastery of the human brain's greatest gifts. The order needs to be sensory experience / memory / symbols, not the other way around.