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The Christmas Vulture

The Christmas season had arrived and the children were ablaze with excitement. The teachers had pulled the holiday tubs out and set items here and there for all to enjoy. The walls had been stripped bare to make way for drawings and paintings, inspired by the joyous season.

Ms. Fernybunch had visions of Christmas drawings on the wall, lovingly wrought by little hands. She spent her evenings camped by the wood stove, cruising the internet for inspiration to enrich traditions with the children.

Every morning the advent candles were lit as the children repeated this phrase-

Stir us up oh Lord as we make ready for your one and only Son, Jesus Christ.

A story was read, a few carols were sung-it was a beautiful tradition and it warmed the teachers' hearts. The lighting of the advent candles generated such excitement and a thrilling kind of danger. The children never sat so still on the carpet and they had never been so respectful of a circle. We must bring fire out more often, thought Fernybunch. A quick flash of the fire marshal came to mind, but her affinity for the old Nordic ways pushed that stern woman from her mind.

On the planning sheets it showed the Cardinal, the Christmas bird as it was known in some parts, as the bird of the month. However, November’s bird, the Vulture, was still captivating the children’s focus. With gusto, Ms. Fernybunch kept steering the interest away from the foreboding Vulture. “Nature’s Vacuum”, as the vulture was coined, and the study of this fascinating bird’s ability to clean our roads and countryside of dead and diseased animals, made it the perfect bird for teaching the children about caring for their spaces and materials.

Cheerily Ms. Fernybunch would say, “Where is my Vulture clean up crew?” and an eager group of “vultures” would begin to clean up. This was a creative way to show the children the characteristics of the bird while relating it to their small life.

The children had drawn large representations of the vulture and this bird continued to hold their interest. “A vulture”, yelled Patrick on the playground. Vultures circled the school at all times of the day and the children knew this bird well. I wonder how Patrick’s parents feel about his passion for vultures? Ms. Fernybunch wondered.

December tiptoed on and the hope of Christmas artwork was dwindling. “Let’s hang our vulture work on the wall”, said Olive, proudly elevating a large drawing for all to see. The desire to follow a child’s lead was important to Fernybunch but the need for an ideal holiday classroom was as well. In that moment, her Christmas classroom paradigm expanded, and new possibilities formed. Why can’t Christmas include Vultures too?

That day the classroom turned into a museum of vultures. The children proudly gazed at their work and continued play. When Kelt’s grandmother picked him up, he grabbed her hand and led her to the wall. “Mimi, that’s my vulture!” he said proudly. This 3 year old had never been so eager to draw. As Fernybunch stood back, her heart swelled with a new love for this child and also a new love for nature and the continual gifts that it bestows. She took a minute to admire the drawing; large outstretched wings covered the paper. Strangely, Kelt’s drawing looked to Ms. Fernybunch like an angel

A Christmas drawing after all…

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