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By Claudette Sutton
Oh, 2020. You came in like a lamb, and you’ve been roaring like a lion ever since.
The pandemic death toll mounts. The economic fallout may last for years. The West is on fire. The East is being hammered by hurricanes. Drought and heat linger on. Riots against racist oppression continue around the world. Kids are back in virtual classrooms. Parents and teachers are doing all they can to meet children’s needs and, with any leftover energy, maybe a few of their own. Psychologists are alerting us to “crisis fatigue” — which parents may experience even in ordinary times.
Oh, 2020. If you’re vying for a place in the history books, you’ve earned it. You’ve been an exceptional year in every exhausting, overwhelming respect.
But here’s the thing. Children don’t do so well with relentless change. Sure, they like surprises, but they need safety, security, food, comfort and fun, time outdoors, time with friends, time with loved ones. The square-peg-in-a-round-hole disconnect of 2020 comes from trying to meet those needs in this era of dizzying change.
You know what one of the most common suggestions is for parents taking young children on vacation? “Keep bedtime as consistent as possible.” If we’re experiencing a divorce or death in the family, a move, a parent’s loss of employment, or another major change, the advice is similar. Have meals together. Maintain regular routines for bedtimes, story times, games and celebrations, to assure children that their world is still in order.
So what’s up, 2020? We’re not even three-quarters through and you’ve already made consistency as archaic as a group hug.
And yet. Oh, and yet! Somehow in the midst of this chaos, people here in Santa Fe and beyond are tapping into reserves of resourcefulness and creative thinking to help us meet the moment.
ARTsmart and other members of the Santa Fe Community Educator’s Network, for example, recognized shortly after Santa Fe Public Schools shifted classes online in March that children need not only virtual learning experiences, but hands-on, tactile ones, too. They responded by assembling packets with materials for art, science, math, history and other educational activities, which they distribute free to families as they pick up meals at city distribution sites and other venues. In Sarah Mandala’s So Much to Share, you’ll see that distributing these learning packets is one of several plans ARTsmart and SFCEN have for adapting to ongoing virtual schooling this year.
The Pajarito Environmental Education Center also pivoted early in the pandemic, putting many of their wonderful nature activities online. When COVID forced the temporary closure of the Los Alamos Nature Center (which houses the PEEC) in March, they launched Take it Outside!, an online vehicle for getting kids outdoors. The series, archived on their website, offers a different theme each week, with five different activities on that theme and variations for beginner and more-advanced naturalists. Observing nature’s patterns and cool phenomena settles us in uncertain times, as Siobhan Niklasson explains, with a September Scavenger Hunt to start us off.
The New Mexico Wildlife Center has also found new ways for us to stay connected to our natural environment, with virtual programs that keep us acquainted with their Ambassador Animals, including raptors, large cats, reptiles and other wild critters. In Migrating, Stocking Up, Rutting and Molting, Jessica Schlarbaum trains our eyes for observing signs of change in autumn. The Wildlife Center was able to reopen its outdoor areas in mid-August, and their virtual programs will continue as well.
ArtWorks, which in normal times brings visiting artists into schools and sends kids to cultural experiences at theaters and museums, usually celebrates the end of the year with a show of student works at the New Mexico Museum of Art. This spring, they put that exhibit and the accompanying book of poetry and visual art online. In Solutions at our Fingertips, Erin de Rosa explains how ArtWorks is adjusting its educational model to provide virtual field trips this year, in order to meet its objective of maintaining children’s connection to art and local artists. As a special bonus, Joan Logghe, Santa Fe’s first Poet Laureate, provides suggestions for teaching children to write poetry.
In Inspiring the Scientist in Every Student, Judy Reinhartz, a board member of the Santa Fe Alliance for Science, shows how teachers can use that organization, with a volunteer base of over 100 scientists and other STEM professionals, to their classroom to enhance their science curriculum. (Full disclosure: I joined the Communications Committee of SFAFS this summer to help support their mission.)
We can’t praise these people and organizations enough for adapting to meet children’s needs in this crisis, and the teachers and parents who are adjusting to remote learning. We echo the sentiment we’ve seen circulating on Facebook: “Be extra kind to your child’s teacher, because most of them are building the plane as they fly it.” Kate Noble, Santa Fe school board president and parent of a fourth-grade SFPS student, addresses the need for kindness, as well as patience and clear communication, in her Back to School in a Changing World, with other guiding principles and practical suggestions for the new school year.
Speaking of kindness (let’s do that a lot), we’re so glad to welcome Liana Star to Tumbleweeds with her article about CASA First Judicial District’s Kindness Rocks project. At 15, Liana has a wisdom and eloquence way beyond her years. We are so grateful to her and the other Youth Ambassadors for the brilliant project of sprinkling hand-painted rocks around town laminated with information about preventing child abuse and neglect, and we’re thrilled that they chose to share their story in Tumbleweeds. Learn more and find out how you can create rocks for the project, in Kindness Rocks, and So Do CASA First Youth Ambassadors.
Another fantastic teen writer, Ivy St. Clair, describes the pandemic from the perspective of a Santa Fe High School senior. Her article, Milestones Missed, Plans Rerouted, reminds me the COVID crisis isn’t stopping time for kids but is taking a chunk out of their youth, claiming long-anticipated events and experiences that won’t come back. You’ll also see a list of behavioral health resources for children, teens and adults on this page, which we compiled with help from the SKY Center of the New Mexico Suicide Intervention Project.
If you’re on the other end of the school spectrum, as a parent of a preschooler, you won’t want to miss Cristina Rubio and Alma DeMange’s articles on their decisions, respectively, to send their child to school and to homeschool; see their Two Moms, Two Decisions.
COVID-19 feels like a rude slap when it takes away our beloved community celebrations. We've had to do without Spanish Market, Indian Market, Santa Fe’s music festivals, and International Folk Art Market this year -- and now the burning of Zozobra! Old Man Gloom will burn this year, but without a crowd present for the first time in his 96-year history. That won’t stop Jennifer Villela from celebrating full-throttle with her family, as you’ll read in Zozo at Home, complete with a list of songs on her Zozobra play list!
For our long-time readers, let me thank you again for coming with us on the move online this summer after 25 years in print. For new readers and long-distance friends, we’re glad to have you here in our second digital issue! We hope you’ll spread the word, leave comments and share favorite articles with friends and relatives near and far.
We wish you a successful, happy, rich and exciting school year — and most of all, we wish you good health.