Monday, June 18, 2012

"Fun That Is Funny"

Sooby knows what it means to have "Lots of good fun that is funny."  She learned this last week while taking a summer Kids' College course, "Dr. Seuss on the Loose," at our local community college.  For three hours every day, she and four other children ready to enter grades K-2 were immersed in that wonderful singsong world created by Theodor S. Geisel.

When I went to pick her up on the first day, she met me at the door wearing a tall red-striped, cat-inspired hat made from a paper plate rim stapled to a paper sack.  As I waited for her on another day, I pondered a chart posted outside the classroom door indicating how all the kids in the class preferred their eggs to be cooked.  Of course, everyone claimed to like green eggs and ham, but "scrambled" ranked a close second. 

Yet another day, she came home with green under her fingernails and a baggie containing a blob of homemade oobleck, that wonderful squishy substance that defies classification as either liquid or solid.  What child this age wouldn't have a field day with these ageless stories and these imaginative ancillary hands-on (or, in the case of the oobleck, hands-in) activities?

I know I would have if I'd had the chance.  However, Fun with Dick and Jane was really not that much fun, as I recall, and when I was Sooby's age, my reading repertoire consisted mainly of the traditional children's stories that usually involved three of something--bears, billy goats gruff, mittenless kittens, architecturally challenged little pigs, and so forth.  Then, there were those scary stories designed to send preschoolers straight into therapy with their giants ("Fee-fi-fo-FUM!"), big bad wolves ("Grandma, what a big MOUTH you have!"), and witches (Never, EVER trust a trail of bread crumbs.).

As a former teacher, I can't help thinking what it might have been like to take a class based on, say, "The Three Little Pigs."  Let's see, now.  On the first day we would build our cast of characters.  We would mold our little pigs out of balls of pink clay and Elmer's-glue squiggly eyes and felt ears on one of our dads' old brown socks to make a wolf hand puppet.

On Days 2, 3, and 4 we would construct little houses out of straw (which would not only be very difficult to stack but would also make us sneeze), twigs (for which we might substitute flat-sided toothpicks if we wanted something that looked a little less like a bird's nest), and Lego bricks (Did those exist then?  Hmm, I may have to google that--but I do remember playing with a set of plastic Lego precursors that came in a round box with a metal lid like Tinker Toys and went by the name "Block City."). 

Then, on each of those days we would use the hand wearing our sock-puppet wolves to grasp a little battery-powered personal fan to imitate the huffing and puffing needed to demolish all houses except the ones built with Block City bricks.  By now, there would most certainly be a point made, and we would all know what it was.  Unfortunately, right now I don't-- but let me see this thing through anyway.   

On the final day, for the grand finale, we would heat a kettle of water to the boiling point (taking advantage of this teachable moment to introduce the word "Fahrenheit" and learn first-aid for burns) and throw our wolf puppets in to drive home the point (which we will believe until we are disillusioned as teenagers) that good always triumphs and evil gets its just desserts.  On a more practical and less theoretical note, the boiling water will also melt off the glue, whereupon we can return the socks, clean, to our dads' bureau drawers before Sunday comes around and they need them for church.

Nope, I have to admit, this is not a scenario that would have worked in 1957 when I was the age Sooby is now.  I remember my own early grades as being pretty traditional and pretty structured.  If you ask me, we could have used a little more "fun that [was] funny," and I'm glad, thanks to "Dr. Seuss on the Loose," that Sooby got to have just that.


1 comment:

  1. I agree with your closing paragraph! I remember that our textbooks used to have creative ideas at the end of each chapter, and my teachers n-e-v-e-r let us do them! It was answer the questions in complete sentences every day. School didn't pretend to be enjoyable in those days. Funny. I loved it any way, even Dick and Jane.