It’s Messy.

Starting a school is messy, as you have undoubtedly witnessed this last year on our blog.  It is easy to notice the actual messes: construction dust, sandy shoes, dirty lunch dishes, half-sunburned faces due to hastily-applied sunscreen en route to the beach.  The really messy areas at Brightworks, though, sometimes are where you least expected them to be.

We think a lot about food in the Brightworks community.  Our families’ belief systems regarding food are very diverse, but all of our school’s families are thoughtful about the food they serve their kids.  That care is expressed in different ways: some put a lot of thought into where their food comes from; if it is organic, bio-dynamic, sustainable.  Some make careful decisions about where to shop, mindful of the political and environmental implications of where food comes from.  Some families serve food that has provided comfort, familiarity, and love throughout generations of their family, but are willing to bend a few rules to maintain those traditions.   Some must prioritize food lower in their family budget and focus on value, and preserve family funds for other priorities.

Today eight of our oldest students made lunch for the school, beginning new traditions of service to the school community and thinking of the needs of others.  Throughout the week, they divided the jobs, planned the menu, altered the menu to accommodate dietary needs, and created an aesthetic plan for the tables.  As the first band to prepare a community lunch this year, they did an amazing job of meeting the needs of the community.

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When I was sent on an emergency run to the store this morning for last minute ingredients for the students, though, the shopping list written by these excited children included vast quantities of rainbow sherbet.

This is where Brightworks got messy, today.  Aside from the state of the kitchen (out of control, fyi), it is these messy heart-and-mind moments that paralyze us at Brightworks from time to time…these decisions between adult values and child-led moments.  Do we as a school community support low-quality, fake neon-colored rainbow sherbet in a plastic bucket?  No.  Do we support empowered kids to show their love for their community in ways that they all agreed would make everyone happy, given the guidelines (or lack of guidelines) they had?  Yes.  I paused, but I bought the sherbet.

At lunch, the other kids devoured the chicken and sausage stew, biscuits, and salad lunch that the band had prepared for them.  When the dessert course began, however, excitement at Brightworks reached a new fevered pitch.  Oh, the colors!  And the handy plastic bucket it arrived in!  The ingredient list that contained so many mysteries!  New student (and aesthetically gifted) Thea garnished each small scoop with a raspberry, and we sent the sherbet out to the students (and plain raspberries to some.)  The oldest band served dessert and began clean-up while the younger three bands devoured their curious treat.

There will be another time for teaching these students about the food their put into their bodies, and the choices we make as food consumers.  That day will be messy too, as some children may hear from others at the school that the food they are served (and love) at home is sometimes looked down upon by other student’s families.  Those are important conversations to have, and we relish these tricky moments to discuss diversity, belief systems, differing family cultures and traditions, and sensitivity towards those who are different in so many ever-evolving ways.

But for today, the scales tipped away from the importance of food education, and towards the importance of honoring these students’ gift to us, their pride in making choices, and enjoying a school community’s unbridled excitement at being offered a dessert which is both strangely fake, and oddly beautiful.

Everything is interesting.  Check.

Moderation in everything.  Check.