Learning the ABCs of war

On the wall of the preschool hung a huge American flag. The 13 red and white stripes were the handprints of the children. The background and the stars symbolizing the 50 states were blue and white balloons.

Mary Brown’s class at French Villa Preschool in Pinellas Park, wanted to do something special with the balloons, instead of taking them home. The 4- and 5-year-olds wanted to honor the children of New York.

According to one student in Brown’s class, the balloons will come down too soon. Another suggested, “We need to be quiet so everybody could know that we are thinking about the people in New York.”

Brown gave them the balloons to release into the sky. The children watched quietly as the balloons floated into the clouds until they were no longer in sight. The children remained respectful.

These children understand something terrible has happened to the nation. They are filled by general feelings of sadness. They know Americans were hurt, but some don’t agree with Americans hurting others.

“Grown-ups should learn how to make good choices so that no one will get hurt,” one student said.

Brown said the children, though young, echoed the feelings of most Americans.

“Most of them were very sad that people had to die in the Twin Towers,” Brown said. “They were also concerned about the kids who lost a parent in the crash. Some of them express desires to send pictures to the kids in the New York area.”

The students will get a chance to send any pictures they choose when Brown and her assistant find the correct address to send them. Some of the students have already drawn pictures of the World Trade Center.

“They want to give them food and things since they lost a parent,” Brown said. “When they see a plane flying overhead, they assume that the plane is sending food to New York for the kids.” Brown said the children have been “grasping everything,” and she has put the events into a language they can comprehend. “After the events of Sept. 11, I sat down and told them a plane crashed into two buildings and then caught on fire,” Brown said. “I said that a lot of people were not able to get out.”

Brown said one child asked, did people inside the Twin Towers “stop, drop and roll?” alluding to the process firemen teach children early on in school.

Some parents don’t agree with the children knowing about the war. They feel their children are too young to comprehend what’s going on.

“Why do they need to know?” Mary Gibson, mother of 4-year-old Marcell Gibson, said. “Four-year-olds don’t need to know what war is.”

Shirley Crompton said she doesn’t believe the students fully understand that current events could possibly affect them.

“The war to them is like an extended TV show,” Crompton said.

Danielle McGriff said she doesn’t want her son to hate certain people.

“I am concerned that he could learn that the solution to events is war,” she said.

But Brown said her students understand what news is. One pointed to the TV and said the news was on. It was, indeed, just like the child had said.

Some classmates also watched the news and asked Brown to explain what they were seeing.

Marcelle Gibson doesn’t know the word “war,” but he knows what fighting is. He knows that fighting is “very bad.”

Brown said her students are optimistic that things will take a turn for the better.

“They are worried about their neighborhood, and hope that no one else is affected,” Brown said. “They want good things to happen.”

  • Contact Alexis Gibson at oracleeditor@yahoo.com