Wesley Scott was his name. He was the fictional character my across-the-street neighbor, Joey Hardeman, and I created.
Wesley Scott was wanted for murder, and he was loose in our neighborhood. There was nothing to fear, though, because detectives Hardeman and Green were on the case.
In the vacant lot between Joey’s house and the Evans’ house, Wesley Scott left us a ton of clues. We found his right shoe marred with blood stains, which was just an old shoe of Joey’s we colored red with a Crayola marker. Wesley Scott also dropped his golf ball covered with his fingerprints, which Mr. Evans simply left after practicing his short game. But most foolish of all, the #2 of America’s Most Wanted lost his driver’s license, which was a piece of notebook Joey drew on because he was the artist in the partnership.
Detectives Hardeman and Green rode the town (neighborhood) in their squad car (bikes), interviewing witnesses (younger brothers) in search of the wanted fugitive. The investigation lasted the entire summer our fifth-grade year, but we finally apprehended the wanted felon and settled the nerves of the little town of Stanton Woods.
We created an entire summer saga from the depths of our own minds. That was normal back then.
Now, not so much.
Most kids don’t grow up making up summer sagas. They spend the hot months inside, not outside on their bicycles. Many don’t have an art easel in the play room where they express their creativity. And certainly a lot of today’s children don’t spend their days off from school in the land of make-believe.
Then kids hit elementary school and are asked to color, glue, write, draw, mold, tape…imagine. Two worlds collide, and the clash can get uncomfortable. So, what is an elementary teacher to do?
Just ask Christie Griffin, who teaches all subjects to third graders at J.D. Davis Elementary School. She teaches all subjects. That seems worth repeating. Not only do elementary teachers have to be knowledgeable about pretty much everything, they also have to make pretty much everything interesting and exciting. That’s hard to do, I would think, especially when the imaginations of little kids aren’t exercised as often as they used to be.
Mrs. Griffin makes engaging kids an art form, though. It’s her passion. The goal in her class is to shock kids with funky science experiments, entice them with edible rocks, and make them squirm with wiggly worms. Math gets a little wacky, writing becomes fun, and history comes alive. And kids learn because they love it.
You won’t find a Googled picture plastered on poster board in Mrs. Griffin’s class. The lost art of making things from a child’s own repertoire of ideas is being rekindled in her classroom. Sloppy painted pictures, malformed clay figures, jaggedly cut construction paper, or off-the-wall narratives tell the story of a teacher on a mission to make kids think, ponder, wonder and imagine.
I think we all can agree that the absence of creativity and imagination in kids today is scary. Who will dream up the cure for cancer or the flying car or an easier top to my coffee creamer? Not sure, but maybe he or she will be the product of Mrs. Griffin’s imaginative third-rade class at J.D. Davis Elementary School. Wouldn’t that be neat?