This story demonstrates facets of social and emotional learning. These skills are not easily measured and therefore, sometimes less valued; yet, they are foundational for future academic learning. I hesitated to write about this event. This was a deeply personal time for our youngest group, but the understanding and the expression that these young friends showed are worth sharing.

We were saddened to learn that one of our friends would not be returning to school after winter break. N- is a well loved friend! I wanted a way to honor him and his time with us as well as help the group process this change to our learning community.

Like most of our friends, N- loves to collect treasures! The book, In a Jar, by Deborah Marcero seemed a perfect starting place for us to ponder friendship, memories, and change. The main character, Llewellyn, is a collector. He collects ordinary things in jars. Then he meets Evelyn, and together they collect extraordinary things. When they hold the jars and peer inside, they remember all the things they have seen and done. A sad day comes when Evelyn moves away leaving Llewellyn’s heart feeling like an empty jar. One night, he sees beautiful falling stars and wonders if his friend can see them too. He collects the meteor shower in a jar and sends the jar to Evelyn. Llewellyn found a way to honor their friendship.

The first day back, N-s absence was noticed by friends. We shared how we felt about N- and how much we will miss him. Then I read, In a Jar. I offered the idea of filling a jar with treasures for N-, and I showed them an empty jar. We had a good conversation about the story and the illustrations, but there wasn’t much interest in filling the jar, yet. We read the book the next day. There was more very meaningful discussions. “How do you fit the sound of the ocean in a jar?” “Can you put a fox in a jar?” “No!” “You could put a picture of a fox in a jar.” Some friends began creating messages and pictures and placing them into the jar.

The next day we were at the farm. We read the story again. This time friends were paying very close attention to the details of both the illustrations and the language. “It’s magic! Magic fills the jars.” “When they open the jars, they remember all they did!”

With this reading, friends seemed to truly understand the metaphor of the empty jar. And they appreciated how Llewellyn connected to his friend.

We put items from the farm and our learning materials into the jar. Some of the manipulatives from our numeracy bags were added. “Blue gems! Blue is N-‘s favorite color.” Friends added seashells, stones, ribbon, and string. I added a small toy bird. N- loves birdsongs. We also added a boundary marker, “So N- will remember the Magic Forest!” We passed each item around and placed them all in the jar.

We then took a small magic wand. Each friend was asked to say or think some kind thought to N- and tap the jar to fill the jar with the happy thoughts. The magic wand was added to the jar. You can never have too much magic!

The jar was becoming very full! I thought we might be done, but as we were on a walk, friends added some special sticks and a beautiful leaf. Then I heard, “Here’s a walnut half.” “Remember? We collected walnuts last fall?” “Let’s put it in the jar for N-!” “Here is another one. Add it, too. Now it’s like a whole one in there.” Then one friend remembered that N- likes wild chives. We hunted and found some to add to the jar. The jar was full of treasures and happy thoughts! Went sent the jar to N-. We had found a meaningful way to connect with our friend.

This was a wonderful, group exploration of imagination, friendship, and memory!

“Sometimes you will never know the value of a moment until it becomes a memory.” – Dr Suess

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