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Confronting the Covi Monster

In a child’s social and moral development, playing ‘good guys’ versus ‘bad guys’ is very normal and important for their growth.
Dan Hodgins, early childhood consultant, author, defender of play and friend of children, whose rece

Dear Exchange Community,

We received a thoughtful email from college instructor and Exchange author, Lois Ingellis, that she graciously agreed we could share with all of you. Today we are running part one of her writing. Watch for part two on Monday, September 13. Here’s Lois:

“ExchangeEveryDay recently sent this missive by Jeffrey Perkins, in an article that is the foundation of the Out of the Box Training Kit, “Choosing Courage in a Climate of Fear”. He writes: ‘We know that children work out their anxieties in their play and that by investigating topics that cause the fears in children, we provide new material for them to make sense out of their experience. When the topics that children are concerned with involve world events, we can still provide opportunities for children to explore.’

I spent many summers lifeguarding at our local beach even before I entered into the early childhood field. I enjoyed observing the children’s play on a daily basis. The older boys played so freely and seemed so different than they presented when I’d see them in school situations. The summer of the Oil Spill in the Gulf (2008) I remember being at the lake and seeing many of the children, especially the boys 6-12’s building their usual sand castles, but over and over again that summer I heard, ‘Spill; Oil spill,’ and other scenarios around that current issue in their play. I also think of Sept. 11, 2001 and being two hours away from NYC that morning, being assistant director of a nursery school in Poughkeepsie NY, with parents who commuted to NYC and teachers having loved ones there as well. It was a crazy, hectic day subbing in classrooms while people tried to process this, locate family, and deal as the day unfolded. At one point I went outside and cleaned out the shed as a way to deal with my own emotions. I needed the physicality of this chore, which was an unconscious strategy.

I was reminded of that this year when my 8-year-old granddaughter (Emme) made an end-of-year gift for her 2nd grade teacher Mrs. Morgan. I had given Emme two dozen blank books for Christmas with a label that had her picture titled About the Author with the quote, ‘Ever since I was a kid I loved drawing and writing AND I still do!’ She asked if she could type the words on my computer and she got to work. Here is a summary of what she wrote:

‘In the year 2079 the second grade class was talking about the Covi Monster of 2020. One of the kids said; ‘I can’t believe people really believed that silly myth back then!’ Yeah, the others chimed in. Then Mrs. Morgan said, ‘We are going on a field trip today to the Myth Museum, maybe they will have an exhibit of the Covi Monster we can see for ourselves.’ So off they went to the museum. One of the kids said; ‘Hey they do have a Covi monster exhibit,’ so they all ran over to see it.

The Covi monster escapes the display case and chases the kids, they try a few tricks and then the teacher was fighting the Covi monster, and she ended with the teacher as hero!”
Reading Lois’s description of Emme’s processing of Covid-19 as a “monster,” we were reminded of the deep work Donna King did with children in processing the idea of “bad guys,” which she outlines in her new book, Pursuing Bad Guys, about helping children make sense of the frightening parts of our world.

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