Last month, Curious George—the lovable, adventurous monkey—celebrated his 75th anniversary. In 1939, the authors, Hans Augusto Rey and Margret Rey, fled Paris on self-assembled bicycles after the Nazi invasion of France, carrying George and his story on their backs. They traveled for months through Spain, Portugal, and Brazil, and finally settled in New York City, where they connected with a publisher at Houghton Mifflin. George left the backs of his two creators in 1941 and can be found in the backpacks of hundreds of young kids today. His antics continue to inspire youth to ask questions, use their imaginations, and explore their surroundings.
4-years-olds in Ms Sheila’s classroom at Connecticut College’s Children’s Program were able to celebrate George’s anniversary and the message he carries last Friday. After spending the first hour of their day coloring, giving stuffed animals check-ups, and talking about their classroom jobs, the students gathered in a circle on the rug and listened to one of George’s stories, Curious George Rides a Bike. In this story, George is gifted his own bicycle by his owner, the man with the yellow hat. Many students were already familiar with the monkey and were just waiting for him to get into trouble.
When the man with the yellow hat directed George to stay close to home on his bicycle, one student said, “Uh-oh! He’s not gonna!”
The student was right. George rode out into the street, ran into paperboys, visited a river, made his own boats, and finally ended up riding his bicycle and playing the bugle in an animal show. The kids loved the story—they were both shocked and amused by George’s crazy adventures. They craned their necks to see the pictures and applauded when the story came to a close.
Afterwards, the kids were asked to draw their own pictures of Curious George or a scene from the book. Some chose to draw the river where George sailed his boats, others the animals from the animal show. They were all excited, picking and choosing colors carefully and adding interesting details. The students were incredibly inquisitive, compassionate, and creative.
According to the Children’s Program’s website, the program seeks to “model child and family-focused early childhood preschool program for young children of diverse backgrounds and abilities.” It provides wonderful care for children of ages eighteen months to six years. Early childhood teachers, special education teachers, social workers, therapists and administrators construct and implement a program that fosters healthy development.
The Program is based on an inclusion model in which students from a range of cultures, ages, and abilities learn together through play. Parents are involved in the Program, as well. They are able to observe classes and attend open houses, parent-child events, and specialty classes. The Children’s Program also collaborates with various schools and organizations in New London, and is accredited by the National Association for the Education of Young Children.
Many education and human development courses at Connecticut College require service-learning, and students often choose to spend their time helping out in the Children’s Program—engaging with the students and assisting the teachers. Several students in upper level courses in these departments also conduct extensive research at the Children’s program, often in partnership with Professor of Human Development Loren Marulis. But students who are not taking a class in either of these areas can also get involved. The Program always appreciates volunteers from the College, whether they stop by weekly, monthly, or just once to celebrate the anniversary of a beloved character like Curious George.
The Children’s Program is a vital part of the Connecticut College community, and a vital part of the young students’ and teachers’ lives. It provides unique care that starts children off on the right foot. It also provides Connecticut College students the opportunity to work with young children, learn about healthy development, and then set out and make their own marks on children’s lives in the local and global community.•