A Blueprint for Beauty

Dr. Gai Lindsay (University of Wollongong, Australia).

I have spent the past week in Abu Dhabi working with many wonderful early childhood teachers in the Middle East as part of my role in the Bright Start Early Arts Intervention.

During the 1st Bright Start Conference for the MENA Region, focused on ‘Early Years Excellence in Practice,’ I was priviledged to share several papers and workshops focused on how we can honour children’s human right to be heard and to engage in age-appropriate, play-based cultural and arts experiences as outlined in Articles 12 and 31 of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC). Read a great article about this here.

As I shared information and theoretical provocations to encourage reflection about how to offer high quality visual arts learning experiences with children, I supplemented Malaguzzi’s inspiring poem, The Hundred Languages of Children with an excerpt from a poem of declaration and intent I had written during my attendance at the 2009 Reggio Emilia Australia Information Exchange (REAIE) ‘Landscapes of Rights’ conference in Adelaide, South Australia.

The poem titled ‘A Blueprint for Beauty’, was originally published in The Challenge (Lindsay, 2009, Volume 13 (3), pp. 22-23) was inspired by keynote presenters Ivana Soncini, Elena Giacopini from Reggio Emilia and by Dr. Stephania Giamminuti’s lyrical translation of their challenging address. The information, inspirations and provocations offered during the conference profoundly moved me and, as frequently occurs for me, I wrote the poem in the middle of the night when I could not sleep for excitement about the ideas swirling in my head. In 2014, I illustrated the poem to contribute to collaborative gift to Reggio Children which was curated by REAIE in thanks for the inspirations offered at the Reggio Children international conference. I offer some images of the illustrated poem in this blog.

After sharing an excerpt of the poem during one of my conference presentations at the 1st Bright Start Conference for the MENA Region, one of the conference delegates asked me where they could read my poem in full. I therefore humbly share it here, with reverent thanks to Loris Malaguzzi, whose words, thoughts and deep belief in the rights of children and teachers will always inspire us toward beauty, values, relationships and authentic research.


By Gai Lindsay


Would you plant a seed in a thimble?

Can you contain a storm in a teacup?

Is it possible to build a dam across the oceans,

or douse a bushfire with tears?

Can you hold back childhood

-or box a child up and post them to adulthood?

Why would you? How could you?


Shall we design a blueprint for beauty and joy,

where all children have a right to place?

To bring their own culture,

their own understandings?

Where children are first seen as citizens – NOW!

Where all children are given the

times of childhood.

And where

all children are viewed as resourceful, motivated

and full of emotion.

Let us, with heart and soul and absolute intent

-protect the right of the “possible,”

-embrace the impossible,

-protect the NOW.

Let us declare our intent and

Assume our responsibility.


Let us knock down fences of fear and limitation

and enter fields of fertile potential.

Let us construct realities of new possibility

without discarding the boundaries

of love,


and hope.

Let us secure and repair the fences that

protect the times of childhood.

Hold back the destruction

of aspiration and ambition.


Let us follow the traces children share,

learn their language,

hear their voice, and

use more eyes to see the whole child –

discarding the lens of assumption.

Let us be surprised and delighted when children

dismantle imposed walls of restriction to know delight.

Experience the light,

Run in the sky,

And hear the beating of their own wings

As they take flight.

Let us decide together to put away the destination

of perfection.

Discard all measure of normality,

Celebrate difference and imperfection –

For this is where beauty is found…

The delight of humanity in pure expressivity!


Let us construct schools of childhood.

Schools that meet children – not needs.

Schools that give identity to community.

Schools that produce culture.

Schools that construct theory

in connection with practice.

Schools where children, teachers and families  –


Put themselves in play,

Create new worlds,

Erect innovation,

Scaffold opportunities,

Develop new realities,

Embrace the boundaries and debate the borderlands.

Let us plan for places of risk

And challenge

And beauty.


Let us strive to learn to learn.

For striving is a place of beauty

a celebration of life

and a joy to carry every day of our lives.

Let us learn as we teach.

Build questions.

Enjoy doubt.

 Welcome debate, confront ideas and

Break down meanings.

Let us never reach the answer to the question.

Let our times with children be a process of confrontation

and a celebration of doubt.

Let us search for shared understandings and

construct new meanings.

New cultures of childhood, within our own places,

times and spaces.

Wrapped in layers of our own history, heritage,

cultures, communities.

Let us give children the possibilities that

were not anticipated,

and open wide the doors that

others may have closed.


Let us honour great minds,

Let us listen and speak and dance our research in the hundred languages and ,

Let us do nothing without JOY!


Let us design contexts that support liberty

To imagine,

To dream,

To learn.

Let us erect fragile frameworks,

Dense with emotion,

Dense with dialogue,

Dense with relationships.


Let us create an educational project

That gives credit to children,

That makes them known,

That makes them visible.

Let us support children to witness their presence.

Let us hand children the tools

That will support them to build their own worlds,

Create their own wonder,

Express their own understandings,

And reject imposed plans.

Let us, with children, design blueprints for beauty,

That will support our shared journey of life.

Let us embrace the possible

And live and move between

Rules and exceptions –

For that is the place of miracles.

The heart of beauty.

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