March of the (Kindergarten) Penguins

posted Monday February 9th, 2009

 The discussion about Down syndrome kids as mascots continues, sparked by the Today show clip with the high school kid playing basketball. Maya has a really great take on the whole thing at and Ricki’s Mom has equally smart things to say at

But today I’m thinking about penguins. This morning I popped into Sophie’s classroom to help decorate Valentine “mailboxes” (white paper bags with lots of foam stickers) and stopped to examine the latest bulletin board project — a group (gaggle? flock? not sure of the appropriate term) of penguins.

Each kid had made one or two — nothing fancy, your garden variety kindergarten construction paper/glue stick/crayon deal, but what makes it so special, of course, is that each penguin is totally unique.

To put it bluntly, quality varies dramatically.

Walking up to the board, I tried to lower my expectations. What matters is that Sophie made a penguin, not what it looks like. Most of them didn’t have names on the front so I examined them all, then called Ms. X over to offer my guess. This is the one I guessed was Sophie’s:


“No,” Ms. X said matter-of-factly. “Let’s see….This is hers.” And she pointed to this one (Sophie’s is the one on the right):


Sophie cut the shapes out all by herself, Ms. X said quickly, after most of them were drawn for her. Another little girl in the class helped Sophie finish.

“See?” Ms. X asked, pointing. “They wanted them to hold hands.”

(Or wings. Or whatever the heck penguins have.)

After that,  it didn’t matter one bit that in my 30  minute visit to the classroom one kid practically coughed up a lung and announced she has a fever and then another little boy told me he has a staph infection and a fever blister on his lip, which I then realized he’d been touching the whole time (in between handing me stickers for help removing the back).

I’m one to talk — Sophie’s nose has been running for weeks. For once, she fits right in with the crowd.

She’s just another one of the penguins today. And if she needs a little extra help on the march, I need to be okay with that. But I’m still reserving my opinion on the whole prom queen thing.


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6 Responses to “March of the (Kindergarten) Penguins”

  1. What a tremendous story! It’s nice that she made a nice one, and SO nice that they wanted the penquins to hold hands!

  2. Those are some pretty good looking (and friendly) penguins.

  3. I wanna hold a penguin’s hand (wing, paw, whatever). How sweet! (and she cut out those shapes better than most adults could!).

  4. I want you to know that I held my breath as a scrolled down to see the penguins…and when I saw Sophie’s I was so proud! (even though I’ve never met her…I do love her family members…)

  5. I, too, held my breath as I scrolled down. They are so cute and Sophie’s fits right in. But, on second look hers looks a lot better than a lot of them. You go girl!!

  6. I love all of those Penguins. Love!
    The funkier the better. Working with kids and art I can always tell who is “free” at home and who is confined by parental expectations or control. Let the freedom happen so we can have a world filled with crazy shaped penguins – with awesome hair thingys.

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