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Building on the Work of Faith Ringgold

March 5, 2021 | Nathan Johnson

Black History Month might be officially over, but the work of the children, inspired by the scientists and artists that the children have studied, still surrounds us on our walls, and their portraits still hang alongside our self-portraits.

Faith Ringgold was the last African American person the children studied, and they are still thinking about her in the block area!

In Faith Ringgold’s painted and quilted illustrations, they see bright, crowded cityscapes…


We are seeing them in the block area as well!

(The children have learned how to build strong frames, brick walls, and doorways!)

In Faith Ringgold’s books she shares that her favorite spot to be with her family was on the “tar beach” of their very own apartment building roof… 

Suddenly our rooftops became party spots too!

In Faith Ringgold’s stories, children find power and freedom flying over the city!

And so our people are now flying from rooftop to rooftop!

As the children’s buildings grew, so did their curiosity about buildings, and so they began to … research! 

In books …

In telling each other what they knew about cities …


“My daddy works in the New York City.” 

“Mine works in his office way high up!”

“I went to New York City with my sisters and Mommy for some pancakes!”

“I went through a tunnel. Not a spooky tunnel for … for being fast.”

“I went on the subway. It was loud!”

“I have a rooftop at my house in Hoboken.” 

“Auntie lives in Brooklyn City!


And looking out windows …

(waaaaaaaay up on the fourth floor)

The children saw so much from the high-up window!  They took particular interest in the chimneys that they saw…

“I see a chimney!” 

“It’s for Santa!”

“That one’s round”

“That one is square”

“Santa goes down a chimney … if you’re good”

“Smoke comes out a chimney” 

“Smoke is for fire and for firetrucks”

“Maybe the smoke is made of Santa’s beard?

Back in our own block area, the children noticed a chimney right away out our very own window!

Quickly, chimneys began to rise …

It is so lovely to see the children connecting through this exploration and building together!

The children have done so much thinking about cities, high-up! Next week we will take another field trip, this time walking all the way around Church Square Park to see what the children can see and learn about cities, low down.

Stay tuned! 

Nathan Johnson

Early Childhood & Lower School Visual Art Teacher

Nathan Johnson graduated in 2004 from Lenoir-Rhyne University with a Bachelor of Arts in Visual Arts (focusing on Illustration, Art History, and Puppetry), Theatre, and Elementary Education, followed by further time in Europe studying Art, and in Nova Scotia working with adults with developmental differences.

Happily back at his Alma mater (MSS class of 1995) Nathan has passionately committed his career to preserving the dignity and wonder of childhood. As children are more and more burdened with technology and privilege, he believes that in order for children to learn and grow, they must be given freedom within structure, choices with guidance, allowed to play, struggle, get dirty, and above all, to be taught that they are a beloved child of God.

When not in the classroom, Nathan can be found kayaking, camping, hosting a game night, wandering around New York City, making friends with strangers, and spending time with his 11 nieces and nephews.

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