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Little kids and their little big city

April 16, 2021 | Nathan Johnson

Hello, dear reader…

Do you remember way back in February when the Rivers Class children learned of the artist

Faith Ringgold?

They were so inspired by her art and her children’s books. Especially the one showing how she loved to be up on her “Tar Beach” roof with the family all summer!


And do you remember how we made Faith’s house and roof?


The city has grown!

You may remember that we built some skyscrapers up around Faith’s house, but they kept falling over, and we couldn’t get up close to a skyscraper to investigate how to make them stronger, so we decided to look around our own neighborhood and see what we could see. After all, you don’t need skyscrapers to be a city! 

So we went on a walking trip around Church Square Park (there was a blog about that as well!)

As you may remember, the children had so much fun and noticed many, many things…

But most impressive to the children, it seemed, were the intersections … 

and (because Faith had us thinking so much about rooftops up high) we noticed lots and lots of chimneys!

We could even see one when we got back to school right outside our block area window!

And so we got to work!

First on adding the chimney to Faith’s house

And then the starting the intersection. Hmm, we need four corners. And cars!

Once the cars came out, suddenly the intersection was full of busy places with lots of places to go! 

Mr. Johnson quickly wrote down where everyone was driving…


“I’m going to the car wash!”

“I’m going to the restaurant!”

“I’m going to the church!”

“I’m going home!”

“I’m going to the church!”

“I’m going to school!”


And just like that, we had our marching orders for the next three weeks!


Maddox and John started with the car wash

Then Rebekah and Tommy started on the restaurant

“What kind of restaurant?” asked Rebekah?

“Hibachi is my favorite!” said Tommy. 

“These letters look delicious!” — Thomas


Lena and Charlie were quite excited about making the church.

They looked next door for inspiration…

Next, Rebekah and Rodrigo built a school

… with so many classrooms inside!

… With a rooftop garden! Good idea, Tommy!

It was only then that the children realized, they never finished the intersection. So out came the tape and scissors!

The children worked so hard!

And then, quite spontaneously…

A rooftop ZOO was created on top of a parking garage

(which was built when this photographer wasn’t looking!)

All the city people came to the Zoo!

And right there on the rooftop, they had a birthday party for a new baby! 

Faith Ringgold would have been so proud


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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