At risk of sounding prideful in the beginning of the this post... please keep reading ;)
It is not often that I have the opportunity to be the lead catechist in an atrium I did not have a creationist hand in.
Even when I had atriums with shared space - various catechists using the atrium throughout the week and tweaking to meet their personal needs - the general layout and location of supplies were "mine". Each of the atriums in my local geographical area has materials that I made; trays and other supplies/materials that I pounced on at Goodwill or finally found just the perfect online source; photos that I took and mounted; artwork that I located or that was donated to the program and I matched with a frame or chose to place in a particular atrium. I commissioned shelving and furniture, wood-cutting and sewing. I hung curtains, whether mine or donated or already there but needed washing. I've repaired, glued, re-created, "faked", and otherwise took care of items at the last minute.
History: In my local geographical area, I was hired to establish the Catechesis of the Good Shepherd at two local Catholic parishes. In my one year of employment, we (the local catechists and the very supportive parish communities) set up a level 1 atrium space at each parish and the beginnings of a level 2 atrium at each parish. The following year, the 1 and 2 spaces at the one parish were merged (removing a wall in the building) to form a larger level 1 space; everything remained the same at the other parish. For the following 2 years, the situations remained thus. This year, I was invited to open a level 3 atrium at the parish that has both level 1 and level 2.
SO. I have had a hand in 4 of these atrium spaces (2 level 1; 1 level 2; 1 level 3).
This year, there is a new atrium in my local geographical area. I have not visited it, I have not seen it. But my hand is there too. The catechist setting it up takes ideas from the other 4 atrium spaces, asks questions, purchases many of the same supplies, sets up many of the same lay-outs; but she has her own style too. So it will be very different. Though I bet I recognize my influence when I visit!
My son has attended a beautiful atrium in Minnesota where I had a hand in nothing - but I was only able to be there for a limited time during our one year living there and only as an aide (although the catechist there insisted I was co-catechist when I present :) ). And I have visited a PLETHORA of atrium spaces - some that are beautiful and some... well... CGS is an experiment in progress! ;)
This year brings my first experience as the lead catechist in an atrium I have visited many times, but I didn't touch in its setup. It is good for me - if painful at times :)
The atrium is set up in a Catholic Montessori school and is designed for both level 2 and 3, with level 1 built in as well! It is a beautiful and large space, with large windows to let in SO much natural light. I just love that room!
But I don't know where anything is. I have a feel for the materials now because there is a certain intuitive sense to the materials, when you have had all 3 levels and all 3 levels are present ;) But storage items such as first aid kits and extra paper for the pasting folders and how does the calligraphy sequence work (every atrium will set this up according to their own style).
So I have to be humble before the child and say honestly and openly, "I don't know where that is - let's look together." And, "You have been in this atrium before - what do you remember about this sequence? Let's explore it together." I encourage this kind of thinking and meditation on the materials with the children anyway - rather than worrying about following an album page to a T - my level 2 formation leader calls it "praying the materials" and it WORKS. Now, we are praying the environment too!
On the one hand, it is hard to let go of knowing just where everything is. On the other hand, it is been nice to sit back and observe the responses of the children and explore *together* what to do next. And to be honest with the children in saying, "I am a different catechist and this is not my usual atrium, so let's work through this together and come up with what works best for THIS situation, this group of children, and this catechist - rather than making us to try fit the materials." Nothing is imposed on us from the outside - not even myself!
So perhaps this is my next step in my ever-deepening journey towards truly understanding what it means to
Follow the Child.