Preschoolers paint and distribute 'love rocks' around West Linn

by: VERN UYETAKE - Heart Centered Montessori student Eleanor Wyatt paints a rock on the porch outside the school.They are placed in trays, like cookies fresh out of the oven, before each of their individual journeys begin. Some are purple, others pink or white or a combination of all three. What they share in common is form — they are rocks — and one word: love.

For the third straight year, children at the Heart Centered Montessori preschool in West Linn spent the month of February painting what school administrator Meg Gulgren calls “love rocks” and distributing them throughout their communities. The goal, according to Gulgren, is to teach children at a young age about the power of giving — even  VERN UYETAKE - Heart Centered Montessori student Charlie An places her rock near a tree in the school's play area.

“The whole idea behind it was to explain to the children that sometimes you can give things without the receiver even knowing who it’s from,” Gulgren said. “We should give without a lot of worry about what we’re going to get.”

The idea was inspired by a chance encounter on Cannon Beach seven years ago, when Gulgren stumbled on a rock with the word “peace” written on it. She never found out where it came from, but was touched by its existence and keeps it in her home to this day. Years later, she decided to spread the love through her students.

“It was such a treasure for me to find, something that said something like that on it,” Gulgren said. “And I thought, ‘Wow, we could really share this.’ ”

And so it was that on a pristine Monday afternoon on the school’s back porch, children pulled aprons over their heads and sat down to paint their rocks. Awaiting their turn, three boys — Isaac Banash, Austin Van Houten and Gustav Treske-Petasek — playfully argued about who had the biggest rock.

“Look how big MINE is!”

When the boys took their turns, the mood turned serious. Brows furrowed, Banash examined the color of his rock and made a simple declarationby: VERN UYETAKE - A set of completed love rocks waits to be placed around the community..

“I just need a little more white,” he said

It’s a serious task for these children, whose ages range from 3 to 6. In many cases, Gulgren and parents find it difficult to convince the children to give up their prized creations.

“It’s a very hard concept for a 3- to 6-year-old to let go of something that they’ve made, and without knowing who it’s intended for,” Gulgren said. “A lot of times they want to keep them. And that’s fine too. A lot of parents have said, ‘We’ll keep them for a few weeks and then we’ll start being able to let them go.’”

Nicole Gekov has had two of her children participate in the program, including 2-year-old Fleur this year. As her daughter painted diligently next to her, Gekov had high praise for the love rocks.

“I love it,” she said. “I think that it encompasses the whole notion of the school here, which is that they’re teaching the children to love and respect one another and to interact with the community in a loving and respectful way.”by: VERN UYETAKE - Gustav Treske-Petasek paints his rock while Fleur Baker and Austin Van Houten look on.

Gekov’s family generally places the rocks around the neighborhood, and some have remained on their neighbors’ porches for years now. The way the children interpret the activity, she said, depends on their age.

“This age, I think (Fleur) just enjoys the process of creating something and having an important mission to put it somewhere — it gives her something important to do,” Gekov said. “My older daughter, I think she understood the concept. ... She wanted to help promote love and peace and help people feel that way, so she would give it to those people that she felt that way about, like our neighbors.”

Due to the mysterious nature of this giving, gauging community reaction has been difficult. But based on her own past experience, Gulgren assumes that the message is spreading.

“We haven’t heard of anybody who’s found one,” she said. “But they’re out there.”

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