Children are amazing. If you watch them closely, you know this to be true. They do argue, and they can be mean, and I am not suggesting that we just leave them entirely to their own devices. But with a little patience, the occasional re-direction, and support at some key moments, they can be magical.
On Friday last week, we talked about the Autumnal Equinox, the shortening of the day's light and how the tilt of the earth's axis as it makes its way around the sun causes seasons. Our ever enthusiastic students decided that we should have a fall party. "Great!" said the teachers. "You are in charge." The children promptly made plans for a Monday recess party and invitations were created for everyone in the class, working from a class list. They eagerly discussed what they would bring. We made it clear that this was their party and not a parent driven event. If they wanted to work with their parents to make something, that was just fine. The pieces fell into place, and on Monday at recess the party swung into motion. There were decorations, fall leaves cut out of paper to take home, and wide array of tasty treats. They were clearly pleased with the result, and we got to play in the sprinkler, not your typical way to welcome fall, but welcome relief in the heat.
Experiments in Physics
We are slowly building up the parts of our outdoor play space, adding swings and big blocks. The two slides haven't found a home yet. The children keep moving them to different parts of our hill to figure out the best place to ride. They have experimented with propping them up with blocks, sending different materials (balls, pine needles, a skateboard) down them, and flipping them over to see how the back of the slide might work. They even discovered that they could make the whole slide go down the hill like a sled thanks to the many needles under our biggest white pines. Some of our more cautious kids will look over to a teacher to make sure that all of this experimentation is really okay. We smile and nod and occasionally wonder aloud, "Hmmm, I see you getting stuck in this spot? What could change that?" But mostly we back off and let them run the show.
Building with Different Materials
Inspired by our study of different homes around the world, we have been experimenting with different materials for building. We looked at and described the differences in three different soil types: clay, sand, and compost. Then the children came up with a brick recipe that included soil, and if desired, straw. We used egg cartons to shape our bricks and set them to dry. When we popped a few out, we found that they could handle quite the load of blocks before crumbling. Our brick making materials have been out during recess, and the experimentation continues. Yes, they are making mudpies (and mudballs and more bricks), but they also are getting an intimate knowledge of soil types and their properties. We were also lucky enough this week to have one of our families help make us a great new sandbox. Now we have even more room for constructing!
The heat was a bit confusing during our Fall party, but the sprinkler and goodies were thoroughly enjoyed nonetheless. The 3 and 4 year olds requested we re-read "Maisy's First Day of Preschool" and "Lama Lama Misses Mama" which I happily did as we will often practice circle songs, nursery rhymes, etc. over and over again for deep understanding. Each day students get a little bit more flexible when that special chair they wanted was sat in by someone else and understanding of a friend who is having a hard time/checking in with their eyes and seeing how they can help. The letter C was created with playdough, flour and fingers in the air and all things orange were hunted for, cut out and glued. All thumbs were (or became) in the right spot for scissor work! Students experimented with making colored paint from nature (wild grapes and goldenrod) and choosing a color to make their own stick flags for waving in the fall wind and singing our 'parade of colors' song (thank you to Oscar's family for the white pillowcases and bedsheet canvas!).
Theresa's Reflection on Social Growth
The first few times we ask the kids to help clean the lunchroom things can get a little mellow dramatic. There are tears and drama, especially from the littlest one, shocked at being expected to miss a few minutes of recess to sweep and wash tables. But now, merely 10 days later, they understand what they are supposed to do and are oh-so-proud to do it well. Parents! I tell you, your kids are marvelous sweepers and table washers. Don't let them tell you otherwise!
Whether planning parties, learning about ramps and friction, building bricks, or sweeping the floor, these children are amazing and capable. It's our privilege to be there for the ride.