Our children get lots of time for "loose parts play" - time where they use sticks or pieces of rope or tubes to create the fairy house, pulley system, or waterworks of their dreams. As they engage in this play, they learn about physics and engineering, and they also learn lots about working with a group. Occasionally their building is solitary, but much more frequently it involves at least a few friends, and they need to work together to make their ideas a reality. We watch these interactions and offer reminders about tone or jump in, when needed, to help reflect on the process. Figuring out how to be kind even in the face of some frustration takes lots of practice, and we're there to help with that practice.
This past week the children made a group seesaw out of a pallet and a large hunk of wood, added on to the stick house by the creek, and used our limited snow and our slides to make toboggans that could zip down the hillside. When one student got frustrated with the negotiation over the first slide, she gathered a small group to bring the second slide up the hill, allowing more children to ride. When they couldn't figure out how to balance the pallet, the children experimented with moving the hunk of wood, changing the fulcrum. It reminds me of "team building" activities that I have participated in at various points, but all of the activities are kid generated and kid led.
Rachel's PreK Reflections
The work our preschoolers do is intentional. They are learning and growing, but more importantly--they are getting experience. Experience solving problems. Experience interacting socially. Experience seeing the natural world around them change and move. Experience being responsible. Experience being kind.
Mr. Rogers once said,
“There are three ways to ultimate success:
The first way is to be kind.
The second way is to be kind.
The third way is to be kind."
Our three and four year old's are laying the foundation today for ultimate success, and yes, that foundation is heavily focused on kindness! We teach what kindness is through songs, stories, and games. We also model kindness by really listening to the students (when you're little, EVERYTHING you have to say is important!), by shaping their environment to feel cozy and bright, and by being respectful to ourselves, the other teachers, the students, and the earth. Of equal importance, we also provide continual opportunities for the children to practice kindness.
Practicing kindness comes in many forms. It might be sharing work with a friend, or learning how to incorporate everyone into our play. It's sometimes the act of sitting down at our Peace Table with a friend to work out a problem. We encourage "checking in" with our friends to make sure they're okay with how we're playing or what we're doing. Some days, it's deciding if the tree we're climbing is strong enough to support us or if it will break under our weight.
An early childhood experience built on kindness is not just creating a safe and comfortable environment where the child can focus on learning and growing, but it is truly laying the foundation for future success. We're raising future adults, and so we cradle them in love and compassion, and allow the art of kindness to become naturally woven into who they are as a person so that they will carry kindness with them through all of their life.
We continued to talk about the different roles, locations, and names associated with each of the three branches of government. When examining the symbolism of "lady justice" one student suggested that her scale was for the "checks and balances of government." We discussed how this symbol was about weighing the argument for and against a case, but I love that they were making the connection of our previous discussions about balancing powers. We also looked closely at the Seal of the President, noting the many symbols and colors. All of the older students wrote a book about the three branches of government. The younger children read Vote! by Eileen Christelow and practiced voting on different games to play. We discussed the challenges of voting when the decision is close and other possibilities for making decisions that might make more people happy.