Driving vehicles in paint is an old standby for us, as it should be for every preschool classroom. It takes seconds to set up, only a bit longer to clean up, and the play value is outstanding.
Our big innovation this year was to insert a trio of large wedge-shaped blocks under one end of the butcher paper to create a short ramp.
We limited our color pallet to red, yellow and orange, dolloped out into styrofoam meat trays, mostly because those were the jugs of paint most readily at hand.
I've mentioned before, that this is my final year teaching the "boy bubble" that has been working its way through our school for the past three years, all 9 of my older Pre-K students being boys. They have taught me a lot about the importance of car play and that's who mostly played here, along with our oldest 3-year-old boy.
Setting this up on this particular day wasn't left up to chance. I'd been watching the parent work schedule just waiting for Ruby's dad Chan's turn to come around as the parent-teacher responsible for the art station (for those who don't know, we're a cooperative preschool, in which the parents also serve as my assistant teachers). And he didn't disappoint, keeping up the chatter, organizing races, getting the "track" going in one direction, then another. You know, playing like a stereotypical boy. I think Ruby was the only girl who put in any time at the art table race track, but even she was soon lost to the doll play taking place next door.
But mostly it was self-directed play, carried out by a group of guys who've known one another for their entire lives, playing with toys for which they all have varying degrees of passion, making orange tracks together for well over an hour.
They carried on casual, shoulder-to-shoulder conversations the way grown men do, comprised of short, functional sentences or echoing Chan's coach-like exhortations. They were on their feet, always moving, focused, a team. I'm sure there was some bickering, but they seem to have solved things on their own, in their own ways, because it never rose to the level that it involved me, nor did it in any way slow down the play. It was the kind of ebb and flow creative play that teachers live for; that makes us step back and be simply awed by children.
I read somewhere, a long time ago, and I've not had any success in finding the source of this, but I believe it was an anthropologist who postulated that the central, unspoken question of every society is "What to do with the men?" Sometimes we're used for war and conquest, sometimes for exploration and discovery, sometimes our role is largely economic, and sometimes we build things, hunt, or grow food. Whatever the case, and however we answer this question, I know that as we drove our cars through paint the other day we, the men of Woodland Park, were a shining example of men, together, at their best.
I'm quite proud to know that these are the men we will be sending out into the world.