I've written before that I do much of my curriculum planning while on the commute into school, a time-frame that has been greatly condensed with my family's recent cut-the-fat-out move into downtown Seattle where my morning drive has been reduced from 35 to about 10 minutes (yes, I know, I should be cycling, and that will happen soon). I arrived yesterday with a good idea about what we were going to do for most of our time together, but was dissatisfied with my plans for our art station, not so much on artistic grounds, but rather based upon the idea that plagues me every now and then that the kids have another 15+ years ahead of them of sitting in chairs at school and I, as a counter-weight to that, need to keep them on their feet as much as possible.
So it was with the general idea of verticality that I began scouring the nooks and crannies of Woodland Park, coming up first one big box, then more.
At first it was just going to be those 3 large boxes, until, while struggling with the lid flaps, I had the idea of using the glue gun to connect them, making ceilings without walls, and walls without ceilings.
On a roll, I started adding smaller boxes and other sheets of cardboard, cutting doors and windows, until I'd created a sort of box house or city, with a variety of inside and outside spaces.
It was an unusual enough set up that the first few kids who arrived in class watched it from the corners of their eyes, but without stopping by to figure it out, so I asked a couple of our parent-teachers to just get going on the high parts, which is one of the best ways I know to encourage kids to want to try something. Adults at work, be it painting boxes or cleaning toilets, has an attractive magic in it.
It wasn't long before a core group of inside-outside painters were hard at work, some setting up shop in a single place, going deep, applying coat after coat of tempera . . .
. . . while others explored a variety of spaces, carrying a brush in one hand and a paint cup in the other, adding a dot of color here, and a dot there.
It's true that one of the weaknesses of my planning system is that I don't always have the time to think things all the way through, and about a half hour into this project I began to ask the parent-teachers managing this project what we ought to do with the clumsy contrivance I'd created, soon to be soggy with paint, when we were ready to clean-up.
We finally settled on the old stand-by technique of just sort of shoving it off to the side and figuring out what to do with it later. I'll probably let the 3-5 class have a go at it on Monday since it's already in the middle of the classroom, then let it hang out all next week for non-paint play purposes. See? I'm planning days in advance now.
I had thought enough in advance to know that we would get paint in our hair.
After all, that's one of the hazards of working in a space with freshly painted ceilings. What I hadn't anticipated was how fun it would be to paint one another's hair on purpose, a trend that didn't meet with the overt disapproval of the presiding parents, many of whom broke out their cameras to record the moment.
If there is one comment (which I take as a compliment, even though it's not always offered as such) I hear from parents more than any other it's some variant on, "This is why we come to preschool, to do things we will never do at home."
Often it's phrased as, "Teacher Tom do you have any towels we can borrow for my car seats?" or "Ugh, you're going straight home to the bath tub," or as Calder's grandfather Dick expressed it yesterday, "I'm glad I wasn't working today." But I know what they really mean despite the edge of irritation in their voices.
If you're going to be a commute time curriculum planner, which I highly recommend (and indeed it's hard to justify any other kind), you might also want to also work on developing a bit of purposeful obliviousness buoyed by a faith that once bath time is over and the photos are being reviewed, mom, dad, and grandpa will be able to laugh about it.
Now have some fun clicking on the thumbnails below to discover more creative uses for boxes!