Sunday, May 22, 2011

The Play Bench

When we first introduced a daily outdoor station based on using workbench tools and techniques, we tended to call it the "construction station." As a cooperative, then, a parent-teacher was assigned to that station on a rotating basis. From the very start, there were a few moms who expressed discomfort with being responsible for it, either because they were worried about keeping the children safe or because they felt they lacked experience in construction-related things.

What we do at the work bench -- hammering, sawing, turning screws and so on -- are things I expect preschoolers to be able to handle safely after only a little practice so it confused me that adults would be intimidated by it. I thought maybe it was just a matter of semantics and started trying to refer to it as the "tinkering station," hoping that would remove some of the traditional "male domain" aspects of the term construction. That might have helped a little, but it probably mostly had to do with the fact that people were getting a little more comfortable through experience.

After all, our worst fears weren't being realized. Kids weren't bashing their friends with hammers or sawing their fingers off, and much of what we do there doesn't involve those kinds of tools at all, but rather zip ties or nuts and bolts or PVC pipe or pulleys.

In fact, the station I'm now just calling "the workbench" is really not so different than any other station at a school with a play based curriculum.

There is some interesting stuff on a table, or on the floor, or in a box, or where ever, and the kids and the adults mess around with it . . .

. . . talk about it . . .

. . . try new things with it . . .

. . . and generally put it through its paces. After all, teachers don't have to be experienced artists in order for children to learn at the art table. We don't have to be expert wholesale food distributors for a sensory table full of rice or beans to do what it needs to do. We don't have to be thespians in order to assist children in their dramatic play. And we certainly don't have to have ever once stuck pierced earrings into styrofoam heads, or to have ever even imagined it, to make that activity educational.

In fact, most often it is our lack of experience that makes these activities work because we are then forced to fiddle around and tinker and experiment ourselves, just like we want the children to do: role modeling constructive, inquisitive play.

Good teachers don't have to be experts at anything other than learning, and the best way to do that, as we all know, is through play. And play doesn't intimidate anyone, which makes me wonder if we shouldn't just rename this station "the play bench." It has a nice ring to it.

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Scott said...

Play bench - I like the sound of it.

Sherry and Donna said...

What ever you call it T.T. it's perfect!
Donna :) :)

MC said...

this project looks fun i wish i could do that!

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