A couple days ago I posted about how our Pre-3 class played a game I called "Crossing the River," that involved, at a minimum, the very real possibility of walking in paint with bare feet. Whenever we undertake a particularly messy project, I can count on about 2/3 of the kids either hanging back or finding an alternative (i.e., less messy) way to engage.
Many of them are so mess averse that they spent a good part of their morning in an entirely different part of the room as if even watching a mess would taint them. In fact, when I took off my shoes to be the first to take the plunge and "fall into the water," Gray, from the other side of the room, wet up to his elbows from the sensory table, began to shout at me, "Take at bath!" peeved, backing away as he spoke.
But there is always another contingent who hang out to watch, forming an audience of kibitzers, ultimately declining all invitations to participate, but who, nevertheless, are intrigued enough to stay nearby.
The kids that formed this group last week seemed entirely content to watch and comment on what they were seeing, staying close so as not to miss anything, making suggestions, but soon recognizing the "mess zone" and remaining just outside of it. Suriya, for instance, who was decisive in his commitment to remain shod and dry, took great joy in urging his friends to "fall in," even instructing them where to step with their paint-covered feet, almost as if choosing one of the adult roles for himself.
Others hung out apparently trying to decide if the risk of mess was worth taking on the challenge of balancing. George fell into this category for sure. Normally, he's the first to attempt anything that involves climbing or balancing, but it was Parker who came the closest without taking the plunge. He stood watching for the better part a half an hour, shoes off, even standing at the "starting line," but never quite able to take that first step.
We urge these kids, of course, cajoling them a bit, some finally overcoming whatever it is that holds them back, but most are just fine letting others take the risk -- and the mess -- while employing their powers of observation.
As soon as the mess was put away and we got outside, Parker found his own balance beam upon which to try out his skills, balancing, then jumping off again and again, each time saying to himself, "In the water!"
He found a mess-free way to try out the experiment on his own, being joined for a time by a handful of other kids, some of whom still had blue paint under their toenails, but a few who did not.
There was a table with chalk and small chalk boards outside as well. Austin, one of the kids who had kept a lot of real estate between himself and the paint river throughout the morning, dumped a container of chalk out on one of our pallet-platforms, then began kicking and stomping at the chalk.
It took me a couple minutes to figure out what was going on, but then realized he was attempting to draw with his feet, crushing the chalk and painting the wood with the resulting dust.
Was he re-creating, in a non-messy way, the foot painting he'd seen inside? I don't know and could think of no way to ask, so I just watched.
What I can say is that he wasn't the only kid who had earlier avoided the messy river to give it a go.
Maybe only a third of the kids attempted to cross the river via the bridge I'd set up, but it appears more than that found their way to the other side.