Thursday, June 23, 2011

Breaking Glass!


Recently, I posted about having received Gever Tulley's book Fifty Dangerous Things (You Should Let Your Children Do) as a gift from Max, and mentioned the plan to spend our summer session giving as many of those things a go as feasible in preschool.

We started out by throwing spears, then we tried licking 9-volt batteries. I've introduced these "projects" by showing them the book, then pointing out that we're going to try a "dangerous thing." This whole idea doesn't appeal to some children and they happily play elsewhere. But it does appeal, sometimes very much so, to others. Not all of us are attracted by the forbidden fruit, or perhaps just not to this specific forbidden fruit, but like it or not, some of us are. And we will be drawn to it whether or not we've been taught to mitigate our risks. These are important lessons we are teaching.

During our first two "dangerous" undertakings, the kids have been the first to point out, "This isn't dangerous." And they're right. Because as Tulley emphasizes in the book, the 50 activities would only be truly risky if undertaken in a willy-nilly, unsupervised manner. The entire undertaking is about teaching children that the world is theirs to explore and manipulate, that there are great forces at our fingertips, and if you take the time to understand them, even they, mere children, can master them in a way that unleashes their potential -- safely!

The children at Woodland Park have been engaging in risk assessment for a long time while doing things like building with blocks, using hand tools, wrestling, and yes, even things like public speaking and expressing emotions. These are all "dangerous" activities. They require forethought, rules, courage, and practice, if we are going master them. And once we have, we say, "This isn't dangerous."

This week, we broke glass. Well, not glass, but rather ceramic tiles because we didn't have a quantity of glass around to break, but we did have a box of ceramic tiles, and they seemed similar enough to serve as a substitute. We didn't use Tulley's glass breaking method, but came up with one of our own.

Step one: Put on your safety goggles.

Step two: Pick out your tile and wrap it in a towel. ("Like a present," we started saying.)


Step three: Select your rubber mallet. (We have three sizes. None of the children chose the medium mallet.)

Step four: Make sure there is no one standing in your "swing zone," then whack away. (As they hammered, I asked, "Do you think you've broken it?" Many of the children had to work up to swinging hard enough to succeed, but they all knew when they'd managed it. Some were satisfied with a couple mighty blows, while others pounded away repeatedly.)




Step five: Unwrap your "present." ("I hope your present's broken," we said.)



The best part about using the ceramic tile instead of glass is that the resulting shards aren't all that sharp. In fact, we've used this process before to smash up tiles to use for art projects, so I knew we could handle them, gingerly, without getting cut.


As we sorted through the destruction, we talked about the shapes we had made (triangles, squares, "houses," etc.) and also noted which pieces were "sharp" and would cut us had they been glass.

And like before, at some point, one of the children pointed out, "This isn't dangerous." And he was right.

Bookmark and Share

9 comments:

The Mom (and Lilymutt) said...

Reminds me of preschool fire safety classes in Japan. The fire department comes, hands out ignited sparklers for the kids to explore/ play with and eventually to extinguish in coffee cans of water. As usual, I am behind you all the way in your hands-on, real life lessons! Can't wait to read the next post.

wondersofnature said...

Of course the one 'really' dangerous thing to do is never allow your child to have these experiences, when they are ready, whilst you are around to supervise.

My children have both used scissors, knives and matches from very young, under our direct supervision. They are much safer than some other children they play with who are never allowed to help in the kitchen or with DIY and who then rush at jobs without properly thinking through the risks.

I have to say my ten year old is usually one step ahead of me in assessing the risk in any given situation these days, and as she enters the tweenage years long may it continue!!

ImaginationPlay said...

""Fifty Dangerous Things (You Should Let Your Children Do) "" It is only in your Blog I would expect to read something like this Tom. ROLOL
Back to reading in awe, as usual. Thanks TTom from Tdeb

Barbara Zaborowski said...

In the five or six years we did mosaics with hand-broken tiles and plates (same method you used), we suffered one very minor cut finger. Well worth it, even for the injured child, who washed off the finger and got right back to work placing tile pieces in cement on whatever we were decorating that year.

Ashley Kate said...

I love the idea of breaking the glass to make tiles for mosaics! What a great way to really emphasize the the 'process' of a project.

I would be interested to read the book you mentioned. All children are naturally curious, and engaging in supervised activities such as 'breaking glass' nurtures that curiosity, as well as safely directs it.

What wonderful thoughts; thank you for sharing!

Ashley Kate said...

I love the idea of breaking the glass to make tiles for mosaics! What a great way to really emphasize the the 'process' of a project.

I would be interested to read the book you mentioned. All children are naturally curious, and engaging in supervised activities such as 'breaking glass' nurtures that curiosity, as well as safely directs it.

What wonderful thoughts; thank you for sharing!

Ashley Kate
http://explore-education.blogspot.com

Anonymous said...

Kind of off topic, but I was reading a blog post today from a mom who is trying to find a preschool for her soon to be 3 year old. Some of the big issues she was encountering in the schools she was looking at (non-play-based) were about how independent the schools expect newly-minted 3 year olds to be with toileting and snack time. I am curious about how 2-5 year olds grow more independent and able to perform basic life skills. I'd love to read about examples and stories of that kind of independence in your school.

@jeannezoo said...

Tom - I appreciate your approach so very much, dangerous or not, and your respect for children. In the curriculum course I taught this past semester for new preschool teachers, I used specific blogs as course readings and - not surprisingly - there was a lot of chatter when I assigned your "two year olds using hammers" - great discussion was had! Your 'dangerous' summer might bring more hot topics for me to introduce to new teachers this fall :) cheers, from @jeannezoo / zella said purple

Becc said...

As usual I'm left smiling after reading about the adventures you encourage your children to have. I want to say thanks to you - as an EC teacher I was really needing some inspiration, some feeling of connection with the wider world 9I'm in Australia). your blog, and several others, have given me just what I felt I needed. so ... THANK YOU!

Related Posts with Thumbnails
Technorati Profile