Sometimes the best projects are the ones that aren't exactly child-directed. I know I'm not supposed to say that, but here at the cooperative, with lots of teacher-parents around to get things going, I like it when they just get busy on a project, making space for the kids when they stick their noses in to see what's going on. So many cool things happen that way.
Our new lemonade stand is a case in point. One of the most popular things we do during the summer is make lemonade, then sell it to our friends. The original idea was to sell it to passersby (along with coffee), and I still would like us to see if we can make that work, but for the time being we're just selling it to ourselves, which has all the benefits of the experience, without the stress of managing kids out by a relatively busy road.
On Tuesday, Suriya's nanny Kerry was in charge of our workbench station. I showed her the 1/2" PVC pipe, which I cut many years ago into a variety of standard lengths to aid kids in their construction projects, along with a bucket of connectors, duct tape, and a large cardboard box. I more or less let her know that I'd like her to see if she could make a lemonade stand happen using those items, letting her know that if the kids really weren't into it, they were, of course, welcome to build anything they wanted.
Slowly, she got to work with Suriya, the two of them quietly working together. Other kids joined in for a minute or two, but for about a half hour it was just the two of them noodling over the lemonade stand project.
Now, with the wide age and interest range in our summer program, I really don't like to lock our stations down with just one project. I especially don't want to have to turn kids away who have a bee in their bonnet about creating something, even if it doesn't involve the tools and materials I've chosen for the day. This was one of those days when a group of the older kids decided they needed to build a "door" and descended on the workbench determined to make it happen.
Fortunately, we always have a couple parent-teacher "floaters" each day, so I could assign them to help with the spontaneous door project.
While one worked on the door itself, others took on the challenge of a door knob and other essentials.
As they worked, other projects sprang up as well. I don't even know what all was being created, but through it all, just off to the side, Kerry and Suriya stuck with the lemonade stand.
And when the others moved on, leaving an unfinished door, the lemonade stand was still taking shape.
When we were ready to sell lemonade later in the day, we sold it from the skeleton Suriya and Kerry had created.
Arriving on Wednesday, I then I showed Audrey and Ella's mom Jaimee the skeleton along with some paper, paints and duct tape and asked her to see if she could make a finished lemonade stand happen, including reinforcing all the joints with duct tape.
(I can imagine it's challenging, when you're about to enter first grade as Ella is, to go to all this effort, then to have a 2-year-old wander by and start making large yellow splots across the top. She said, not exactly through gritted teeth, "He's making lemons," making the proverbial lemonade.)
The paint was still too wet for selling lemonade on Wednesday, but on Thursday we did.
Sometimes is best for the teachers to just get to work and invite the kids to join in where they can: so many cool things happen that way.