Wednesday, August 31, 2011

G Is For Glue Guns Vs. (White) Glue




(Deborah Stewart of the Teach Preschool blog and Facebook page was perhaps the first early childhood blogger I met when I began doing this. She came and found me, like she has so many others these past 2+ years, welcoming me, supporting me, often the only one commenting on my posts that otherwise were being sent out into the apparently empty ether. She is a remarkable, generous, tireless community builder, a woman who has taught me so much about the power of the internet not just as a communications medium, but also as a genuine "place" in which a warm, creative community can thrive.

Today, her Teach Preschool Facebook page surged past 20,000 fans -- I'm proud to say I was one of the first 100. I'm honored to have been asked to take part in the celebration with this post. Congratulations Deborah and thank you. It's quite likely that without you, I would have given this up long ago.
)

*****

I had always been a white school glue kind of teacher, my classes going through gallons of it each year, but I had a come to Jesus kind of experience last summer when it comes to its limitations, and through that an epiphany about the capabilities of the children.

We were in the midst of our inaugural summer session when it dawned on me that we really hadn't done much with glue, so I broke out a stack of corrugated cardboard and cut it into various shapes and sizes for collage making. We've done this kind of monochrome project many times over the years -- there tends to be a lot of talk about shapes, sizes, recycling, and the use of glue. The finished pieces are usually landscapes of texture and angular shadow. Not bad for a preschool art project.



There are always a few kids who get the idea of going 3-D, but because of the slow-drying nature of the glue and the jostling about typical of a classroom full of kids, the structures almost always wind up getting pancaked. As I sat watching Ava struggle with her efforts, I almost couldn't watch, knowing that no matter how hard she tried, no matter how long she persevered, her structure's 2-D destiny was assured.


I was right, of course, and as her house of cards tumbled down before her eyes, having added one bit too many, she finally walked away, philosophical it seemed, but with her artistic vision unrealized.

There was a steady trickle of kids engaged at the art table throughout the morning, but it didn't surprise me to pass by later in the morning to find our Northwest wildlife identification chart on the table, evidence that some level of boredom or frustration had come to call. (Not that I have anything against identifying native animals, but come on, we're an urban school: the only thing we have to identify are squirrels and crows.)


White glue has its place, but as I left to walk the dogs that afternoon, I was thinking about Ava and the limitations imposed by this languid, non-toxic, washable, 24-hours-to-cure medium.

That's right, hot glue guns were on my mind.

So on the following day, when Sadie and Venezia's mom Medora took her place at the work bench as the parent-teacher in charge of the station, she found a stack of cardboard and 3 hot glue guns. In fairness to the white glue collage efforts from earlier in the week, I also added various cutting tools and a box of theatrical lighting gel scraps, and moved it outdoors, but essentially it was the same project just using a different adhesive. Thinking about Ava's frustrated efforts, my only instruction was, "They can make whatever they want, but maybe they'll want to build a house."
















Are you kidding me? It's night and day.

Granted, moving the whole thing outdoors was also part of opening up possibilities for the kids. The expansive opportunity of incorporating wood chips, pine cones, and other "naturally occurring" objects from the environment are evident. (Are we the only preschool on earth for which beer bottle caps and wine corks qualify as naturally occurring objects?) Still, look what the glue guns made possible! They got on a roll, their visions became immediately manifest, their conversations full of "What if . . ." and "Why don't we . . .?" and "Let's . . ."  It was an explosion of creativity and cooperation. And it was that tool, the hot glue gun, that gave them the power to make their ideas real. 

White glue will still be part of our repertoire going forward, but I regret all those years I withheld these mighty tools from the children, limiting them, for fear that they might go home with tiny red burns on their thumbs.


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28 comments:

Bryssy said...

Preschoolers can do so much if you just let them! My son who is 3 can chop with a real chef knife almost as good as Julia Child. And, I am the only one who has every had a cut from chopping. The boy is careful!

Deborah said...

ok, ok, you have convinced me - I am going to drag out the glue gun today! What a very kind Tom - and thank you for all the support you have given me too. No question - I have needed it:)

Melissa {AllSewnUp} said...

It's good for kids to realize and experiment with hazards. We often break out the pancake griddle and with a paper on top we draw with crayons, they love how they glide across leaving such shiny melted wax, and there hasn't been a burn yet :)

(also I laugh about the cap&corks; thinking about how my legos were always kept in a certain gold trimmed purple drawstring bag as a kid)

Amy said...

Brilliant. I always love seeing what your kids are working on. It inspires me to do it then with my kids!

Males in Early Childhood said...

Isn't it great (& a little embarrassing to yourself) when moments like that occur when you just have to say, "Why didn't I think of that earlier?"

I wasn't aware that you were so recently converted to the glue guns. I wrongly assumed they had been part of you teaching arsenal forever.

Well done!

Liz's Mom said...

Wow!

BPDubs said...

@Melissa - Up until this moment, I truly thought I was the only one who had Crown Royal bags to hold my legos! I'm not alone! To be fair, my mom was in college and bartending...and recycling :)

I need to get brave and let our kids handle glue guns...I assumed parents would snatch their kids away if they saw their kid near one...maybe not!

CacheyMama said...

I am very impressed with your blog. It is always great to see males in the preschool field! I also love Deborah from Teach Preschool. I recently began blogging and she has been a great help when needed and somehow finding time to occasionally leave a comment on my blog. Anyways, please check it out and see what you think! I have a giveaway going on too with VERY few entries, so please enter! Thanks for your dedication Teacher Tom!!!
Lori
http://preschoolteacher81.blogspot.com

~The Bargain Babe said...

Wow, it is incredible what they were able to do with some cardboard and a glue gun!!!

The Twin Coach said...

Oh, I am so inspired to get hot glue guns for my 4 1/2 year olds! I would not have thought of it for fear of burns, as you say, but I need to step out of their way & let them create! Plus, we're out in the woods this week on vacation & I am busy collecting pinecones, twigs etc. for some awesome arts & crafts when we get home. :) Thank you for another wonderful post.

Oh, and I love Deborah from Teach Preschool, too. She is an amazing wealth of information!
-Gina

Ayn Colsh said...

I'm not quite brave enough yet, Tom, but with every post about glue guns, I get a little closer! You've converting my thinking on a few other topics, so my guess is it probably won't be long before I finally do try it! Thank you for always challenging my thinking (bet you didn't even know you were doing that!) and making me really consider why I make certain choices for my students.

becc72 said...

you've done it again...taken us from our comfort zone! I'm blessed to be able to teach an adult early childhood education program - inspiring new professional! I always tell them that children do NOT have an inner desire to hurt themselves, break themselves, smash things or create (what we see as) danger issues.What they want to do is live life and explore all that they are capable of.sure, if we put out hot glue guns and go off for a cuppa there are bound to be issues...our trust and our ability to be in the moment with our children will mean that they can have amazing experiences and take themselves from the 2D to the 3D. thankyou Tom xx

LeeanneA / KMullally said...

Amazing creations! We all should embrace the glue gun! :)

Pam said...

LOL- I'm also not sure I'm quite brave enough! Given the fine motor delays and impulsivity that many of my children are challenged with...it seems a bit daunting! However, I can think of 2 of my little guys who would absolutely love using a glue gun and would do quite well! Perhaps I will start with them :) ...

Terri said...

I'm convinced - I really am. My 4-yr-old would love the glue gun and I honestly think she would do quit well with it. We'll have to get it out and all that scrap cardboard I've been hoarding!

My eyes have been opened lately with all the blog reading I've been doing. I was thoroughly convinced that parents were being way too overprotective of their children & it was hindering their learning and their independence. It's so refreshing to see a cyber-community of parents & teachers who believe in play, imagination & the abilities of children!

Debbie said...

Wowzer -- Wowzer -- WOW.

Who knew that G for Glue would really be all about E for Expectations and T for Trust and W for Wow and B for Believe and A for Art and R for Recycle and S for Spirit?

I'm feeling slightly puny with my little M is for Music, but I'll attempt to carry on.


So A for Awesome that Deborah has connected all of us!!

Teacher Tom said...

As humans we have being alone, we have talking face-to-face; for everything else we use tools. The more tools we know how to use, the more experience we have using them, the more the world opens up to us.

I think we should all be introducing our kids to as many tools as possible, but be safe out there. Keep in mind that we're a cooperative and can maintain a 3-1 child-adult ratio (or better) at all times. Adult attention is always our greatest safety "tool."

jenny said...

I hearby crown you king of the glue gun Tom.

Scott said...

Tom, I'm still basking in the "wonky frames" we made with craft sticks and glue guns last year. I would not have done that without your blog. I can't wait to break them out with the group this year and see what we can create.

I'm glad that I've been able to connect with you, Deborah, and all the other great teachers through the blogosphere.

mamaroses said...

I've always wanted a glue gun, more so ever since the toddler happened. Now that is how those cardboard pieces come together.....I am headed to WM to pick up one! Thanks for cueing us novices in.

mamaroses said...

btw, at one point I was hooked to your posts when I just started blogging that I thought I would have to revisit my ABC's of child development :)!

Melissa @ The Chocolate Muffin Tree said...

Great post! I love thee houses that the children are building! They are fabulous! My daughter wanted to build one right away when she saw these pictures!
I'm so glad to be part of this community and realizing the importance of being more open to materials like the glue gun. My 5 year old loves using her glue gun (even after burns), but she realizes that she can build so much easier! Thanks again for your inspiration!

julie said...

We LOVE hot glue guns at our house! I have the luxury of providing an at-home educational environment to only two kiddos, so with a two-to-one student-teacher ratio, I've had a cup of coffee in one hand, a novel in the other, and a lax eye upon a small child with a hot glue gun for years now, and I do have to agree that kids can do incredible things with them. Right this minute, there's a giant walk-in castle in our living room, constructed by my girls of Playmobil, Little Debbie, Jello (yes, I know, SUPER healthy household here), and tampon boxes, and LOTS of hot glue.

KAREN GREEN said...

Yeah, go the glue gun! We also have a product here in Australia called "Ultra Glue" or "Super Tack" that is like a really thick paste that has to be applied with a spatula. It dries quite fast but holds the 'impossible' together until it dries. We use it a lot with wood. Prior to this being available, I used to use a self-made concoction of dry wallpaper paste and PVA glue which turned into a thick paste that worked in the same way. I agree, very distressing to see a child's wonderful efforts fail due to the limitations of the tools or materials we provide. But I guess there are valuable lessons to be gained there too :)

Holly Ann said...

I'm so happy I found your blog! I love this idea! But I have to ask - Do you work in a public pre-k or a private preschool? I teach Title 1, Pre-K in an urban school district and I'm just not sure our principal would let the use of hot glue guns fly with our students. I'll run it by her, but I'm not holding my breath. :(

Mama Mia said...

What an eye opener! At what age can we start doing this??? :)

Dina @Playful Preschool said...

Do you use hot glue? did you do a safety lesson first?
Looks incredible! And I love that you were able to provide Ava and the others with a way to actualize their musings!

Ellen said...

We use a lot of hot glue in our homeschool, with a six and four year old. It is worth noting that glue guns come in small "low heat" versions (which are also cheaper), as well as the hotter full size ones. I like that for kids... the burns are smaller! They also heat the glue a little more slowly, so they aren't dealing with floods of hot glue. It is perfect.

We have had the odd small burn, but the girls don't mind. The joy of using a "grownup" tool seems to outweigh the pain!

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