Monday, November 21, 2011

Rending Ribbons

There's something gratifying about rending fabric: the buzz of all those tiny threads breaking in rapid succession, the vibrations of which you feel tingle in your hand and even up your arm. It's a little like the satisfaction of a zipper.

And it still intrigues me how fabric tears on a straight line. We use this characteristic to make our own "ribbon," which in turn can be used to decorate one thing or another. In this case, we made a ribbon fence, by weaving, tying, or otherwise attaching our fabric strips to a piece of caution fencing.

We try to have some sort of art activity outdoors every day, rain or shine. A mild day lends itself to just about anything, but as the winter begins to set in, I try to come up with projects that get the whole body moving. There's nothing that makes us more aware of cold and rain than just standing around in it, which is what too many art projects do.

This one is great for keeping warm through movement. The way we typically do it, is an adult starts the tear, then holds one end of the fabric while the child pulls off a longer or shorter ribbon. 

I like how Elana's dad Paul managed the project so that 2 or 3 or even as many as 6 kids at a time had a ribbon to pull, often taking himself out of the game altogether, leaving them to wrangle with each other in a kind of tug-o-war in which all participants take home a prize.

The ribbon fence, frankly, was a secondary aspect of the project, a place to dispose of your prize before going back to rip off another.

It can be a tough climatic transition this time of year here in the Great Northwest, especially this year with our extended summer followed by a relatively mild, dry fall, but the cold and rain are upon us now and staying active while outdoors is important.

For better or worse, we're raising our children on the site of an ancient rain forest. If they don't learn to be outdoors in the elements, they aren't going to get outside much at all. Learning to stay in motion, while also intellectually engaged is one of the keys. Bodies and brains in motion create warmth. That and proper clothing.

But conditioning ourselves for the weather is psychological as much as physical. I've been reminding parents to pay attention to their own self-talk, about how our children often take their cues from us about how to feel regarding things like weather. If you call it "nasty" or "yucky" or "miserable," it makes it that much harder to get some kids to want to be outside. This is especially true of 2-year-olds who really don't yet know it's "bad weather" until we tell them.

I try to encourage words like "brisk," "refreshing," and "dramatic." I urge parents to try to at least affect enthusiasm for being outside, to keep their own bodies moving, and to avoid standing around with their arms crossed, shivering, hiding out under trees and awnings. And to wear proper clothing!

One of the great advantages of being raised around here is the opportunity to develop the physical and psychological robustness that characterizes us. We're known for our fashion casualness, something foisted upon us by the necessity to dress for rain and cold.

There is no bad day for rending fabric to make ribbons, but there are better days, like when the sun barely rises above the horizon and we don't really see it anyway because it's behind rain clouds. It keeps us moving, it keeps warm. And, of course, it can't be said often enough: there is no such thing as bad weather, just bad clothing.

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Centers and Circle Time said...

Ha Ha! Very clever teaching; fine motor, gross motor, art all rolled up into one! You're so right about the kids and the cold. They have no concept of the cold...especially when they're having a great time!

Juliet Robertson said...

Lovely blog post. I've just replaced my 16yr old Sorel boots and look forward to wearing them a lot outside. Interestingly I've just changed the routine I had with one class owing to the changing weather and the need to keep moving around. They all buddy with a Grade 6 child and the pairs work well for being active.

Barbara Zaborowski said...

I discovered this last year when I was wandering around a Goodwill Store looking for ideas. I got some sheets for a dollar each. We tore them up in a fashion similar to yours, for no other reason than tearing fabric is such great fun. Then, just in case a parent asked why, we wove them through the wire fence, where, I must admit, they looked very nice. When we were done, we had a tub full of ribbons which we could have kept, but didn't. Why deprive this year's class of the fun of tearing their own?

Mullin Avenue Workshop said...

I like this idea for tearing fabric, and will have to try it. I'm sure this would be very satisfying for my 2 year olds.
Do you get any snow, or mainly rain?
It's great that you and your parents have a healthy attitude to the cold outdoors!

Shalini Mukherjee said...

Dear Teacher Tom,
This is really a wonderful activity for the lil ones to be engaged in.
Did you try getting the older ones to try braiding these, then creating a spiral and sticking it on a cardboard. This would make wonderful place mats for all :)
Seasons greetings!


Megan Jefferson said...

i stumbled across your blog when i was looking for ways to express my educational philosophies. I homeschool, we've tried different schools (here in Indiana) that haven't been for us. Your school is a school I'd send my children to. Hats off to you for doing what you do. My sister lives in Seattle and I am going to be there for a month in the spring. I hope to come visit your inspirational school at that time. I love the activities you do with the kids. AWESOME.

lifeasyouliveit said...

would LOVE to see a pic of the construction fence once adorned with all the *ribbon*...i'm sure it was beautiful and gratifying to look at :)

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