Wednesday, December 19, 2012

"What Am I Doing With All This Crap?"

A couple years ago I came across a pair of these very cool cases for organizing nuts, bolts and other hardware at the big Goodwill store on Dearborn which came complete with a starter collection of the aforementioned nuts, bolts, and other hardware. I have since been using them as a place to collect even more. 

The important thing to know about this is that I've been collecting it. If you've been a reader here for long, you'll by now know that this is a problem/solution that seems to be built into my psyche. I tend to build, then hoard, collections of things for a little too long, amassing a stash, often well-organized, until one day I realize, "What the hell am I doing with all this crap?"

It's on that day that I turn it over to the children.

I often tell parents, friends, and others in my day-to-day life that if they have "a lot" of anything we can probably use it at the school. I usually have no problem with the pre-collected stashes these kind people subsequently bring in, typically putting them to use within a few days of their arrival, but the collections I create on my own often become a kind of prized possession, almost too precious to use until I reach the "What am I doing with all this crap?" moment.

I suppose if I really told myself the truth, I would have answered that I'm just waiting for the right opportunity, for a moment when some project or passion emerges from the kids that requires lots of, in this case, nuts, bolts, and other hardware. And that's part of the job when you value an emergent curriculum: to, as the Boy Scouts say, "be prepared." There is nothing better than to have a child or group of children come up with a big idea and to already have all the materials at hand, such as when we built our homemade ladder last summer. I collect because I'm always hoping to be ready to help turn an idea into reality. And sometimes the wait is in vain.

There is, I guess, such a thing as being over-prepared, and that's what was happening with all this well-organized stuff. Last week I reached that tipping point at which the prized possessions became crap. Our 5's class pre-cut a couple dozen pieces of peg board, then we put it all together in our sensory table, along with some of the other, larger hardware I've been collecting, including a pair of Toyota hubcaps. 

I'd originally thought this would be something for the 5's and 3-5's classes, but the Pre-3's also found plenty to do with it.

It's not so organized any longer. Now it's a "tinkering set" which has it's own place on the shelves alongside the rest of the sensory table materials. And, you know, it's still standing by, waiting for that moment when something really special emerges. And, frankly, I'm probably increasing the odds of that happening by just turning all this crap over to the kids.

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