Friday, March 08, 2019

Making It Their Own



There are always some leftover balloons after a week of playing in the balloon cage. Earlier this week we arranged 16 inflated balloons after a week of playing in the balloon cage. Earlier this week we arranged 16 inflated balloons in a single layer inside of two large black garbage bags, then inverted a table on top of them. The children had predicted that they would all pop, but due to the magic of weight distribution, none of them did. Then they began climbing on one at a time until at one point we had at least eight kids not just standing, but bouncing without a single burst balloon. in a single layer inside of two large black garbage bags, then inverted a table on top of them. The children had predicted that they would all pop, but due to the magic of weight distribution, none of them did. Then they began climbing on one at a time until at one point we had at least eight kids not just standing, but bouncing without a single burst balloon.


We then tried it with a couple of adults in the mix. Eventually, a couple popped as the motion of our jumping up and down caused the balloons to lose their formation and for some to "ooze" out the sides a bit, but it was still an impressive showcase of the principle. I expect it will be memorable, however, as an impromptu trampoline. And for some time, that's what the kids did with this admittedly adult initiated activity: I had an agenda, which was to continue using a classroom material until it was no longer useful, and to, in the spirit of Mythbusters, demonstrate some cool science. But I've been at this long enough to know that my time as "leader" had come to an end as the kids jumped together, now fully confident that those previously fragile balloons would stand up to their play.

Of course, this is why I stayed close by, ready to re-jigger the set up as things shifted, prepared to catch anyone who fell, and generally just to see what they would wind up doing with it. For several frantic minutes, it was a kind of every-kid-for-themself free-for-all with a fair share of bumping, inadvertent pushing, and bickering. This, naturally, attracted some kids and caused others to move on to other things. Eventually, however, the crowd of jumpers settled out to the three kids for whom the conditions were just right. I know all three to be physically competent kids without being daredevils, which meant I could let down on my vigilance a bit and back off to a nearby bench.


"Hey, stop jumping, stop jumping."

"It's a boat."

"I'll be in the front."

"I'll be in the middle."

"I'll be in the back."

They took their positions, one behind the other, legs wide for balance. They continued to adjust themselves until they had managed to distribute their weight evenly across the entire inverted table top. They stood that way for a time, almost perfectly still, not discussing their accomplishment, but rather feeling it in their bodies.

"I'm not holding on to anything."

"Me either."

"Me either."


Carefully, so as not to upset their cooperatively achieved balance, they looked over one another's shoulders to confirm that they were all there, on their boat, balanced, and not holding on to anything. Then, without words, they slowly began to rock side-to-side. They weren't talking now, but were instead concentrating on working together in this game they were inventing together. They rocked faster and faster. As they approached an intensity that caused me to start to move toward them again, they, still without speaking, began to moderate. After several minutes of this, they decided to exchange positions in the boat. After they each took a turn in in front, middle, and back, they tried it with some of them sitting ("I'm a passenger") while the others rocked it. They played together for a long time, sharing, collaborating, taking turns, and exploring their limits, both individually and together.

They had taken my agenda and made it their own, which should be the destiny of every adult agenda in our classroom.


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