Sunday, November 15, 2009

The Tape Machine And Fire Safety: A Couple Of Updates

Most learning is not the result of instruction. It is rather the results of unhampered participation in a meaningful setting. –Ivan Illich, theologian
Let (your scholar) know nothing because you have told him, but because he has learned it for himself. Let him not be taught science, let him discover it. –Jean-Jaques Rousseau, philosopher
Failure is instructive. The person who really thinks learns quite as much from his failures as from his successes. –John Dewey, educator

Tape machine update

After class last Friday, our classroom door looked like this:

When I left school this Friday, it looked like this:

The tape machine resided in our do-it-yourself area all week. The 4-5 year olds really got things going last Thursday, while the 3-year-olds took things to the next level on Monday. It was fun to sit back and watch Ariya and Charlie B., in particular, pull out 6-8 foot lengths of tape only to find themselves that far away from the scissors. Both of them tried the technique of putting their end of the tape down while they retrieved the scissors only to return to find it stuck to the floor. It was a dilemma they both tried solving by carrying a pair of scissors with them as they unfurled their next length of tape, but both found that they could only cut off a piece as long as their own reach – less than a foot – while the rest fell to the floor, again getting stuck there. They were performing these experiments simultaneously, both making similar discoveries. Neither seemed frustrated, just deeply engaged in the process of problem-solving.

My attentions were needed elsewhere for a time so I don’t know how it came about, but when I returned the boys had figured out that they could stick the ends of their long pieces of tape to a cabinet or chair, which held it off the floor while they decided just how long they wanted to cut it. By this time, they had joined forces and were playing their tape game together. Soon they weren’t cutting the tape at all, but rather just filling up that corner of the room with a spider web of tape.

The Pre-3’s also had access to the tape machine this week, but most of the focus was on making their “scissor machines” work. I prefer to let the 2-year-olds experiment with these vital early childhood tools before putting any emphasis on the “proper” way to hold them. This leads almost invariably to the discovery of the two-fisted cutting technique, and while they all seem to grasp the idea that scissors are for cutting, many are still trying to figure out physics of it.

Owen in particular seemed both fascinated and mystified by the process. He employed a hit-or-miss approach, snipping his scissors above, below and beside the tape, every now and then hitting it just right. Then with the look of concentration never leaving his face, he would abandon his tiny bit of tape to the nearest surface and get right back to his trail-and-error experiment with the scissors. He’s teaching himself to use scissors.

Fire safety update

When I give a lecture, I accept that people look at their watches, but what I do not tolerate is when they look at it and raise it to their ear to find out if it stopped. –Marcel Archard, filmmaker

I like most of the fire safety curriculum the Seattle Fire Department expects us to run through in preparation for classroom visits. It contains important safety information and many parents have, over the years, told me that their child has brought their newly acquired fire safety information home.

The weak link, especially for a class of 3-5 year olds, is that there’s a little too much Circle Time talking involved for the youngest kids, while it stimulates the older kids to want to engage in a deeper dialog. I’m going to guess that this is because many of the 3’s aren’t quite yet ready to make the connection between our theoretical discussion about fire safety and their own lives, while it’s exactly the kind of bridge between abstraction and the concrete that our older children are eager to cross. While the older kids told us, often in great detail, about the location, color and sounds of every smoke detector in their homes or the minutia of their family escape plans, many of their classmates squirmed around like they were sitting in a fire. When I looked out over the kids, half had their hands emphatically raised, while the others were busy using their hands for everything but getting my attention.

It helped to interrupt the discussion to move our bodies by practicing the “Stop, Drop and Roll” method of putting out a fire on oneself. Showing off our siren sounds also helped focus the group’s attention. And our fire drill was a kind of "reward" for the kids who had worked so hard to sit still while we talked.

The firefighters visit our school on Monday. As I had done in our Pre-K class, I asked the larger group of children if they’re “excited” about it. About a third of them raised their hands. Then I asked if they were “a little nervous” about it. About a third raised their hands again, with quite a bit of overlap. As Ella put it, “I’m excited and nervous.” If you’ve followed the math in this paragraph, you’ll note that many of them didn’t raise their hands at all.

They must have been checking their watches.

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Pumpkin Delight (Kimberly) said...

I'm looking forward to their visit too! Pictures please. :)

Michelle said...

Oh how fun. I love the image of the kids trying to figure out the tape machine. I love that they didn't get frustrated. Getting frustrated is one of our biggest challenges.

Unknown said...

I love the ages you work with. The way they see the world is so interesting. I learn from them by coming here and reading what they are accomplishing : ). Fascinating stuff!

Anonymous said...

I'm loving the face lift to the door - funny stuff and looks familiar. Kids just love the magic of tape. I once had identical twins in the same room who would go to town, wrapping themselves up in the process.

pamela wallberg said...

Ok, teacher tom, our two year olds are challenging your three year olds to a tape-off.

(after being inspired by this post, my teachers let lose with tape in the two's classroom. I'm going to try to get some photos up on our blog this week....)