Saturday, November 07, 2009

The Tape Machine

I can be competitive when it comes to important things, and a few years ago fellow North Seattle Community College co-op teacher Suzanne Sumi got those juices flowing by commenting that her class had gone through an extraordinary amount of colored masking tape over the course of the past school year. I don’t remember the exact number of rolls, but it was a lot, and my first thought was that there was no reason why the Sandhurst 3-5’s should be having that much more fun than the Woodland Park 3-5’s.

The way she had achieved this high level of consumption, as I understood it, was to make a full array of colored tape freely available to the children to play with as they saw fit. That sounded like a solid strategy so my first order of business was to come up with my own down and dirty mass colored tape distribution system, which I did with PVC pipe and duct tape:

Of course, this was only going to be a temporary solution until I could acquire one of those nifty manufactured multi-roll tape dispensers I’d seen in the catalogs. As is too often the case, however, we’ve now broken three of these coveted items, while the original homemade model is still going strong.

On most mornings, we have a do-it-yourself table set up, complete with some combination of paper, crayons, scissors, staplers, hole punches, and glue sticks. To this area, we often add what has come to be referred to as the “tape machine.” Typically, the do-it-yourself table is a place for solo work or a “drive-by” spot for creating props (e.g., flags, signs, money, wands) to be used in dramatic play taking place elsewhere. But the presence of the tape machine typically draws a crowd and more often than not creative cooperative play ensues.

On Thursday, the kids cut lots of short pieces of tape and used it to make dozens of tape collages on construction paper, but soon began experimenting with longer pieces, which evolved into decorating the classroom door:

Sadly, this photo doesn’t capture the artwork at its zenith because much of it had to be removed to allow people to pass through the doorway.

This door has hosted dozens of tape sculptures over the years, but it is by no means our only target. A few years ago I’d scavenged a hollow plastic pony that had once been part of some kind of rocking horse contraption. We spent the better part of the school year creating a “rainbow tape pony.” It really was a beauty.

Sometimes the tape sculptures will stretch into the adjacent block area and the entire quadrant of the classroom becomes a tangle of tape and blocks.

Once we covered our Circle Time rug in a maze of criss-crossing roads then drove tiny cars on them.

Often our sculptures wind up including the paper, crayons, staplers, crayons, hole punches, and glue sticks.

One time we made a tape ball that was over 2-feet in diameter. We learned that if you kicked it hard enough it would stick to the wall. Or if you kicked it to a person it might stick to their legs.

The children themselves often become tape canvases. One year a group of boys spent weeks playing a game that involved taping their own mouths shut, much to the delight of the parents who sometimes struggle with the classroom noise level.

There was a time that we turned several tables on their sides and the kids made an impenetrable “tape fort,” that was just as effective at keeping children in as it was for keeping others out. When one of the kids trapped inside started to panic, her scissor-wielding friends cut their way out in a scene that might have come from the movie Edward Scissorhands.

Thursday’s tape machine extravaganza was typical in that most of the kids took part in the play over the course of the morning, and at one point I counted 10 children cutting and taping at the same time. There was a certain amount of jostling, and more than a few debates over scissors, but the adults stayed out of it, allowing solutions to come from the momentum of the play. Some of our younger friends operated in their own little zones, snipping and sticking in a pattern of their own device. Older kids were shouting instructions and advice to one another, planning their artwork, and strategizing how to bring their visions to reality.

I expect the tape sculpture to remain where it is for the next few weeks, growing until it genuinely impedes our use of the door, at which point we’ll be faced with the choice of what to do with all that hard work. I can’t wait to find out what we decide.

Top that, Sumi!

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Susan said...

tom , this is great. you know, rodman is an incorrigible scrounger. since the bag lady post, I'm thinking your school might want some of the goodies we find. I'll let you know so you can yea or nay. Now - back to the rain.

Becca said...

So where do you get this tape that comes in so many colors and can be removed from walls without removing paint???

Teacher Tom said...

Becca, I get my tape through Discount School Supply. It's fairly pathetic when it comes to adhesiveness, so it really doesn't do much damage to paint unless it's left on for a long, long time.

MOM #1 said...

I have to say, I'm a grown-up (sort of) and I LOVE tape. Tape is so much fun. I wish I'd had that plethora of tapes to play with when I was a little girl.

I'm so jealous of your intimate connection to the opera. I can't believe you don't just love it and listen to it and sing it all the time.

I do sort of sing it all the time . . . but no one likes to listen to me . . . so most of it is done in the shower, where it belongs.

Jason, as himself said...

This would never occur to me in a million years. And I think it is brilliant.

I love preschool. Are you hiring? If I could work with you, I think I might do it.

Floor Pie said...

Tape!!! I used to sacrifice rolls and rolls of tape just to get some me-time when The Boy was 3 & 4. It's amazing what the kids can do with it.

Unknown said...

Tape equals tons of smiles : ).
When I taught Kindergarten,
occasionally, I would give all the students a roll of scotch tape and see what they could do with it during the day! Such fun was had!

kristin said...

okay. i am making one of those dispensers. surely i can figure it out.

we've used so many rolls of tape already. i call myself "tape lady" some days and put strips of tape all over for kids to come and get.

good times.

Michelle said...

I'm thinking you should market your little tape dispenser thingie there. I think it's pretty nifty. I LOVE the fort idea though. So much fun for everyone.

hilary said...

Can I be in your class?

Mike said...

I personally find it very addicting to continually peel masking tape of the holder. I was even worse as a kid with doing this. At least now I can stop myself. Still very addicting though.