Saturday, January 30, 2010

New Stuff And Old Stuff Made New

Woodland Park has recently been all about new and exciting. Last week we introduced many of the props I'd scavenged on the prior weekend:

Office play

"Superhero" swim goggles

Brides and grooms

Last week our sensory table was home to a massive amount of gak made from 2 full gallons of white glue:

I wish I had a photo of those gak fish

And this week we broke out our amazing collection of magnetized toys for the first time this year, which dominated the classroom for a couple days. We introduced Chinese New Year, went on a field trip, and explored new outdoor "toys" (e.g., logs, cedar rounds, terracotta pots, a step ladder, wicker garden furniture). 

We moved our fireplace to the center of the classroom:

Those are scavenged battery powered tea candles on the mantle

The kids toasted "marshmallows" on PVC pipe sticks even while
continuing to create new "flames" (foreground)

And we even went an entire week without playdough, instead investigating the properties of what we call "floam." 

With all that newness, I thought it would be useful to insert some familiarity, so we revisited gutter, tube and ball play this past week. In the 3-5 class, the older kids mostly steered clear, leaving the field to our 3-year-olds who resorted to more "square one" type experimentation, both with the concept of gravity and ramp construction, as well as their social relationships. There was quite a bit of frustration over things getting knocked down, tennis ball hoarding, and taking turns, which is less evident when a more experienced 4-year-old is taking charge of things. They stuck to it, however, figuring out things both on their own and with the help of adults.

The 2-year-olds, of course, love rolling balls down the gutters and through the tubes, but mostly needed adults to help them create constructions that actually took advantage of gravity. When left to their own devices they found that just throwing the balls or climbing into the emptied block cabinet was far more compelling play. That all changed on Friday when the classroom was augmented by the presence of 5 kindergardeners, older siblings who had the day off from public school. It was wonderful to watch these big kids, gently steer the gutter and tube play into more complex channels, helping to not only create multilevel ball runs, but also holding the whole rickety thing together while their younger friends experimented with the creation. I admired the way they confidently and kindly played the role of teachers.

But that wasn't the only place the big kids helped us out yesterday. I watched as 5-year-old Venezia help her sister Sadie paint her dragon, going so far as to guide her brush to blank parts of the canvas. Jody's big sister Cora demonstrated how magnets both attract and repel. Violet's big brother Elliott role-modeled raising his hand at circle time (a concept that I've not yet introduced to the 2-year-olds). Sena's big sister Ava, helped expand our knowledge of how to build things from floam. And Zachary, Sylvia's big brother, made sure to not pedal our unicycle merry-go-round too fast for the younger children. 

Thank you kindergarden kid teachers. Come back any time. You made even the old stuff new again.

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Deborah Stewart said...

Once again - a wonderful illustration of how multi-age grouping can really be a valuable teaching tool in the classroom for everyone!

Love the fireplace and pretend play going on there:)

pamela Wallberg said...

I love the swim goggles. We need to get some of those....

Teacher Tom said...

@Pamela . . . We now have at least 6 kids who are putting on the goggles when they arrive and wearing them all day. It's kind of freaky!

Launa Hall said...

Thanks for that perspective! In my children's public school, the Ks in the building look so tiny. But in a preschool, the same age children are sophisticated, gentle giants. It must feel so good for them to take a day off from being the youngest and newest, and instead be the oldest and most capable.

Unknown said...

It is so fun to see how the kids have taken to the new things : ) LOVE the marshmallow roasting. Very clever!

Children are amazing.

Anonymous said...

Love your blog Tom! I get so many different perspectives and fresh ideas from here.

What do you have planned with the laptop?

I too have recycled cell phones at my daycare and the kids love them, especailly the under twos. When I remember, I charge them for more realistic play.