Wednesday, February 17, 2010

The Little World Experiment, V (And Tape-Off Update)

If you've not been following along and want to catch up, here are my posts on our Little World experiment so far in order of appearance:

Our First Fairy Garden, Isak's Maps, And Tape-Off Update
The Little World Experiment
Little World Experiment, Part III
Little World Experiment, Part IV

After two full weeks of Little World play in the 3-5's class, I'd have to call it a qualified success. As I've documented here, I had to work pretty hard at first to convince some of the kids that our Little World materials were not mere fodder for the various mud pits and mud soups being created in our water play area, not to mention persuading the brigades of bucket-of-water wielding boys that it was not acceptable to turn Little World into an extension of their mud play.

On Wednesday last week, Orlando, one of our most avid mud players walked up to the bins of moss, sticks, figurines, and broken pottery, surveyed it momentarily, and declared to no one in particular, "This stuff stays here," then put his shovel on his shoulder and headed out to the mud pits. Lachlan, another of our 3-year-olds found an old brass bell in Little World and walked around the courtyard ringing it for several minutes. I was tempted to remind him where it belonged, but held my tongue long enough for him to take it back to Little World when he was finished, without any prompting.

In other words, the kids seem to be on board with the concept now. The circle of children trying it out last week expanded slightly, and for the first time since Little World has been in existence, Annabelle didn't spend her entire outdoor time playing there.

We're out of school this week for mid-Winter break, so we'll probably leave things as they are next week as the kids settle back into school, then start adding simple outdoor art projects. I think we'll start with a ball of twine and learn the fine art of twig-and-twine construction. Ultimately, I'm hoping to get some sturdy grasses established in the garden to use in place of twine.

When I last wrote about the experiment, I finished by expressing some trepidation about turning the 2-year-olds loose in there, largely due to their scattering tendencies. As I've learned to do inside the classroom, I provided a fairly limited collection of Little World materials, excluding the glass and broken pottery entirely because a 2-year-old might very well try the experiment of shoving her hand into the bin of sharp shards. Again, I seriously doubt she'd get cut, but it might hurt.

I could not have been more wrong about how they played there. Jasper almost tip-toed through the gap in the tree rounds surrounding the area. She carefully peered into the nooks a crannies, stooping to look inside the bird houses, keeping her hands studiously at her sides. Aedan took a similar approach, pointedly holding the shovel he clenched in his fist away from the materials as if he were concerned he'd break them. Charlie was excited by the little metal dragon he found (a bauble from one of my daughter's old necklaces) but insisted "it lives here" and returned it exactly where he'd found it. They were all so spontaneously "good" that I felt compelled to stir things up.

"Hey, I found a bunny!" I picked up the small cast-concrete figurine and put it atop a stump. The children gathered around to look at it, but not a single hand touched it. Hmm.

I picked up a small "cat table" and put it over the bunny saying, "This can be the bunny's house." The children all squatted down to peer at the bunny in its house, but still not a single hand reached out. This was absolutely bizarre.

I grabbed a cork, "This can be the bunny's table." Interest, but still no touching.

I'd not spoken to any of them about Little World. I'd not given them any warning, cautions, or words of guidance, yet they seemed to be treating it with a gentle reverence. I plucked a piece of lichen from our pile of mossy materials, saying, "This can be bunny food," and shoved it in next to the statue.

That was the signal they were waiting for, I guess, as feeding the bunny seemed to break them out of their contemplation and into action. Soon our bunny had plenty to eat.

Here's what I'm talking about:

Our parent community is spending our break planning our playground overhaul, of which Little World is  but a small part, and gathering materials we're going to need. A work party is planned for the end of the month, during which we're hoping take the first step in transforming our outdoor space.

In the meantime, as the teacher, I need to keep experimenting. I think I have a handle on Little World now, and given that I've started turning my attentions to the "Construction Station experiment." This is what we have so far:

We've been playing with these materials for about a week now. We don't have our tools yet, so it's mostly resembled block play so far. I can't wait to see how it evolves.

Stay tuned!

Tape-Off Update
Maria's class in Indiana has submitted a rather impressive and intimidating entry in the International Tape-Off Competition. Check out this tape dinosaur:

If you haven't been following along, here are the tape-off posts in order of appearance:

If you have some tape creations to share in our odd-ball competition/exhibition let me know!

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Ms. Stacy said...

I have to tell you that reading your blog is becoming one of my guilty pleasures that I indulge in while on my lunch break. I could just imagine you cringing yesterday when I overheard a teaching assistant (filling in as a sub for my regular assistant) tell a child, "That's too much tape." However the child responded with, "There's no such thing as too much tape." Before he could be reprimanded, I concurred, "In this room, there is no such thing as too much tape!" Just wanted to let you know that you are reaching children in COLD Florida! It was 38 today! :)

Deborah Stewart said...

Hi Tom - you are teaching at my house too! I wrote a blog about a tape activity we tried at my house today in honor of all you have taught me:)

VKT said...

Teacher Tom,

Your blog is terrific! I know the kids adore you.

Unknown said...

I'm so glad the Little World is thriving! I'm cheering right along with you! (The idea of a leprechaun world is REALLY beginning to grow...)

As for the tape off--YAHOOOO! I love that you even got Deborah involved in her own home!:) I hope we won't be required to vote before this is all over with...each creation is exquisite in its' own way!

Unknown said...

When I come and read here I feel like the stresses of my day just melt away. Children inspire me : )