Wednesday, June 09, 2010

"If You Touch This Part It Will Burn You"

"If you touch this part," Benjamin's mom Robin told each child as he approached our new workbench, "it will burn you. You make the glue come out by squeezing this trigger." Thus ended the lecture portion of the program.

The beauty of making things with a hot glue gun is that the bond it creates is both strong and virtually instantaneous. There's no waiting around for things to dry. And when it comes to using it to build with wood bits, the sky is the limit in a way that the mere balancing of blocks will never be.

I removed the umbrella from the center of the workbench and ran a power supply up through the hole in the center of the table. We had three glue guns going at once, with two adults working the station most of the morning. It seemed about right. With 2-year-olds in the glue gun mix for the first time, I wanted to make sure we had enough adult eyes and hands, although I was under no illusions that we would go burn free. I don't think I've ever used the things myself for any length of time without leaving a red mark or two on my fingers.

The girl on the left is one of our youngest classmates. She
spent a lot of time watching the more experienced kids at
work before trying it herself.

After awhile, we added bottle caps to the mix.

Some of us made structures so tall we had to stand on blocks. 

And some of us were happy to have grown-ups handy to play 
a "supporting role" in achieving our vision.

I've only just begun putting these incredible tools in the hands of the preschoolers and this was the first time I'd seen children this young handling them. I kept dropping by to ask if anyone had burned themselves, but shockingly we had zero burns. I'm not entirely sure how this happened, and I'm not entirely sure that no burns is a good thing; it's a lesson deferred I suppose.

In the meantime, we made some amazing things. Most of what we created were smaller, flatter creations . . .

I like the way Max fit together those triangular bits of molding
like a puzzle.

. . . but the kids who went for height and complexity were rewarded for their perseverance and vision.

I'm glad we finally found a use for those quirky
wood parts like the one at the top of this tower.

Robin had never used a glue gun before herself and I think this 
project really opened her eyes to the fun. I see a lot of her adult
influence in this one, but that's part of what co-op is all about --
we're all learning together.

Thomas has always had a strong desire to construct, but often lacked the 
patience to see his ideas through to the end. The ability to build complex things
quickly really serves the creative needs of kids who like their learning in short,
intensive bursts.

Glue guns aren't ordinarily classified as power tools, but as you can see here, they really are. I love being able to put this kind of power in the hands of kids.

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Ariella said...

awesome! what a great teacher you are!

Play for Life said...

Wow! I'm impressed Tom. They really do handle those things well don't they?!
Donna :) :)

Jen Widrig said...

Oh yes, my daughter will LOVE this! Off to the scrapyard I go.

jenny @ let the children play said...

Thats it - I'm convinced. I've got to get me some glue guns.

We had the vice and saw out today to cut up some drift wood, but it was hard work for most kids and they lost interest. Something like glue guns, where they can use them themselves and see immediate results would be perfect.

Scott said...

Terrific! I love that you're giving so much power to the kids...and they can see the results quickly.

Michelle said...

Teacher Tom I thoroughly am enjoying your blog and glad I found this post. I personally do lots with my glue gun and have been waiting for the day my daughter (5 this Saturday) would be ready to use it too since I loath white glue for most of our projects and stick with glue sticks most of the time for fast drying and the lack of needing the project to stick for a long time. Certainly it comes apart within a few weeks but by then were onto a new project. Anyway, I really don't know the "right" age to start a kid on a glue gun, but I'm happy to see you tried with children so young with success and simple instruction. I'm the kind of mom who lets their kid go hog wild on the playground but when it comes to crafting and cooking I'm so tentative on what she can and can't use. Funny how that is, I should let her explore more and just keep a watchful eye, she's always surprising me with her abilities.