Saturday, August 21, 2010

Our Spinny Barrel Thingy

It wasn't until I sat down to write this post this morning that I realized we don't even have a name for this apparatus:

It's a large cardboard shipping barrel . . .

. . . which was probably originally used for some kind of dry food product, reinforced on both ends by plywood circles . . .

. . . then run through with a piece of 1" metal pipe that sticks out about 8 inches on each end . . .

. . . in order to fit into the "V's" cut into each end of this sturdy wooden frame, so that it can be rotated by hand.

We then wrap it in art paper and we're ready to go.

I wish I could claim credit for devising and building this art making machine, but that laurel rests on the head of some unknown parent or teacher from Woodland Park's past. It's so sturdily made that I wonder if the mystery manufacturer isn't the same master builder who gave us our spectacular sensory table.

There is something about preschool that inspires this type of one-of-a-kind, do-it-yourself innovation. Everywhere I turn on the internet or around my city of Seattle, I run into preschools using unique contraptions and constructions that simply can't be found anywhere else. I'm sure they're out there, but you don't hear a lot about kindergartens that inspire such things, let alone elementary schools, where nearly all the curriculum supplies can be purchased through catalogs from large manufacturers that supply all the schools all across the country. It probably has a lot to do with the fact that most preschools are independently run operations, while kindergarten is our first year of mass public schooling. I suppose it's part of the misguided, yet relentless drive toward academic standardization on the part of our politicians of all stripes, who seem convinced that we should be running schools like factories, but that's another story (if you click this link, I suggest reading the 4 posts from the bottom up).

I love our special nameless spinny barrel thingy even if it is a large heavy piece of equipment that defies all efforts to be easily stored or even described. For one thing, it's a toy that encourages cooperative play. A single child can spin it which is often enough for the 2-year-olds, but if you're going to make art with it, you need at least one friend to help you.

We most often use it with markers, although it can be used with paint brushes, cars dipped in paint, paint rollers, or just about anything else that can deliver color to paper. Often older children will take turns spinning the barrel for their friends, but it draws a bigger crowd when an adult takes on the spinning job. Then we get to work on concepts like creating cooperative art, negotiating self-space, or just playing together.

We go faster!

We go slower.

We reverse directions.

We might lie on our backs underneath the barrel for a new perspective, or admire a friend's technique.

And when we're done, we put our caps back on our markers (most of the time) before moving on to something else.

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Deborah said...

That is too cool!

Barbara Zaborowski said...

We have one, too. Ours was bought from a catalog so it must have a name. Alas, it's lost in history. Sometimes we call it spin painting, but to me that's a flat spinning device. Sometimes we call it drum painting. I'm sure all the classes at my preschool have different names for it.

Scott said...

I'll bet all those colored lines combine to make a really great piece of art - like the individuals in the classroom combine to make a great community. (Feeling philosophical today, I guess.)

Frame up that masterpiece and it will be ready for the next coffee shop gallery show!

Let the Children Play said...

I love your nameless spinny barrel thingy too Tom. I'd far rather see a preschool full of things like the spinny barrel thingy than generic catalogue equipment and resources.

Saya said...

I read all your posts that to do with education system and such... They are my sentiment exactly. I was one of those who are good at taking tests, but I always said "I wish I was GREAT at just one thing, not alright at everything. I wish I wasn't 'book smart'". Almost every time, this type of comments upset my parents and teachers.

I used to teach Florida VPK program, where we as a preschool teachers get evaluated based on how well we prepared those 4 year olds for kindergarten. I always had this uncomfortable feeling about it. I know that some participant schools for VPK did almost what kindergarten would do. Oh those poor children...

Now I live in Alaska, still "fenced in" at my new place of employ - granted, there are no evaluation system set for us, but still, pressures from people surrounding us are not small.
I am frustrated and I don't know what to do but to speak up my mind to my bosses, knowing it probably won't change much of what it is.

Maybe I need to start own place to learn with children :)

Sorry kinda venting session as a comment lol

Play for Life said...

This is one awesome 'thingy' Tom! Scott you took the words right out of my mouth ... there's potential for art sales from that thar 'thingy'!

Donna :) :)

Unknown said...

Check out Bev Bos' website ( She has this in her catalog. She has some of the best ideas!

Teacher Tom said...

@Scott & Donna . . . We usually call the resulting artwork, "Rainbow Waterfalls" and hang them over our doorways so we have to walk through them. If we were making one for "sale," I think I'd use acrylic paint.

@Saya . . . I like the venting!

@Judy . . . Now that you mention it, it does seem like a Bev Boz idea, but bummer, it doesn't seem to be on her site any more. In fact, it's a little sad in that they only seem to have 3 non-book/CD items in her whole store. Wah!