Saturday, May 07, 2011

The Child Of Necessity

A couple weeks ago we played with a big batch of corn starch in water, what most people in the preschool world call oobleck, named after the green substance from the classic Dr. Seuss book, Bartholomew and the Oobleck. At Woodland Park we call it something different every year because when the kids ask, "What is this stuff?" I usually answer, "Corn starch and water," then we decide amongst ourselves what to call it. This year the 3-5 class settled on "chud mud," I think mostly because it's fun to say.

We added lime green liquid water color to it throughout our week of play with it, but it insisted on turning into what one parent described as a "sickening yellow." Color aside, we got our kicks from the stuff, but even after we'd disposed of it, I was still left with the question: What do we do with all these empty boxes?

I've found that around here the least expensive source for corn starch (or what people in other parts of the English speaking world seem to call corn flour) is the Safeway store brand, which is even cheaper per pound than the bulk suppliers. I will not comment on what that tells me about the quality of the substance as "food" (although seriously, after experiencing what it does in our sensory table I really wonder if we should be ingesting it at all, no matter how high quality), but I will say it works perfectly well in the science experiment. I was, however, left with a couple dozen of the boxes in which the corn starch came and being a preschool teacher, I couldn't bear to throw them out.

This would have been a run-of-the-mill dilemma had I not, during my spring break of working in the school, I came across the stash of corn starch boxes I'd saved from last year, just taking up precious storage space. If I'd been on the ball, I'd have figured out something clever to do with them for Tinkerlab's fun cardboard box challenge I took part in yesterday, but I'm apparently not at all on the ball because I started the school year as the curator of some 25 empty corn starch boxes, and have only managed to double that collection as we enter the final few weeks of school.

Obviously, it was time to play grocery store.

Although a bizarre percentage of our store's merchandise was comprised of corn starch, we also had a healthy (is that the right word?) stock of coffee, Altoids, and plain Brown Cow yoghurt.

Naturally, being Seattle, we only shop with reusable grocery bags.

Our ATM, which was formerly an electronic toy bank, needs to be periodically disassembled and emptied of all the cash and "credit cards" the kids stick in there. The same goes for our cash registers.

Although some of us are still fairly low-tech and just stuff our money into a honey bear.

And in addition to discovering at least part of the answer to the mystery from Wednesday, "Where are the girls?" I also learned that even after a week of free-form play with those empty corn starch boxes, not a single one of them is ready for the recycling bin. I was expecting at least a few of them to be demolished, but no.

So there are still 50 or so of those damned boxes sitting on the art table this weekend, just waiting for an art project. It will probably include glue guns. Yes, I think that's the ticket. I think I'll throw in some of those coffee cans and yoghurt containers as well. Then we'll paint them. Then, depending on how it turns out, we'll put the thing on the floor or on a table and play dolls and cars on it. Maybe then it will be ready for the recycling bin.

So there's a little insight into how I normally plan things around Woodland Park, most of which seems to be the child of necessity. 

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Play for Life said...

We may speak funny here in Australia T.T. calling things corn flour, textas, herbs beginning with 'H', pronouncing aluminium as al-you-minium and mom with a 'U' but boy do you guys have a weird school calendar system! We've just ironed out the crinkles here and you're getting ready to wrap things up ... seriously you'd think we lived at opposite ends of the earth or something Tom ... when really we're just at opposing ends of a computer screen! Hee .. hee!
Donna :) :)

Mullin Avenue Workshop said...

This looks like just a wonderful grocery store!!!
I prefer the "real" items such as empty boxes, etc., because the children seem to prefer them to some of those bought grocery store kits with tiny boxes. You probably know this already, but if the boxes are stuffed with newpaper, and sealed with tape they last abit longer - least likely to be demolished.

I love the different methods for payment you have here. Many years ago in our grocery store, we had provided a Fisher Price cash register - one little girl displayed her good observational abilities for us - instead of punching the keys for the price of her item, she slid them along an imaginary scanner.


Swiftlymorgan said...

I just wanted to let you know that when we use cornflour here we let it dry out and crumble it back into flour to store for another day. You never know, it might save you having another 25 empty boxes for next year ;-)

rachelle | tinkerlab said...

My jaw dropped when I spotted the shopping cart that I used to have in my own childhood -- right there in your classroom! I swear, Tom, if I were teaching preschool I'd probably plan just like you. And you know what? The children aren't the wiser. And maybe the fluidness of it makes you more responsive to the real needs, desires, and interests of of the children. I think it's funny that you want to kill those boxes, but how wonderful that they have so much to give!

Melissa @ The Chocolate Muffin Tree said...

Great story! I wish my daughter could go to your preschool!