Sunday, May 01, 2011

Here They Are Doing All Of That

I wrote thrice last week about how we played creatively with our odds and ends in preschool, sharing first about how we began to discover the possibilities of the materials, then how the younger children approached their play with the same stuff, and finally how the depth and breadth of our play with "junk" so perfectly illustrated the entire concept of a play-based curriculum.

What I didn't share with you was what was going on simultaneously over at the art table, then later outside at the workbench.

Anyone who has been a regular reader here knows that I'm a strong advocate for putting hot glue guns in the hands of preschoolers. They are such powerful tools, ones that give young children an opportunity to bring their 3 dimensional ideas to fruition with a precision and in a timeframe that perfectly suits their age.

In this case, they were invited to use anything they found amongst the odds and ends to create their sculptures, giving them yet another way to explore the materials.

This is not the first time these particular kids have used the glue guns, but still the adults always emphasize the hazards, regularly pointing out that the tip "will burn you if you touch it," and helping them remember that the glue itself, for at least the few seconds after it comes from the tip is also hot. I'm always struck by how focused the children are while using these tools, concentrating their entire being on on the task at hand, accepting responsibility for their own safety, working quickly before the glue re-hardens, but with a care for the safety of themselves and others.

People always ask me about burns. I'm sure there were some burns last week, but that's only a guess based upon the knowledge that I burn myself almost every time I use a glue gun for any length of time. For instance, I see a curled hand in this picture below that looks suspiciously like its reacting to something painful, but we heard nothing, not a tear, not a yelp, not even an "ow!" from any of the kids. Such is their concentration that a mere sting can't break it. 

A burn from a glue gun is, of course, painful, but no more so than a fall on asphalt or a bumped head, every day injuries we take for granted in preschool, quickly soothed by a plunge in cold water. We have "systems" in place as well that we feel minimize the risk and give the children a framework within which to use these tools. For instance, we've decided that a supervision ratio of one adult per every 2 active glue guns is reasonable, we always set up our glue guns in a controlled space, away from more rough and tumble play, and we teach them to be careful to place their tools in a pan or tray when not in use to reduce the chances of inadvertently touching of a live one. And, most importantly, we ask that the adults, each time a child approaches the work area, to review the basic information: "If you touch this part it will burn you. If you touch the hot glue, it will burn you."

This was also the week we introduced the Pre-3 class to the wonders of hot glue guns.

We started with an explanation of the hazards, then a demonstration of how the tool works, and it's potential.

Then it was time for the kids, going around the workbench, taking turns.

First applying glue to the chosen target, handing the gun back to the adult, then placing the object to be affixed.

These are 2 and 3-year-olds, a demographic not known for its ability to concentrate, to wait their turns, to be responsible for their actions.

Yet, here they are doing all of that nevertheless.

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Mozer said...

I love this! I will be pulling out the hot glue gun this week. I bet the children felt such a sense of accomplishment because not only did they create something of their own, but they were also trusted to use a tool that normally adults only use.

Mullin Avenue Workshop said...

I agree, the children look very focused and respectful of the process. We don't allow glue guns for kids, because we've never really thought of it. But I would like to try in a fairly controlled setting as you describe - with my 2 and 3's. I can see how this would be empowering, and convery to my children that I trust their capacities.
Thanks, Tom!

Juliet Robertson said...

Super post. More. More. More. Please! I think glue guns and other tools should be pre-school essentials indoors and out. The whole point of first aid is to be able to use it occasionally. I'd rather a child learnt about being burnt from a drop of glue than a kettle of boiling water pulled over by an unknowing kid.

zameander said...

having personally -- oh my goddddddd the guilt -- DRIPPED HOT GLUE on the FACE of a preschooler in a similar setting -- but still maintaining my belief that these are AWESOME tools for this age group, I can't say enough in favor of having bowls of cold water near the glue stations. little fingers can go right into the bowls, which cools and hardens any drips (letting them pop off painlessly), and quickly soothes any burns.

Barbara Zaborowski said...

Your posts always leave me smiling. We haven't tried hot glue yet because we're not a co-op. With only two teachers, it's all we can do to cover both the inside and outside classrooms. Maybe we try it just before school is over when it gets too hot to be outside for long (our equivalent of snow days!)

BSK said...

I never thought of glue guns with the kids, but I love your point about the level of precision they allow and the time frame in which they allow it. I've found, as you have, that kids will rise to the occasion when treated with the respect they deserve as competent people. And, if there are still concerns, a thin pair of gloves should be more than enough to keep little hands safe without interfering with the work.

Jennifer said...

Soooo jealous - wish I could do things like this in my preschool - but if the state walked in - I could say hello licensing fines and perhaps goodbye professional personal license :-(

I love your blog - a lot of inspiration here!