Saturday, October 01, 2011

The Infinite Wonder Of All That There Is

I write a lot here about the importance of giving children, even very young ones, the opportunity to explore tools:

Almost everything we make or do involves, at some level, a tool, the mastery of which requires practice. In preschool, we need ample opportunity to sort of mess around with a wide variety of tools like wire, scissors, hold punches, hammers, paint brushes, saws, glue guns, pencils, screwdrivers, knives, and paper clips. We need to get our hands on brooms, clothes pins, drills, shovels, rulers, pulleys, trowels, staplers, and rakes. As humans we have being alone, we have talking to other people, dancing with them, and singing with them; for everything else we use tools.

I find it important to remind myself of this here at the beginning of school year, when it's too easy to get lost in my own agenda, when I've forgotten that the answer to the question, "What are we doing at this station?" is to simply answer with a list of the tools and materials available, not a description of a finished product.

What are we doing at this station? Well, we have tag board, construction paper, glue, and scissors.

I'll confess that my idea was that the kids would cut up construction paper shapes and use glue to make collages on the tag board.

And that's what some of them did.

Although some ignored the cutting part, instead finding cast-off pieces from someone else's efforts.

While others worked those scissors to create specific, predetermined shapes like squares.

Others used the glue as a medium unto itself. In this piece, Parker made a picture of "waffles with 15 berries," all from glue on tag board. (Double click on any photo if you want to see it up close.)

Kiran started by making a long cut along the top of his green paper . . .

. . . then gluing it to a piece of tag board as he saw me doing with my piece, before going back and "finishing" his real work on on the green paper.

Most went to town, experimenting with everything on the list -- tag board, paper, glue, scissors -- discovering wonderful things at the end of their process.

What are we doing at this station? Well there are sponges cut into shapes, rolling pins with shapes stuck to them, pans of white paint and blue paint, and a large piece of black paper.

What are we doing at this station? Well, there are makers, paper, hole punches, tape and a stapler.

For some reason there's also a screwdriver in this picture. Where did that come from?

What are we doing at this station? Well, there is clay, clay working tools, sponges, water, and the rest of the outdoor classroom.

I love how there are adult hands visible in all of these pictures. This is our 
Pre-3's class and it's early in the year. Our parent-teachers are still 
accustomed to their "babies" needing a hand with things. As the 
year goes on, we'll see less and less of those wonderful, loving hands.

What are we doing at this station? Well, there is fabric, needle point hoops, yarn, and yarn needles.

Humans are driven to use tools to make their imprint on the world. To understand a tool and what it can do, what we can do with it, we must explore it with our hands and our minds, as freely as possible, without a lot of preconceptions, instructions or rules (we can always go back and learn that stuff later if necessary). That's how we learn to make that tool an extension of our creative selves.  And with each tool we master, the world opens up to us a little bit more, giving us another glimpse at the infinite wonder of all that there is, and what we are capable of doing in it.

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craig said...

wonderful exploration of tools and materials. wish this happened with upper-grade art classes as well.

Mullin Avenue Workshop said...

Thanks for the great post. A good reminder of the importance of young children and tools.
I recently provided my children with some interesting old pie making utensils, as well as a hand egg beater which they use in a flour sensory table, which they loved.
I find my children always drawn to the authentic tools, preferring them to "toy tools".
This is a good post, and I like the philosphy as well - as to why giving children tools is important.
Great post, Tom!