Saturday, November 12, 2011

The Giant Tube Still Works

When we moved to the Center of the Universe this summer, we had to cut the giant tube into four parts. That had been its destiny from the start, of course, after having helped us think, practice risk assessment, and be brave. Being 18 feet long, we'd never had a proper place to store it, which meant that every day I had to drag it from our gym into an adjacent hallway and back again. And then there was that whole adult heart-in-the-throat feeling each time a child started to crawl through that long, narrow, claustrophobia-inducing passageway. I could see it in the parents' eyes and feel it in my own chest. I mean, I felt a need to keep a saw handy just in case we had to cut a kid out. And some of the kids felt it too, something they dealt with by simply not attempting to crawl through it.

Still, I put the cutting off for 6 months, until the day the moving vans arrived, neither of which had interior space measuring a full 18 feet. So we don't have an 18-foot giant tube any more. We do have four giant 4.5-foot tubes.

During the summer and the beginning of the school year we used them for rolling down the long hill in our outdoor classroom, but as the rainy season has arrived, making the ground perpetually damp, I didn't want to ruin the cardboard. So last week we used them inside.

None of the kids seem to have any trepidation about climbing into the shorter tubes, nor did I get the sense that adult hearts were racing -- at least mine wasn't. So, this was a good thing I suppose, although there is something to be said about summoning up your courage to try something new.

We did manage a bit of that, by setting up the tubes as short slides, but what I noticed most is how the kids spontaneously lined themselves up to take turns. We've never been a standing in lines kind of school, which sometimes frustrates our guides when we're on our field trips, but this year's class, in addition to being about "pitching in" and tinkering, seems to also have a collective consciousness about fairness and taking turns.

Once the line got outside the door, I opened a second slide, and after an initial crush, they once more queued themselves up with very little discussion. That's pretty high level stuff for 3-4 year olds who've never been "taught" to stand in line.

We slid feet first . . .

. . . and head first.

We even tried out what I called "The Wiggle Slide," which involved me rolling the tube from side to side as they descended.

As I stood there, steadying a tube-slide with my thighs, I recalled what I'd written back in January about playing with the 18-foot tube:

But there was a lot more going on in the kid's giant tube play than just science. Social skills, for instance, were being practiced, like sharing, cooperation, settling conflicts, taking turns, and self regulation. There was a large motor component, a sensory component, a math component, and a dramatic play component to the play I saw taking place there.

A couple of days ago, Anna from atelierista wrote in a comment to my post Just Like Living, in which I discussed the artificiality of dividing learning into subjects: "I've been struggling (or maybe not struggling, but coming to understand) the sameness of it all while writing a curriculum document for the school where I work. I guess it's pretty radical to think that there is just learning (or thinking), not science learning or social studies or art learning, all in separate little boxes, but I really think that's how it is."

Her parenthetical substitution of the word "thinking" for "learning" is a significant one to me. For the last couple days, every time I hear the word "learn" or "learning" I've been mentally substituting "think" or "thinking." It works. Try it.

This giant tube play isn't a learning experience, really, as much as it is a full-body thinking experience, and that's what (was) brought out in the children's play.

And, after all, it's true when I really think about it: as a teacher I have no expectations about what children learn in preschool, that's kind of up to them, but I do expect that they will have to think, and that to me is the better part of education.

A little later, a couple of the kids began using one segment of the tube as a kind of experiment in balance.

They worked together to figure out how they could both stand on it at once.

It was only once they got the tube over beside some shelves that they succeeded, but then they discovered as they tried to "log roll" it, that there was still risk they hadn't anticipated.

Armed with this new knowledge they tried it again and again.

Thinking with their full bodies, even when the giant tube is cut into smaller parts. 

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1 comment:

Aunt Annie said...

Totally agree about the idiocy of cutting 'learning' into separate bites for the purposes of documentation. I used to get frustrated when I was dealing with a segmented documentation program like that, and I'd end up writing the same activity in every box- not what was intended by the designer, but quite easy to justify. Learning is holistic.