Saturday, March 03, 2012

When We're The Scientists

By way of continuing our exploration of balloons this week, we took it outside with a bag of rocket balloons.

I don't think these long, rocket-shaped balloons are hard to come by. I found ours in a local kite shop, but I most toy and party supply stores should have them. Failing that, you can find them by typing the term into any search engine. It's possible to blow them up by mouth by inserting a straw into the end, but a pump is definitely recommended. 

My idea was to minimize balloon loss to tree branches by encouraging kids to release them under our big canopy, but that was roundly dismissed by the kids who, naturally, wanted to see their rockets fly.

Ultimately, we lost about half of them into the trees (Blow, wind, blow!) or over the fences where the blackberries grow, but what fun we had. We learned about things like aiming and timing our release. Most of us wanted our balloons to go up and were disappointed when they snaked along the ground or got stuck against a wall.

Henry asked, "What happened?" when his wiggled around our feet, finally expiring against the storage shed, the question at the bottom of all science.

The adults kept saying, "Try to not get them caught in the trees!" but Sienna aimed straight for our cedars, expecting her rocket to get stuck, but was then thrilled when it miraculously snaked its way through the branches, falling gently at Charlotte's feet where she stood by the swings. "I didn't think it would do that!" she enthused, expressing the charge every scientist gets from discovering the flaw in the establishment's theories. 

Connor returned to his friends shrieking, "Oh my god! Oh my god!" with each rocket he released, shaking our outdoor classroom with his sense of Eureka!

My other idea was for the adults to help the kids fit the balloons onto the pump, then for the children to do their own pumping, but the demand was so great, and stayed so great, that one of our parent-teachers took on the job of assembly line pumping, while another worked with the kids who wanted to try to do it themselves. There was a lot of standing around and waiting.

I have a real thing about waiting, at least the physical kind that involves standing around. My wife and daughter will tell you that when I'm with them, I just can't stand still in a queue, often leaving one of them to hold the spot while I roam around. This feeling, that is perhaps on the level of neurosis, spills over into my teaching, where I begin to fret the moment I see kids waiting around for something. What a waste of life, I think on their behalf, much the way I think about hunting for lost items

Normally, when there are more kids than "spots," such as when they dictate their stories to me, we keep a running list, tell the kids they can go about their play, and we'll call them when it's their turn. Some children still choose to hang around and watch or listen, which is totally fine, and because it's freely chosen it doesn't set off my wasting life alarms.

But, you know, we spend a lot of our lives waiting for stuff, and it's me who has the problem. We're always waiting in fact, waiting for breakfast, waiting for the cashier, waiting for the bus, waiting to grow up. Waiting is not the problem unless that's all we're doing: that's when we're wasting our lives. As anyone who works with young children knows, when the waiting gets to be just waiting, the kids find something else to do, while we hate ourselves for commanding, "Get back in line!" or vainly urging, "It's almost your turn; just a minute longer."

Every year we try to get our Pre-3 class to assemble for a group photo by a professional photographer. It's nearly an impossible task. Yesterday we tried again. We would get 10 or 12 of them in place, but by the time we'd rounded up the reluctant or distracted ones, a few of the original sitters were ready to move on, the wait having grown to feel like a waste of precious life. Adults broke into song, children cried a writhed and jockeyed for position. Several times we had most of them at least within the camera's viewfinder only to lose one in quest of a mote before the flash went off. My vet has a photo on her wall of eight lab puppies sitting in a row, arranged in a pattern of yellow, black, yellow, black. I think that photographer had it easy.

Waiting, like most things, is only hard, is only a waste of life, when we're expected to live according to someone else's agenda. We'll wait for as long as it takes when we're the scientists with questions to be answered.

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1 comment:

Karen said...

Interesting - you've got me really thinking about the waiting thing... I hate seeing a line of children in a classroom waiting for the teacher to look at/take care of something. Particularly with younger kids, I find myself structuring activities so that there is no waiting. Honestly, it has less to do with a philosophy than pure behavior management - waiting children are poking, prodding, wriggly children. But I do believe in challenging children to be patient. We do ask them to wait for turns with toys - to be patient with each other. Waiting is an opportunity to visit what's going on inside your head, after all! Something to ponder...