Thursday, June 14, 2012

It's Their Destiny

One of the things I'm never quite prepared for each summer is that we open our doors to children who will be populating our Pre-3's class next fall, some of whom aren't yet 2. For some it's their first experience with school, and as they toddle through the gate, our outdoor classroom suddenly appears to me as an impossibly big place.

Whereas the 5-year-olds, the kids who've been with us for awhile, have grown to fill the space, to even be pushing at the edges, these are people content to study motes, to squat in the middle of mayhem to follow an ant's trail or examine the bend in a blade of grass.

Older kids will do that too, of course, but just not normally at school, where they are far more interested in the other people, the kids who will giggle with them over the "poop soup" they've made from sand and water or boldly proclaim themselves the pirate rulers of the cabin they've built amongst the lilacs.

Their propensity to "scatter," these little humans, is less noticeable out there than it is indoors, as they move from place to place like underwater swimmers, their hands almost always holding something that propels them to the next thing around which they'll cup their palm, dropping what was once there in the swirl of their wake.

Loic and Davis yesterday found one another at the thunder drum, pounding it together for a time before moving off in opposite directions, the course of their play diverging once more. 

Calliope, who will only answer to the self-selected nickname "Tata," asked me about her older brother, "Where is Henry?" I pointed to the farthest corner of the outdoor classroom, where he played with a group of big boys at the top of the concrete slide. I watched her slowly cover that distance, maintaining her focus as she balanced across a plank and over some stumps and around some rocks and through the sand pit until she was at the base of the the slope looking up there where Henry played. She tried a couple times to join him, but it was too steep for her. Later she said to her mother, "I couldn't get up there with Henry because I'm not a big boy."

I found Emerson, Emi, in a still oasis in the upper part of the sand pit, a dinosaur in each hand, playing a game from her imagination. She spoke softly to herself as she moved those two creatures from place to place, within the boundaries she'd created for her game. She spoke with me when I spoke, but then went back to her game, contented to have me there, but apparently just as capable of contentment without me.

In these first two days, I've rarely found Theo anywhere but in the sand, usually right where the water from the cast-iron pump is flowing, right in the midst of the big kids who are spinning a story around him as he closely studies the trickle of water, the texture of the sand, the bits of debris that come his way.

At the end of each school year, I read a book by Eve Bunting called Little Bear's Little Boat. It's the story of a bear who learns that it his his destiny to outgrow his favorite little boat and leave it behind for another little bear to play in upon the "blue, blue water." It always chokes me up.

Our little boat is not yet the right size for Loic and Davis and Tata and Emi and Theo, who are just a little small for it today, but it's just a matter of time before the "big boys" have to move on and the boat will be all theirs. It's their destiny.

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Heather said...

I am not normally a blog reader, but I faithfully read your blog and enjoy it, so first of all I want to say thanks. I think it is cool that your kids engage with all manner of materials and that the adults tend to step back and let kids discover. In reading this post and the one before it, I was wondering if over the years you have experienced or posted about the scenario where a kid really wants to do something, but can't quite do it yet and reacts very strongly to not being able to do it. So for example, if the little one who couldn't climb the hill with the big boys became very upset not over not being with the big kids, but over not being able to get up the hill by herself. Or if one of the kids constructing the sensory table in you last post had really wanted to do some part of the construction but didn't have the strength or dexterity and had a very strong reaction of frustration. Does the role of the adult facilitator look different when "lending a hand" to a kid in this type of situation?

Anonymous said...

I have never read that Little Bear book, but I understand the sentiment! One I like to use at the end of the year is A House for Hermit Crab by Eric Carle - similar theme of the hermit crab getting too big for his shell and having to go find a new one while leaving his old one for someone smaller.