Saturday, September 22, 2012

The Primal Power Of Being A Fire Starter

On Thursday I mentioned that we'd succeeded in re-creating a little smoke, although not fire, by using our concave mirror to reflect and concentrate the sun's rays. Coincidentally, Konghai's grandmother recently came across a large box of small magnifying glasses at Goodwill for $1 and sent them in with her grandson to share with his classmates. 

I have a long history of curating cool preschool supplies, you know, instead of just using them up and counting on the universe to supply more (which it always does), but the last couple years I've been consciously working on myself to become a different kind of supply room manager. When something new comes into my hands, I've lately been asking myself, not "What can we do with this?" but rather, "What can we do with this today?" 

In fact, in my quest to produce a quick turn-around, in many cases I've even stopped asking myself that question, instead leaving it up to the kids to both ask and answer, which is why I simply handed our new magnifiers to the kids in our new 5's class. (We have plenty, so I assume next week, I'll be inviting our 3-5's and Pre-3's classes ask and answer the question for themselves.)

The 5's kids dropped to their knees and got busy trying to start their own fires, working to understand the sharp angle of our early Fall sun. I'll be honest, it was slightly unsettling to find children in every corner of the outdoor classroom, striving to scorch bits of wood, hoping, each of them, to produce flame. 

When it had been me controlling the "fire-making" materials, I'd spent a lot of time urging them to not block the sun, jostle the mirror, or step on the "target" materials. When they were controlling their own experiment, it was a small epiphany to watch them figure out how to manage all those moving parts for themselves: moving their own bodies to the proper place, angling their magnifiers just so, calculating where the sun hung in the sky, figuring out where the hot spots were, moving into less populated sunny patches, and generally showing far more patience than they had the day before when I'd been the one handling the materials.

A couple days ago, in describing what I'd seen in "regular" schools, I described what I'd seen as watching "children lean across their desks to touch their noses to worksheets." Well, here were our kids nearly touching their noses to their magnifying glasses as they leaned over them to study the effects of those concentrated sun rays on the bits of wood they'd piled in the hopes of experiencing the primal power of being a fire starter, a kind of magic that is as old as humanity. Of course, then they pulled back, because they found if they leaned too far forward they blocked the sun.

After awhile a couple of the kids raced over to me, claiming that they'd made "black marks." I couldn't see them, but they could, and that's what matters.

(This is the first year of our 5's class. If you have a 4-5 year old, live in Seattle, or know someone who does, we still have a few spots available. Contact to set up a tour.)

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1 comment:

Anonymous said...

It may work if you color a piece of paper black. The dark color absorbs all the sun's heat and allows for enough heat to start a fire.