Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Meditating Upon Round-And-Round

We do this turntable-paper plate set up every year, usually around Chinese New Year, then use the hundreds of rainbow spirals we wind up making, and it's always hundreds, as scales for the dragon we will then carry in our impromptu New Year's Day dragon parade.

When I got to school yesterday after a four day weekend, I remembered that for a variety of reasons, our 2-year-olds missed out on the record player art, so I set it all up again.

The older kids typically wind up treating this as a kind of manufacturing process. If they don't know it when they start, by the end of the session the word is out that the plates are going to be used to make a dragon and all it takes are a few kids who are motivated by the idea of a "super long dragon" to put the focus on quantity over quality, hence the hundreds of plates. This isn't to say some of the children don't treat it like a kind of artistic endeavor, but it's mostly a social process whereby the kids crowd around, working together, often 3 or 4 to a turntable.

The Pre-3 class, however, doesn't tend to dig on any of that. They're here to get lost in the slowly spinning plate, the gentle pull on their marker, and the magical spirals that seem to appear on the white surface. It's a meditation upon circles and curves and revolution. Some of them, like Ishi, are making them for his mom, but most of the kids are just here to make a study of going round and round and round.

I watched Cecelia try to draw her own circles on the plate as it moved in its own pre-ordained circular orbit. She, of course, did not know this, but I couldn't help reflecting as she did upon the all the complicated, imperfect "circles" of our universe, from the spinning of planets and their revolutions around one another, right down to the movements of subatomic particles. As she played with round-and-round within round-and-round, it evoked the cycles of seasons and new years and life and death: fundamental stuff.

At one point Sirus removed his plate from the turntable in order to have a bit more control as he drew a few circles in a stable environment, creating the kind of "frictionless universe" in which to study some specific aspect of these shapes and motions he was exploring.

Unlike the older children who have already experimented with this turntable and paper plate set up two or three times before in their years at Woodland Park, and I'm sure in other environments like dance classes and on playground merry-go-rounds, and so turned it into a kind of quilting bee, these younger children needed yesterday to begin taking it all into themselves, or perhaps to discover it already within themselves, or to begin understanding it as a part of themselves: not something to be regurgitated later to prove what they know, but to be ready for when it is their turn to make the dragon.

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Unknown said...

Ahhhhhh! Those are my old record players! I will pay, "donate," $10 a needle if they are still on the arm. I can't find the needles anywhere! Great idea by the way. I used with my students a giant spirograph that held two markers with ajustable settings. They loved it.

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