Monday, March 30, 2015

How Children Make The World Meaningful

"Help! I've fallen!"

"Don't worry, dear, I'll help you!"

"I can't reach, dear!"

"Oh dear, let me reach farther!"

"Thank you, dear, you've saved me!"

"Are you okay, dear?"

"Yes, dear, I'm not hurt."

It was a cyclical game of turn taking with each of them "falling" to the bottom by running pell mell down the concrete slide, then the other two performing as rescuers, reaching out to take a hand and pull.

It was a game of relationships. Sometimes they were sisters and sometimes mothers and daughters.

It was a game of helpfulness, manners, and concern.

And it was a game of heroism.

They were so deeply engrossed in their game that they didn't even notice when I climbed up to stand with them.

Dramatic play is the thread that is woven through everything we do in our preschool. Our paintings, block buildings, and sensory play are vehicles for telling stories. When we're younger we play our stories alone, but as we reach four and five we tell our stories to and with our friends, building upon one another's imaginations, negotiating, insisting, compromising, dreaming.

This dramatic play is surrounded then by science, literacy, math, physical education, the arts and humanities, tools we take from the shelf as we need them, learning to use them at the level at which we comprehend them in the context of the story we are telling together. These "subjects" don't stand at the center of what we do at school, but rather exist to support us as we explore worlds of our own creation, practicing the relationships, manners, and courage that we need to live a fulfilling life.

When we turn that on its head, when we place the "subjects" at the center and push the stories to the side, we render that knowledge and those skills meaningless. Dramatic play is how children make the rest of the world meaningful and it's from there that the rest flows.

"I'll save you, dear!"

"You can do it, dear!"

"Oh dears, we did it!"

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Luba Vangelova said...

Have you read David C. Korten's new book, "Change the Story Change the Future"? I'm reading it right now, and your blog post ties in really well with its subject matter. It's about the fundamental story that creates meaning for each society, and how different stories can lead us in very different directions. He notes that the prevailing story in our society right now does not revolve around life. And it looks like there is going to be an "unconference" in your area (Seattle) from April 1-3 on this theme.

Diane Streicher @ Diane Again said...

I've often found it interesting that your daily stories typically feature boys or mixed gender groups where boys are the initiators. Rarely if ever do we see a story about girl-driven play, as this one seems to be. Thanks for sharing another dimension.

Teacher Tom said...

That's been true this year, @Diane. The class I usually write about and photograph is our 4-5's class which currently has 6 girls and 18 boys. We don't always have that sort of imbalance, but it happens some years.