Monday, May 20, 2019

What Do We Do With All Those Keys?

We have a lot of keys, hundreds of them, collected over many years, both in batches and one at a time. What do we do with all those keys?

"I'm putting red keys in my bowl."

"I'm trying to find black keys."

"Hey, this one has a face."

"I know, let's take turns!"

"Yeah, I'm first!"

"No, I'll be first, you be second, and you be third, and you be fourth, okay?"

"Okay, your turn."

They proceeded to go around the table, each child selecting one key at a time, some doing so with quick assurance, with others taking their time, hunting for just the perfect one as their friends waited patiently, anticipating their next turn or studying their own collections. As the game went round and round the table, others joined them. Some watched for a while, making a study of the game, before saying, "I want a turn." Others started with the question, "What are you playing?" or the statement, "I want to play."

Room was made, more bowls were found, the key game continued round and round. Every now and then, controversy arose. 

Some of the keys are connected by key rings, forming bundles of keys. Did they count as one key or too many to take on a single turn? If someone walks away, do their keys stay in their bowl or get returned to the common pile? 

"Hey, you took a golden key! I'm collecting goldens."

"It's not your turn."

"I don't have enough keys."

But more often, as the game progressed, the children began to work cooperatively rather than competitively. If a child had made their collecting strategy clear (reds, blacks, goldens, etc.), their friends made suggestions, saying things like, "I see a big key!" or "This is a beautiful one!" Sometimes they would even offer one from their own collection if they felt it would better fit in that of a friend's. Indeed, the game finally evolved into a trading game with children sharing keys with one another, making the case for why their friend needed this one or that one. Then two girls formed a team, combining their collections into a single bowl. More teams formed, until finally they were all one team, going around the table, each still taking a turn, adding a key to the community bowl until it was overflowing.

What do we do with all those keys? It's different every time.

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