Monday, September 30, 2019

"Hey, I know!"

The diving board game is one that has been around the school since 2014, when the kids first had the idea of putting a long plank of wood on the top of our three-step flight of stairs and anchoring one end under the playground gate, making a diving board off which they take turns jumping. The original version of the game was doing damage to the gate, wrenching and loosening the hinges, so we made a deal that an adult had to stand outside the gate on the short end of the plank to serve as "dead weight," which is not an entirely inappropriate role for an adult in a play-based environment.

We've been playing the game a lot lately and when the kids began arranging the game last week, I, quite frankly, didn't want to spend my afternoon standing outside the gate. I told them as much, there were no other adults available, and a few of them began to mope around in disappointment.

We have a half dozen shipping pallets around the place that have gone largely unused so far this year, maybe because they've been propped up against a wall domino style, one overlapping the other since the adults rallied at the end of summer to get the place spruced up for the new school year. A few days earlier, one child, testing his strength, had pulled a couple of them down where they had been left one layered awkwardly atop the other. The children had dropped their diving board plank and a few of them began to attempt to climb on the toppled shipping pallets which pitched and teetered with their shifting weight. This cheered them up a bit. Then one boy said, "Hey, I know!"

He ran to the plank, calling out, "I need help," then a pair of them dragged the plank to the pallets, sliding one end between the top and bottom pallet, the obvious idea being that the pallets would serve as their diving board's anchor and dead weight, just as the gate and adult body had in the regular game. The flaw in their plan became obvious as they learned that the top pallet, was not sufficiently heavy, especially as they moved their bodies out to the end of the lever they had created to discover that it pitched downward suddenly. This was not a concept they discussed amongst themselves, but rather experienced with their full bodies as they tried to walk out to the end of their diving board, as they climbed off and on the pallets, as they both individually and cooperatively experimented with the apparatus they had made.

Soon they discovered that if two of them stood on pallet, their combined weight, along with the weight of the pallet, was sufficient for a friend to walk out to the end of the diving board for a turn. But while it worked in practice (once) in reality it wasn't sustainable because young children are not reliable dead weight, what with their fidgeting and jumping off at just the wrong moment and whatnot. Then again, someone said, "Hey, I know!"

One by one, they worked together to tip the rest of propped up pallets onto the ones that had already fallen, one, two, three, adding more and more dead weight to the short end of the diving board. Now, to test it. One brave child inched his way along the plank until he was at the end. He gave it a couple tentative bounces. It worked! Then he jumped and his friends queued up for their turns.

There was obviously a lot going on in this game. Knowledge was clearly acquired. There was a time when I would have felt compelled to intrude with coaching and cautions, but instead all I did was remain near. I might have tried to "scaffold" their learning with physics vocabulary, the sort of nonsense babble that adults so often feel they must inflict upon children. But instead, I left them alone with the most important part of the process, the part they may go home to tell their parents at the end of the day, the story of how they were disappointed, then overcame that disappointment by working together to make something even better.

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Friday, September 27, 2019

"Watch Out! Watch Out! Watch Out!"

A couple of four-year-old boys were working together at the cast iron pump to fill a large tub with water. Our pump is situated at the top of the hill in our two-level sand pit and this game, lately called "major overflow," has been a staple of our playground culture since we moved here nearly a decade ago. When the tub was full, they dumped it, causing water to rush downhill, then cascade over a small waterfall into the lower level. Several children waited in the sand below, shovels and other tools in hand, bent upon guiding, blocking, or simply observing the course the water would take.

The water flowed, then paused, in a cycle as the boys needed several minutes to fill the tub between "overflows," which gave the other children an opportunity to anticipate and plan for when the water was again running. One such dump caught a girl unawares, drenching the backs of her legs when her back was turned. She shouted up at the boys angrily, "Hey, you have to say 'watch out' before you do an overflow!"

So, the next time the tub was full, the boys began to chant together, "Watch out! Watch out! Watch out!" which was then picked up by the diggers as they went about their work. As the flow of water died down, so did the chant, until the next rush of water when it started up again in earnest.

Not long ago, these same children delighted in games like peek-a-boo or fill-in-up-and-dump-it-out, simple repetitive, cyclical games that could be played alone or with an adult. It was not difficult to draw a connection between those games and this more complex one, involving nearly a dozen children, all of whom were participating in their own way, contributing to a whole that went round and round with the predictability of the seasons, one thing following the other over and over like a kind of hard logic that the children, together, were working to master.

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Thursday, September 26, 2019

Teaching The Children A New Game

Among the first games we play with our babies is some version of give-and-take. We show an object to them and they take it from us wth their little fingers. As they get a little older, they often enjoy a more advanced version of the game in which they hand the item back to us, then take it again, then give, then take, delighting in the pattern, the cooperation, the interaction. Over time, we stop recognizing it as a game, it's just part of how we interact as we play with our kids. If they snatch a block from our hand as we're building them a tower together, we hardly notice it. If they commandeer the book we are reading to them to turn their own pages, we find it cute. If we're rocking a doll in our arms and our child wants to imitate us, no words are spoken as they take that doll as their own.

This is all as it should be at home, but as any parent with older children will attest, it's not a game that goes over well with other kids. As adults we don't attach any particular value to playthings, indeed we tend to think of them as rightfully belonging to the children, but other kids, be they older siblings or preschool classmates, tend to be far from sanguine about having valued things snatched from their grasp. At any given moment at this time in the school year, there is likely to be a child who is upset about it and a child who is equally confused about the fuss. After all, this is how they've learned the world of play works: I want something, I take it.

As a preschool teacher, I do not allow children to snatch things from my hands. Whenever I see a tiny fist reaching for the object I'm holding I tighten my grip and say, "I'm using this." I then follow that up with something like, "If you want it, you can ask me for it," or "You can play with it when I'm done." If the child is very young, I then relinquish it almost instantly. With older children, I might play with it for a few seconds, or even minutes, before saying, "I'm done with it. Now it's your turn." My objective is to simply role model a pattern of interaction that I hope becomes, so to speak, a new "game" for the children to play.

The other day, we were playing with our Fisher-Price toys, a significant collection amassed over the decades as families have donated their old toys to the school. The big plastic tub contains dozens, if not hundreds of those squat figurines representing both people and animals. A group of children were struggling with snatching and emotions were on edge, so I sat beside the tub, picked out a polar bear, saying as I held it up, "I found a polar bear." As I expected, one of the children immediately reached out to make a grab. I pulled it back, "Hey, I'm using this!" She looked stunned. I then said, "If you want it, you can ask me." She said, "Please?" and I handed it to her, saying, "Sure, I'm done with it now."

I then proceeded to remove other animals from the tub, "I have a tiger," "I have a parrot," "I have a bear," and so on. Children gathered around. At first many hands grabbed for the toys and I went through the process again and again. Soon, as you would expect, the children began to catch on, many of them clearly delighted with the game we were playing. Occasionally, I would answer them with, "In a minute, I'm still using it," or "I'll give it to you when I'm finished," an addition that the children accepted with apparent patience. Before long they were playing it with one another, practicing both sides of the equation.

I'm under no illusion that we will be a snatch-free classroom going forward. Old habits die hard, but we have plenty of time -- weeks, months, years -- plenty of time to learn new ones.

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Wednesday, September 25, 2019

Conflict Is Ugly, Messy, Fraught, And Necessary

A few days ago, a parent told me that her child loves school so much that she didn't have to nag him to get dressed and out the door, which according to her is a very big deal. I believe her, but it's sometimes hard to see because he spends much of his day embroiled in conflict. And he's not the only one. Indeed, there's a whole group of them, intense, creative kids, who spend much of their time together alternating between cooperation and bitter quarreling.

This is, of course, normal, even if it's often exasperating for adults. Whether we like it or not, conflict plays a central role in childhood play, just as it's unavoidable in adult life. Sometimes the arguments seem silly to us, easily solved, not worth the energy, such as when they fight over a specific shovel when there are dozens of identical ones lying about, or when they raise their voices over whether they've made mud "soup" or mud "stew." But what they are doing is serious business, a core aspect of learning to live in the world with other people, and our Johnny-on-the-spot interventions, however well-intended, quite often rob them of the opportunity to learn that they are capable of solving it themselves.

Naturally, we step in when conflicts take an ugly turn, such as when physical violence erupts or when a pattern of bullying emerges, but when we rush in at every raised voice, we do them no favors. Yes, perhaps it's a good idea to move closer to them when emotions begin to run high, but I've found that more often than not, children who already have relationships with one another, like classmates and friends, can find their own way through.

These past couple weeks the four-year-olds have spent a lot of time, in quieter moments, making agreements with one another. We come in from the playground with our gripes, with our concerns, with our grievances, and then we talk about them. We've all agreed, or instance, to not hit one another, to not take things, to not kick or throw hard objects. This list of rules, which we've been adding to almost every day, is already quite long and detailed. The words that fall under the heading "name calling" is robust. These are our collective aspirations for how we want to live together, our "rules" if you will. And in just a few weeks, we've already discovered that just because we've all agreed, it doesn't mean that we will all always remember our agreements -- there is still some hitting and taking and hard object throwing -- but at least now we've all started working on it, together.

"Hey, you're breaking the rules!" a girl shouted at her friend turned antagonist, "No taking things!"

"We said no screaming in people's ears and you're screaming in my ears!"

"You hit me. No hitting!"

These words have been ringing out on our playground for weeks now.

Several times a day, a child will appeal to me, such as, "Teacher Tom, she won't let me play with her. I think we should make a rule about that." And I'll respond, "Let's talk about it at circle time. I'll help you remember to suggest it." Sometimes we can agree. Sometimes we can't. Either way, the discussion is important.

Others will come to me with complaints, such as, "He took my bucket!" And I'll respond, "Oh no, what did you say?" More often than not they'll answer, "Nothing," to which I reply, "It sounds like they forgot their agreement. I would remind them if I were you." If they seem reluctant, I might coach them on the language they can use. Sometimes I agree to stand beside them as they confront their friend. Most of the time, when a child evokes the self-imposed rules, their classmates relent or offer an alternative version of events, which leads to an argument. Again, I might step nearer, but as long as they are talking to one another, even when it's heated, I know they are doing the work they need to do. If they begin to talk over one another or become overly emotional, I'll suggest they take turns, so that we can all listen. It's ugly, messy, fraught, and necessary.

I strive to not impose solutions, but rather allow the children to come to them on their own. Sometimes I take the role of mediator, echoing the children's words. "She says you took her bucket." "He says, he had it first." "She says she just put it down for a second." "He says he didn't know." And so on, giving everyone a chance to both speak and listen. This tends to give children the space to slow down, to consider, to understand, and to begin to find their way forward.

Sometimes I'll say, "I want to remind you that we all agreed to not take things from other people." I strive to take the posture that I'm reminding, not commanding. Sometimes, when there is a significant power imbalance between the children, one of them will become tongue tied, so I'll voice their words for them, "He says you pushed him. We all agreed to not push one another."

My rule of thumb, however, is to stay out of it, all things being equal, to coach, to suggest, to be near, but leave as much of it as possible to the children, to get them talking to one another rather than through me. As the year goes along, they will come to understand that resolving their conflicts is in their own hands.

It's messy and makes us uncomfortable, but children are always motivated by the real world and there are few things more real than conflict. So often, as adults, we view playground conflict as failure, but if we are to raise our children to take care of themselves and to take care of others, we have to understand that conflict is as central to child's play as running, jumping, laughing, and singing. They will only learn how to do it through practice. And, believe it or not, it's part of why they like coming to school.

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Tuesday, September 24, 2019

The Most Important Technology

I remember my first formal exposure to the "technology" of treating children like fully formed human beings -- and I often do think of it as a kind of technology in that it's the application of scientific knowledge for practical purposes. I'd previously been exposed to this technology via my daughter's preschool teacher, with whom I'd been working as a cooperative classroom parent for many months, but, as technology often does for the uninitiated, it just looked like magic, something Teacher Chris was able to do because she was Teacher Chris.

I was in one of Tom Drummond's classes at North Seattle College and he began to explain the ultimate ineffectiveness of "directive" statements. You know the kind, "Sit over here," "Stand there," "Pick that up," the sorts of adult communications with which most of our childhoods were filled. I had a small epiphany as he explained our assignment to us, which was to simply keep track of the number of directive statements we made during our next classroom day. And even as I had the epiphany that this was a part of Teacher Chris' magic trick, I doubted that it could really work, at least not all time, not for all kids, not for all ages. It was good that our assignment was simply about ourselves, about listening to our words, practicing using this new technology, not being burdened with the complications of having to make judgments about how the children were responding, just focusing on ourselves and the words we were using.

It felt incredibly awkward, then, replacing my directive statements with informative ones. For instance, instead of saying, "Pick up that block," I would try to make the more cumbersome informative statement, "I see a block on the floor and it's clean up time." One of the basic ideas, Tom explained, was that unlike directive statements which tend to shut things down, informative statements create a space in which the kids get to do their own thinking, make their own decisions about their own behavior, instead of merely engaging in the power struggle that inevitably emerges from being bossed around. It made sense to me even while it felt strange and artificial. It was true, I couldn't help but notice, that when I took the time to be informative, children were far less likely to push back rebelliously, and instead take a beat (which, I've learned means they are taking a moment to process the information you've given them) then pick up that block and put it away. 

I discovered, on my own, the truth of Tom's assertion that the ultimate weakness of relying upon directive statements is that, over time, they need to be escalated in intensity. I recall standing in our school's parking lot with a much more experienced parent as she yelled angrily after her kids, "Get your butts over here!" only to have them giggle and scamper away. When she grumbled, "I never thought I'd be the kind of parent who spanked her kids, but I'm almost there," I saw a glimpse of a place I didn't want to go.

And I still had doubts, even as I began to practice with my own preschooler, who soon detected the change in my approach and began to object to it as "teacher talk." I felt a little guilty, like a magician letting the public in on my trick, as I explained to her what I was trying to do. I remember my five-year-old agreeing that it sounded like a good idea. She especially appreciated that I wouldn't be bossing her around, even suggesting she would be happy to help me by pointing out when I slipped up. I thought for sure that I'd ruined everything by letting the cat out of the bag, but if anything, the opposite happened. She became my ally in making "teacher talk" a more natural part of my day-to-day language until I've arrived at a point in my life when parents refer to "Teacher Tom magic." 

And still, despite all the evidence, despite all my ever-increasing expertise in using it, I was suspicious that the technology of treating children as fully formed human beings would stop working as they got older and more sophisticated. 

The father of one of my daughter's classmates was a high school teacher, a good one by all accounts; jovial, casual, humorous. I think I would have liked being in his class. As our kids approached middle school he explained his philosophy of dealing with teens to me: "Oh, I'm their best friend until they cross the line, then Bam! I come down like a house of bricks." By this time, I'd become quite confident in the use of my "teacher talk" technology when it came to preschoolers, had seen its effectiveness with my own eyes, had even customized it for my own use, but listening to this guy who everyone admired, I wondered if maybe I was, at least as a parent, going to need to adopt some of this "house of bricks" technique as my own. Well, here I am today, the parent of an adult child, a kid who capably navigated all the regular high school stuff we worry about, and I never felt the need to "come down" like a house of bricks. In fact, just as I did when she was five, I found it much more productive to lay it all out for her as honestly and informatively as possible, revealing my emotions, my dilemma as a parent, my concerns for her safety or her morals or her future or her reputation or whatever. No one makes great decisions all the time, but she's had a lifetime of practice, and most of the time she comes up with perfectly reasonable solutions.

None of this is magic. Like all technology it still works, often even better, when everyone knows how it works.

I've now come to a point at which I have complete trust in the technology of treating children like fully formed human beings. Indeed, it's a technology that works on all fully formed human beings no matter what their age and it starts with the assumption that I can never, whatever your age, command you into doing anything. My primary responsibility is to speak informatively, and to leave a space in which thinking can take place.

And still people say to me, "You're lucky. You teach privileged children," often insisting that there are some children out there who are so "damaged," who have had so little love or attention or whatever in their lives that they are somehow not ready to be treated as fully formed humans, that they need commands and punishment; that they need to learn obedience. I'm left with nothing to say, of course, because they're right in the sense that I teach the children I teach, and without a classroom of older, more damaged kids with whom to experiment, I have nothing but "Sez you!" on which to fall back. Still, I will say that much of the damage probably comes from being either abused or neglected, neither of which will be repaired by being bossed around.

This brings me around to an article I read several years ago that has stayed with me. I especially urge you to click through if you find yourself doubting this technology, or if it strikes you as "namby pamby." It's a long article about a high school that its principal describes as "the dumping ground," one that was once run by gangs. It's a story about how "punishing misbehavior just doesn't work. You're simply adding trauma to an already traumatized kid." It's the story of how magically this technology is working when applied to poor, disadvantaged, abused, and neglected kids.

The first time that principal Jim Sporleder tried the New Approach to Student Discipline at Lincoln High School in Walla Walla, WA, he was blown away. Because it worked. In fact, it worked so well that he never when back to the the Old Approach to Student Discipline.

If you have any doubts, this is the article to read. There's a lot great information in here; science about how and why the technology works, even on the most "hardened" kids. If you're already a devotee of this technology, it's still worth the time. This is not written to tug at the heartstrings, but it did mine. I found myself tearing up over and over at the epiphanies of teachers and students, at how they had to overcome a lifetime of believing in the myth of "tough love" and "punishment with dignity," at how the "magic trick" is being revealed to the kids themselves making them experts in their own "recovery." It's a story of teachers and children learning to use this technology together to change their lives, one they all say "is just the beginning." It's my story as well.

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Monday, September 23, 2019

A Truly Beautiful Bowl Of Soup

"Oh mother, we must finish making our soup!"

"Yes dear, we will, but first we need some more roasted potatoes."

"Yes mother."

The girls were doing what children have done forever: making mud soup in a bucket. Their game had dramatic urgency as they rushed about gathering ingredients, stirring them in with a shovel, then foraging about for more. I couldn't help but connect their game to our human ancestors who spent their days hunting and gathering: they were playing an ancient game, one somehow passed down through the generations.

No one teaches this to children, but on every playground, in every backyard, in any place where children have access to water, containers, and something to gather, they make their soups and stews. These are typically not solitary games. They are games of community, of working together, of negotiating, and sharing, games that tie us together in the present as much as they tie us to our common past.

"Oh, it's not ready yet mother."

"Yes dear. You have to keep stirring."

This particular game was about a mother and her daughter, about one child pretending to teach and reassure the other the way parents do. This particular game was a polite game, where everyone spoke solicitous words in clear, calm voices. It was both artificial and aspirational, I think, as the girls examined relationship from a dispassionate place, like in a storybook.

This making of mud soup is not mere child's play. It is the work of a lifetime; soup every human who has ever lived must learn to cook.

"Mother, is it ready yet? The guests will be here soon."

"Yes dear, it's ready now."

As they offered me the first bowl of their roasted potato soup, I noticed that it contained dozens of green cherry tomatoes and marigold blossoms from our garden. It was a truly beautiful bowl of soup.

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Friday, September 20, 2019

Getting Home Safely

While visiting Athens, Greece some time ago, I decided to challenge myself to find the house our family lived in when I was a boy of 10-13 years old. It involved taking a train from downtown to the neighborhood of Kifissia, cutting across a large park, passing through the village, then winding my way around a maze of suburban streets. Arriving there from memory without a hitch, I set myself the additional challenge of locating the old American Club where I'd spent a lot of my childhood leisure time. This required a bit more trial and error, but I found that as well. Feeling good about myself, I elected to return to the train station via an alternative route and proceeded to get hopelessly lost.

There was no phone reception, so resorting to GPS was out of the question. I came across precious few fellow pedestrians out during the heat of the day, and I couldn't make myself understood to the ones I did solicit. I was too shy to knock on doors to ask directions. Of course, at one level I knew that I would find my way home. I would eventually find a place of business or wander out of the telephone dead zone, but there was a primal edge of panic there nevertheless, one that didn't go away until I found myself back in familiar territory.

It's unsettling to not know how to get home. As author and poet Diane Ackerman wrote in her book A Natural History of the Senses, "(R)oaming is one of the things humans love to do best -- but only if they can count on getting home safely." I think this is particularly true for young children and explains the undying popularity of such classic tales as Maurice Sendak's Where the Wild Things Are, the story of a boy who roams, has strange adventures, then returns to the security of home. It is knowing that we can get home that allows us to be bold, which is where much of the magic in life is found.

I'm thinking about this here at the beginning of the school year as preschoolers everywhere suffer from separation anxiety. Even as we assure them that mommy will come back, that we will take care of them, that they will return to their homes, they still don't quite believe it. They are in an unfamiliar place without phone reception. Our assurances might appeal to their rational minds, but until they are convinced that they will get home safely, their journey will be one fraught with anxiety. This is an ancient human fear, one that can only be assuaged through practice, through learning the "map" of how to get home.

It takes time for children gain this knowledge, longer for some than others. They create their "map" home through practice, familiarity, and routine. It's obviously vital that they know we adults can be trusted, that we love them, but that is only the beginning. We can provide comfort and predictability, but the difficult, frightening work of finding the way home is theirs to do.

This is important work. The knowledge that we know the way home, safely, is ultimately what allows us to feel powerful, confident, and bold in the world.

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Thursday, September 19, 2019

An Exception That Proves The Rule

Yesterday, we painted with "long paint brushes." These are regular paint brushes duct taped to lengths of bamboo. 

Sometimes we hang the paper up high so that the use of long paint brushes makes some sense, but on this day our paper was low which means that their length contributed nothing more than to add an arbitrary level of difficulty. Despite this, whenever the long paint brushes are in use, they are in demand. This has been true over all years that we've been painting with long brushes, with children queueing up for their turn, calling out, "I'm next!" and "I want to try it!" Even children who don't normally chose to participate in art typically want have a go with the long paint brushes.

Using long paint brushes requires a level of concentration that isn't necessary with regular brushes. The children tend to move more slowly, more deliberately as they take aim, as they dip the tips of their brushes into the paint pots on the ground, as they strive to control the shape and direction of paint on paper. There is almost a meditative quality to the process as they stand or sit together, shoulder-to-shoulder, sharing a canvas.

I've never witnessed a child attempt to paint "something," like a person or a house or a tree. Getting paint on paper seems to be enough. If there is ever a "goal," it is to "paint all the white parts," something the children often spontaneously decide amongst themselves.

I suppose we could make it an individual project, one where each child gets their own piece of paper on a separate easel in order to manufacture something that they can later take home. I suppose we could offer more than three long brushes at a time to minimize the wait time. But in doing this, I expect, we would lose something. 

Normally, making something arbitrarily difficult is a sure-fire way to cause frustration, ultimately killing enthusiasm, but long paint brushes seems to be an exception that prove the rule.

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Wednesday, September 18, 2019

Parts To Be Used Again

When I arrived at the Woodland Park Cooperative School some 17 years ago, my predecessors, a cohort that stretches back for over 40 years, had amassed an impressive collection of table top toys, manipulatives and construction sets intended for children playing either alone or in small groups. A few of them are truly vintage items, things that I treasure because they were so well-made or are particularly beautiful. Many I've disposed of in one way or another, usually by either giving them away or tossing them into the glue gun box for children to re-purpose for sculptural creations. And then there some that live on simply because they won't die.

The plastic building set in these photo is such a set. The construction technique required is fiddly, the possibilities fairly limited, and the plastic brittle. Still, I've found, that if they are available, there are always one or two kids who will set themselves the challenge of playing with them.

I don't think anyone took note of them on Monday, other than to, perhaps, knock a few on the floor as they walked past. On Tuesday, one boy spent several minutes messing around with them, I think largely because he was seeking a place away from the hubbub. Then on Wednesday, he went straight to the table upon which I'd plunked them. After nearly a half hour of uninterrupted work, he had built a massive, random structure, using nearly all the available pieces. I had thought that I would just let him take it home with him and be done with the set forever, but when it came time to tidy up, he dismantled it as meticulously as he had built it.

On Thursday, I spied him at the table again, this time building with a purpose. When I stopped by to admire it, he explained it was a "vehicle," showing me how he had figured out to make it look as if it had wheels. I wasn't the only one attracted by his work. Soon a group of boys had gathered around, both admiring and seeking to imitate their classmate who they treated as an authority. Soon they all had vehicles of various sorts. "Mine's a zoom laser motorcycle!" one declared. "Mine's a speed mech!" "Mine's a vehicle . . . like his!"

People often accuse me, lovingly of course, of being a pack rat or middle class bag lady, due to my penchant for not wanting to let things go, but this is why I keep things like this around, even when they aren't always "popular." These moments are worth the storage space. As I watched the kids enthuse over their creations, cobbled together using unfamiliar materials, according to their own lights, inspired by a friend, I thought of those building sets sold in toy stores today. The ones with a picture on the box that children are expected to imitate, that rely on less fiddly building techniques, and that are inspired by television programs or movies. I've known too many children who build with these new sets once, then put them on a shelf as "finished" products, never to be dismantled because this, according to the instructions, is the only way to use them.

When it was time to tidy up, the children, like their friend who had inspired them through example, dismantled their creations as meticulously as they had built them, reducing them to parts to be used again.

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