Monday, October 10, 2011

Is Less More Fun?

As we transition into our new space, B and I have been very conscious about what materials we choose to include in the classroom. Both of us agreed that perhaps it was better to begin with less materials and then slowly add more in. After spending a few years at the old space, the preschoolers are dealing with a lot of change. Therefore, I thought that having fewer materials might be less overwhelming. In the main space we included a few sets of blocks, puzzles, a reading area, and some wooden trucks. The back room, or "drama room" as we have coined it offers puppets, dress up clothes, a bean bag, dolls and silks. We also have the art cabinet stocked for provocations. So far, this approach has seemed to work. Perhaps an abundance of materials throws us into sensory overload or is simply to much to process alongside a new space and teacher. Regardless, what I noticed this past week was that the preschoolers' play was very focused. I do think it is important that materials are available so that we can build on play. If a preschooler requested something I made it available. However, the play seemed so focused that there weren't many requests. Instead I noticed that the new space offered an opportunity to use our old classroom materials in new, creative ways. One theme that carried over is rocket ship.

The couch and chair in our reading area have transformed into a rocket ship almost every day!

Here, we explore flight on our rocket ships through the use of feathers

The rocket ship and space play have also emerged outdoors. From wooden blocks and sticks, to the chair, most of the outdoor objects have been appropriated in our creation of rockets.

One thing I have observed in the preschoolers' rocket ship play is the teamwork that develops out of focused play. When everyone is interested in the theme, we practice our social skills. KO would often offer jobs to other children. They all practiced negotiation skills as a few children went to retrieve more wood to help others construct the rocket's wings.

IR creates a system for transporting wood between the bin and the rocket.

I noticed that when there we consciously chose a few materials to set out, the preschoolers banded around those materials and worked together in their creation. The rockets were larger scale than before and the imaginative play that followed the building often lasted for hours.

I also noticed this pattern in how preschoolers used the indoor, wooden blocks. There was more individual play with the blocks but both IR and K chose to build their creations over long periods of time. We would prepare for snack or lunch and each time, IR and K would request that their creation remain intact, then return to it after eating. I know that B is currently working on a blog about blocks where she examines these creations more in depth.

While we are still in a period of transition into the new school, the less is more philosophy seems to work well for the preschoolers and teachers. I have noticed a lot of teamwork and group play as well as intense focus. It has also provided a direction for our play. I can take the cues I get from the preschoolers and apply them as we begin to introduce more provocations at the new school. Since space has been a strong theme, perhaps we can spark conversations about gravity, constellations and planets. Perhaps we will create space mobiles, or astronaut costumes. I will keep everyone updated. Until then, I am going to sit with this and ponder, do fewer, carefully chosen materials encourage MORE play?

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