After singing this morning during group time, I brought up an observation about some play that had been happening outside over the last two days here at the preschool house. It ties in very closely with our interest in long sticks, running and chasing, and being the bad guy. Shooting, being shot and pointing sticks at people brings up some very strong emotions on both sides of the stick. It took some time to observe the behavior outside, and it seemed more often than not, the shooting resulted in more negative feelings than play, which made everyone feel satisfied when it was over.
I talked to everyone about what I noticed outside, and immediately there was a cacophony through out our group. The previous rule had been "We do not shoot at people at Tumbleweeds," but everyone agreed this wasn't working. Our conversation went something like this:
Me: When you feel like you need to shoot, what can you do?
IR and S: You could say "Can I shoot you?"
Me: That makes sense. Let me write this down.
Almost everyone: Yes or no!
Me: Perfect, so what can we do if someone says yes.
Everyone: You can shoot them!
Me: Great, you can! But, what do we do if someone says no.
Everyone: Don't shoot them!
Me: What can they shoot?
SM: No, up in the sky.
IR: Up to outer space!
GW: Monster Trucks!
IR: Wait, caterpillars are living. I am feeling worried about that.
Slowly our list moved from what we could shoot, to what we couldn't shoot.
S: I have something to say! No shooting snakes.
JH: You can shoot monsters, not caterpillars.
MR: Don't shoot.......turtles. No Turtles!
IR: I feel really strongly about life.
And that was the beginning of our new rule: If it is alive, think before you act.
Would it like to be shot? Would I like to be shot? How would it effect it's body? Does it work to pretend to be shot/shoot/die/fall down/cry? These are all of the thoughts and extensions of this type of play. Our conversation came to an end with these thoughts in our head and no complete decision about what exactly will work. I suggested that we see what happens outside and figure out what will work best for everyone. Being aware and ready to listen is the best tool for the children as they experiment with this big, highly emotionally affecting play.
Later we were outside and a situation arose with shooting, and IR, our resident 5 year old for the week, quickly stepped in a conversation about living vs. non-living. The decision was reached to not shoot anything that was living in that moment, and the play continued. By opening up the discussion with my observation, the power was placed in the hands of the children to come up with a resolution that worked not just for all of the children, but for our school community and environment.
By the end of the day, the shooting play continued. "Shooters" were constructed which shot different things. TLC had a very specific device that "shoots fire from one side and arrows from here." Amy shared a few shooting stories during snack time. There was less chasing where a child felt uncomfortable, more awareness of what and who is being shot, and more positive feelings in general. Through processing these feelings we have begun the cycle of creating respectful rules that do not demand obedeience, rather create the ability for observation, reflection, awareness, respect, and feeling safe. All of this creates an environment where amazing and deep levels of play occur and children who become dynamic problem solvers and communicators.