Monday, August 12, 2013

The Bakery

 One of the many materials available outside is sidewalk chalk. There's been a lot of exploration with sidewalk chalk over the past few weeks. "What else can we do with this stuff?" seemed to be the question the children asked of themselves. One of the most in depth explorations seemed simple enough: chalk dust. It happened very organically. The children began to bang the chalk pieces on various surfaces- especially our concrete slab in the back where a lot of mixing and creating takes place. Chalk dust was the natural result of this banging. This intrigued everyone so the banging continued. Bricks were often used to produce chalk dust at a faster rate. As Carrie and I watched their focus intensify, I mentioned quietly to her that we should find something to mix with the chalk dust and see where the children took it next. This was out of the ear shot of the children focused on the chalk dust and I'm positive my thoughts weren't overheard by anyone else.

That afternoon I watched as the children scaffolded on their own interests. First they added water to the chalk dust. Just a tad with the help of some watering cans. They had done this some before but the result seemed more interesting this time for whatever reason. They found tools to mix with and more and more containers to create in. Next they added paint. Sometimes the paint was added to only chalk dust. Other times it was added to the water and chalk dust mixture. There was much discussion about how it worked best. 

"When you add the water first the chalk dust gets smooth! You have to mix it a lot, look... then you should add the paint." 

All of this continued to occur on the concrete slab, which is rather hard to fit very many people around. Soon this drawback became very apparent. TS shouted, "We need to move to the workshop!" As if they all were of the same mind, the children lifted their materials and moved to the workshop. They set up the chalk dust as their own little provocation. A pitcher was present for adding water. The colander held the chalk that hadn't yet been turned into dust. A green water bottle became the home of a final mixture of paint, water, and chalk dust. A funnel sat near it in order to help slowly add chalk dust to the mixture. A smaller colander held chalk pieces that were in transition between chalk and dust. The colanders, the children quickly found out, were a great way to speed up their production. "Here, if you hold on to this chalk piece you can grate it with those little holes. Just like cheese! Try it."

 Before too long there were too many people and not enough tools. New tools were made to keep every last person busy. A wooden bowl and stick quickly became a mortar and pestle type tool. The chalk could be slowly ground down with the use of the stick and moving the bowl simultaneously. It was also a great way to mix the paint into the chalk dust. TS was in charge of this tool while GS and TLC worked with the original brick tool and colander. Before long, a good amount of the mixture was ready to be used for something else.All throughout the exploration, children would come and go. Some enjoyed observing the meticulous work of TS, GS, and TLC. One child, however, joined them  around this point.
 "Let's make some corn cakes!" said Z? as she approached, muffin tin in hand. She set it on the ground and began to portion out muddy water in each opening. TS watched carefully, "Yeah! For our bakery!" I inquired, "Your bakery?" TS nodded, "Yeah this is our bakery. We have to hurry! We're about to open!" She set to work mixing again- even more intensely than before. GS leaned in close, "Do you have enough chalk dust??" TS barely paused her mixing to nod affirmatively. Then she said, "This is for the bread."

Without input from me as the teacher, the children guided their own play. It went beyond what I could have imagined and it connected their love of dramatic play with their need for scientific inquiry. They scaffolded upon their own interests and gave themselves an incredibly rich experience. Oh man, how these kids continually amaze me.

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