Sunday, April 13, 2014

The Log

We spend the majority of our time outside in the back yard. The space is created for the children and much of how it looks or works is created by the children. They take a lot of ownership over the space and often move or adjust what's outside to better fit into their most recent explorations. For example, when we brought rope outside it got tied up all over and turned into a variety of ways to move stuff and people from one area to another- including a zip line! Recently, the attention of one child in particular has turned to our log. The log has mainly been used as a bench or a balancing beam in the past. There's been a huge interest in bug finding lately which often involves the turning over of stumps and rocks.

TUS approached the log and eyed it hungrily then spoke to me, "I bet we can move this log and find some bugs." He immediately hunkered down and began pushing. The log wouldn't budge. TUS gave up and stepped back, "Oh I have an idea!" He found a stump and began pushing it toward the log. Once it was in place he went off to find another log and moved it toward the log as well. This began attracting other children from around the yard. LC, DC, and CE approached TUS and watched him for a moment as he maneuvered the stumps into various positions and attempted to push the stumps in order to move the log.

DC watched for a while, not jumping in to help like the others. Then she jumped up and down excitedly, "I know! I know! I have a plan!" She ran off and was gone a few minutes before coming back with a long stick. With the help of TUS she worked to wedge it under one of the stumps and push. Nothing really happened. They maneuvered the stump away and used the long stick alone to try to move the log- using the same wedging technique from before. DC looked disheartened when she realized it wouldn't work. TUS noticed and paused to talk to her, "Maybe if we try the other side?" DC nodded and they ran to the other side and attempted to wedge the stick under.

As I watched them I started to realize the process of trying to move the log had become what their play consisted of. TUS had long ago abandoned discussing what bugs might be under it as he had been when he was moving the log by himself. I'm sure it was still on his mind, but it was no longer the most important part of what he was doing. With the addition of CE, LC, and DC, TUS's focus shifted to the process of getting the log to move. The scientific inquiry of how they could move something so much bigger than them was much more exciting than what bugs might be found under it in that moment. This made me reflect on my own work and the idea of "flow". Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi speaks of "flow" very eloquently, but when working with children we can observe what "flow" looks like firsthand. As TUS worked to move the log, his love, his play, and his work merged into one. He was in the state of "flow".

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