Saturday, July 26, 2014

Shared Experiences in Play

Lately, I've been observing groups of four or five children exploring small group dynamics during our afternoon outside times. With all the life appearing in mid summer, our outside play area has transformed into a new world everyday- immersed in imaginative play. These worlds have been full of bug hunters, pea harvesters, sand builders, hole diggers, fire works and waterfall makers. All of them have started with one child and one idea which spread like wildfire into a small group playing and learning together.

The Bakery and Cafe is just one of these worlds. We've seen this as a recurring theme in play with our current cohort and past cohorts both. The bakery started with just one child using a muffin tin to bake some pastries, but exploded into servers, daily pastry offerings, and bakers. This world began when one day when AS started to use our common tools with the sand in the sandbox thought about making some cupcakes. After filling a metal pan AS said "Who wants cupcakes I made?". Soon every child in earshot was excitedly following AS to the table. Of course the infatuation with sweets in our class didn't hurt but somehow the offering of eating sandy cakes seemed to spark everyone's interest and need to become part of the process.

AS had started something much bigger then sharing some cupcakes from her play. A group was forming that would explore play together. New ideas emerged from others and a busy air surrounded the group as they went deeper and deeper with their imagination.

LC said, "Let's make blueberry muffins". CE said, "We can put frosting on them too". DC said, "Fill them up and I will put them in the oven".

After pulling them from the oven they would work on frosting them and call out, "Who wants a cupcake??" This process then started over again and again, each time adding new ingredients and ideas.

Baking group and others developed from our own process of leading small groups. Children are often involved in each step when facilitating a small group. In many ways each student has had a turn being a leader, giving creative paths for discovery, as well as following direction in the many diverse small groups offered. The variety of ideas that could be explored in a small group brought together everyone and allowed the group to discuss more and more complex topics. The children have since used the tools gained from our interesting small groups to present ideas in our outside area and produce big group play.

Whether this play originates from a child stating their actions, "I'm making fireworks!"(AS) or just calling out, "Who wants to make a waterfall?"(TUS); the end result is the same. They are connecting with communication in order to share the experience of being a child. By inviting big group play where many voices can come together children can take any idea into a new imaginative world.

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