Thursday, December 24, 2015

Concoctions

A huge motivator for children is learning the qualities of the world around them.  They want to know how things work, why things work, and how they can effect it.  By offering as many opportunities for children to experiment, ask questions and delve in to the wonderous world and work of inquiry, they guide and shape their own knowledge and continuously absorb what they learn.

One of our favorite ways to to create concoctions.  This is a very exciting work for everyone and something that is frequently asked for during the day.  The set up is often the same, very orderly and with small tools for mixing, small jars and bowls and various powders and liquids.  The opportunities for discoveries are limitless!

Materials:
A tray
Jars
Small Bowls
Tweezers
Pipettes
Measuring Spoons
Small Brushes

Flour
Baking Soda
Corn Starch
Liquid Watercolor
Tissue Paper
Glue
Water

This list of materials really is endless.  The idea is that the tray contains any overflow of materials and also sets a boundary of focus for each child.  The tools and containers are made from glass, metal and rarely plastic.  They are child sized versions of tools adults use.  Often we even talk about and pretend we are scientists or artist working or using these tools!  The loose materials are given to the children in small amounts and named as they are added to the trays, bowls and jars.  Everyone can use what is on their tray as much as they like, but we do not add more.  This limit encourages focus on what is available, moving slowly and carefully, and using the materials thoughtfully.

Once the children are offered the materials, we sit back and observe.  Often we sportscast the words, wonderings and observations of the children to concrete what they are noticing.
"It's exploding!"
"I heard you say, 'The cornstarch feels soft.'"
"You noticed the red and blue turned purple!"
Then we extend their explorations:
"It's exploding!  I wonder how that happened?"
"Why is cornstarch soft?"
"Where did the purple come from?"
And always :
"What did you notice?  What did you wonder?"



Some children remain with this work as long as it available, while others take just a few moments to explore.  Each time it is offered, I have noticed that it creates an almost instant opportunity to focus and the children are drawn in to a refinement of movement that feels very satisfying: using tweezers to grab one grain of salt at a time; collecting just enough colored water to fill the bulb of the pipette; using their fingertips to run through the corn starch and water to see how the color changes.

Over time our concoctions will become more complex, while building on the knowledge the children already own.  Who knows where this exploration might lead us!

Sunday, December 6, 2015

Explorers!

During group time one morning, the children entered the room and everything was dark.
"Why is it so dark?" They asked, and I explained that we would be having group time in outer space today.  Everyone seemed to agree that this was a great idea, especially once I switched on the flashlight.
"The brightest light near the earth is the sun," I explained.  Then shined the light on our globe of the earth.
"The Earth!!!" everyone cheered and I brought it closer.  We played a game of the Earth going around the sun, while singing a song:
The Earth Goes around the Sun
The Earth goes around the Sun
It takes twelve months to go around
The earth goes around the Sun.

When the game was over, we all sat down and got close together.  One child held the Sun (a flashlight) while another child slowly spun the Earth and we talked about night and day.  One child said, "So are we astronauts?"
"Great question!  Are we exploring outer space?" I asked.
"Astronauts don't live in space," someone else said and everyone agreed.  Then the idea of being visitors, going out into space to gather information then return home came up.
"We are explorers!" Someone else said.

Then one day, we all became explorers.
"Ok Everyone!  We are going to go on a walk!" I announced and the children who were interested joined me on a walk down the road.  We are very lucky to have unimproved road ways not too far from the school, which offer tiniest bit of wildness to our every day explorations.
 Before we began walking, we went over the important rules: hold your partner's hand, move to the side when there is a car coming,  stay ahead of the teacher, don't run!, be safe.   Then the children began asking me where we were going.
"We are going on a walk," I said, leaving it very open ended and ambiguous.  "I wonder what we will find."
"Are we going to the park?"

"Are we going to the Infant House?"
"Sometimes we go on walks to collect special leaves"
Their answers were searching for some verification of what we might be meaning to accomplish by our walk, so I offered this as a reminder of our earlier conversations about astronauts.
"Today we are simply going to explore and see what we can find.  It could really be anything.  It's kind of like the astronauts!"  This idea caught on quickly and the children were excited to see what we might find.


And what we did find was a huge, huge puddle which had filled in a low spot in the unimproved road down the street.  The children know this place well,
because it is next to the huge blackberry bush.  But today it was transformed into
a new land, which they could splash through or toss small rocks.  On the way back we collected some treasure in the form of small white rocks.  The explorers returned satisfied, yet ready to gain more knowledge on future adventures.

Sunday, November 29, 2015

"We are all attached!"

What is the earth?
How can we see it?
Are we a part of it?
These are the questions that the preschoolers are asking in many different ways every day.  It speaks strongly to their natural desire to become a part of their surroundings, find the places the fit (or don't fit), to discover themselves, and follow their individual paths of development.  It's because of that individuality, we are finding we often have different ideas or answers to the questions we ask about the world we live in.  

Connection
One thing we can all agree upon is that we are all connected.  We talk about this a lot through our day in open ended activities which highlight the way we effect others, through building empathy and awareness.  During group there are many stories shared about things the children remember.  One day I brought out a green scarf.  We each held a piece of the edge and we imagined that the scarf represented our world.  We each had a place we lived, where we held on to the scarf.  When we moved the scarf, it made changes across the scarf.  If someone pulled tightly on one side, it made it very tricky to hold on another.
"Let's try something," I suggested.  "Everyone make your place very still, and watch closely.  I am going to create a wave and pass it across the scarf.  Across the world."  Everyone was silent.  I looked at everyone in their eyes with a secret smile.  Then I carefully moved my hands up and down twice and we watched the wave move away from me and move the scarf next to the children sitting across from me.  
"It moved!" they cheered.
"Did you move it?" I asked.
"No! You did!" They all agreed.
We practiced this idea of our movements effecting others a few more times, before everyone began feeling very silly and were ready for the next part of our group time.



 
The Earth
We continued to explore the earth through reading books, building puzzles and singing songs.  We also shared stories from our own knowledge of what the earth is and looks like.  

We came to a few agreements:

We all live on the Earth
Animals live on the Earth
We are standing on the Earth.
Sometimes it is a planet.  Sometimes it is just the Earth.
It has land and water.
It is round and it spins.
We can see it in pictures or if you use a rocket ship.
Everyone shares the Earth. 











"We are all attaching!"
   In the afternoons outside, art provocations are frequently available which usually involves a large piece of paper.  Collaboration is implied as each child finds a place to begin their work, as space is limited.  One day this week paint was available.  At first each child painted on the paper directly in front of them.  Then one child drew a line to another child's area.  "There!  Now its attached."  This idea caught on quickly, and soon everyone was attaching together with a cheerful chant, "We're attaching! Everyone!  Everyone's attaching!"  Smooth lines of paint connected everyone's separate works together, similar to our game with the scarf earlier in the week.  This idea of connecting and finding ways to attach is a neverending interest to preschoolers.  
 

Play and Imagination in the Classroom


While playing on their own, H and B moved the play structure and sat down against the wall. They both agreed that it was a "choo choo." I decided to observe and see where their imaginations would take them next. 


They moved to sit on the steps of the play structure and decided they were still on a train, but the blocks in their hands became more of a focus to them.


H looked at the block in her hand and started using it to pretend to saw the wood on the play structure.


Then she gave B a closer look at what she was doing.



After watching H for a few moments, B set up his own blocks and said "look it!" He was really excited about how he got them to stand up.


B then got up and grabbed a book. He put it under his arm like a bag and said "bye bye, going to work."


H noticed and decided to grab her own book and pretend to leave. They both had a big laugh together over this and then went on to play separately. It's amazing to see what different things inspire and motivate children to play together and all the ideas that can come up in just a few short minutes!









Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Stormy Weather



This past week we had so much wind and rain and clouds and sunshine!  Autumn is a beautiful time to live in Oregon and have many opportunities to notice the beautiful leaves as they change and of course stomp in puddles.  We go outside twice every day, no matter the weather!  One day last week, we went outside directly in the middle of the storm.  The wind was gusting strongly and the rain was falling diagonally!  Some children put on their rain gear and dashed out into the thick of it.  Others felt less sure and stayed on the porch and talked about how the wind was blowing.  

After being outside for a while, some of the children found a puddle which was collecting water.  I had offered chalk for drawing, since chalk and water is such a lovely tactile experience.  A few children first dipped their chalk in, then began drawing at the bottom of the puddle!  They were amazed when they noticed the chalk beginning to change the water different colors.  Then people jumped through the puddle, and the colors mixed.  

We didn’t last too long in the heavy rain and by the end almost everyone was drenched.  Having these full body, sensory experiences in the weather of our world give children real experience of the qualities of rain and water, the effects it has on the world around them, as well as builds a natural appreciation. 

Grace's Spiral

Yesterday, I had an agenda:  Observe and document in the classrooms.  I had an intention, a wondering:  In what ways do we, as adults, affect a child's relationship to agency?  In what ways is that relationship connected to our practices around struggle and holding space for what IS?

I grabbed my camera.  I took some deep breaths.  And I began to document.  See with me:







Mary's children feel wary of me coming into their space. They probably wonder:  Is she here so that Mary can leave on a break? What does she want? 

Mary calmly explains to them that I'm there to take pictures.  She's available for connection and reassurance.  Can you sense how they know she's their person, their safe space? They know, already, as infants:  I can be seen by her. I can let her know what I'm feeling. She has space for me to be a whole version of me.  

And the feelings pass.  And they play again.  

Outside, my chest can hardly contain my heart as I watch more teachers who are masters of presence, connection, and holding space for whole selves.  




Slowly, as I feel the awe and joy wash over me in my observation, I realize something's coming up for me:  Sometimes, I'm afraid to be seen.  Sometimes, the idea of going into the classroom is overwhelming.  Sometimes, the process of being open for others AND showing up where I'm at and accepting that that's where I'm at... is a struggle.  Sometimes, I'm afraid that I'll let people down, that I'm not enough.  Sometimes, my fear tells me:  you might not be enough.

As I witness this understanding of my own fears, as I turn into them a bit and imagine hugging the part of me that fears, a few children come over to me. See with me, and feel this:

When face to face with these children, I feel truths deeper and stronger than any fear:

We are worthy of being seen.
We matter.
We are exactly where we should be right now. 
We are enough.

I am enough.

When I come back inside and head upstairs to start processing about the blog, I remember my wonderings:  In what ways do we, as adults, affect a child's relationship to agency?  In what ways is that relationship connected to our practices around struggle and holding space for what IS?   

I try to think about agency but am left vibrating with the feeling of seeing and being seen, of holding space for others and myself, of releasing into a peaceful trust in my own process. THIS is what Grace feels like.

I am struck by the realization that the powerful presence of Grace in the classroom made processing around agency (both itself and the relationship to it) feel like a stretch, an effort that would take away from a deeper resonating connection.  And BAM, it connects:  
My own agency--the grace I allow to myself to follow my inner guide, my own path--resonates with the grace I allow for others; back and forth, each connection with others spirals inward and outward, reinforcing deeper truths.  

Spiral with me.