“You can dream, create, design, and build the most wonderful place in the world. But it requires people to make the dream a reality.” – Walt Disney
"I just want to play by myself; come on, [OS]!" -CS
I inhale the crisp morning air as the class bursts through the fence into the backyard. The hustling and bustling as everyone goes to find a small corner of the backyard and sets about making in their own. This could very well lead to a lot of debates and problems arising; there are only so many materials with which to build or dig or decorate. The tension under these problems might bubble up a bit, but a few words exchanged (maybe facilitated by an impartial giant to their world) or even the simple passage of time will pop these bubbles as the nomadic nature of outside time finds something else that's more fun and deserving of their attention.
This week more of the attention is drawn to the building corner. The children will grab tires, milk crates, planks of wood and start to build a space for themselves. It's so thrilling as teachers to see the wheels of imagination turning inside the children's heads. What is going to be built.
"I'm making a trap for monsters...this string is very important" states CKP.
"This spaceship is gonna take us to Mars," OS giggles.
"You're gonna need some of this soup then," JA adds while handing over what he recently finished mixing in the kitchen.
The children take turns offering their individual spaces to all of their friends making sure to be as inviting and hospitable as possible. JR wanders near CKP's traps and they explore the crafted landscape together for a bit until JR wants to go do something else. HR takes care of watching OS's boards until they get back from a quick trip to the other side of "Mars."
Then, like most games do, things start to change. A few children are gathered around the tire and then suddenly I see eight hands go for a tire at the same time. The tire stands up and those same hands all start to wheel it in the same direction. Then another tire joins it. A plank follows after that. Then the words come. Everyone has a plan as to what is going to be built, but it isn't clear if everyone is on the same page yet. I go over to help and hear murmurs of agreements, disagreements, proposing, and accepting. We all make a plan and then I step back.
"We don't build when someone's inside…[CS] can you stop so I can put on this box" HR echos out, an agreement on which we all decided. This is my favorite moment. The rules of play and the fun of the game are intertwined to the point where the children care about them both equally. Everyone starts waiting their turn to go one after the other alternating from building or climbing through. Every addition brings with it another element of play. CKP adds on to the side of the tunnel to make a return trip more fun. OS and CS build a bridge of boxes to the pathway. HR adds to the roof so that someone can stay inside the tunnel and be protected.
At the end of the day, we save what we can, but eventually all of the pieces will find new home and utilities in new games and inventions that the children make up, but even though the building are ephemeral, the landscape they help foster grows better and bigger every day.