This week I visited Sabot School at Stony Point in Richmond, Virginia. Sabot is a Pre-K through grade 8 independent school running a program that is Reggio Emilia inspired. I’ve been a practitioner and learner within the Reggio inspired world since 1996 and I continue to find ways to grow. This year Sabot’s school-wide Umbrella project is based on the book, Listen by Patty Wipfler. As I explored the corridors filled with beautiful, child-designed projects, I was reminded of the wonder within the child.
When observing children it can be easy to jump on the first sign of a shared interest. For instance, this year’s class has been strongly devoted to playing “family” since day one. In the beginning, I thought, “Oh! I see they are curious about families. We can dive right into this!” In past years, this meant quickly gathering supporting materials (books, real-world-objects) to support the development of questions and ideas. I was worried that if I waited, I would miss the opportunity to build on a shared idea. This week at Sabot I learned to change my lens a bit.
As teachers, we are encouraged to listen with our whole being to understand a child’s true intent. First observations regularly point out obvious, surface topics or trajectories. Upon further observation and questioning, we can draw forward the children’s thinking. We can help each child bring their theories to light and assist them as they test these ideas through investigation.
When reflecting on this family play, I am beginning to wonder if it is not so much the family unit that they are exploring, but the power of being in charge. In this game, there is often one member of the family that is “in charge” and directs the others’ actions. It is not always the same child. Sometimes “the boss” is more diplomatic, sometimes more autocratic. Whatever style the family leader tries on, the peers’ reactions to requests (or demands) begin to create an internal rule book for “how to be in charge and still get people to do things with you.” I’m looking forward to exploring this perspective on “family play” with them in the upcoming weeks.
We had the most perfect snow for our Forest 4s this past week!
Oh my! I can’t believe it’s this time of year already. We began creating stories for our script early in January and have now come down to what I think will be our final direction. This in no way ensures that changes won’t be made. In fact, if history has taught us anything in Pre-K, the characters are sure to change in these last two weeks of writing. Remember, this story is written by the Pre-K students. You’ll find all sorts of silliness and that is just the way we like it. Here is a copy of our draft thus far. We’ll figure out a title, change the format to look more like a play, and begin planning costumes and sets once we return from Spring Break.
Once upon a time, there were 2 little pigeons playing basketball. Two Big Baby Ducklings came along and said, “What are you doing?” Then the 2 pigeons ran into their house. The BBDs were very hungry and now they were grumpy. They tried to blow down the house.
2 police officers came. “Halt!” They captured the 2 BBDs and took them to the police car.
The 2 pigeons decide to watch tv. They were watching The Pigeon on the bus.
(On the tv.)
Pigeon decides to drive somewhere and get some mac and cheese. Then pigeon gets dressed in blue stuff. Then she puts on some make-up. She has to go to an important meeting with her friend Red Panda. They drive to the meeting.
Penguin, Rainbow Spring, and Grape are at the meeting. They are talking about work. (work talk). Rainbow Spring and Grape accidentally end the meeting by being too silly. Penguin, Red Panda, and Pigeon get back on the bus and leave. After they drive for a while, they stop and go to sleep.
(Back at the pigeon house)
The 2 pigeons go back out to play basketball again. Everyone that isn’t BBDs or police slowly comes over and says, “Can we play, too?”
Then they all get tired and fall asleep in a heap.
The police officers drive the BBDs to jail. The BBDs say, “We just wanted some food!” “O.K.,” says the police, “we have a cage that can help you with that!” The cage is made out of bananas, so the BBDs eat the banana jail. The police say, “We’ll drive you back if you say please.” The BBDs say, “Please drive us back.” The police drive them back to the pigeons’ home.
Everyone was inside when they arrived. The BBDs knock on the pigeons’ door. “Who’s there?” says the pigeons. “The BBDs, can we please have some food?” replied the ducklings. “Sure!” said the pigeons, “Here’s an apple.” “Come in guys, we have some yummy food in here.” “You can have as much as you want.”
Everyone has a party at the pigeon house.
Our car is coming along. In fact today it was suggested that it should be a camper instead since we are “making” such a long trip. Since I’m pretty sure I won’t be able to stay awake for the whole drive to Florida, I thought it would be good to train some fellow navigators. This atlas we’ve been looking over is way too complicated. We decided to start with something a bit simpler.
We began with Map My Neighboorhood by Jennifer Boothroyd. In this book, we learn how to draw our own maps. We begin with a list of the places we would like to include and work from there.
Our first attempt was made out on the Northbound Trail. The children used a large notebook, scissors, paper scraps, and glue sticks to create the areas they felt were important. This map was made together.
The most difficult parts were deciding what to include and choosing a size for each piece. Scale might be a bit beyond us at this point, but the practice with position in space was valuable.
Our next mapmaking enterprise took place in the classroom. Each child created their own map. I set up the paper first with the locations of the doors and windows marked. When placing the paper in front of the children, I made sure that their paper was oriented so that the doors and windows were aligned with the room. The children had many different takes on what was important to include on their classroom map. None of you will be surprised to hear that the loft was almost always the first furniture added.
Two of our dear friends moved back to Florida last week. We are already missing their smiles. Sigh….
No worries! The children have a plan….
We’re going on a road trip to Florida! Yippee! Oh, fine, it is only imaginary, but we can still make our plans. To assist in the planning, I photocopied all of the pertinent states from my trusty road atlas and stitched them together with old-fashioned scotch tape. The class was quite surprised to find such a spaghetti mess of roads between here and there. Yet undaunted, they began to take action.
First, the children decided we needed a car to get there. Enter our trusty stand-by, a nice empty box.
Here are a few bits demonstrating the process and explaining some of the technical details:
I think we’ll need to attack the map next….
Our cup creations have evolved from balancing to creating large scale pictures. As the children were building this image, they discussed the placement of the colors to create a shark. I noticed something a bit different when looking from my head height.
When the children realized what I was smiling about, they wished to see from my perspective as well.
Now much of our building must be viewed from “up high.”