Sunday, November 24, 2013

Building Castles (and Relationships)

The children have been exploring castle construction in the block center with large cardboard blocks and a variety of small blacks. Recently we introduced the idea of constructing a castle out of recycled materials. The materials were set out and ready when they came in from the playground. Several  Voyagers (preschoolers) joined the Explorers (toddlers) to work on this project. Having the different groups work together adds new elements to the project. The Voyagers have more experience with some of the materials so the Explorers are able to see things in a new way and generate new ideas by observing the Voyagers.

Seeing how the children are working together and communicating with each other has been interesting and is leading to new questions for the teachers. The patience the Voyagers demonstrated with the older Explorers as they worked was not lost on the toddlers. We noticed that the older toddlers were more patient with the younger toddlers who showed an interest in the project. Would this have happened at this point without the modeling from the Voyagers? That is a question that remains to be answered and one we will continue to look at as the year progresses. 

G., J. and B. worked together to attach a tube with tape. There were several attempts before they were successful. B. had started on his own and was struggling. He asked J. for help and she tried to tape it. When she struggled, she suggested B. hold the tube while she taped. The tape was getting tangles so G. helped attach one end as J. held the other and B. held onto the tube. Success at last! Soon after that B. said, “I need tape.” To which G. replied, “I’m getting you some.” B. and G. worked together for a good part of the morning.

S. worked for quite some time to get the tape off the roll and to cut it so that it wouldn’t double over and get stuck to itself. She made several attempts and when she got a piece cut successfully, she exclaimed, “I did it. I got some tape.” She continued cutting tape and applying it the roof of the castle and a tube for a tower. She was able to apply the tape to her tube so that it stayed on top of the castle, which is something she may have picked up from her careful observations of the Voyagers.

After noticing how a teacher had cut notches in a tube for the top of one of the towers, J. tried cutting some tubes to resemble it. After a couple attempts, she asked how the cuts had been made so the teacher showed her. She went back to cutting and was able to make similar notches before attaching her tube to the castle. Some of the other children picked up on this and starting cutting objects with their scissors. 

B. found a paper scrap, held it out toward J., placed it on top of the castle as if he was trying to make it stick and then said something to J. We are wondering if he as trying to ask J. for help in making it stick but he walked away before we could find out. He carried a box around the classroom then brought it over and held it out toward S. as if asking him to attach it to the castle. He changed his mind and took it back but a few minutes later he returned with the lid. He was feeling and pulling the tape so S. helped him with some tape and he placed it on the box by his lid. He then came back and placed a tube on top of the castle.

T. noticed B. peeling tape off the castle that others had just put on. She asked him to stop and a teacher suggested that maybe he would like to help with the castle. T. asked, ‘Do you want some tape? He can borrow mine (to the teacher).’ She gave him her roll of tape but he seemed to be having trouble, which the teacher pointed out. T. said, “I can help him start it,’ which she did. After helping him tear off a long piece of tape, she pointed to the box and told B., “Put it over this castle."

During this time, N. discovered a large leaf that he thought could be used for the castle. A teacher asked him what part it could be and he replied, “Way up.” When asked what he would do with it, he stated he would cut it up and tape it. At this point, the teacher reminded him that castled roofs had been constructed out of grass, sticks or other natural materials because stones were too heavy. So N. cut and tore the leaf until it was in small pieces and then glued it on top of the castle. Josie rolled part of the leaf up, tape sit and the taped it to the castle as well.

Seeing what the Voyagers were doing must have inspired the younger Explorers. Although some waited until the Voyagers had returned to their room to try out some of their ideas. C. worked at cutting with scissors while Lena explored with the tape that was left, trying to pull it off the roll. Leo picked up a pair scissors, poking the leaf with them. It makes me wonder if he was trying to cut the leaf because as nothing happened, he kept poking harder and harder at it.

As the younger children see what the older ones do and how they use materials, what new ideas will they develop. How will their use of the materials change over time? Will the length of time they spend in our program (since they are starting so young), change the way they learn about materials? These questions will continue to provoke the interest and learning of the teachers.