Introduce a few kids about 5 and 6 of age to actual metal (adult) tools and their whole demeanor changes. Most want to engage with using these tools and are set on using them properly. Even with little prompting or explaining they tend to be focused on the task at hand. Sure you may have to interject here and there saying, “Ok, make sure the shovel stays on the ground. Or be careful with the end of the rake it may hit so and so. Or you can only use that technique when no one around.” And these are general, just heads up comments that naturally be come dialogue when kids are experimenting with new tools that can be almost twice their height, when propped up.
In our schoolyard we have a mound of extra gravel for filling in shallow spots around our track. For the past few weeks we’ve been keeping active loosing up gravel with the steel rake on the mound, scooping up shovel loads, filling up buckets, and spreading the wealth of gravel around the track. I just introduced the idea one afternoon and they’re stoked about working with adult tools. Of course I’m right there beside them participating, but I have found that they are complacently safe, without any lecture on safety, and quite intrigued on the task at hand. While the group plucked away at the heap of gravel in the yard, the topic of “playing,” came up. It was a short lived dialogue, but when I asked the two helping to shovel and rake the gravel, if we were “playing or working?” – one sided with playing and the other with working. In fact the one who said were working, would periodically comment, “we’re working hard and I want to keep working all afternoon and skip open classroom and studio time.” Both seemed thoroughly involved in what they were doing, and seemed to take great joy in it, but is this work or play. Or are there any delineations between the two?