Archive for category Messy Play

Earth Science and Curriculum: A Must!

Some kids always manage to find the only mud puddle after a rainy day in the schoolyard; others may grip a handful of soil in their efforts to catch a centipede. Kids unless taught other wise yearn to comb their fingers through the soil, skip a stone across a brook, and stack, sort, and collect materials form the earth. However, not all kids have the privilege of the earthy bounty, if it is paved over by concrete. In this case we can make attempts to either venture on field trips that provide this an outdoor outlet or head to the nearest park around your school. Nature is more than just a playground; it is has pertinent lessons that can conceivable carry a lifetime.

The optimal situation for shaping learning experiences in the field of science is a dose of creative improvisation, a neighborhood park, the back yard, or the schoolyard. Kids find just the right experiments in earth science, when adults provide, well just the right dose of ingenuity, resourcefulness, and creativity.

Providing simple raw earth materials in the play yard at school or at home, can foster deeper connections into the field of science, improve balance and coordination, aspiring innovative ideas, promote cooperative games, and allow the space for kids empower themselves. Having these natural materials in the areas that youth spend significant time costs next to nothing – logs, stumps, wood, gravel, stones, bamboo sticks, all, will certainly do the trick. Car, truck, or tractor size tires (I know, not exactly natural, but is definitely utilitarian and enables ways to reuse, what would probably end up in a landfill.) can provide timeless opportunities for a hiding out, hanging out, building forts, for climbing over, in, and around or for inspiring imaginative play.
Boulders of a smooth surface also can be implemented into the play yard for shimming around, for attempted boulder climbs, and make the perfect spot for basking in the sunlight. Not to mention, the top surface can be a congregation for science experiments, such as mixing sand, mud, or clay. In the yard at our Community school we’re fortunate enough to a have a clay based soil, which with a bit of water and creative juices can make whatever sculpture a young mind what’s to wrap their imagination around.

Wooden stumps makes just the right obstacle course, table, chair, or desired object to topple over or roll across the yard, with all a four years olds might. Stumps also make perfect stepping stones (alright wood to be exact, but you get the picture) for setting up bridges, for stacking, or for balancing other wooden planks.

Outside is a haven for transporting objects; stacked tires can become a portal for a rocket ship or rabbit hole. Soil, sand, gravel, and woodchips, can become the volcano. Plants that are resilient to being pulled, poked, and picked need to accessible for young hands to harvest. Lemon Balm, Rose Mary, and Peppermint are a few prolific plants we have in our garden at school that are open range for picking.

Adventuring into the outdoors also entails leaving school behind. Our class does a fieldtrip a week. There is the neighborhood park where there is a grouping of cedar trees with just the right limbs and density for climbing great heights. The branches out also quite pliable making the lower level like springboards for jumping off.

The Community School I teach at is now working on a play yard revitalization project. The mission is to transform our Big yard into an area the interconnects the urban setting into a more green hiatus that is physically more challenging, promotes more opportunities for sensory integration, leaves more green space for kids to congregate and pick flowers and edible herbs, and provides materials that one may stumble over in a natural setting such as chunky size stumps, mountainous size boulders, and tall slender grass for hiding out at catching ones breath. The core of this project has been a creative influx of energy from parents and teachers who have a dedication towards making the school more green, sustainable, and honorable of supporting the whole child, and this goes along with the ideas of presenting outdoor materials to expand the curriculum. Much of the decision making of what materiuals would optimally suite our grounds and the kids have been through observation of their general interests, while taking into account the positioning on the sun during the day and how the designing of the project can include their youths interactions for greater opportunities. For example, our hillside will be build into terraces that enable to construction of a slide, an rock climbing wall, and bouldering wall, a rain catchment barrel with spickot will enable kids to have access to water for mixing projects, a trail will connect the main features along the hill, while resilient grasses and wildflowers will allow for roaming, stamping, tumbling, and picking.

The transformation of a school yard is vital part of any curriculum at a school. This open space for uninterrupted playing during “recess” time is paramount not only to the health and well-being of a child, but is another extension of the curriculum. Customizing a yard to suite the interests of individuals and groups of kids at school does not demand elaborate play structures or playground systems that come, but conscious creative envisioning that puts the growth of the whole child in mind. And the takes time, some envisioning by parents, teachers, and the school community, before the actual work can be done. In the end, outside space is just as precious, if not a bit more than the classroom environment when it comes to learning.

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Dont’ Fuss The Messy Clothes

Stanley thoroughly enjoys pushing the Tonka truck around; splashing through puddles, until he realizes his pants getting wet. He looks at me with gazing eyes, pouting about how his mom will soon be picking him up. I reassure him that at school, that it is OK to get wet, muddy, and messy. “You can always take a warm bath and change later,” I let him know. I have to confess I love the radical idea of kids piling into their parents SUV or station wagon, with at least a splash of paint or part of the earth on them. It reassures that as a teacher we are doing our job of not insulating kids psychologically, emotionally, and physically from the elements of their natural environment and of the sheer joy of experimenting with their surroundings. These marks of messes on their clothes are the indicators of architects, artists, scientists, and earthmovers in training – who are laying the foundation to higher learning. And a teacher or parents fuss over soiled, wet, or other wise “dirty” clothes can place a real damper on the spirit of self-discovery. Stanley, with his worried eyes of hearing his mother’s reaction, with a shameful sort of expression should not even be a concern at age four. It is his mother’s issue. And before we make a fuss about clothing we should at least let’s ask ourselves: Should a child’s natural; development towards a full sensory experience in learning be thwarted or limited, over messy clothes or spilled milk?

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Don’t Sweat the Mess: Kids at Work

It is pick up time, a time not well loved. Instead, after just about everything is picked up, I discover a gang of dodgers under the loft laughing. The teacher has spotted them and I ask them what they picked up today, while holding my composure not to laugh myself. The underneath section of the loft, which is superb for finding a nook or cranny, is now covered in masks, dress up clothes, and puppets. It is quite evident that they were staging a pick up protest.
During our pick up time, most will volunteer, some will dilly dawdle sticking toys in their mouth or sprawl out as if ther about to keel over, while others will stake it out under the loft or fade into the background. There is nothing fun about clean up time, even if we pretend. What the hell is so exciting about picking up puzzle pieces, rubber bands, peg boards, game pieces, books, dolls, doll clothing, crayons, colored pencils, glue sticks, paper, scissors, magnets, magnify glasses, play kitchen utensils, play food, puppets, cars, trains, tracks, felt pieces, linking logs,legos, hundreds of wooden blocks etc.

Compulsory clean up does not exist at our school, nor would I ever feel humane about authorizing it. A neat and tidy environment is not of concrete value to kids, and the making of the mess is a creative endeavor. Kids are professional mess makers because they intrinsically seek play, like a dose of sunshine.

Figuring out how to pour juice requires a spill. Learning to thread beads onto a strand of yarn entails scattered beads. Sifting sand in a sensory table makes for a sandy floor.

Play and messing up the classroom run parallel at any environment where there is a pack of kids. Pick up is not an obligation at our school; it is s cooperative effort, which is appreciated, if the willingness is there.

We don’t ride herd over people to pick up or breath down their necks, however it is sometimes frustrating for a teacher to have to pick up a hundreds of toys a day. We certainly thank the willing hands that cooperate in the activity of picking up, but don’t pamper them with codependent language, such as “good job” or “nice work.” Words like this our carrots dangling at the end of the stick, where eventually the natural self willingness to help out is diminished by an expectation of appraise. We don’t sing a catchy jingle during this time, as teachers we just remind them that it is a time to pick up.

At pick up time we usually ask them what they would like to pick up today. We don’t ask, “Who was playing with this?” Or, Tommy you need to pick up this because you were playing with it. There are often over a dozen kids in a classroom and keeping tabs on who played with what is hair splitting, too controlling. We don’t investigate the mess to find out a list of names. The mess is everyone’s mess and we created it, now it is time to pick it up.

Certainly asking a 2 and a half-year old to pick up stuff off the floor may be like pulling teeth. And guiding them through the process like a robot is not going to instill any valuable social skill, except the acknowledgement that the teacher is a butt. I’ve seen it before even in progressive schools, where the teacher excepts all to perform their clean up duty, where physical coercion is used – a manipulation of the hand or a beg and plead.

At snack time we ask again that they clean up their spot. Often times their peers remind each other. Again it has become sort of a preschool routine, however we don’t enforce it. As they help themselves to juice, water, and snack they can also pick up their napkin and empty cup.

Pick-up or clean up is what it is – another adult expectation. And an expectation is a value or ideology imposed onto another person. An expectation does not truly honor the autonomy of another, yet societies and schools are inculcated with these certaincomplicities.

A designated pick-up time is one of those adult expectations pinned on youth. It is just that – not mandatory. Instead, as adults in preschools learn to appreciate a well constructed mess. It is a part of the creation process, no matter how annoying

Preschool Punks. All rights reserved. For permission to reprint/publish, please contact Paul at riseout@riseup.net

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