Thursday, October 2, 2014

The Outdoor Classroom, Part Two: Crossing the Creek

The children took water from our outdoor water table and poured it on the ground. They watched it pool into a small depression along the cinder block wall, and got some more water. I sat to the side and watched for the next 40 minutes as they played with no adult intervention.

"Let's make a creek!"
"We need more water."

Without asking for permission, she took this problem unto herself and went inside to fill her bucket.

All of the children excitedly grabbed the log slices from the old milk crate by the door, and placed them across the big puddle they'd created. They added some taller log pieces as well as piles of rocks.

They immediately and peacefully lined up to cross the creek. Some balanced themselves with one hand on the wall, others hopped as if they were playing hopscotch. They waited patiently while each person crossed in his/her own way. 

One very quiet child observed the play from a distance.

Other children continued filling buckets to add to their creek. One in particular was very interested in creating an island using poplar branches we'd gathered after a windy day, and a pile of rocks. He was very interested in how the water flow changed as he added materials to block it.

I wondered how long the children would play with the same layout, as their first path was "easy" (in that the log pieces travelled in a line, closely spaced). It didn't take long till they began to relish the physical challenge of moving the log pieces around to make new and more challenging paths.

"'s the problem...this is the tricky part!"
"I can't believe it! This way is even harder!"
"Hey! I have an idea! Let's put a boat in the water!"

The next day, a few children played the creek game, but gradually faded away to kick the soccer ball or paint on the chalk lines they'd drawn on the cinder block wall.

The last child to cross the creek was the shy observer from the day before, who was waiting till the crowd dispersed.

So what was I doing all this time? I sat and marvelled as they shouted, balanced, challenged themselves physically, solved problems, collaborated, took risks, discussed their findings, used the materials they found around them, and had more fun than any adult-initiated, pre-organized game could ever offer. I took photos and detailed notes to document their play, and thought ahead to new challenges I could present to deepen their play and understanding.

Next week I think we'll take a walk to the creek down the road and I'll wait and see what happens.

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