Tuesday, April 21, 2015

free to take risks

When the weather is fine they choose to spend our gym period outside. We race to the back corner of the school yard where the trees grow wild and there are so many hiding places.

 I've learned to relax about rules, and to deal with making them with the children when the need arises. When a child asks me to boost them up into the tree higher than they can climb on their own, I kindly decline. 

Upon reflection, the children agree that getting up and down safely, confidently, and independently is more important than getting higher up with help (and possibly being afraid or getting hurt).

They express their personal experiences of the outdoors by pretending to camp or hunt. Stories are told around these camp fires, and hearts pound in a game of chase-and-find.

They experiment with the spring of a low branch, and only go as far as they can reach without falling or breaking the branch. This they do without instruction or warning. By taking risks, they learn to assess the ways they might damage themselves or their environment. Their confidence and coordination grows, and they file away this experience for future use.

Sometimes they want to just gather and chat in small groups.

Sometimes they find a place to hang out all alone.

One little hand explores the marks left behind by tiny creatures and wonder at the paths she finds there.

A huge boulder just outside the boundaries of the school yard, combined with a part of the fence where they can squeeze through invites them (with permission) to scale its side and pose for some artsy photos. I wish all children could experience the sheer freedom of a play space without boundaries!

Suddenly, a hand-full of leaves tossed into the air is plastered to the fence by the wind. "The fence is magnetic!" The cry goes up and several run to join in covering as much of the fence with leaves as possible before the wind dies down. They marvel at how they can defy gravity with the help of the wind!
Another rule arises when the girls decide to create a shelter. Long limbs pivot and fall heavily, and one ill-timed swivel results in one of the boys being "clotheslined" at full speed. We discuss the use of long branches and decide that it might be safer to limit ourselves to only using branches that are the same height as the children.

They work hard and play hard, and I'm always reluctant to tell them that it's time to return to the four walls of our classroom. They are growing right before my eyes, in their strength, coordination, endurance, confidence, and ability to set safe boundaries for themselves. 

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Shadows: An Inquiry Begins

This morning during our play and inquiry time, many of the children chose to play outside. I noticed one girl up on the hill, dancing slowly and concentrating carefully. It soon became clear that she was watching the movements of her shadow, so long and clear in the bright morning sun. I quickly shot a brief video of her, along with a boy who had joined her to squirt water from a bottle. His shadowed wiggled and shifted with his enjoyment of his play, but did not draw his attention.

As soon as the children returned to the classroom I shared the video on our screen. I asked them what they thought M was doing. "dancing", "karate kicks", "ballet", and "wiggling" were some of their responses. I asked them to watch the video again, this time noticing what was happening around the girl and boy.

Right away someone called out, "Shadows!", so we watched the video one more time with the shadows as a focus. The children noticed how the shadow was long, dark, and imitated the movements of the students.

We generated a list of their thoughts and ideas about shadows:
  • Shadows are bigger than we are
  • Sometimes they go away when the clouds come
  • The clouds block the sun and it has to be half clouds and half sun. 
  • My shadow does whatever I'm doing. It's like a video outside but it's not on a screen.
  • The sun is very bright and the back of you reflects the sun.
  • It makes the same shape as you.
  • The sun shines down on your back but not in front of you so that's why your shadow is in front of you.
  • There are all different shapes of shadows.
  • When you're driving, the car has a shadow too. When I stuck my hand out of the car I saw its shadow!
  • The sun shines on your belly and the shadow is on your back.
We explored our knowledge of shadows by using the bright sunlight that pours into our classroom! Someone just donated a box of dinosaurs to our class so we used these to create shadows, and traced them. This was challenging because the children had to work around their art without blocking the sunlight!

When they finished, they filled their shapes with black paint. Some chose to cut their shapes out. Later in the day we went outside and two of the children noticed that their shadows were holding hands! We observed that our shadows looked smaller than the one from this morning had. Tomorrow I think we'll trace our shadows through the day to make some conclusions about how they change according to the sun's position in the sky.