Thursday, January 26, 2012

Learning from our children: 10:30am Wonder Studio

Each week when I set up the classroom, I pay careful attention to the classroom environment.  My teaching methods are strongly based on the materials that are offered.  If they are not inviting the children in or provoking the children to explore in multiple ways, I must rethink it's value in the room.  I will consider how it's being offered and what might be changed to suggest more intentional play and/or social interactions.

This week many of the materials were the same as last week. The children seemed to come in with more confidence and understanding of what to expect when they arrived.  As one Grandmother stated, "She loves doing the Flour pool but is going much deeper in her exploration today than last week."  That statement so excited me because it epitomizes what I try to do at Wonder Studio each week.  Often I feel adults diminish children by talking about their short attention span.  I have not experienced that with young children, I feel it's quite the opposite.  When we trust in children and give them opportunity to experience open ended materials multiple times, we see new ideas emerging.  
So... today a very exciting social interaction occurred between two toddlers!  It was an enlightening learning experience for all of us(especially the adults!!).

Below is K. who worked so hard in setting up his animals.  You see how he took his time and carefully thought out his arrangement.  Mom is sitting back, not intervening but offering support through nonverbal recognition. Yay!!
I have discovered that taking pictures of children working often lets them know that I find their work important and valuable and therefore they think their work is important and valuable!

Along comes R. whose eye is caught by this beautiful arrangement of animals and he wants to participate.  He begins to take some of the animals and K. struggles with his interjection.  Mom urges K. to share and the struggle begins to intensify.  But when I suggest that Mom let him be and we can explore what might happen if we don't insist on sharing... the magic began!!  I think K's mom might have thought I had lost my gourd, but... she agreed to give it a try.
The interaction immediately switched from a parent/child battle to a social interaction between the children.  They did struggle (not physically) but emotionally.  K. and R. passed (some might say TOOK) the animals back and forth.  K. at one point was close to tears but both Moms bravely stood back and continued their nonverbal support and the boys sorted it out themselves.  R. offered one of the animals to K.  K. used his words and said No to him. I felt a strong feeling of empowerment from both boys in that they were allowed to actually practice their problem solving skills together.  

It was a perfectly ordinary moment but so beautiful to me in the discovery that our children are innately driven to problem solve and we don't have to "save" them.  We can take a risk and just let them be.  

I hope the Mamas aren't embarrassed by my putting this interaction on the forefront but I found it to be a wonderful moment of how we can learn from our little ones!!

I am constantly in awe and amazement of these children!  Here J. uses the corks from the water table to explore line, symmetry, number, shape, and who knows what else.  I know so many teachers who would have walked by and said, "Keep the corks in the water table" but at Wonder Studio we are open, aware, and RESPECTFUL!   We take delight in new uses for materials and encourage this Sense of Wonder and curiosity!!  The best thing is that it teaches US about our children.  We can discover what really interests our children and how we can look for opportunities to allow them to delve deeper into learning about themselves.  This is the secret to their success as well as our own success at this parenting thing.  Learning what we are good at, at a younger age allows us to hone in on that and become an expert in our field.  How many of us spend our whole lives not really knowing what we are good at, what we enjoy, and how can we make a living and still be happy?

Here is W. joyfully squirting himself in the face with the spray bottle.  This kind of learning can't be packaged, planned, or taught by anyone other than himself!

My Least Favorite Word!! 9am Wonder Studio

Wow!  Is all I am left with after these 2 classes this week.  So much happened...the children dug so deep in their interactions, explorations, and experimenting.  Today's classes made re birthing Wonder Studio so worth it!!  
You can see E. in the above picture (who took my classes last year, a Wonder Studio Alum, if you will;), taking the Insta Snow to the next level.  Her experiment was so well thought out and calculated and provided all of us with questions, joy, and curiosity!  
She was so motivated to share her idea with me and it made me so thrilled to be her teacher.  Although of course I think of her as the teacher!!

Here is Indiana Jones who spent much of the first 2 classes in observation mode, which was respected by Mom (although not to say it wasn't easy!).  In today's class he spent focused time exploring the experiences with relish and with Sound Effects!!

It about broke my heart when N. desperately needed to explore adding water to the flour and I had to say No (One of my least favorite words in the Wonder Studio!).  But this is one of my biggest challenges as a teacher is the consideration of my own family (Sad, right?).  Cleaning up flour and water (or as I like to call it glue) is so time consuming and after classes I am often in a rush to return home to little Guy to relieve the babysitter (who has a Master's degree in Education, how lucky am I?) as well as my engorged breast feeding body, that I haven't thought of a way YET, to allow the children free reign on this material.  BUT I am determined that it will happen and N.'s intention was not ignored and she is a force to be reckoned with, I PROMISE!!!  It will happen!!!