Friday, September 23, 2016

Painting with Feathers

We painted with feathers. (We like painting with various things.) This time we had yellow paint and purple paint.

The boys jumped right in and began experimenting with using the feathers. I listened as they talked about what they were doing.

Painting with Feathers (Brick by Brick)
We also learned that plastic saucers for under planters make great palletes!

Sometimes in these instances I may ask questions. But usually I listen or make obvious narrating statements as they work. ("You are making a lot of purple lines with the feather.") I don't ask what kids are painting. After all, the process - the doing - the experience is what is key here. Whatever we have at the end of the experience is fine (and doesn't need a name).

However, often the kids will supply a description of what they are doing.

"I'm making a yellow road," one said as he used lots of yellow paint on his paper.

Painting with Feathers (Brick by Brick)

"A yellow road," I repeated. He said something else about it.

The other boy continued to work. Then he said, "I'm making brown."

Painting with Feathers (Brick by Brick)

And he was. He carefully painted yellow over the purple on his paper to create a brown color.

I was reminded of David Elkind's idea that kids play to learn what they need to know. This particular boy was exploring color and wanted to know more about it. In fact, he said exactly what he was doing instead of naming an object that he was painting.

And then the other boy wanted to make brown, too. He began to explore what to do to mix the colors and get brown.

Later, another child came to the table. Discussion about brown came up and he explored making the color, too.

I would have never suggested they try to make brown. (Mainly because I wouldn't have thought of it.) But through play and exploration we all discovered that mixing yellow and purple can make brown. (Even if it's not the most attractive color we could have created!)

Often in our painting activities we create some type of brown or gray. This is the first time (at least that I can remember) that we made brown ON PURPOSE.

I call that a successful exploration.

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

Free to Learn

I'm starting a new book for reading and reflecting--Free to Learn by Peter Gray.

I've read some quotes and references to this book. And it must be popular because I had to wait to get it from the library.

I read the prologue - and decided that it is exactly the book for me to read.

Peter Gray writes, "Children come into the world burning to learn and genetically programmed with extraordinary capacities for learning. They are little learning machines." They learn to walk and run and move in all kinds of ways. They learn to understand what people are saying to them...and learn how to respond back in kind. They learn to use language to gain knowledge or express their own ideas. (They even learn to have their own ideas!) They engage with the world around them and absorb knowledge and skills through their interactions and play.

But, something happens along the way. He writes, "Nature does not turn off this enormous desire and capacity to learn when children turn five or six. We turn it off with our coercive system of schooling." The way we do school causes many (most? all?) kids to begin to dislike "learning."

Peter Gray's experiences with his own son affected him and his research. He began to explore learning and examine other types of schooling (such as un-schooling). He gained insights in using play and maintaining the "joys of childhood" was possible in the education process.

I'm looking forward to reading this book - seeing what he says and how it both supports and challenges my own ideas about play and learning.

Here's the line-up.

1 - What Have We Done to Childhood?
2 - The Play-Filled Lives of Hunter-Gatherer Children
3 - Why Schools Are What They Are: A Brief History of Education
4 - Seven Sins of Our System of Forced Education
5 - Lessons from Sudbury Valley: Mother Nature Can Prevail in Modern Times
6 - The Human Educative Instincts
7 - The Playful State of Mind
8 - The Role of Play in Social and Emotional Development
9 - Free Age Mixing: A Key Ingredient for Children's Capacity for Self-Education
10 - Trustful Parenting in Our Modern World