Each week in my classroom I carefully choose materials to place in each part of the room. I have an idea of what the children may do with the materials. Of course, we must always allow for the ideas of the kids, too. Right?
The kids in my classroom now are reminding me that the joy of learning is the doing - the exploring and discovering. They take what's there and do what they want with it. (Nothing inappropriate, usually.) Here's what happened a couple of weeks ago.
I put out our cars (at a child's request from the previous week) and black paper strips (for roads). These were added to the blocks center. When the first child came to the center, I pointed out the black strips and commented they were available for roads or whatever.
He began to build. He made a few roads. Then he made roads that went over the blocks.
He tried different variations of road strips and blocks. He drove his car on, over, and around. The car even had an unfortunate leap from the top of a building.
I had never thought about putting the road pieces on the blocks. But he did. In exploring the materials in different ways, he was discovering something new. (And so was I.)
Later, a couple of other boys began lining up the cars, one behind the other, across the area.
When I saw it, I just watched for a while. I commented, "You are putting the cars in a line."
"Yes," a boy said. "This is traffic." (And it does look like Nashville traffic does at times.)
"I see," I said. "I think I've been in traffic like that before."
"We were," he said. Then he told me a story about his family from the past week.
He was exploring what had happened to him and processing it. He was discovering more about driving in a big city with lots of traffic. (Sometimes it's frustrating and you're at the end of the line.)
In another area of the room, we had mirrors and dry erase markers. I planned for children to draw and write on the mirrors like dry erase boards. That did happen.
But later another child wanted to explore the mirrors further. She walked around the room and looked at different things in the reflection. Then she added a mirror to our writing box. Soon another mirror appeared there, too.
She was exploring mirrors and what the room looks like in it. She was discovering more about reflection and light and artistic expression.
I'm committed to allowing exploration - allowing kids to try things in different ways - to do things "just because." In doing so, they are discovering what they need to know about the world.
And teaching me a few things, too.