Playdates and Projects
Weekly field trips at TOADS rotate through a list that includes self-care and safety skills, arts and classroom readiness, forage-to-fork food processing, and community involvement. Today we met at a student's home for a class that met multiple objectives: Doll Wearing!
During free play time, parents took turns respectfully coaching children through challenging social interactions. Conflict was resolved by face-to-face listening and child-to-child suggestions for reaching an agreement. Adults offered the least amount of help necessary, as we do when the children are taking on new physical challenges.
Older and younger children are used to playing together in our classes, and they learn to make allowances for each other's developmental stages, setting the stage for accepting varying levels of social skills from their peers as well.
When everyone had settled in, we gathered in a circle as Teacher Janet started the class routine, then introduced the expert who would be coaching us through a complicated carry. Our school is fortunate to have several babywearing educators enrolled, and one of them was able to make a fun story out of the knot-tying steps for a traditional sling carry. The children all listened closely, and were excited for their turn to make a wrap and wear the "babies" they had brought.
Maria Montessori reminds us that learning multi-step skills is the precursor to success in long division, and in life. Shinichi Suzuki reminds us that abilty begets ability. So as these children spend their playtime wearing dolls, with wraps they made themselves, they are not just learning to be nurturing caregivers, but are also learning to excel at the less important tasks of manipulating numbers, building machines, and creating great art.
Do you have trouble playing children's games? I do! Even when I was a child I had a hard time getting into my peers games. So when I got to be the teacher playing Hide and Seek with the kiddos today, I had to do a quick internal pep talk of some of the academic and social benefits of the game so I could be genuinely enthusiastic:
• Engaging in a group activity
• Suggesting and agreeing on a set of rules
• Waiting for a formal start and end to the activity
• Planning and prediction when choosing a hiding space, or seeking a hider
• Navigating new terrain and pushing past new textures
• Counting by 1's, 2's, and in Spanish
I enjoyed myself so much that I almost lost track of the time!
It was so good to see the community work together during circle time to support a student who was using clear language and appropriate boundary-setting tools with a friend who was pestering her, and to also offer support and suggestions to the student doing the pestering.
During story tag, we got to see the speed boat vignette begin its evolution into more complex storyline, and Teacher Janet had the chance to do a little coaching on the challenges of waiting to be picked by peers. This is tough, since students waiting for a turn are experiencing both the expected fairness of waiting for their turn, and the social dynamic of peers choosing their most familiar friends first. We will be working on this from both directions as we continue the story tag format for a few weeks!
After class, the joyful chaos of a Valentine's Day card exchange was finished off with a solid dose of dog poop on gear, but this is a farm-based school, after all. What would class be without a little muck to clean up afterwards?