Give to the KCDC

My first post!

Hello!  I am Katy Korte, the director of the Kirksville Child Development Center.  My co-teacher, Kate, and I are hoping to use this blog to share stories from our child-directed, playful classroom.  Given the time, space, materials, and boundaries that young children need to explore and learn, these kids are simply brilliant!  My newsletters to parents over the years have always included a “Classroom Happenings” section where we describe the projects the kids have created and about what they are learning during those (creative, messy, intense, cooperative, self-directed, pack-with-learning) experiences.  I hope to share those stories and articles from other sources with as many people as we can.  Everyone knows (I hope!) that “kids need to play,” but what does that actually look and feel and sound and taste and smell like?

Here is an excerpt from a recent newsletter (and my experiment as I figure out how to post to a blog!).  It speaks loudly of the idea of facilitating play rather than doing direct instruction with young children (much, much more on this later!).

One project that developed last week comes to mind.  After the kids clear the spots after lunch, their main job is to go to the bathroom first and then they can have play time until the lights are turned out.  I used to ask them to go to their cots and look at books, but the invitation to interact and the last burst of energy are just too much to resist.  Instead we leave the tumbling room for book space, and the rest of the building is for playing.  And so, the story…

A couple of kids started to build a platform with the big blocks.  As the space grew, it gained attention from more kids, and soon many were getting blocks from the corner and bringing them to the platform.  Well, the 2 original kids had different ideas in mind about where to put the blocks and were giving the others different directions.  One such disagreement was whether a ramp should go up and then down, or down and then up.  Soon the trampoline was incorporated and the group was calling it a bridge that they walked around in a circle.  The disagreement led to the same block being placed in one spot, then moved, then grabbed a placed back, then moved again, then pulled back and forth.  I was right there reminding them to listen to each other and state what their ideas were, suggesting they find a way they could use both their ideas.  There was yelling and grabbing and pulling and stomping.  At one point I was holding the block until they could agree about where to put it.  In the meantime other kids continued to build and jump and climb.

And then it shifted…

When you have really creative and determined kids who have different ideas about how a project should go, it can get intense.  It is very admirable to stick to your idea and not want it changed.  We often find an “alone spot” for kids who just want to be alone and not have others’ ideas or needs be in their space for a time.  And then there are other times when you can see them choose — choose, at age 4 or 5 — that playing with others can be more fun than sticking to your guns — WOW!  When the project is more important than their one idea, when they are willing to compromise and negotiate and even mentor others to help and even, even to encourage those younger kids to bring their own ideas…

And so the bridge project that could easily ended in hurt feelings and anger (don’t get me wrong, these happen, too) instead became a project that included every single kid.  It grew into a bridge not only of every big block in the building, but carpet squares and blankets and foam blocks until there was a bridge that went all the way around the building so that the kids could navigate without stepping on the floor.  They encouraged each other, shared the space, took turns going around the circle, and had a blast.  What a great kid community!

And they even did pretty good when it was time to go to sleep soon thereafter…

An additional note about the above project is that, although Kate and I plan lots of really engaging projects, the ones the kids come up with themselves, are usually more engaging.  We continue to watch and listen and facilitate play rather than dictating it.

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