Growing A "Kinder"Garden

Boys flying cars across the room… Girls playing “nice and quietly”… So typically kindergarten. But hold on… WAIT! A question can change it all…

Posted on: January 10, 2012

Today the boys were busy…  Lego airplanes flying (aka children running), cars flying down the wooden ramp (CRASH!), bullets hitting the oncoming ‘bad guys’…

The girls were at the house cooking banana bread (aka putting a banana and a bun in a cake pan), making pictures at the art center, making Chinese New Year dragon hats, and generally sitting quietly…

Welcome to a typical Kindergarten center time!

18 years I’ve been at this work that I love and I still cringe when one of those cars smashes a precious wee one in the head or one ‘flying’ child topples over and gets a big boo boo.  The energy seems so frenetic and unfocused.  And, it drives me to dithers to see the girls on the other side of the room playing ‘nicely’ but separate from the boys.  Such different creatures they are!  I’d love to be able to ‘mix up’ those gender roles and see what happens.  But how?

Time and time again I hear the ringing in my ears of age old adages.  “Boys will be boys and girls will be girls engaging in these kinds of play probably until the end of time.” I’m tired of playing the same old tape in my head.  SOOOO…  I ask myself, what can I do to harness this amazing energy and chanel it into exciting learning?  Or, to think in a new way, how can I *listen* more carefully and get to the heart of what’s really going on in that play?  Would getting curious and starting meaningful conversations change the play in any way?  I wonder too if the play I am seeing really *is* frenetic and unfocused for the boys and steretypically ‘nice and quiet’ for the girls?  Hmmmm…..

I’ve been researching project based learning for quite awhile now and my philosophy is slowly changing.  It’s taken a while to come to where I am and today I took a first step that has been a long time coming.  Because I’m excited about this step, I’d like to share.  I’d add photos but the children’s faces are prominent and I don’t want them on the internet.  I’ll do my sharing through writing.  Here goes!

As I watched the boys crashing the cars down the ramp  I approached and instead of saying ‘stop the crashing or the cars go away’ (I admit it – I’ve uttered these words many many times) I made a simple request.  “Tell me what you are trying to do”.  R (a boy) told me he was trying to get the car to “Go far enough”.  When I asked what he meant R said “It won’t go over there where I want it to, so I need to smash it”.  When I looked at the ramp the boys were using R’s words made so much sense!  They were using two wooden planks – one laying flat on the floor and another leaning up against a table.  The place the two ramps met created a stopping point that wouldn’t let the car do what they wanted.  It got stuck and that was frustrating.  To make the car do what they wanted they needed to throw it hard!

At the end of center time I brought the class together.  I introduced the word ‘theory’ and asked each child to give me theirs.  Why does the car get stuck?  How could they fix the ramp so the car doesn’t get stuck?  Each child, both boys and girls, had interesting things to say.  Here are some of the girls’ comments:

C -”When this is up the cars can go slowly down and then slowly there (points to sloped ramp. picks it up, and makes the incline less steep).  That’s what my mom does to go shopping – she goes slowly down (the ramp).”  (Imagine the Superstore ramp!)

N – “I’m holding the car.  You hold the car while it’s going down so then the car can’t break.  Don’t let it (the car) go.”

B – “At the bottom if we change it to a softer one (she changes the ramp so there is less of an incline) it would work better.  The cars would have a soft landing”.

Here are some of the boys’ comments:

R – “If I could put this lower (places ramp on a less steep incline) and not too steep like J did the cars could go straight through.”

J – “Put the ramp this way.  It’s shorter then.  Then it can do that and go there and it won’t stop.” (As he points to the ramp imagining a car, then gets a car, lets it go, and it doesn’t stop.  It does what he wants.)

JE – “Stick this over here and put this there.  CH help me!  It’s like a bridge.”  (He has CH hold one ramp, he holds the other).  I asked how the ramps would stay when there was no one to hold them.  JE said “It’s too heavy”.  Then put down the ramp and walked away.  I asked where he was going and JE said “To play”!  CH (who is a girl) stayed to work on the ramp a little more, then walked around the room asking others to help her figure out a ramp that would work.  She found another girl and together they built a ramp that worked perfectly.

I found it interesting that the girls had such amazing theories.  I would never have guessed!  I’m excited to see what will happen tomorrow.  Will the interest continue?  Or fade away?  Will any of the girls get called to the ramps to build?  Will anyone find a way to make a ramp work the way they envision?  If interest continues maybe we’ll explore this topic further and I’ll continue to document through words and photos.  If not, then I’ll be keeping my ears open for other opportunities.

Today was an epiphany!  Such an exciting job… Lucky me!

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1 Response to "Boys flying cars across the room… Girls playing “nice and quietly”… So typically kindergarten. But hold on… WAIT! A question can change it all…"

I found that what my children watched on Television greatly influenced how they played. If they watched violent or “hero” based shows they tried acting out the subject during play time. Animal centered shows had them being tigers and elephants. The saddest thing was when my mother passed away and my grandson thought she would be back the next day because that is what happened to the stars on TV. Is this what is driving children to take guns to school?

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