I have been thinking about ways to continue to connect the children to the information and stories that were shared during the wolf presentation. We have had invitations to draw from photos of wolves (and their prey) on the tables during the morning play time. And on both Wednesday and Friday I held a small group clay appointment, posing the following question to the preschoolers: how can you use clay to tell the stories we learned during the wolf presentation? Today the group focused primarily on the mechanics of building a wolf and building a den: they were focusing on the story of the mama wolf digging a den for her and her wolf pups. They used a variety of strategies with differing degrees of effectiveness and differing degrees of frustration. The group as a whole learned a lot about the clay today. Even if they have a more open-ended invitation to work with it in the future, I have a hunch that this work with more constraints pushed them toward coming up with some new solutions for expressing themselves with this media.
The Den – The basic problem involved how to create the negative space inside of a den.
The Wolf – The basic problem involved how to translate what they know from 2-D drawing and photos into a 3-D version of the animal which would be structurally sound.
I was excited by the depth of the work the children did today and to see how this will influence their future work with the language of clay. At the same time, as a teacher there is an almost constant dialogue in my head–how much do I push or challenge? How much do I direct? How much do I pull them back to the task at hand when they start to wander? For example, in the past I have often allowed children to leave the work as soon as they decided they were ready to move on. After seeing how long preschool children were able to work on a project at one of the Reggio schools, I realized that maybe I could try to help children build a little more stamina and focus. So, for today, I told them that we’d remain at the clay table for the entirety of explore time. This decision was met with a significant amount of resistance from some children and allowed others to truly deepen their investigation. In the past, if one or two children moved on it was more likely for others to suddenly stop and also decide to move on and play, even if it appeared that they were pretty interested and focused. Today, there were several children who probably would have continued working well into lunch time if that had been possible and others who were definitely mad about my holding them to a different expectation. It is a tension that I will continue to explore and fine tune (probably for the rest of my teaching career).