by Sarah Lu
What do you think bad guys look like?
ME: They look angry.
CS: Maybe they have pokies on them?
ARM: Bank robbers have bags for all the money that they stole.
I had an amazing conversation with a group of eight children today regarding their work with villains and superheroes. We began by discussing what they know about villains. They told me some other names for villains, such as bad guy, cyclops, monster. But they mostly spoke in terms of bad guys. The conversation began with OW telling us that she saw a police car in front of her house, and that she knew it was because a bad guy had broken in to the house and stolen something. Other children interjected their thoughts.
ME: Or a bad girl. ‘Cause it can be bad girls.
OW: Yeah, but I think it was a bad guy.
FA: There are a lot of bad guys.
JR: I’ve seen bad girls.
ME: I think that it’s more girls.
OW: I think it’s more boys.
ARM: And I think it’s more boys too.
JR: I’ve seen a bad girl before though.
What else do you know about bad guys or villains?
OW: They can rob.
ME: They can tie you up if you’re still in there, and then… if you don’t see them in the dark.
How does that make you guys feel?
OW: Ummm… kind of scared.
ARM: But! If we had play dough we could throw play dough at them.
JR: ARM, that wouldn’t work as a weapon. My mom, she has a bat under her bed to swing the bat at them.
We have a bat in our bedroom too.
ME: My dad has a pipe under our bed so he can whack ’em on the head, that’s metal.
So there are different ways we protect ourselves when we’re in our house right? What are the ways that we protect ourselves, other than these?
JR: You could run over to somebody nice you know and tell them that there’s a robber in your house. Dial the 911.
FA: You would lock the door.
JR: You would lock all the windows.
ME: You know what else you could do? You could just let them take it, and then call the police and let the police snatch it out of their hand.
MC: I have a sword and that’s it, and nothing else.
You know what else you have? A Timmy. What’s a Timmy?
MC: It’s my dog.
JR: And I have a Bayou!!
ME: I have a dog too, and she can bite!
EZ: I have a cat named Max. If she ever sees a robber she might just bite the robber or scratch the robber.
ARM: I am very sneaky ’cause guess what? Sometimes when the bad guys aren’t looking I lock the door, and then when they’re looking I open the door ‘cept they can’t!!
And you tricked them? (Wild laughter…)
CS: Um, well. I let the bad guy in, and get all my art supplies out. And I first put glue all over the bad guy, then glitter all over the bad guy. (Raucous laughter.) And then, actually first I paint all over the bad guy, then I put the bad guy… I have a really, really big freezer, and I put the bad guy in the freezer so the paint could dry. And then I got glue and I put the glue onto the paint and then glitter.
Okay, so I will stop there. this gives you a pretty good idea of the themes that we are dealing with here. The first part of the conversation seems focused around gender, which surprised me, but seems to be a big interest for the kids. Are bad guys women or men? Good question. And the second part of the conversation brought up for me the huge issues of safety and security. I loved discussing all of these ideas with these kids today. Their thinking around these ideas is so real, so rich.
We talked for a long time, and afterwards we talked about ways that we can bring this play inside. There were ideas about using masks, capes, and the babies. And there were other ideas about making things out of clay and play dough and paint, such as monsters. The children also were invited to play symbolically around this theme, using the blocks and figurines and animals to act out scenarios. A group of children spent almost half an hour interacting with the doll house, a place in our room that has rarely been used this year. EZ, FA, and JR made traps and flying machines for the villains and super heroes in their play.
And another group of children decided to build bad guy traps. They were far from ready to move on when it was time for lunch.
OW reminded me of the intricacies of this exploration at the end when she called me over to a structure she had made. She had been working on bad guy traps, and this time instead she said, “It’s a place where the good guy is hiding from the dinosaur (bad guy).”
The depth that this long-term project revealed to me today astounded me and inspired me. I look forward to many more days of discussion, building, creating and thinking about these ideas. There are so many more to explore!