Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Water Snakes

You have all heard me refer to plopping in pretty much all of my posts.  I cannot tell you how this method of "following" children has changed my program for the better. 

The children are learning valuable, life-long skills and also amazing me with their cleverness, organizational skills and their willingness to learn through failures (which I believe to be over -the-top important).  In a nut shell...they are so excited to TRY their ideas out, and as they fail, they make changes that either leads to success, or the realization that their plan didn't work, so lets try something else!

A plop, by my own, self-made definition is (insert vision of me putting on instant, IQ-boosting spectacles and clearing my throat): an object, book, story, song or mystery word that is quietly placed (aka: plopped) into a child's environment while sharing no (zip, zero, none, notta) pre-conceived adult ideas in order to give ownership of discovery to children. The "plopper" is prepared for what could POSSIBLY happen...but is willing to drop those ideas in order to follow the usually BETTER possibilities a child's mind imagines!

In other words....set something out...either in the wide open, or hide it amongst the environment and wait for the children to discover it.  However you choose to plop your plop....just plop it...set it out there.  Then, step back ready to observe, gather materials upon request (I insist my crew ASKS FOR WHAT THEY, if they need more materials, all they have to do is ask)  If it is a story, share it with the children and let it motivate their play...enhance it with a song or other plops that might go along with it.

On this particular HOT day, as we were heading outside, I was thinking what can we do today.  I move all of my messy, busy hands supplies out to my garage for easy access in the summer months, so I took one look at my shelf and started to grab.

I simply grabbed foam beads and plastic lacing.  I purposely cut the plastic lacing too short to be necklaces and too long to be bracelets.  I did this just so their creative minds would have to take this "regular" activity in an entirely new direction.

I then put it all in a bucket of water (see pic below)

When you use the plopping method, you don't say a word.  You simply plop down the materials and quietly observe.

Instantly the bucket was surrounded by eager fingers.  The children's observations were so accurate as I overheard "HEY....these beads can float!"  "Brrr....the water is cold"  Then the plastic lacing was being compared  "Mine is longer"  "No, look, mine is longer"  So already, look at the learning.

It did not take long for them to realize that these were not going to be necklaces or bracelets.  So then...what should they be?


The children quickly gathered the plastic rain gutters and asked if they could use the hose (I love it when children ask for what they need!) 

Let the water snake rides begin!!

Gavin, who is a dragon fanatic (check out this blog to learn why he is dragon nuts, and why there are always dragons to be found at my house) decided he wanted his dragon to take a ride with his watersnake.  (now, you and I both know this is not going to be possible...BUT the point of plopping is to let children make I said nothing, just photographed and observed.

The photo below shows his first attempt.  He is so excited about his "wonder if..."

Of course the dragon just sat there...and did not move at all.  The water snake did not move either. 

Time to investigate.  Gavin picked up that dragon and took a closer look:

Here is a picture of his second attempt (note that he has ditched the water snake...he is thinking that was in the dragons way, preventing it from flowing down the gutter).  There were several more attempts (hmmm..remind you of a scientist?  Children are natural scientist, never content with trying something just one time.  They MUST try it again and again to see if it will work, or in this case, not work in order to form a conclusion)

After the fifth or sixth attempt, Gavin gathered the information he had just learned and proudly shared it with everyone:  "HEY GUYS!  The dragons dont float!"

Notice the angle Alayna is holding the hose in the photo below?  That is intentional.  She has learned through trial and error, that the water snakes go the fastest if the water hits them just so.  This is her very own discovery, and it gave her much pride to share that new knowledge with everyone.

The photo below shows Jack taking extra care as he places his watersnake into the gutter.  He has learned that if he puts the snake in upside down (the knot last, instead of first) his snake comes apart by the end of the 10ft. gutter.  Again, a discovery he owns and a deduction all of them made. 

Patience and consideration for others are very important, life-long skills.  I have learned that when it is a child-led occurance, patience comes much easier for young children.  I have been amazed at how long they can patiently wait for their turn, when it is their decision.

So there you have it.

A simple plop:  foam beads, plastic lace and water presented quietly with no preconcieved notion, just presented with the freedom to explore them.  I took the backseat to see what kind of adventure would ensue.  The children added to the plop as they saw fit, and the rest is history! 

Those three SIMPLE materials created a morning (and several more) filled with boundless trial and error, scientific process, small motor development, creativity, imagination, cause and effect, patience, cooperation, collaboration, sharing and discoveries!  The best part?  If you ask the children what they did....they will tell you "OH..we just PLAYED!!" 

Play is a child's work.  Let them counts!