It is so great to hear feedback on our posts and see the impact knowledge sharing has in our ‘community of learning’. I thought I should share this reflection from our reference group member Daniel Hutchinson – father of two young girls and a primary school and music teacher pursuing inventiveness in education…..
I was looking around the school for a place for my Grade 5 class to situate a gardening project, taking photos as I went along. The search took me to neglected corners of the school grounds, including this area behind the kitchen. At the time, I assumed that these tyres had been strewn around or discarded and gave them no second thought, apart from perhaps observing that if we chose this site for our class garden, we would need to clear them all up.
Later, and after reading the Just Playing blog on portables, pop-ups and loose parts, I saw this photo and these tyres differently. There is clearly evidence here of children at play. The tyres no longer appear random, and their meaning is plain: one can imagine stepping stones or a bridge, a pattern and a form. This game would possibly have had rules and a narrative all of its own, and the fact that it was played out of sight of teachers and other children, tucked around a corner in an unsanctioned space, gave it all the more allure and enhanced considerably the aura of fun and privacy.
While the tyres remain as a witness to the activity that took place, it takes an educator alert to the creative, transformational ability of children to see the value of what occurred here and to reconstruct the potential meanings of what may have happened. Not only the value of the “loose parts” that were selected and managed (note the large pile of tyres to the left that is left unused), but also the meaning to the child of encompassing an empty, marginal space.
As an educator, it is not necessary to direct, observe and document every moment of the child’s school experience, and it is good to leave space for other things to happen outside of the ambit of the classroom or the curriculum. To pick up clues of how children have remade and reinterpreted their school environment from traces left behind freely at play adds perspective to everything that we are trying to instil in our learners and all that we are trying to achieve in education. Providing undeveloped and unformed spaces to children for their undisturbed use and incorporating the creative potential of “loose parts” (by accident or design) makes for a potent learning environment, despite what the traditional playground or sports facility may have taught us to present to children.
In this case, it may not be a garden behind the kitchen, but it has already been cultivated into something in the mind of the child.