It’s Just a Popsicle Stick

Or is it?

I’ve become very interested in adding different types of loose parts into the classroom, but I am very methodical and intentional about what I add. Most of the time I view my classroom as my laboratory, to experiment with what kids will play with and how. The best part about it is that every set of kids will interact with materials differently. Sure, there are some similarities and some broad themes that will likely be seen, but no two groups of children are the same.

We have been doing a lot with letters lately, and I have been trying to encourage children to write. It hasn’t always been successful. I think I have a lot of anxiety in my classroom when it comes to writing.2015-03-05 15.43.08 So I decided to introduce the concept of making letters out of different materials. The material that we started with was popsicle sticks. I introduced the popsicle sticks during our large group experience so that there would be a lot of sharing of ideas and children could observe the creations of other children. They really seemed to enjoy creating letters (and later, shapes) with the sticks. But what I was really curious about was what would happen after the group experience was over. I left the popsicle sticks out and let the children know that they could play with them if they wanted to. What happened next was pretty spectacular. All sorts of shapes were being created. One boy made a “Y” with a tail that stretched out across the room. Some children were creating houses by making squares out of the sticks and putting people inside the squares. It was really interesting to watch their work. 2015-03-05 15.44.18

I decided to introduce some other materials into the play to see what would happen. I gathered some large glass beads and some small stones and gave them to the children who were experimenting with the materials. Rather than incorporating those into their figures that they created, their play changed entirely. Their focus became filling containers with the beads and the stones and the sticks. They completely forgot about the figures that they had made on the floor and focused instead on filling. I had not anticipated this change in dynamic and tried to encourage them to put some of the materials inside the shapes that they had made, but they were having none of it. They wanted to fill and transfer, and the sticks made new tools, as well as another material to use to fill containers with. This shift has caused me to rethink how I am presenting these materials to the children, but that is a topic for another blog post.

Bug Stew

This afternoon when I took the class outside, there was water on the slides. This presented a great opportunity for the kids to throw every kind of greenery, mulch, dried leaves, and dirt onto the slide, and stir the entire concoction up with sticks. The dirt, by the way, was salt. When I asked them what they were making, they stated that it was “bug stew” because it was too nasty for us to eat, but the bugs would come and eat it up. When asked what kinds of bugs were going to eat it, they replied, “Bees and beetles!” So apparently the bees and beetles are going to be well fed tonight! I enjoyed watching the kids work together to make their concoction, though, and the thought process that went into deciding that only bugs would be crazy enough to eat the mess!

We did another color mixing activity, in which we mixed red, blue, and yellow playdough in different combinations to see what we would get. They had fun with that, even though I made the playdough a little too stiff for them to mix very well. After we mixed the basic combinations, I let them go to mix away in whatever combinations they wanted to. Of course, they loved that.

I did an art project this morning that I once again can’t give proper credit to for the idea. I thought I had saved the post in my reader this time. I feel like this is getting old and I need to apologize for it! But anyway…the project required coffee filters, water colors, and medicine droppers. We used water colors in red, green, silver, and gold so that the project would be somewhat Christmas-y. The kids basically just put drops of paint on the coffee filters, and the filters soak up the water (as long as the kids don’t use too much – if they do, it is a bit of a mess!). I found that trying to teach them how to control the flow of paint coming from the dropper was a bit of a challenge, but it gives us something to work on the next time we use the droppers. A few of the kids discovered how to control the flow of the paint, but not many.After the paint dried the colors on the filters were amazing, especially with the silver and gold paint mixed in.

Right before I started this project, the other three-year-old teacher set about working on a Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer project. You know the one: three popsicle sticks glued together in a triangle shape, a red pom-pom nose on the bottom of the triangle and two eyes at the top. She had started the project with both of our classes while I was out yesterday morning, so I couldn’t very well take my class and not let them finish. I pulled out my project to do at the same time because of the amazing amount of stuff I had planned for all of them to do in the afternoon. As soon as I got the materials together, the reindeer table cleared out and headed to the coffee filter table. In fact, the whole room was gathered around the coffee filter table. And I thought to myself, “Here is a prime example of why child-directed art is so much better than the typical cookie-cutter, ‘everything has to be the same and look like this’ type of art that is done in most centers – the kids actually enjoy it and flock to it!”