A few weeks ago a group of elementary children used cardboard, tape, glue, markers and foam to create suits of armor. The work started when one child asked for recycled materials to create a new project. The child searched through the materials and found items to execute their vision and work on the project started immediately. As the work progressed other children became interested in the process of cardboard being transformed into a suit of armor.
Often one child inspires other children with their ideas and execution of work. A common activity is for children to use some of their day observing other children working in the classroom. During this time children are often motivated to try similar work themselves. This is one reason having children choose their own work is beneficial. The ideas of the children not only reflect their interests but the interests of other children in the learning community. Work generated by the children inspires other children because of the visual aspects, depth of thinking and because of the social connection of the children involved. The children can relate to what other children are creating because it looks like something they would create with their own hands.
After the original child finished their armor and tried the suit on for size, other children started collecting materials to create their own armor. A process was developed and the classroom started to resemble an armor factory from the days of King Arthur. The children used large sheets of cardboard for the base and then cut squares of colorful foam to attach on the inside of the armor for padding.
Having a common interest in specific work brings members of the learning community together. Children of different ages unite to work on a project and expand their social connections. The armor work became the basis for lively discussion and negotiation for the use of materials. Ideas about how to create and how each child executed their work were shared during the process. The ongoing discussion helped everyone involved stretch the work away from a comfortable zone to a more challenging one. The process of trial and error was strong as the children assembled and un-assembled their work many times as new ideas were formulated and tested. As more concrete ideas were created and accepted the children used time to share their work with co-creators looking for feedback. The work was bringing together children socially as they learned more about each other. The depth in the children’s work was creating a depth in social connection as well.
After the main shields and armor were finished the children cut long strips of cardboard to use as belts and straps to hold the armor to the shoulders and waist. When the final details were added the children experimented with hitting the armor to test for impact absorption. The educators were watching these tests wondering where the project was headed. After the tests and a few interesting reactions the children decided the armor required more padding.
The thought process involved in creating their own work motivated the children to continue development. Because the children chose the work the process of iteration was a joy and something they looked forward to each day as the work advanced during the week. Comparing designs created other modifications as work started on decorating the armor. Children used different mediums to add color and texture to their armor. Paint, markers, crayons, and sharpies were utilized to create unique designs for the armor.
Children learn about and explore new and known materials when creating their work. This is an opportunity for children to use materials they are comfortable with and offers the opportunity to learn how to use new mediums that will enhance their creative work in the future. An important part of the creative process for children is learning how to use the tools involved in creating work. The techniques children learn carry over to work in the future and are a valuable part of the learning journey.
The armor work continued for some time and then the children came up with a new idea using cardboard to create something much larger. That is another story waiting to be told as I continue to observe and explore the possibilities in the learning community and beyond.