Walking through the classroom, I noticed a child using pencil and paper to create drawings of robot looking creatures. The images looked interesting, so I asked for more information about the work.
When I ask children questions about their work there are different motivations depending on what I am noticing. Some of the questions are about technique, the child’s thinking, and often I am just curious and interested in something I have not observed before. Based on the information the child shares our conversation may continue or I will move on to check in with other children.
The child said the characters were based upon a TV show and shared the name. I was not familiar with the show and did not understand the title. Sitting on the table next to the child were numerous large drawings and each one was an adaptation of the original.
Not understanding the origin of this work, I could have focused our conversation on the TV show but this was not important to the child who was only responding to my questions and focused on their work. After observing for a while, the child started sharing more information about the drawings, so our conversation moved into that space.
The child explained the technique and progression of the work and said that the goal was to create as many variations of the character as possible during the work period. The child flipped through the various drawings to show me the incremental progressions in detail, explaining each decision and how the next drawing became better in their opinion than the last.
Children who choose their own work are motivated to continue the work until their idea is realized. This motivation is fueled as the idea takes shape and the child progresses though the stages of creation.
As the work period ended the child collected the numerous drawings and stored them away to take home or revisit later. It turned out the child decided the next work period to continue exploring this character and created more drawings employing the same technique.
Children who choose their own work will keep revisiting this work for long periods of time as new ideas are formed during the process. As an educator, taking the time to listen to the children talk about their work reinforces their ideas and motivates the child to continue experimenting with the process.
After a week or so the child stopped working on the robot drawings. The child became very interested in Magna-Tiles and started working in that space and this work continued for many weeks. The robot drawings never reappeared. I do not know where they landed. The child revisited other creative work, but their new drawings were of Pokemon characters. Often the children in the school-age learning community move between projects and one interest changes overnight to another interest that is filled with new challenges and possibilities for discovery. Our role is to be ready to support these explorations and come along for the ride.
The key to this experience is that one child out of forty-five was exploring their interests. With many different interests blossoming in the classroom at the same time, trying to support all of the different investigations may be overwhelming. The lesson here is to choose. I decided to further examine the robot work because I noticed an interesting technique being employed by the child. I thought the method they were employing to iterate the drawings was insightful and I wanted to know more about their thinking. Deciding what investigation to explore with the children can be challenging, but we do our best to choose and join the journey of discovery not knowing if it will expand or when it will end.