Recently, the children were offered a provocation with Crystal Climbers and a light panel. The children were not familiar with Crystal Climbers.
On occasion, I bring in new materials from my home studio for the children to explore. The Crystal Climbers were recently acquired and I wanted to see if the school age children would like to create with them or if the Crystal Climbers were more appealing material for children of a younger age.
After looking over the pieces, the children started experimenting with the crystal climbers. To begin, the children played with the material to see how it connected together. Through experimentation with the different circular, triangular, and square shapes the children made some decisions how they wanted to move forward with the creative process.
The process of learning about a new material was exciting for some of the children and frustrating for others. Some children were not comfortable connecting the climbers and called them “stupid” and “dumb.” Our initial reaction as an educator might be frustration, as the children verbally express their challenges with the material. Through experience working with school age children, I know some children are more comfortable with precise directions how to do their work. This type of direction is similar to what they experience in school. While acquiring a new skill some school age children verbalize their challenges in hope we will tell them how to overcome the obstacle. Our role as an educator is to scaffold and work alongside the children and support them in their investigations, including when the children are used to more direct instruction. This is part of the learning journey.
One child started working intently and connected three triangular yellow shapes and three triangular green shapes and called it a “BUG”! Another child used all of the yellow shapes and connected them together as “a structure.” Then the children created a “motorbike” and an “arrow mobile.” Another child created a “dimensional diamond” with four triangles and a circle shape in the middle to anchor the work.
Once the first group of children became comfortable using the material, other children wanted to explore the material as well. The collaborative effort that followed consisted of the initial children teaching the new arrivals how the material functioned. The provocation transformed into an opportunity to share ideas and connect socially. Interesting materials become a social connector and build the learning community.
The next group of children experimented with the different shapes and colors, making designs and taking them apart. Unlike the first group, this group was less verbal while working and did not directly name any of their creations. I heard a few children talk quietly about what they were creating, but I did not want to ask too many questions. I wanted the children to get comfortable experimenting and working with the material. It is important to be available but more important to observe, so the children can explore freely and create.
When I am documenting as the children work, I am careful not to talk too much as I feel it influences their exploration and learning journey. I speak if spoken to and the rest of the time I concentrate on recording my observations, staying in the moment, and experiencing the children at work. The notes and photos collected are a valuable resource and give insight as the work advances during each learning journey.
The work session ended. After their initial apprehension, the children enjoyed working with the Crystal Climbers and the light panel. One child said that working on the light panel with Magna-Tiles would look cool. This sounded like an interesting extension of our current exploration.
My role as an educator is to listen carefully to the ideas of the children. The suggestion of using the light panel with a different material is wonderful. I love when the children come up with an idea to expand their exploration. An important role as an educator is to be responsive to these ideas and collect the necessary materials in a timely fashion. Then the work can keep progressing and the possibilities for discovery are available to the children.
What are some materials that the children in your program love to explore in conjunction with light?
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