Exploring Rope


Recently I was in Lima Peru visiting the schools of La Casa Amarilla, Aleph, and Transforma. These schools are part of an education community that is offering high quality learner centered education to the children of the region and teaching educators from around the world.

The study tour was amazing and I learned so much during my time visiting the schools. The process of reflection is ongoing and I am still unpacking all the wonderful cultural and learning experiences and what they will mean for my practice going forward.

During my time visiting the schools of La Casa Amarilla, I observed many of the classrooms and collected some learning stories. The following is a story about rope and the opportunity to investigate.

A child was playing under a loft space and discovered a short piece of rope. The child picked up the rope and began to twirl it. Then the child walked toward where I was sitting and handed me one end of the rope. Next, the child handed the other end of the rope to a teacher sitting nearby. 

The child made a motion to express I am going to jump over the rope. The teacher and I tried to swing the rope but it was too short to swing over the child’s head. The teacher and I laid the rope on the ground and the child stepped over the rope in a motion that simulated jumping rope. 

Then the child walked away with the piece of rope and started interacting with other children. I focused my attention to other activity in the classroom. Then I wondered what the child with the rope was investigating now, only to discover the child had collected a selection of small ropes. The child had the collection of ropes on the floor in a pile and was picking them up and dropping them, spinning and moving them around the room.

What does this activity mean? What are the implications of this observation? How can we support children as they become interesting in a material or subject in the classroom? 

My initial thoughts are the child wanted to jump rope. I am in a space of not knowing because there is a language barrier. The child speaks Spanish and I do not know enough Spanish to listen effectively. The child after discovering the rope was too short for jumping came up with new ideas for playing with and exploring a material that caught their interest.

The opportunities this investigation offers the child are numerous. The child can examine the different lengths of rope. The child can learn more about diameter and texture of rope and test the potential of rope in different ways. The space offered the child an opportunity to tangle and twist the rope over an existing structure to test the properties of rope and gravity.

The initial investigation offers possibilities for future provocations with different types of rope. We could offer different textures, diameters, and lengths of rope for the child to explore. We could place rope at different heights and angles as an invitation. The interaction of rope with the body and movement of the body can be explored. How does rope react when it interacts with other structures, the natural environment, and gravity? How is rope used as a tool? What type of people use rope and what do they use it for? What are the creative uses of rope? How is rope different from twine or string? How does rope connect together? How am I able to connect rope based on my age and experience?

As I finished my observation the child was busy cleaning up and placing the ropes back into the space where they were found. I will never know what happened to the investigation of rope. Was this investigation a one-day interest or did the child come back to rope the next day? The possibilities are infinite in the learning community.

What materials in your program are of most interest to the children at this time?

How have your observations of the children working with this material inspired new provocations for the learning community?