A Big City

Wednesday September 26th 2012

After a morning full of literacy programming, the kindergarten children had some time to explore the classroom. A small group chose to build with blocks and other materials. They became deeply immersed in a construction of what they called “A Big City” one of many since the very first day of school. They had been focused on building these big cities, which made us wonder if they were exploring road systems, community features or different types of vehicles. We decided that we would continue to observe and provide them with different resources such as library books to see in what direction they would choose to take it?

This particular piece stood out to me because it was a collaboration of some children new to kindergarten and some that had been in the class for the past year. What also stood out to me was that the building was interactive for all of the children in the class. It spanned three quarters of the room and many had to walk around and over it during their travels throughout the classroom. It was designed as a long bridge of blocks that was enclosed by a structure of the “CN Tower” at one end and another building at the other. At many points throughout the day children took turns driving imaginary cars over the bridge, taking extra care and caution not to break it and rebuild parts if needed.

Upon watching this we wondered whether the city was designed purposely this way or perhaps intuitively. Did they know it would be an interactive piece for the whole class to experience/walk through and utilize?

As we often search for deeper meaning, it is at many times right before us; it simply requires us to stop, observe and listen. To listen in a way that is more than just hearing- to realize that in these moments of creativity, the children are transmitting their knowledge and contextualizing all that they know.

It was evident that these “Big Cities” were symbolic of the connection between each child. The bridge was a pathway to these valuable interactions and spoke about our sense of community within our classroom. Each child was an active member of this small community and in those moments they showed their intrinsic sense of responsibility, participation, contribution, individuality and creativity. The bridge therefore, becomes symbolic of more than just a bridge and it’s purpose.

This structure also involved the CN Tower, a significant landmark. Do children understand the significance of cultural symbolism? Does it stand out to them as something unique and important to our culture? Why did they choose to construct a bridge? Could the bridge possibly represent the Gardiner Express Way?

When we began to ask more probing questions to see where they would take it, the answers helped to contextualize further the construction and intention behind it.

Cathy: Can you tell me about your city?

E.W: It has a road and bridges

R.C: And a parking lot

M.C: We made that first and then we made this road, and he goes all the way touching there and falls there.

Cathy: Do people live in your city?

R.C: There’s lots of people also lots of people going to the taxis, double decker buses, cars and airplanes.

E.W: They drive.

Cathy: How did you decide how long it would be?

R.C: You can measure.

Cathy: How can you measure? How long do you think it is?

J.L: With 5 long strings.

E.W: It’s 100 long

L.T: Infinity.

R.C: The Earth is bigger than this one, and the road is bigger too.

What experiences were they drawing on? Had they seen this before?

In speaking to parents about where the children might have derived these ideas, we realized that each child contributed something from their life experiences- a trip to Hong Kong, visiting the city of Toronto and travelling abroad over summer vacation. Culture plays such a significant part in our lives. As adults we may take it for granted. For the child, culture becomes a sense of wonder, magic, and learning. The experiences the children had this summer have obviously had significant impacts in their lives. Seeing such experiences emerge in their play showed us that each child has something to teach us, and each other.

“As life flows with the thoughts of the children, we need to be open, we need to

change our ideas; we need to be comfortable with the restless nature of life” Malaguzzi (1994).

From: Your Image of the Child: Where Teaching Begins

 

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~Post by Cathy

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