The classroom seemed quiet, even though rice was everywhere on the floor, and nothing resembled the set-up of activities that teachers had carefully arranged. Yet, every child was fully engaged in important play. I stepped back for a moment to watch real learning taking place.
This was the stage:
- Chairs were lined-up in a long row as seats on a plane traveling to China.
- Our housekeeping area was set up as a Chinese restaurant.
- Our big table was a travel agency, and children were selling tickets for the plane ride, counting money, and studying a satellite map of China.
- At our smaller table, scissor cutting, hole punching, ribbon and bead stringing were everywhere, as we made Chinese lanterns.
- Rice, gold coins, jewels and sparkles were in the sensory table with scoopers and sifters of various sizes.
Then, this is what I observed:
- Children were very focused at the table making lanterns. After all, scissor cutting and hole punching is challenging (and fun). The ribbon we were using to decorate the lanterns was wide, so a child decided to cut the ribbon lengthwise. He was determined, and was doing a very good job. Suddenly, he had an epiphany; the seats on the plane had no seat belts, and the ribbon was perfect and needed for seat belts. He cut the right lengths, became the pilot, and strapped everybody in. All of the passengers agreed that this was important.
- At the same time, children were using chopsticks at the Chinese restaurant in our dramatic play to feed our baby dolls. They held small bowls filled with pom-poms, and carefully fed the babies with chopsticks. Then, they put ‘Gloria’ into a chair to feed her. And then, they pretended to feed each other, taking turns being the baby and the parent.
- At the big table, children were selling tickets to the plane ride to China. There was intense negotiating over money, and counting out tickets. Tickets and money were everywhere. Children counted, but they argued. They then figured out a way to divide the money and the tickets.
- Children at the sensory table sifted through rice to find gold and gems. They compared scoopers and sifters, and figured out which ones worked best to collect either gems or gold. Trial and error, and persistence paid off.
Children learn through hands-on experiences. This day, I observed critical divergent thinking, which is so fundamental to success. In every instance, the children were in a situation where they had to figure out what to do. I observed math, science, language, motor skills, negotiating, giving, and sharing. Yes, the classroom seemed quiet because children were hard at work. Enthusiasm + hard work = success. That’s the magic formula in my classroom. That’s also the foundation for life skills. Today these children notched one in their belt.
It was a great day for children.