The children are changing the kindergarten space each day, constructing and inhabiting new worlds together- co-operating, negotiating, designing, planning, building-
a 'museum of curiosities', zoos, Antarctic shelters, laboratories, squadrons of planes, flotillas of ships, rockets, cosy cottages...
Setting the scene, telling stories-
'The viewing gallery is this way, mind the column’, 'Make sure you have on your x-ray glasses’, ‘More blocks... We don’t have enough fuel', ‘Sit near the fire, have my blanket.'
This is the third in a series of seven abridged articles about kindergarten life, which we will be posting over the coming weeks.
A museum of curiosities, a helicopter, a ship, a farm, a zoo, an Antarctic shelter, a laboratory, a dinosaur park, a car, a lorry, a rocket, a submarine, a squadron of small planes, a giant crocodile, dens, houses, nests, and a cottage with a roaring fire…
These are just a few examples of the objects and environments that the kindergarten children have constructed. They planned, selected materials, negotiated tasks and roles, built, adjusted plans to accommodate other children or animals, re-built when there was a collapse, tweaked, snagged and then moved in, set off on a journey or showed the teachers around proudly. They became parents, farmers, astronauts, zookeepers, birds, architects, curators and scientists. ‘Come and see my lab. Make sure you have on your x-ray glasses’ ‘The viewing gallery is this way, mind the column’, ‘Put more blocks in the engine, we don’t have enough fuel to get there.’ ‘Sit near the fire, have my blanket.’
Some of the benefits of this sort of collaborative physical play, such as emergent engineering skills, problem solving and organisational skills, team-work and honing of motor skills are quite obvious. Others are perhaps less so- health and wellbeing are linked to increased confidence through participation in physical play, which strengthens the sense of self and the child’s ability to learn. Social and behavioural skills are learned and tried out. Language and verbal communication skills also develop through social play, and are transformed as the children start to express their abstract ideas through language. It is this externalization of internal abstract thoughts that is the basis of the later ability to express oneself through writing. The children further use language and communication in this sort of co-operative play to consolidate and extend their learning: talking through their knowledge, making it explicit, questioning, testing, checking, and negotiating. Construction play is a sort of collaborative storytelling with a built-in audience, and can be linked to later story writing.
In our mixed age kindergarten, as the children grow, their enjoyment and engagement develop through increased participation in play, and they graduate from observer to researcher, to master builder, experimenting in the physical world, having an effect, starting to construct and inhabit their own worlds, alongside their friends. They become social constructivists. The sun children relish being the more knowledgeable peers, the younger ones are secure in their roles as onlookers and apprentices. Together they transform kindergarten, every day, into a new world populated by their imaginations.