A Different Perspective to KAPLA Blocks
By Matt Emmons
As teachers, when setting up our classrooms, we try to always be as intentional as we can; to have a plan. If someone were to come into our classes and ask why something is out or why it is set up in a certain way, teachers should be able to answer those questions. No matter where one looks in our environment, there should always be an intention behind it all.
Some materials are put out with a specific plan in mind to further the interest that the children in our classroom have, to engage and provoke thought in the children, or for a project, new or ongoing. Other materials are put out with the specific intention to see what children do with them. It’s hard to look at the things you place in the environment and not think about what you might do with it, what you think children may do with it, or even what you want children to do with it. That’s then where children come in.
Children have an innate sense of curiosity and ability to look at a material and do something profoundly meaningful with it. Simply presenting material to children will provide you with so much insight, detail, and information about what they know about it. In turn, we teachers then think about what we can do to further children’s interests, what we can do to help expand upon their knowledge and give them a different perspective on the potential use of materials.
Recently KAPLA blocks have been getting put out in the classroom. Just like any other material in the school, I observed and reflected on what the children were doing with the blocks, how they were being used, and what interests lie with these specific types of blocks.
I noticed that the blocks were getting dumped out of baskets, collected, and used for dramatic play. When the children did build, they repeatedly stacked blocks on top of each other. This stayed consistent with all the times that they were put out. I thought to myself about how I could extend upon the interests that the children had with the blocks as well as what they already knew about them about building.
I decided to set up a room upstairs where there was a space just for building with KAPLA blocks. I put up pictures of structures that could be made with KAPLA blocks and had all personal areas for children to work on their own building. With some information presented to the children about what KAPLA blocks are, how they are different from other blocks you can find in our environment, and different ways you can build with them, the children were off.
There was something about their focus building with the blocks that I hadn’t observed in the classroom before. The children were experimenting in different ways to build and making different structures; structures far more complex and with more detail than previous experiences using KAPLA blocks.
As an adult, you may have a perspective, idea, or view of something that will be different from a child. Just as well, you cannot expect children to think or act the same as yourself. Often, we assume that children know or should know what we know, however, that is hardly the case. Through play and exploration, children can even show us amazing things and can provide us with new insight into a material that we may not have known before.