By Alexis Masingill
Harry could often be found walking around the classroom carrying a large unit block and making motor sounds. I would ask him, “What are you doing?” He would reply with a shrug. But one day, he looked at me and said, “It’s a chainsaw.” The Seedling teachers discussed the need for a dramatic play tool kit in the classroom to build a better understanding of this connection to construction. The tool kit would also help the teachers assess if other children might have similar interests that could foster deeper connections amongst the Seedlings in our classroom.
When the tool kit arrived, Harry was especially delighted and quickly began telling us all about the different tools. His ability to name and explain each tool and its function was exciting. It was a joy to hear him interacting with other students. As the children developed a deeper interest in the tools, they were encouraged to understand the purpose of them. The tools became a language that many children showed interest in. By slowly introducing new materials, we reinforced the process of respecting our classroom and the materials that we place in it.
It was interesting to see how each child used their time with the materials. When we set out a dedicated table for using the tool kit, we would often see solitary play happen. But when the tools were out in the block area, the children became more invested in interacting with one another. The children were supporting each other’s learning and experiences through their play.
We then extended the use of tools in the classroom through clay. We use specific hammers for our clay, and I heard a child say, “We need nails!” We provided wooden golf tees, and the addition of new materials enriched our clay experience. In this moment, I noticed the children wanted to explore new ideas that could expand further into branching out the Seedling need to use real tools in the classroom.
The time that the children invested using these tools gave such insight into their need for tactile and physical experiences. I was able to connect with Eric and the Olive Room children about having a community day experience that would allow the Seedlings to use real hammers, nails, and wood. This provocation would also give the kindergarten children the chance to mentor the Seedlings from their knowledge and expertise. So, on a Friday morning, I took a group of seven to the side yard to experience “real tools!” The kindergarten students gave us a tutorial on safety and basic “need to know” information. We had the children wear safety goggles and exercise self-regulation skills with the use of materials and space.
One of the moments that caught my attention was when Ana was coaching Harry. She reached across and held his hand to support the piece of wood from moving around. This moment of building community “nailed” the need for this provocation. Giving children time and space to explore their hundred languages was so important for them, and for us teachers. I cherish these learning experiences and building special connections… one nail at a time!