By: Elyse Jacobs
During the summer months, our teachers create a BIG IDEA as a way for all classes to work collaboratively on one theme. This summer the theme was Adventure Playground. Knowing how children love getting inside boxes and enclosed spaces, they would offer large boxes and other open ended materials from which the children could build their own playground.
I had the opportunity to work with the classes on what I fondly call Expressive Arts 3.0. Besides expanding the range of the expressive arts experience, it had the added benefit of my being able to work collaboratively with all the classes on one large project.
Each class gleefully entered a very large room adjacent to mine that was filled with boxes: large appliance boxes, medium boxes, small boxes. Fabric, markers, oil pastels, scissors and tape were also offered. Having developed their skills of cutting sticky masking tape and adding the tool of their imaginations, the oldest class, facilitated by their teachers, began building the playground. Soon different structures were constructed and explored.
The structures were left for the next class who would enter the room squealing with delight. They’d crawl through the spaces, loving the huge boxes with large holes serving as windows, doors or whatever they could imagine.
Each class would contribute to the playground what was developmentally appropriate for their age. The youngest classes often decorated both the inside and outside of the boxes with markers and oil pastels. After having fun crawling in and out of the boxes, they’d sit inside them talking with friends.
When it was the oldest class’ time again, they began connecting the individual structures by placing them next to each other or laying cardboard flooring between the boxes. They created tunnels by laying a box on its side with a child-sized hole at the bottom that matched up with a hole on the side of the other structure.
I opened the curtain between my room and the music room, now free for the summer. Children moved back and forth between the two rooms. I joyfully watched their spontaneous play which included performing plays, acting out their own dictated stories as they had been doing in their classrooms. Variations of hide and seek were invented, with the insides of boxes being a favorite hiding place.
Having the children build and explore their own playground was a huge success. As I fly out to visit family for the rest of the summer, images of the children having great fun accompany me.
· Boxes: appliance and other large boxes that accommodate several young children inside; smaller boxes, too.
· Masking tape, scissors, paper, large pieces of fabric, markers, oil pastels, etc.
· Start with your own rules for safety such as "Boxes need large holes so the teachers can see you inside them."
· Facilitate the children’s creation of their own rules. "Don’t mess up others' work, but you can add to their work." You can bring up what you’ve observed to create new rules as needed.
· Start with observing the children’s use of the materials. You can scaffold and hold meetings with them to work with their ideas.
· Have discussions with the children, asking and making a list of what’s needed next.
· Have them choose what idea to begin with. See what job each wants. Small groups of children can be flexible in choosing; large groups may need a division of labor with children signing up for each.
· A large project such as this may require you to clean up areas and resort materials as the children work and play. Your ordering and organizing helps the children stay focused. It also makes their cleaning up easier when they are finished playing.
Have fun building an adventure playground of your own!