Learning to connect is the essence of social intelligence. Teaching preschoolers to connect appropriately to each other is a core value of their education.
In the Expressive Arts Program at Pacific Primary in San Francisco, we have a motto, "No collecting without connecting." It was created as a reminder for the children. While they could play and explore the many open-ended materials in the art room, if they wanted to take the loose parts home, they'd need to connect them.
We have many 'connectors' in the room where social and emotional intelligence is the core of the program: glue, wire, string, ribbon, pipe cleaners. But my all-time favorite way to connect the recycled materials, the found objects and the beloved treasures are with tape - specifically colored masking tape.
At three years old, they learn to:
· Stick the end of the tape to the edge of the table
· Hold the circle of tapeand pull down
· Pick up your scissors and cut the tape to the size you'd like
Sounds easy, but mastering the cutting of the sticky red, green, yellow, blue, purple, orange, black, or white masking tape take time, focus, concentration, and patience.
We learn the names of many feelings during this time:
"Oh, you're FRUSTRATED," I say, giving a name to the vocalizing of the group. "What can we do when frustrated?"
The group supplies the answers: they are creative problem solvers. We get far beyond the initial, "You do it for me!"
I smile each time I hear their excited voices, "I did it!" After twenty-six years, I never tire of the delighted children learning to cut sticky masking tape and begin connecting--to the materials, to their feelings and to each other.