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“Your child represents his learning by making, and he learns while making…he makes and creates not only to demonstrate what he knows, but to explore ideas and concepts… [y]our child creates models that spark questions that require research [which] helps him refine his ideas…questions uncover answers that lead to new questions.
It’s a spiral process of gathering information, using it to make something, uncovering new questions, gathering new information, and refining ideas.”
~ Lori Pickert: Project-Based Homeschooling: Mentoring Self-Directed Learners
For the last week and a half we have really been focussing on tapping into our children’s interests when thinking about the activities and explorations we create for them as well as the toys and materials we make available in their play areas.
Rather than offering our children one-off experiences, we want to try and connect their experiences so they can build on what they know and have a chance to explore new skills, concepts and possibilities.
Making models is a really great way for children to design and refine their thinking; making their learning visible. It also gives them an opportunity to work on mastering different fine-motor skills like cutting, manipulating wire and using tape.
As they create, they are also learning about materials; what they can do (and what they can’t do). Jack was trying to make a machine recently. He was struggling with attaching a cardboard tube to a cardboard box. The claggy glue he was using wasn’t working; it wasn’t strong enough. Then the sticky tape wouldn’t work because the cardboard was now covered in glue. He learnt two important lessons in trying to solve that one problem:
- claggy (or school) glue is not strong enough to hold heavy, bulky objects and,
- sticky tape will not stick to wet surfaces…
He needed to find another way. He ended up sticking a piece of coloured paper over the wet glue and using sticky tape to attach the tube to the coloured paper. Meaningful, authentic, a little frustrating and challenging, learning.
I wrote a post a little while back for Childhood 101 called Encouraging Block Play. In it I talked about how Jack came to be so engaged with blocks after having little to no interest for over a year. It has been much the same with constructing.
In the beginning, the prompts may need to come from you. Listen to your child for cues of what they might be interested in creating. When they ask a question you can answer with, would you like to make one? The answer might not always be yes, but if you have construction materials readily available and if the topic is your child’s interests (as opposed to your own), I think soon enough, your child will want to create.
Constructing doesn’t have to be with clean recyclables, tape and glue. You can use a whole range of engaging materials and techniques:
- paper mache
- wire sculptures
- recycled materials – a trip to your local tip shop or recycling refuge with $10 in their pocket is sure to inspire constructing
- computer animation
- stop-motion video
- plaster…. a myriad of ways for children to make their learning visible
- Yesterday I asked you to take an inventory of your art materials, which ones of these could be used for construction?
- Based on your child’s interests, create an invitation to construct. Resist pre-cutting anything or making a sample for your child
- Add inspiring photos/an open book/ or observational display (a collection of materials) as a prompt
- When they have finished for the day, encourage your child to sketch or photograph their creation and talk about how they might like to refine their work later including what materials they might need
- Make a space for them to keep their work
- Follow through with their ideas on the following day