The 3-year old children in the Sea Turtle classroom are a class of builders. Since the beginning of the year, they have worked with magna-tiles, wooden blocks, tree stumps, and giant building blocks on the roof. As the teachers observed their diligent construction, we chose to expand upon these interests through a variety of pathways.
We began to notice the narratives that developed as they built, crafting characters with purpose and background as they constructed out and up. In order to give them a platform to both further develop these stories while also offering a way for children to share and take pride in their creations, we designated a spot called the “Do Not Destroy” spot, where the children were given a chance to choose to build if they wanted to save their work. During assembly, each child had a chance to present their shared work, which was a source of pride and excitement. They told tales of rocket ships, parking garages, boats and popcorn machines.
Then, we began to notice that a different part of the building process was a source of excitement for them: the inevitable demolition of each building. Pushing, kicking and sending buildings crashing to the ground brought on laughter, smiles and joy. We decided to give the children an opportunity to expand on this interest by introducing a pendulum, or as named by the kids, a “wrecking ball.” This gave them the chance to strategically position their buildings, experimenting with distance and height, while developing fine motor control and hand-eye coordination. As they worked to position their structures in line with the expected path of the wrecking ball, they enjoyed their first lessons in physics, looking at inertia and momentum.
We also wanted to give the children chances to use real construction tools. To begin, we introduced hammers and nails. For now, the nails are “started” in the stump, though as they master hammering the nails, we will continue to expand upon the challenges offered with real tools.
Woodworking is beneficial in an early childhood education setting for numerous reasons. It builds fine and gross motor skills and provides a creative outlet. Once they are comfortable with tools, children learn to plan ahead as they decide and discuss what they will build before beginning to work. In addition, the use of adult materials, such as real tools, can have a huge impact on a child’s self esteem, reminding them that they are capable.
As a celebration of all of the various building skills we’ve explored, we combined our efforts to build a classroom chandelier. The children built sculptures with sticks, tape, clay, and glue that were then attached to a larger frame. They collaborated on wrapping the frame in tape, passing the hoop around during assembly while helping each other to pull, tear and wrap the tape around the hoop.
Then, the children took their individual stick sculptures and attached them to the frame.
In small groups, the children wrapped LED lights around the circumference of the chandelier. Finally, we invited Ramon Valle, our Maintenance Team Leader, to visit.
We showed off our work, and asked him to help us hang the chandelier over our project meeting area, where it will hang for the rest of the year as a symbol of our ability to work together to create!