After setting up the Garden Classroom each day, I am delighted when I see one or more children engaged and “working” to create, to build, or solve a problem. It is through this play/work that children learn. Just this week I watched a group of 5 Day girls who created a family out of little toy birds and plastic insects. They spoke quietly to each other as they solved some domestic issue. Practice for when this situation occurs in real life. Several children from the Transition program worked together to fill containers with water and then pour the water into the large tubs where plastic sea creatures were residing. They were spurred into action when it was pointed out to them that the whales and other creatures needed water for their survival. They were working together out of empathy for the animals: empathy that can be applied to a real animal or even a friend in need.
While many of the materials that are offered in the Garden Classroom (and indoor classrooms) have a specific purpose and goal such as large muscle development or practice sequencing they are also open to each child’s personal interpretation and innovation. When this happens, the child becomes totally engaged and the mind and hand works in ways I never imagined. I see the child as an absolute wonderful, thrilling, unique individual and future artist, scientist, engineer, and in one case already a musician.
Even though this stick was intended for building and the rock was cast aside after being painted, a child from Transition started striking the two objects on the concrete and then the padded wall. His actions were all very intentional. He noticed all of the different sounds and repeated the experience. He was totally engaged. I was enchanted. Next he told me he was playing a song and asked me to sing along. It took me a moment, but I recognized the tune and words to “A,B,C.”
Eventually, he recalled and recreated a musical experience that he shared with me. He brought the rock to his chest, laid the stick across the rock and started sliding the stick back and forth across the rock. He looked at me and told me, “I’m playing a violin.” He was sharing his knowledge with me using materials in a totally unexpected way. I was filled with gratitude for having witnessed his creativity and more importantly, his willingness to engage with me.