If you had been an outsider looking in on the end of First Grade today, you might have seen and heard kids playing and the Head of Lower School quietly completing part of a Mandala. It was free choice time, and I, the HoLS, was sitting in with the class as their teacher went to coach a sport. It was the best gift on a Friday afternoon. The choices were: free draw, books, Legos, Marble Run, or Make Believe play. No one chose books, but all were engaged in their play.
I quietly picked up the markers and the drawing paper and began my listening and peripheral vision observations. Deep and rich learning was happening all around me.
My Friends playing Make-Believe had a rich game of “School Office” going on, complete with an understanding of the role of the front desk, the way the Principal needs a walkie-talkie, and how to solve the problem of the class bunny continuing to escape. This imaginative play was indicative of the understanding of different roles for different jobs while tapping into creativity.
My Friends playing with Legos were deep into the work of engineering while creating a vast tale of the boat, its inhabitants, and the sea around them. The Marble Run Friends started building the tallest of towers to observe how fast the marbles could run-growing their understanding of speed. Near the end of the class, a group was experimenting with force and motion while trying to push marbles to force one another out of the run. Deep hypothesizing was happening, and it was determined that the height of the run drop increased the force the marble could apply because of its speed. Brilliant!
It was my Friend engaged in Free Draw from whom I gleaned the most learning today. He had initially wanted to play a game, but that game wasn’t a choice, so he set to work on creating a new one based on his understanding of Pokemon and a wish finder game. He wrote the numbers and the corresponding emoticons, including that of “Ditto.” He created cards for mystery and declared, if you get the smile emotion, you win the game. He invited a friend to play, who was quite thoughtful to say at the end, “that was a quick game.” With no other feedback, my Friend took it upon to expand the choices, emotions, and even added a second mystery card. He took great care to shuffle and test his work. He practices flipping between the numbers and the matching emoticons to assure he was clear on which was which. He brought it back to his Friend and said, “I made it harder, can we play again?” To which the friend was gleeful to participate. I noted quietly, “your friend gave you feedback, and you went right to applying it, what a great way to grow your game design.” The pride on their face was the best treat of all.
So all the while to the unschooled eye, this might have looked like just kids playing was deep learning that they can take into whatever space they might want to pursue next. Creativity, engineering, the scientific and design process, all the while living with joy. This is the why of childhood. We ended our time together with a bit of Meeting for Worship and the query was “what are you grateful for today?” The best one? “Sarah took care of us today.” Oh, dear Friend, the feeling was mutual.