New Beginnings in Creating a Learning Community
Early last week, the children entered the classroom to find the sensory table filled with warm, soapy, green colored water. The water had become a “friendship of green,” created by the children as they investigated color and friendship earlier in the week mixing blue, pink and yellows into a giant water vessel while responding to the question, “How can you help these colors to make friends? What will happen when they meet water? How will you know they are friends?"
This water was added to the sensory table as an invitation to help the color friends "play" together and as a celebration of the friendships that had taken place in the water with the children's help. Throughout this investigation we've invited the children to reflect on their own experiences — were they, like the colors, taking those risks to mix and begin to explore friendships?
This investigation emerged on the first days of school as we listened for the children's questions in the way they explored their new classroom and community. We heard questions about color at both the message center and in the block area, "What happens when I mix yellow and blue?" "How do you make purple?". We also heard unspoken questions on friendship and sense of belonging, through observing gestures and behaviors such as,
"Will I have a friend? How might I connect to others here? How might I begin? What if I'm not ready? Will I be ok? What if I miss my family?"
In response to the children's questions,we engaged in a game with that Loris Malaguzzi, founder of the schools in Reggio Emilia refers to as "the ball toss" that begins with the children as they present an interest or question to the community. The teachers who are listening and paying attention, respond with an invitation for the children to explore the question in a new way, throwing the ball back "in a way that makes the children want to continue playing the game." Asking the children for their help in introducing the colors to one another seemed like the perfect provocation to explore their questions further.
The children were intrigued and delighted with the provocation. As we came back together for a reflection meeting, we asked the them,
"Do the colors want to feel safe? What words might they need to hear to find their courage? What do you need to feel safe and find your courage?"
M.S.: Just try it!
C.Y.: It will be fun!
prepared for the transition to clean up and gather for morning snack,
Michelle paused and contemplated what to do with the green soapy water in the
sensory table. She reflects, "I wondered to myself, 'Should I empty the
contents into the sink? Can I let this water simply go down the
drain? Can I let go of the green water and the symbol of relationships
it had become?'" She turned to Kimie and asked her, “What should we do
with the water?” The question stopped Kimie short—was it time? Were
they ready? Were we ready? Together we scanned the classroom. Before
us was a classroom of children engaged, connected, and together. We had
our answer. The children had spoken so clearly.
As adults, we tend to
hold on, but children have a beautiful way of reminding us that it’s
okay to let go. Michelle reflects, "I nodded and thought to myself, Coming
together had moved from the unknown to a reality. A reality we could
celebrate. I was reminded of C.Y.’s words, 'Come on, it’ll be fun.'
And F.B.-R.’s comment as blue and pink suddenly became purple, 'It
happened so fast.'"
The more we explore these questions, new questions emerge. We are continually listening for their responses and next questions as we wonder how to support their larger work of constructing what it means to build a learning community where every individual feels integral to the whole. The children have added their own interpretations of what has happened to the color and water: "The colors are friends now. They aren't scared anymore–they're having fun!" We asked them if they thought this was happening to our community in the Early K. "Yes! Yes!" they replied. "What color does it make when all of us are playing together then?" We asked.
"Brown!" "Black!" "I know, Green!" were the first responses. Then D.M. spoke, "It makes every color in the world!"
"Wow! What would that look like to see every color in the world become friends? Do you think that you could show us what that would look like, maybe with paint tomorrow?"
The children are planning on creating their own images and sewing them all together to create one quilt of what it looks like when ALL the colors are playing together.
We had been hoping for an opportunity to invite the children to participate in a collaborative project as a way to experience the power of working together. What a great opportunity to construct a visual reference point for our work together in becoming a part of a learning community while continuing to play with color through paint!
And so with this provocation, our investigation of building a learning community and finding our place among it, as well as exploring the magic of color and water continues. We can hardly wait for tomorrow!