As I stepped into the first Day of school in our Cottonwood classroom (children ages 5-7 years), Lauren was just introducing a surprising material to the children, who sat expectantly hoping for their own opportunity to play. It was just masking tape. But it clearly held a kind of excitement as far as the children were concerned. Could it be that these children were rarely invited to mess around with this particular material? Is this something they found around the house that they were asked not to touch? Were they curious about its potentials because they’d often watched adults use it, wishing they could have a turn?
Whatever the reason, they wanted to play.
There is a problem, though. Inside the basket, there isn’t enough tape for everyone to get their own roll. What will they do about that?
These children, on their very first morning at school, are already bursting with ideas. We record them on the whiteboard.
Lauren hands a roll to every other child in the circle, and they are invited to find out what masking tape can do.
Individually and together, they explored the properties of the tape. And as they explored, they met one another. Children that could not rip the tape found other children who could. Children who wanted to wrap themselves in tape found partners who would help them do it. Children who wanted to make tape balls were able to connect with others who wanted to play with it. Gayla put her tape ball into the roll of tape and told me it was a planet. And a child working alone beside her was inspired to make the sun. They were purposeful, playful investigators of this interesting material — in dialogue with it and with each other. All together, delighting in one playful opportunity to think together, to share strategies and ideas and stories, and to make connections and help others they didn’t know yet.
The playful way Lauren presented the material, the scarcity she built into the experience, inviting conflict and being ready to resolve it, the questions she asked… these all contributed to an experience of connection for this new group of children. Their own ideas were converted to print on the board in front to them, offering an important literacy experience at the same time it demonstrated our promise to them that this would be a place where their ideas really matter. This is a place where we expect them to have ideas, where we expect them to work together, where we expect that we can work out our problems, where we have people who can help us, where we will have friends, and where we will have fun.
The tape was an offering of joy on the first day of school. This is a place where they can expect to find it.