The Power of Intelligent Materials

by Kimie Fukuda, Opal School Teacher Researcher

This story is from Kylee, who
was quiet, shy, and new to Opal.  Until the point where this story begins, she had had very little voice in the
project that was unfolding in the classroom.  However, on the day we
invited children into the blocks to share their theories about how a body heals
itself, I noticed a strong sense of agency.  We had tapped into something that had provoked an incredible
desire for her to share her theory of anger and hurt – experiences she could
relate to.  The materials allowed her to tap into her emotional
life, which, in turn, seemed to bring her to life.  This was a voice we hadn’t heard before.  

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With a hint of urgency in her voice, Kylee began to explain her theory of
how anger is transformed in the body.

Kylee explained that when you are sad, the feeling in the mouth
(represented by the stones you
see below), travels from your mouth to your eyes like
saltwater. 

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If you are not too sad,
the sadness goes to your brain and talks to it, and sometimes it takes control
of the brain.  But when you are
really, really mad, Kylee continued, it goes down to the stomach. 

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This is when Kylee really became animated as she
explained that there are towers of experiences that become piled and pressed
down by anger (the two red blocks in the center).

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There is a good hammer, but it’s sleeping. 

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The smaller blocks that bridge the towers are all the things that you love like food, drinks, and happy memories. 

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But bad things (which are the rocks), the things that
you really hate, come up and smash the good things. 

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 But, she paused only for a second before offering, there
are really more good things than bad. 

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The good things come in the tummy and dump more
good things on and when it piles up,

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 it wakes up the good hammer. 

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And the hammer smashes the bad spots

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 and then the girl is happy again. 

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What do you speculate is the relationship between the child, the materials, and the thinking?

What are you wondering?

What surprised you?

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8 Comments

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  • This is so powerful. Kylee is seeing block construction as secondary to story telling. She is using the materials to visually represent her feelings and ideas. What a profound way to share an understanding.

    Heidi Ashton Reply
  • I wonder first of all about her experiences that brought her to the point where she could so clearly communicate these ideas. How old is she? How important for her this feels, sharing an understanding of abstract emotional senses with such concrete materials.

    Sockapoke44 Reply
  • This is a fantastic story that so clearly reminds us how unfair it is when we expect children to verbalize their thoughts and feelings, especially if they are new to us and the environment. WHat a call to listen and really see the whole child, the whole person and experience and be open to the next wonderings or questions that allow us to better know a child.

    rockfairy Reply
  • This is a powerful story, and it celebrates the power of materials – in this case, Kylee’s words were able to come from using materials – as well as a thoughtful prompt from her teachers. This is beautiful!

    Allie Pasquier Reply
  • This was really powerful for me. This littel girl had a chance to expres her feeling in a save enviremont and infront of a person who she knows,that will undersdant her. WOW! The materials that she choose , were just the right once,who represent her feeling. Stonse-hard,cold material, they can hurt you badlly. The “good hammer”is made by wood,soft,naturale material. The hammer maby represent someone in her family cicle?! Art is powerful aproche for self expresion.

    Ruslana Anastasova Reply
  • I wonder how much time is given to these expressions, how many children ‘create and express’ simultaneously – I wonder how I would have them all displayed, and record feedback, and what the others would be doing at that time. I have children who still only want to draw their computer games and guns, not necessarily a response to the provocation, how do I overcome this? Do I overcome this? I have been working on different forms of expression all year…

    Marianne Brooks Reply
  • How do you follow up with Kylee’s feelings? Or don’t?

    Marianne Brooks Reply
  • Wow! What an expressive girl, when given the time to explore materials look at all that can be expressed. In the beginning of the dialogue I was very concerned with the feeling that Kylee was expressing she seemed to possibly have a lot of sadness in her life. Then as she continue she said that the good things outweigh the bad. Materials what an amazing way to get children to share their inner thoughts, very powerful.

    Wenna Reply

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