He does. He shares more cloth with several other boys, and soon they are building
what they see in the book’s pictures. Wonderful buildings emerge in the Arabic style
complete with onion-domed roofs.
“It’s the Egyptian king’s castle,” James tells me.
I have not mentioned Egypt; that is his connection. “It’s like The King, the Mice
and the Cheese (a favorite story by Nancy and Eric Gurney),” adds Anthony. More
connections! The children are able to make connections when our environments are
open-ended and rich in materials, equipment, conversations and experiences.
The connections that the more knowledgeable and experienced adult makes are a
valuable contribution to the learning community. Share your connections with the
children; just don’t let them be the only connections happening.
We all need our own personal space to move in freely and safely, enough materials
for us to use without having to wait and push into a crowd. We so easily provide
environments that are like last-minute holiday shopping, push and shove, rising
tempers and temperatures, loud voices and frustrated people. No one, including
small children, can concentrate on visual and aesthetic dimensions when under this
sort of stress.
Children need more than two easels available, with space so they can walk around
and see what other children are doing. They also need more than the standard pri-
mary plus one secondary color (usually green) if they are to represent their ideas and
knowledge about themselves and the world they live in.
Melinda asks Daphne (a volunteer at the center) for some gray paint. “One jar
with light gray, please, one with dark gray and another with a sort of in-the-middle
gray.” Daphne mixes the colors with her, and they talk about how much black and
how much white will achieve the right shade. Melinda returns to her work. She is
painting shortly after September 11, and her painting shows the plane crashing into
a tall tower, fire coming out and windows with faces of people, a pile of debris form-
ing around the base of the tower, pieces of paper floating from windows and a small
flower rising from the ashes. She needed the particular shades of gray to show
the building, the smoke, debris and the windows.
Children need sufficient paper to have several attempts at drawing, painting or col-
lage. They will thrive when given lovely soft pastels in a variety of colors.
“Oh look,” says William when we open a new large box of colors. “There are five
greens.” He has spent the first months of the year coloring entire pages red, yellow,
and green or blue with pastels held on the side. He truly knows about color; it’s been
his fascination. Now he is exploring the shades and tints available.
space, aesthetics and materials
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