Every class is different. This is why it is futile to think that something that we have or have created for specific use will be used, year after year, in the same way. This is also why we limit the number of fixed structures in our yard and removed the edges from others. For instance, we have no edge on our sand pit or around the garden beds. If you look through our collected photos on flickr or in our facebook feed, you can detect patterns. At our school, the constructions, reconfigurations, and wrangling of the outdoor space rests squarely on the shoulders of our oldest class, the Tracks class. These 4 and 5-year olds are here every day and so their play arcs can really pick up steam over the course of the week. In years past, we have had world-class decorative mudpie baking, ornate and feathered nest-building, and long-term excavation projects which have resulted in a dry creek bed and very, very wet ponds.
This year, we have cache builders.
It started last year, when one of the children moved all of the branches he could find into a grand pile. Then the snow came, the branches froze together and it became a mountain to climb. They climbed it so much that when the thaw came, the branches were thoroughly wedged together. They are really good at cache building. And these children are not just cache builders. They are climbers. They build caches. Then they climb them. That is what they do.
Eventually, that pile of branches was dismantled and its bits and pieces were moved to other places in the yard. Then new caches were formed. These mangled bits of wood, pipe, brick, pots, pans, and perching ducks all tell a story, their story. And guess what? To the uninitiated, it looks like there are gigantic piles of debris everywhere. To us, the teachers, parents, and children of The Cooperative School, these glorious pile-ups look like expressions of joy.
Once upon a time, there was a Tracks class that built caches. Then they would climb them.