Without picking up a pencil, without using a worksheet, without direct adult instruction -- these materials and the children's imagination leads to exploration in quantity, attribute, position, movement, direction, order, sequence, and pattern.
We take a sharp departure from community helper, teacher-shaped delivery and packaged dramatic play -- that is not the scaffolding we are looking for -- and this departure takes us down a path that is not always a sunny, little place of a brick-solid house with garden. Mostly, our dramatic play is built of sticks and how fabulous is it when it holds? And falls?!?
Two weeks before school begins and the rooms really could not be emptier. The school is a shell. Its heart, the children, have fluttered off, to beat, beat elsewhere and without them the structure and grounds only hint at what they will become once the school year begins again. The lights have been mostly off for weeks. Some are even burned out and waiting for new bulbs, but no one has noticed because no one has been in the school for more than a few hours over the last month. Dust has gathered. Leaves and sticks collect along the floor and the walls are bare. Abandoned drawings and little bits and pieces are left on the floor. Only marks on the paint are left as reminders of the artwork that usually hangs on the walls.
This is the time of the year left to renovations and upkeep, larger complicated projects like one that involves the drains in the basement that one of our member parents is finishing up even though his children no longer attend the school. Or refinishing the wooden floors which is being done by a parent whose child has not even started school! That's a strong community commitment! Then two weekends before school begins a whole crew of parents come in to work their magic, cleaning, painting, and gardening. After that work session is complete, the teachers spend each afternoon following their home visits working to shape and reshape the environment both indoors and out to reflect the interests and play styles of the children. We feel that the timing is crucial -- the short time spent visiting with the children in the morning gives the teacher the beat, beat inspiration to bring back to those empty rooms, that wide empty space of the playground.
The adults' interventions in repairing, refining, and arranging the space that will soon be filled with the motion of children marks the before and after of a space that only hints "school" and the space it will become through their combined efforts...and then the children take it from there.
We hold to the idea that we do not prepare children for school. We prepare the school for the children and yet we can only take this preparation so far. Once we have created that foundation, the children begin preparing their own space within the walls and on the playground. Without the presence of children and the beat, beat of their ideas, their feet, their words, their hearts it is not a school. It is just a shell.
Humans have been using story to enliven their play for a very, very long time so this is nothing new.This is what “planned serendipity” is – we imagine and re-imagine possible story lines and collect materials that enrich them and enjoy the play that unfolds.