Build the World: description and rationale

Fashioning humans of clay.

Fashioning humans of clay.

A year ago, the PTA Afterschool Committee had asked if I could teach a new kindergarten class, an in turn I talked with kindergarten teachers to ask what skills are the students lacking that I could help teach. Their answer: fine motor coordination is something almost all of them need, even children who are doing well in academic subjects. This has evolved to Build the World, first offered in Fall, 2012 at Malcolm X.

The initial class description has proven more or less correct:

This is a crafts course for kindergarteners in which students build and animate a world.  They will start with a mass of clay and sand which they will sculpt with their hands into land, a mountains, a river, a cave. Weaving with twigs, they will make a bridge, a fence, and stonework to make huts.  Using a wet felt technique, they will create animals and people.  All this the children can do, largely on their own,  with solid materials, no veneers, no tape no glue, just hand manipulation.  And each week I will tell them a creation myth from around the world as we shape our world.

On our first day of creation, out on the playground, two other kindergarteners saw the excitement and ended up signing on to the class.

On our first day of creation, out on the playground, two other kindergarteners saw the excitement and ended up signing on to the class.

We’ll do a couple of things differently in the upcoming Spring class:

1. More fantasy play for the children.

We will re-use the stars, rocks, and twig walls from the world we built In the Fall, so that we’ll be able to build a more complete world sooner. My goal is to quickly get to the animate part of creation, so the children can start imagining and acting out stories. We will have a great locale, complete with archetypal cave, mountain, water, plain, and step rocky ascent.

Once we added animals of beeswax, the children  spontaneously enacted stories with their creatures.

Once we added animals of beeswax, the children spontaneously enacted stories with their creatures.

Here I have been inspired by “Godly Play”, a Sunday School curriculum started a while back by an Episcopal priest, in which the children do storytelling and fantasy play with figures, usually commercially made, for example, a set of figures to do the Noah’s Arc story.  I’ve seen this in action and am have assisted in teaching Godly Play stories at a church, where it is used for grades 1 and 2. In the Build the World, we play do a secular version of Godly Play, plus making our own figures and dioramas instead of buying commercial products.

2, More stories.

The stories affect them deeply, and I would like to do more. The technical difficulty is how to arrange things so that they can work on their craft while listening to the story. There is a tricky balance between how challenging the craft is, how much they need my help to do it, and how well I can tell them, and they can really listen to, the story. Last class, craft and story were separate; this class I will try combining them more.

A student cleverly realized how to make his peregrine falcon appear to fly.

A student cleverly realized how to make his peregrine falcon appear to fly.

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