It Not "Just Recess" Anymore!

Teachers often heave a sigh of relief when they take their students out to recess. Finally! The children can burn off the pent up energy they had been accruing for the past few hours indoors. But what if we change our outlook on outdoor play time? What if we create an outdoor environment that offered all of the learning opportunities that one would typically find indoors? What if children could run out to a well-planned play yard to find experiences in math, science, nature, dramatic play, water, building and construction, sensory activities, physical development, art and music? What if they play yard developed critical thinking, discovery, problem solving, and cooperative skills? The result would be that we wouldn't have "just recess" anymore. We would have The Outdoor Classroom!

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

The Benefits of Using Natural Clay in Preschool

The Philosophy:
Clay stimulates the child’s curiosity. Intelligence, imagination, and creativity are engaged and fostered.  Many new neurons and synapses in the brain are being generated when a child is engaged by the immediate tactile and visual feedback provided by clay. -Marvin Bartel, Ed D.
Read Full Article: Clay for Toddlers and Preschoolers: How and Why

Pumpkins designed by a 4 year old girl.

The "Real" Experience: 
Let me be honest for a minute. When I saw the box filled with a HUGE lump of brilliant orange clay (you know...the kind that gets all over your hands and doesn't come out of your clothes) I was not overly excited about it. Actually, I was terrified of it. Personally, I LOVE working with clay. It was the thought of working with clay and preschoolers that I wasn't so sure about. So, I ignored it...for weeks.

About 3 weeks ago, I finally took the plunge and opened the bag.  I offered the children some basic tools and some spray bottles to keep the clay moist. I "trained" a few of the 5 year olds to be "clay teachers" in hopes that they could help the other children learn how to use it appropriately. As other children came out to the outdoor patio (my domain for their morning hour of free choice time), many looked on with great interest. Things were looking good!

It went well while I was sitting with them, but when I turned my back to assist some other children, utter disaster! Wet, mucky, dripping, oozing and everywhere! The spray bottles were nearly empty and the children were covered! We do tell the parents that the children will get "messy," but this may have pushed the limits of acceptable! A great "process" activity, but not something I would be mentally prepared to deal with on a daily basis! Since our goal is to offer clay on daily, something had to give. I guess they weren't ready for an endless supply of water yet! Lesson learned. 

Needless to say, a few weeks later (and a lot less water set out on the table!), the clay table is a fantastic success. Some of the children use the clay for no other reason than to ooze their fingers through it and to feel the cool, smooth texture. Others have learned that clay can be finely molded into virtually anything their little hearts and minds desire.

1 comment:

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