Last week, I asked Rodolfo to join me in the Block Area. I showed him some photographs that I took at Lewis Ginter on our field trip and invited him to make one of the buildings we visited. Without hesitation, he selected the "Tree House." There was so much joy that was experienced in this place by all of the children. I can't help but wonder if the emotion connected to this building had something to do with his choice.
Rodolfo studied the picture and seemed unsure where to start. I covered the upper portion of the Tree House with my hand and asked him to look at the base.
Without me saying another word, he immediately went to the block shelf and gathered the cylinders to represent the pillars. Elmer felt the excitement of something big getting ready to happen, and quickly asked to join Rodolfo's plan.
I silently stood back and observed these boys in action. I discovered that Rodolfo and Elmer understood the idea of stability. Several times, Rodolfo repositioned the horizontal blocks onto the vertical blocks to gain more balance. In addition, the boys placed a horizontal block in the middle of the first level. Was it to ensure greater balance or was it represent the house segment or "just because?" I am not sure.
Once these two were satisfied with the bottom segments of the Tree House, they examined the top portion of it in the photograph. In actuality, the roof of the Tree House is cone shaped. We do not have any blocks or loose parts in the Block Area that are this shape. I found it interesting that Rodolfo chose a triangular prism which has some of the same attributes as a cone. It has a slanted plane leading to an edge like a cone has a slanted surface leading to a point. Then Rodolfo placed a smaller triangular prism next the original one. I did not think to ask him at the time what he was trying to accomplish. Looking back at the documentation, I wonder if he was trying to build upon the first triangular prism and make it more cone shaped like the photograph.
What is not captured in my documentation was the cylinder that Rodolfo placed next to the triangular prism. This shape also has similar characteristics of a cone with the curved surface. Makes me wish I had thought to ask him in the moment about his thinking process.
Elmer thought that the Tree House should be a taller structure and took off the triangular prisms to add another level. I found it interesting that he alternated the positioning of the horizontal blocks at each level. I am assuming he had some prior knowledge and experiences dealing with stability.
While Elmer worked on the Tree House some more, I asked Rodolfo to look at the photograph again to see if there was anything that he would like to add. He noted that there were trees. I made the statement aloud wondering if there was anything that could be used to represent trees. He knew exactly what he wanted to do and retrieved the baskets of cylinders. He used those for the trunks and the small triangular prisms for the tops of the trees.
Elmer realized that he would need to find a solution to be able to reach the height that he wanted to achieve. He figured out that the step stool would be needed. At this level, he returned to using cylinders as the pillars like how they began the structure. I wonder if it was because they were close in proximity on the table or if he had a reason behind it.
Elmer added just one small triangular prism to the top and proceeded to help Rodolfo with the trees surrounding the Tree House. Justin heard the excitement and came over and asked to join their plan. The boys explained what they were building and referenced the photograph.
We invited Justin to add anything he thought was missing. He add a semicylinder to the top. I believe he may have had the same possible logic as the other two boys... maybe it needed a curved top like actual Tree House and any form of a cylinder may do the trick?
Once the boys were satisfied with the trees, I invited them to observe the photograph more closely and see if there was anything else that was needed. The boys all agreed that it needed water around it. Their sense of agency is growing as the year is progressing and they immediately started to look for materials in the Block Area to represent the water. None of the choices seemed agreeable to them, so they turned to me for guidance. I invited them to explore Magic Play (dramatic play) to see if there was anything that they could use. I was thinking that they might want to use the fabric offerings there. I did not share my intent with them because I wanted to see what they could design on their own. The boys did not even make it to Magic Play before stopping at the Sign In table and collecting pink and clear glass beads. They eagerly spread them around the Tree House and declared that to be the water.
Rodolfo then pulled out the wooden bridges and lined them up together in a straight line. I was unsure what he was doing. He informed me that it was the sidewalk at Lewis Ginter.
From across the room, Matthew got a glimpse of the action taking place in the Block Area. He came over and asked the other boys if he could join this plan. They all agreed and explained to him what they were doing. He asked if he could help with the Tree House and he added the tall triangular prism to the top of the structure. To me, the cone shaped roof was now represented in three different ways: its height with what Matthew added, the general shape leading to one point/edge with what Elmer added, and the curvature with what Justin added. Though this is just my hypothesis, I can't help but think it may have been supported if I had thought to ask them in the moment. Each time I blog and reflect on the documentation, it reinforces the value of this process.
This has been the tallest structure to date that has been erected in the Block Area. It caught the attention of others outside of this area who stopped their own work in awe. I hope this work might spark intereset with others.
The next day, I asked the boys if there was anything else they felt needed to be represented from their experience at Lewis Ginter. They were all in concensus that they wanted to create the snake that they saw. I inquired on how they wanted to make it. Rodolfo said with paper and the two other boys followed his lead.
Once Matthew signed in, he immediately returned to this plan with the others and declared that he wanted to draw a snake too. They boys then drew other things they saw along their walks in the gardens there, such as flowers and a light-up Pikachu.
When placing their creations in and around the Tree House, it became evident to the boys that the drawings could not be seen due to the nature of the paper. I asked Matthew if he would be interested in going to the Making Area with me so I could share with him a way their drawings could stand up and be noticeable.
As soon as I grabbed a toilet paper roll, Matthew knew exactly what to do without any scaffolding. He went to get the glue on his own and attached his drawing to the cardboard roll.
Matthew placed more of his creations around the Tree House. Rodolfo observed Matthew's work and on his own, used the same principles and attached his paper drawings to wooden cylinders.
Rodolfo felt like his work here was done and made another plan in the room. Matthew and Elmer continued on with building the road with inclined planes. They then gathered the wooden cars from another area of the room to explore the inclined planes. As their garden sidewalk soon became a road, the Tree House structure became obsolete and the project was cleaned up.
BUT...then the next day came around and these two boys were back at it! Though their structure was not as elaborate nor as deliberate as the first one, only time will tell what this experience will bring to new adventures in learning for them.
So much was gained by this experience! The children explored stability; representation with blocks, drawing, and loose parts; developing spatial awareness; and gaining a better understanding of geometric shapes...all while collaborating and experiencing joy!