I Saw Two Empty Bushels, But What Did They See?

Yesterday afternoon, I had duty outside with the other Kindergarten classes. When I got outside, one student noticed an empty bushel in the middle of the playground. It was like the bushel that generated this response from one of my students earlier in the day.

I suggested that this other student bring the bushel over to the dirt/grass area under the trees. There were now two bushels under there. A few minutes later, I heard some angry cries from over at the bushels, so I went over to see what was happening. A JK student in another class was very angry because, “I want the rocks in one bucket and the dirt in another.” She pointed to some other students and said, “They keep messing it up!”

She then dumped over both bushels to empty them out. When she saw them upside down, she said, “I have an idea.” Right beside us was a little tree. She pulled the bushels over to the tree, and she stood on top of one while another student stood on top of the other one. Was this safe? 

I moved a little closer to see what the two students were doing. They reached their arms up to the tree, and started to grab at the leaves and branches. This is when we spoke about what happens when people pull leaves and branches off of trees (discussing living and dying plants). I suggested that the two children could pick leaves up off the ground, but as one child exclaimed, “I don’t want to do that!”

This is when she looked down at me and said, “I’m like the adult now and you’re like the child.” Huh? I didn’t quite understand her statement, so I asked her to, “Tell me more.” She said, “Well, I’m taller and you’re smaller. So I’m like the adult and you’re like the child.” I then jokingly replied, “Does that mean that you get to do duty?” She said, “No. I don’t want to do duty. I want to climb.”

As she wrapped her arms around the tree, I made a connection to our trip to the fire station, and what it looked like when the firefighter slid down the pole. I told her this, and the student next to her said, “Watch me!,” and he slid down the tree. She said that she wanted to do this too, but told me that she needed help, and asked me to move closer to help her. I did.

When both students were on the ground, I looked and noticed that the bushels were cracking. I pointed this out to them. The little boy said, “It won’t be safe for us to stand on them anymore. We’re too heavy.” I agreed. But the little girl said, “I have an idea.” She put one bushel inside another one, and then stood on top. “Look! It’s safer now.” She was right.

She jumped on and off of these combined bushels a few more times, and then another student said, “I want to play.” She took the bushels apart. She moved one bushel over towards the dirt and rocks to start collecting them again, but another child said, “Look at me!” She sat inside one of the bushels. Pretty soon, others wanted to do this too.

I heard all kinds of conversation.

  • “This one fits me perfectly.”
  • “You’re too big to fit. Only small people can fit inside.”
  • “Can you pull me?”
  • “Can you push me?”
  • “This can be a car.”
  • “No, it can be a nest. I’ll be the baby bird — tweet, tweet!”
  • “I’m going to make a cake with the mud and the rocks. Look! These broken pieces can be my candles.”

Soon the bell rang, and I had to head inside, but as I walked, I thought about this bushel play.

  • Initially, I wanted to stop the creativity because I was unsure if the climbing was safe. Imagine the learning opportunities that would have been lost!
  • Children are learning all of the time. Even during these more unstructured times, they are still learning.
  • When we remember to always view students as “competent and capable” — something that Karyn Callaghan taught me — how much does this change our thinking and actions?

These thoughts make me wonder …

  • How can we become more comfortable with “risky play?”
  • How can we better capture the learning that happens during these unstructured times (e.g., recess), so that it can help us determine our next best steps?
  • How can we support each other more in capturing and sharing this learning? Just like in the case from yesterday, we don’t only observe the learning that happens in our class with our students.

Thinking back now,

  • I’m glad that we didn’t throw away the empty bushels.
  • I’m glad that I wrote down the details of these conversations before I forgot about them.

I’m always amazed at what we can learn from children!


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