The times Toddler Two South children have used wire in the Studio, there have always been interesting moments – Yoshi using one wire to hook another, D. trying again and again to poke wires down into the plug of the sensory table, S. creating a ball by smooshing the wires in his hands. However, when these endeavors became frustrating (or once they have been accomplished) the children would lose interest in the material, testing to see which of the handles and curtains in the room they can play with.
This led to a few trial weeks of bringing the Studio into the classroom. In other words, I would bring materials into the Toddler Two South room, set them up at the table, and remain there for a few hours, inviting children to join me in exploring what I had brought.
I noticed a difference in how our exploration of wire felt as a result of this change in scenery. First of all, each time that I have done this, all of the children came to the table and participated in some way. A few children (especially those newer to the classroom) were content to sit and observe, or perhaps hold a wire and stretch it out with their arms. Other children came to work at the table for an extended time, and many revisited the wire provocation in small bursts throughout the time it was available. There was still a space set up for careful work with the wire – a space that I felt was, in part, defined by the constant presence of a teacher – but children were not tied to it the same way they are in the Studio. If they felt finished with what they were doing or needed a break before coming back to try again, they were perfectly free to do so. At the same time, I felt comfortable reminding children of what they had been working on and inviting them back into it later on. This allowed children like Yoshi - who had considered the wire's possibilities as a hook - to extend ideas begun at an earlier date through more practice and new experiments.
As a teacher, I felt as though a weight had fallen from my shoulders as I spent time in the classroom with the children and the wire. The burden of constantly keeping so many minds engaged with same material all at once was gone, and instead, I was able to focus in on the children who were interested in the material in the moment. If someone left the wire table after a few minutes, I did not feel worried or discouraged the way I might in the Studio. In the Studio, a child leaving the activity often creates a distraction, if not for the whole group, at least for the teachers who hope to re-engage them. In the classroom, a child leaving the activity meant opening up space for a new person to join, or an opportunity to tidy up the table a bit, which often attracted someone else’s attention.
All of these observations tie back into a lot of what has been on my mind lately about both the role of the Studio as a physical space and my role as the atelierista, who is responsible for that space while also being responsible for work happening in all of our classrooms. I am excited by the success I have felt in Toddler Two South and other classrooms when I have brought materials to them and helped to define a more focused area for work within their everyday space, and I am excited, too, about what this might mean for the Studio space I leave behind. My vision is that, as we are building more space for focused work in the classroom, the Studio can transform into a laboratory – a place where groups of children invested in an idea or a problem can work together to solve it or where a teacher can bring a small group for close observation in order to further her research questions from the classroom.
When do you find a separate, focused space helpful in your life, and when do you prefer to be in a place with many options, people, and ideas in play at once?
What themes do you see continually resurfacing in your child's classroom? Do you have any ideas you could share with teachers about how we might bring these themes to the Studio?