First Grade Explorations!
A few weeks ago, I had the opportunity to sit in on Mrs. Kirkpatrick’s first grade class at Blue Whale. I was there specifically to observe her ‘Explorations’ activity, which had piqued my interest when it was mentioned in a school newsletter. Explorations is an unstructured creative time where students are given a variety of raw materials to use any way they want. Their only instruction: CREATE!
Mrs. Kirkpatrick began by reviewing the ground rules, which included no running and proper scissor handling. She encouraged the students to think outside the box, to come up with solutions if they ran into problems, and to create freely. Then it was time to step back and allow them the opportunity to let their imaginations run wild. The students eagerly pounced on the jars and baskets of materials.
If I’m being totally honest, I was fully expecting mayhem to break out, possibly some tug-of-war over certain items, and definitely enough noise to make my ears bleed. But I couldn’t have been more wrong. The students scooped up their fabric and buttons and glue and popsicle sticks, and went to work. Not one child hesitated. Not one child whined that they didn’t know what to make. I could hear some quiet murmuring as a few students worked as teams, but otherwise the room was practically silent.
While the students were in a flurry of creativity, I asked Mrs. K how she came up with this activity. She explained that she had previously worked in a progressive school setting in California where she picked up the idea. The original format looked quite a bit different, but she kept tweaking things, changed it to a centers-style activity, shuffled things around a little more, and eventually arrived at the current format. When discussing Explorations with others, she is usually met with the same expectations that I had (uh, mayhem!) but that has never been the experience she has had with her classes.
People say not to give children too much freedom, or too much control, but the opposite is true…you have to trust the kids, they can handle more than we think.Mrs. Kirkpatrick, first grade teacher
At the end of Explorations time, the students had come up with the most inventive, unique projects. One student created a robot out of a popsicle stick, washi tape and some cardboard scraps. One team invented a board game complete with playing pieces made of popsicle sticks and some truly outstanding artwork. Students designed pieces of clothing and blankets, puppets, a race track with cars, superhero armor. It was amazing. And in case I wasn’t starry-eyed enough, as the activity came to a close, the students all pitched in for clean up, gathering leftover materials back into the baskets, throwing away scraps of paper.
Needless to say, I was blown away by the entire experience, and it got me thinking. How can I recreate this magic at my own home? Well, that is exactly what I will show you in the next post. Check back tomorrow for all the details! In the meantime, visit us on social @islandprep and don’t forget to tag us in any pictures of your children’s awesome Explorations creations!
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