Dr. Lomino in China: February 24
FEBRUARY 24: Clay Pots and Bicycle Wheels
It’s Factory Day! I am eagerly anticipating the learning today. The Factory is a child’s wonderland! It is a place for dreamers and inventors—a never-ending source of curiosity.
Breakfast is the first activity on the agenda, and I have decided that a meal together in the morning is far more than a physical necessity. It is socially bonding and reminds me that eating together is a common human experience, beginning eons ago around a campfire, sharing the sustenance of life. While looking into each other’s faces, people share a sensory experience— tasting, smelling, and feeling the same food. Eating together should be an integral part of Forest Kindergarten and every early childhood experience, especially in the US where fast food is replacing family meals around a table. The children here at No Boundaries eat calmly, some with chopsticks and others with spoons, observing good manners and being generally very pleasant with one another. When they are finished, they all take their plates to the collection area, scrape any leftovers into a bucket and place the dish and utensils in the correct bin. It is part of the morning routine, done without any grumbling or complaining. This is very good.
After a few minutes of free time, until everyone has finished their meal, the children gather in their groups with one group going to the pottery-making area and the other to the mechanical area. Ching Ching shows the children a finished piece of clay pottery, then gives each child a lump of clay. They spend time rolling and manipulating, then experiment with form.
I move to the mechanical area where Channing and his team of teachers are explaining how a bike chain makes the wheel turn. The children love getting their hands greasy, feeling the chain and moving it back into its proper place. Several are pretending to drive the car, an actual car—not a replica.
Back at the pottery area, a few children are using the pottery wheel, shaping a bowl on the spinning platform. I am amazed to see this. Qing Quing obviously enjoys this art form and is a talented potter herself. This is one skill I’ve always wanted to learn—maybe now I will have a chance! The creative process of art—with a wide variety of materials to manipulate—provides the sensory experiences young children need and enjoy. They help to develop the full use of their senses, imaginations and fine motor skills. Of course, forest kindergarten provides all of these important developmental skills, in abundance!
Because the Factory is such a large building, it is easier for the children to be spread out among the various activity areas, and it is also an ideal place for visitors. Not only is there plenty of room, but the picket fencing around the themed areas gives visitors great views of the children without an intrusion into the children’s spaces.
Music is used to gather groups together and also to change activities. The children respond well to the signals, and because the music is lovely to listen to, it adds a charming, comforting feeling to the day’s busy schedule.
Our Factory time is cut short when two little boys accidentally activate one of the fire extinguishers, with the ensuing spray covering a good bit of the lunch area. We move to another enclosed room to eat, then load the children into the bus to go back to the kindergarten, all accomplished in an orderly manner, of course.
Today’s Insight: Children’s imaginations need to be continually ignited. Curiosity and wonder fuel the joy of learning, but it shouldn’t stop when children get older. It should be a lifelong occupation. That, to me, is probably the most important gift of nature. And it is free and abundant!