On May 12, Bennett Day School participated in More Than Milk’s Mother’s Day Brunch for New Moms, Inc.  Our focus was on activities for young children using primarily found materials.  In addition to our founding team, we had education team support and student volunteers on hand to facilitate learning and participation in the four activities on hand.

The art and design stations drew many students who created automobiles and cars using paper towel and toilet paper tubes, cast off belt buckles, and pipe cleaners.  Bright blue painters tape added the finishing touch.  Many of these vehicles made their way over to the building station, where children erected towers and tunnels with Lake Michigan rocks and cardboard tubes of various sizes.

Ribbon and plastic ribbon skeins served as platforms for weaving and design and a basket of assorted fabric remnants served as capes for toddlers and sensory stimulation for infants.  One of our student volunteers walked the room with assorted fabric remnants for the young mothers to try with their babies.  

The water station was perhaps the most frequently visited station.  Here, our volunteer team filled a small baby pool with a little over two inches of water, Lake Michigan rocks, and a handful of shapes cut out of a 4-pack package of OCello Handy Sponges.  Inspiration struck and they added duct tape to the ends of some of the large cardboard tubes to make them water-ready, and added ribbon to the ends of garden bamboo sticks to create fishing poles.  Suddenly, those sponges were fish.  Later, using crayons, they drew fish on some of the rocks to create even more waterlife.  

There is really nothing like the pure joy and abandonment of playing in the water.  Little bodies perched, knees bent and hands emerged, over the water, piling up rocks, knocking them over, dropping sponges through the tubes (frustrating slow when the sponges were wet, but creating a satisfying sploooch sound and splash when dropped through wet), looking through those same tubes at the person nearest and to find familiar faces of mothers and other caregivers seated throughout the room.  

The morning was a wonderful reminder of the universal draw of the simplest materials.  While we bury ourselves in gadgets, gizmos, toys, and material goods, here we watched a collection of young learners engrossed in the interaction of simple, accessible materials: water, rocks, sticks, toilet paper rolls.  

This what we strive for.  Providing children with the opportunity to explore the world around them, presenting specific materials as provocations, and learning with them as they experiments with, touch, and test those materials to produce myriad outcomes.  Many of which may well be unexpected and messy.

Ian Jukes’ recent posting about Messy Learning is a wonderful follow-up to this day.

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