Monday, September 14, 2020

Social Distancing in Kindergarten

Zac has had a few play dates (when our county is not at red, of course) and it's raised the question of how to do social distancing with children who are Kindergarten-age. Of course they want to hug each other and they can't!

Tinkergarten came out with a lesson plan based on lobsters walking backwards, and when your child starts to get too close to someone you can just say "Lobster Walk" or clack your fingers together like pincers, and they automatically step back. I also thought about activities where each child is setting up his/her own kingdom. If you have your own kingdom, it's natural that you will each have your own of everything! (Of course, it didn't occur to me that they would immediately want to sit in one another's box castles...)

We also added one more thing to his outdoor play area, which is a recirculating water pump! It's amazing, and a friend built it for us. It is made of cedar so it will last a long time, plus we put it under the overhang of the roof. You fill up the 10-gallon reservoir with a hose, and your child can pump and pump and pump to his or her little heart's delight. The water just runs through the slats of the bench and back into the reservoir.

So our Kindergarten at the start of September has had a few themes. Setting up a kingdom was definitely one. The new pump was one. And, of course, we have been really excited about our beautiful monarch butterflies!

Stories for Our Water Pump

This was a really interesting little mini-study. We got bread bowls from Panera and tore out the soft spongy center (like a baobab tree). And I tried to have him build a building of mud on the day before it rained, so we could see if it really did melt away. But Zac was too tender-hearted to let his design be ruined, so he carefully put a wood and bark roof over it.

Stories for Our Butterflies

We have had our first three monarchs hatch out of their chrysalises. Eight chrysalises remain hanging in the habitat. One fell and we aren't sure what will happen to it; we left it alone. And we walked one over to Zac's friend's house, so that she could watch it hatch at her home. Zac has loved doing sketches of the caterpillars, the milkweed, the chrysalises, and the butterflies. When we read our butterfly books, I also kept a straight pin handy in a little dish, so we could look at it every once in a while and marvel. The egg of the butterfly is just the size of the head of the pin!

Other fun:

hide & seek
potion play
tree climbing
playing tag
collecting berries from the dogwood
collecting berries from the crepe myrtle
collecting fat fuzzy flowers from the patch of unmowed grass
pumping water at the pump
covering plastic animals with mud
washing mud off of plastic animals
weeding the vegetable garden
harvesting cherry tomatoes
counting cherry tomatoes (our record in one day is 33)
eating wild strawberries
more tree climbing
more running
building houses with mud
more animal washing
throwing sticks
drawing with sidewalk chalk
watching a doe and two fawns walk through the yard
creating a fort under the burning bush
hiding plastic animals in the grass
hiding plastic animals in the branches
making boats of nature materials
experimenting: will purple leaves turn green if you put them in water?

Sensory play is the very best use for those little plastic animals that children always seem to collect. I love my hand-carved German wooden animals, but I would be really upset if they ended up in mud, pudding, or shaving cream! So plastic definintely has its usefulness.

Our Kingdom Work

Zac and his friend each got a huge cardboard box to decorate as their own castle. They drew a scene around the castle with sidewalk chalk.

I think you could keep going for quite a while with the kingdom thing. I also gave him paper and stickers one day so he could make a flag for his kingdom. This was a big hit, and a good use for scrapbooking stickers that I wasn't going to use in scrapbooking. He was thrilled that I had so many stickers of construction equipment! (Thank you to the family who donated these.) He loved carrying around a really tall stick as his king's staff.

It is so interesting to me, the differences between Kindy and the Lower Elementary grades. I think that Lower El kids, if given this challenge, would give themselves huge kingdoms, portioning up the yard in large chunks and setting up elaborately crafted individual worlds, and then spending a lot of time visiting each other to see everyone else's design. And, of course, firmly establishing the boundaries of their own territory and having disputes over said boundaries. It's all Playground Politics at that age.

Kindy kids are completely willing to create castles and kingdoms, but they want their castles and kingdoms to be right next to their friend's. It truly is parallel play. It was actually pretty adorable to see how much they wanted to help each other decorate the boxes, and I had to keep reminding them that everyone had their own individual art supplies. They so much want to share.

Zac was barely able to keep his distance, because he was so happy to have someone over for the first time since March. But he listened to me and tried very hard.

I do think that Kingdom Play is a pretty useful way to have kids focus on individual play... without the feeling that the other child is a danger. You are staying in your own personal space, but it's not in a way that is negative to the other people. It feels special. I'd love to hear other suggestions too!

I think it would be really fun to dig a moat around your cardboard castle box and see if your moat will actually hold water. Victoria Hackett at Outdoor Classrooms has lovely things to say about lining stream beds that children dig with aluminum foil. Nice! This way they hold water better, without it sinking into the soil so swiftly, and you can play more with them. It would be fun to build bridges and make boats, etc.

I also think it would be fun to create the countryside around your castle. You could organize the plastic animals by what habitat they live in, and even go with continents if your child is into that already. Zac loves the Montessori Colored Globe of the Continents, and he found the idea of the deserts of Africa fascinating! It was a nice little side discussion as we were learning about how important water pumps are for people who do not have them.

Overall, I've really enjoyed teaching outside, although I'm still finding my way around. I keep wanting to put things down on a table! And I have realized that I need to have scissors, tape, a ruler, and other basic office supplies on a little cart that I can roll onto the sidewalk. And insect repellent. And a first-aid kit! But you know what? It definitely has a lot of upsides. Today I looked up and saw a fox running through our field. It was awesome.

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