Second, was the strong notion that, thankfully, this new home where ORIGINATEVE has been hired to develop a holistic program for, just so happens to be located in a safe neighborhood that allows us to frolic and wander through the streets at will, be it for a Halloween-Jack-o-Lantern-trick-or-treat parade or an afternoon walkabout a la Marco on Mulberry Street, "to see what we can see" and turn some "minnows into whales". Scavenger hunt print offs were not needed to justify our time of play. This is what play looks like: open to the infinite possiblities!
Third, was the broken old ladder. (Years of working with kids asserts that such a sighting will be a hit!) Unnoticed by the the yet to hatch band of ragamuffins, I was forced to do what I believe sets Mentors apart from teachers: steer their attention towards mischief, trouble and danger, distract them from their safe, soft aloof walk through the neighborhood.
The slightly more wildish ones in the bunch quickly made it for what became their gross motor skill developing balancing act. The sheepish followed suit, as expected and desired. Once their own system of play and order was installed with the organic praise and peer assistance that is born to any preschooler before school desensitizes them, it was time to up the ante and turn the broken old ladder, now propioception-triggering-device into a briding unit of math and literacy by lining up to count out her rungs. What better way to count to 25 for your first time in your second language, (for many probably even in their first)! 1-10 started off at a college-football-final-scream but by 13 it was a soft murmur from those in the group that probably go home to be flash-carded by multimedia devices of paranoia that seem to put a faux sense of satisfaction in parents freaking out that 1st grade is just around the corner (2 years away for most of mine). Numbers 22 through 25 were all on me, but by the second time through we were all chanting together. 13 of our kids walked the plank. 13 sets of 25 and the kids were having a ball with our busted up ladder.
Then it was time to shake up the mix a bit and see who's got those muscles (speaking towards the Kinesthetic Intelligentsia of the ruffians-in-the-making). And just like that 13 pre-schoolers were put to the task of developing team work skills by first believing that what their Mentor was requiring of them was actually so and then by figuring out how to actually carry our new found old beat up bamboo ladder back to the abandoned lot that has recently been bestowed by the kids as the Monster Tree Playground where we have been granted permission to begin building our playground and digging the first trenches for our compost and garden. Off we went, whistling in our heads, (the whistling Unit is week 16 of our emergent curriculum material) "hi-ho, hi-ho, off to work we go", with our beaten up old ladder carried by the 13 dwarfs and Papa Smurf.
Upon our accomplished arrival, most of the boys quickly resorted to turning sticks and branches into swords and attacking each other. Early on in my OE mentorship training program I remember learning that such needs for entry-level play were necessary to be given their time and space. Therefore, unconcerned to deter the young from their archetypal neophyte understanding of a warrior I engaged my own warrior of beauty antics and began moving around tires, setting up the peripheral learning they would not doubt engage once it had enough magnetic pull.
Once I had a basic model of what we would be building, I started hurling 20 pound tires at 40 pound 4 year olds; gots to keep them growing up quick and smart like the Mouse Deer they keep hearing about in their kick-off story time. With some nudging, tires were added as steps to support our broken old ladder, that once in place, would need no prodding or instructions. Like monkeys, born for vine-adventures, what was just a broken old ladder was now the iconic beginning of our Monster Tree playground, and 7 of our dare-devils would waste not time putting the old-overlooked-and-tossed-away-bamboo to the the test.
Originateve's Holistic Design programming has always advocated the multi-layering benefits of multi-age learning environments. Consider this. Just before our kids were about ready to return to their swords play our 2 older kids, Owen and Alan (ages 6) arrived from doing some primary school preparation work. They immediately showed their enthusiasm for what the younger ones had done without them, I call this original-praise. They then launched into raising the bar of what play would look like and how the Monster Tree would be conquered, for the first time. The little ones gathered around in their returned admiration and quickly lined up to take their jab at the risky climb.
With the kids being kids in my background and foreground, I took mental notes on their differing daring natures, social skills, motor-skill developments, propioception, creativity and love for life, couldn't have asked for a more diagnostic afternoon - portfolio worthy but hard to squeeze into an 8 x 11.5 plastic folder wrap.