Thursday, July 22, 2010
Here’s one of those ideas that happened because I was denied the ability to execute the plan. The story:
We often plan around a vague theme just so we have a hook to hold on to and have an easier time trying to figure out which bits to extend based on what interests the kids. We aren’t explicit with the parents about these themes because they’re just a launching pad. We had been playing with vibrant colors and dark backgrounds as well as black/white/gray. One day we had planned to use our fancy Bev Bos chalk at one of the tables. It’s called Bev Bos chalk because we but it from her (she doesn’t seem to sell it on her website or I would have linked it; I think we got it at a conference). They are large, rectangular bits of chalk that you’re supposed to use wet. They are very vibrant, particularly on dark paper. They also have an interesting feel to them when you’re using them, neither draggy like regular chalk nor smooth like slick sticks.
When one of us went to the supply room to pull out the chalk, it wasn’t there. We couldn’t find who was using it, either. That probably meant that it was in a room somewhere, drying out from the last class who used it (this stuff takes forever to dry). We were bummed. The kids were going through a drawing phase and we really felt they need something to draw with. About to punt with the crayons AGAIN (white and gray crayons on dark paper, natch), we found a bin with hotel soaps in it. Jackpot!
The beauty of the soap is that it leaves a nice mark on dark paper. The mark feels like a crayon mark, which makes you wonder what’s in that soap. It also smells very nice, adding a sensory dimension that we wouldn’t have gotten with our fancy chalk. Hotel soaps come in all kinds of fancy shapes, sizes, and scents, so you can get some interesting conversations going about that (you’re doing math when you categorize things, remember?). You can draw with the skinny edges or the big flat side of the bars. When the soap gets crumbled and crushed, you know that it’s an easy clean-up as well as a new tactile experience. Don’t stop the crushing, but do talk about it. Whether you observe that when a bar of soap gets crushed there are fewer bars left to draw with for others I leave up to you. If you can't bring yourself to "waste" anything, make some clean mud with the crushed bits and you'll feel better.
If you’ve got mouthers in your class this is only a recommended activity if you can have an adult be right at the table while your mouthers are drawing. Also, there’s always the risk that there’s an allergen (like milk) in those soap bars. Luckily the paper wrappers often say what’s in them.