Sunday, April 25, 2010

Hitting the Nail on the Head

This story was shared by Museum Early Childhood Program Developer Mary Scott Hackman.

For a Museum woodworking program, I set up three stations: one where children sanded blocks of wood, one where they created things with different-sized pieces of wood, and a third station that consisted of a tree stump (a real one with the bark removed), some nails and a bunch of adult-sized hammers. I wondered, what will happen if a child hits his or her thumb? What will our adult visitors think? At some point, will I have to remove the stump and reduce the children's experience to just two activities?

Well, the stump turned out to be the hit of the program! Once a child had a hammer, he or she did not want to give it up. A mom noticed her 9-year-old daughter at the stump. Not only was she doing a superb job of wielding the hammer, she had taken it upon herself to line up nails for the smaller children to drive. She was the queen of the stump! She knew what she was doing and she knew how to help the younger kids gathered at her side. I observed the young children's faces, watching in awe as the girl set up the nails, one by one, giving directions as she tapped another nail lightly into place, saying, “Now, you can drive it the rest of the way in,” and handing her hammer to someone in the crowd.

These kids could have been standing in a factory. They could have been out in the yard, fixing the fence. But they were here at the Children's Museum, looking powerful, taking charge with a hammer and nails, not getting hurt, just getting into the experience and looking just a bit taller at the stump!

As an educator, I have learned that I need to take risks if children are going to take them. As I stood at a slight distance taking in the scene at the stump, I heard a mom remark, “Look what I can do with things from our backyard!” When we step aside, provide real materials for children to use, they rise up and direct their own experiences. We need to give them room. Kids want to be big. We need to get out of their way. And if they occasionally hit their thumbs, so be it.

1 comment:

Arielle said...

This is great! One of my great joys as a child was hammering nails into wood. It's a wonderful experience, and useful too!