Tuesday, March 8, 2011

PlayWatch: Block Builders

This post was contributed by AmeriCorps Museum Educator Cassandra Kane.

My favorite part about working with children is that I’m constantly in awe of their creative powers and imaginative play.

I was recently struck by one girl’s ability to transform a pile of ordinary blocks into an inventive “royal palace” scene during the Museum’s Block Builders program, which invites children to build with a variety of blocks and interesting materials. I watched as 7-year-old Cassie wandered the room, inspected each kind of block, and meticulously selected supplies for her project. She picked a spot to build and let her imagination run wild as she created an elaborate castle, block by block.Wood blocks stacked two or three high served as the outer frame, and a pyramid of additional wood blocks towered in the back, topped with a wood rectangle featuring a spinning flower “because princesses like picking pretty flowers,” according to Cassie.

She turned pink, green, and yellow plastic cylinders into soaring towers on the left and right sides of her castle. Blue and red tinted blocks instantly transformed into the vigilant and stern “guarders” John and Austin, who kept close watch on movement by the witch’s army from the “evil place,” another structure Cassie built a few feet from the castle’s grounds. There, a “mean old witch” trapped princesses in a red plastic cylinder covered with a large hardwood tray.
Cassie also used wood blocks to build items outside her castle, including a moat, a tree house, a refrigerator, and a table – created by placing a purple circular block on top of four Lincoln logs.

Inside the elaborate edifice, two princesses (pink and purple tinted blocks) named Cassie and Haylee ate a nourishing lunch consisting of their favorite foods and drink: donuts, ice cream, and chocolate milk. (Haylee is Cassie’s 6-year-old friend, who focused her attention nearby on balancing colorful acrobats on top of each other’s shoulders).

After her caregiver suggested it was time to move on to another area of the Museum, Cassie exclaimed, “I want to stay here and play!”

They left a few minutes later, though, and I couldn’t help but wonder how the tale would have continued and what else Cassie’s creative mind would have conjured up!

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