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Material Matters

“The freest child is the child who is most interested in what he is doing, and at whose hand are the materials for his work or play.”
— Caroline Pratt, progressive education reformer & founder City and Country School NYC

Materials have been on my mind a lot lately. Human made and nature provided. Cardboard and string. Paper and paint. Sticks. Pinecones. Trees. My 2nd grade Reading classes have been hard at work and play with such materials these last couple of weeks. As part of our study of setting, using the book Roxaboxen by Barbara Cooney, students planned, designed and built their own version of the magical kids-only town right here at Bixby. The natural beauty of our school grounds, wonderfully tweaked by our founders and subsequent teachers, provides a unique opportunity for larger scale building and other projects. It is a dream come true for me as a teacher of young children to work with them in such beautiful surroundings. As the children brainstormed what they might build- an ice cream shop, homes, a town hall, a jail!- they considered what materials they might need to bring the project to fruition. The consensus was that we needed boxes, lots of boxes. So, families sent them in and, in no time, the Reading room began to resemble an Amazon warehouse. We collected hundreds of pinecones from around Bixby that would be used to map out the footprint of our Roxaboxen. Kids painted signs and other necessary markers. In the hands of kids, toilet paper rolls and colorful crepe paper quickly became ice cream cones. Sturdy paper plates became steering wheels. Horses were fashioned out of branches and string. Hanging back and letting the students take charge and collaborate around the use of materials, I saw their imaginations light up. They enthusiastically shared ideas and made suggestions amongst each other. Once building began, the students worked quickly and with focus. They were highly motivated and dedicated.