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Making Connections

June 5, 2021 | Nathan Johnson

Much of a preschoolers’ day is spent exploring. 

Materials — New words, numbers, and concepts  — Songs, games — Even each other.

And as they explore, something happens that is actually what learning is all about…

They start to make connections. 

In The Importance of Making Connections,  Kylie Rymanowicz of Michigan State University writes, “As young children grow and develop, they learn to make connections in order to understand and master their worlds.”

These moments are often encouraged and cultivated intentionally by the teachers, but they can also happen, like a flash of lightning in a calm sky, out of nowhere. 

Here was one such ‘lightning’ moment…

In the Drama area, we are newly taking care of babies, and, as you know, we are also growing sprouts in our classroom farm from seeds we planted two weeks ago.

Here is a discussion between a teacher and a student who were playing with baby dolls, and two others students who had just arrived after working with the garden. 

“The babies are growing!” 

“Growing, just like the seeds!” 

“No, you can’t grow in the ground if you’re a baby”

“You grow just lying around”

“Babies grow in their mommies belly” 

(They all confirm that this is where they grew)

Teacher: So you think the seeds are growing just like babies grow? 

“The seeds are getting bigger and when they get grown-up they are food.” 

“The babies don’t grow because they aren’t real babies only pretend babies.”

“But real babies grow.”

“My baby grows”

Teacher: “What makes babies grow?”

“Food!”

“They don’t need roots and dirt like plants.”

“They need food.”

“They need squished bananas and puffs.”

Teacher: “Do only babies eat?”

“NO!”

“We all eat! We were eating just at Snack!”

Teacher: “Oh we all eat! So are we all growing”

“No.”

Yes!”

“I’m still as small as a baby.”

“No, you are bigger.”

“I was a baby but then I grew”

“My mommy measures me. So I grew.”

“My daddy measures me.”

“I’m bigger than a baby, but I’m not a baby, but I was born a baby in my mommy’s tummy, but I’m growing.”

Teacher: “We can measure things at school. What should we measure?”

Me!

Me!

… The babies!

Thus started an activity where they measured each other, compared heights, measured babies, compared them with each other, and saw that babies were small.

They started to discuss if these were real-sized babies or just toy-sized babies. They double-checked each other’s work. They contrasted the size of born babies and unborn babies. 

Weeks of discussing the growth of plants had taken a sudden left turn into baby growth, which quickly led to a self-reflection on the student’s own size, body, and reality. 

They are exploring, making connections, and learning

Stay tuned for more on the connections children are making, as they respond to story-telling curriculum in Drama. I’ll give you a hint — it’s the reason there are babies in the drama area in the first place!

Nathan Johnson

Rivers Class Assistant Teacher & Lower School Visual Art Teacher

Nathan Johnson graduated in 2004 from Lenoir-Rhyne University with a Bachelor of Arts in Visual Arts (focusing on Illustration, Art History, and Puppetry), Theatre, and Elementary Education, followed by further time in Europe studying Art, and in Nova Scotia working with adults with developmental differences.

Happily back at his Alma mater (MSS class of 1995) Nathan has passionately committed his career to preserving the dignity and wonder of childhood. As children are more and more burdened with technology and privilege, he believes that in order for children to learn and grow, they must be given freedom within structure, choices with guidance, allowed to play, struggle, get dirty, and above all, for each child to be taught that they are a beloved child of God.

When not in the classroom, Nathan can be found kayaking, camping, hosting a game night, wandering around New York City, making friends with strangers, and spending time with his 11 nieces and nephews.

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