Mar 5, 2008

building a firm foundation

building the petronas towers 1

Concentration. A grand plan. A careful touch. The pleasure of being architect, structural engineer, and construction worker all at once. If you stick your tongue out a bit further, that precariously placed block will most certainly stay put. The young visionary learns all too quickly from an error in judgment, but the driving force of the grand plan leads him right back to the construction site to work up a plan B.

building the petronas towers 2

This morning, I was delighted to see that one of my students had placed a photo of the Petronas Twin Towers (once the tallest in the world) on his work rug. With a quick, I'm-on-a-mission gait, he went back and forth from the shelf to his rug, retrieving the pieces of the pink tower and the brown stair. This is the fruit of his labor:

building the petronas towers 3

Right on, little man - take an idea and run with it! I swear, my greatest epiphanies as a teacher come from the students themselves. Hats off to you, Diego, for the following idea, which could be used both in the home and the classroom.

Search high and low (and most likely in old issues of National Geographic) for excellent quality photos of architecture from around the world. Include photos of well-known landmarks, such as the Taj Mahal, the Leaning Tower of Pisa, the Notre Dame Cathedral, the Empire State Building, and the Pyramids. Don't forget to also include typical houses from around the world. Mount the photos on card stock, write a sentence or two about the building on the back, and laminate for durability. Keep the photos in a special folder titled "The Architect's Library of Inspiration" or something of the sort. Provide wooden blocks and a sturdy foundation.

I've put a good deal of thought into appropriate (and inappropriate) toys for young children. While I'll spare you a soapbox speech at the moment, one thing I can say for certain - if my own children have no store-bought toys other than quality wooden blocks (and a hefty selection of art supplies), I would say that they wouldn't be missing out on a darn thing. But then again, I'm one of those weirdos who has never owned a television and never will and who is planning on having nightly family jam sessions with my future children.

The word on the street is that these blocks are amazing. I'm also partial to the sets that are available from Michael Olaf's catalogue. We have the Roman Arch set in my classroom as part of the physics curriculum, and I'm personally envious of any child that has the deluxe wooden block set. How cool would that be?

To sum it up - provide blocks, and they will build.

26 comments:

zinnia said...

What I particularly love is that he is wearing an apron! Do you have aprons to accompany every material??

andrea said...

Anna Maria made a funny comment on making wooden blocks herself on her blog today. You two must be on the same wave length.

I too vote, DOWN with TV!! but I did sneak and watch the Oscars. What can I say. We all have our weaknesses!

Amy in Beijing said...

I can see the Petronas Twin Towers from my apartment in downtown Kuala Lumpur, and I like his version better! No pollution haze....

Ali said...

That's such a brilliant idea Meg - Mark is going to love it. Off to find the old National Geographics and my scissors...

sarah said...

i totally agree! Blocks, paint, and collage/drawing materials are always an open choice in my class. I personally like the basic Pratt unit blocks for the youngest children and the crosses/y-switches/fancy pieces once they have more experience building--did you know they teach math/science/physics? The rectangle is the basic unit and all other pieces are various halves, doubles, or quadruples of that. It means that as they build they are learning basic concepts of addition/division etc. When we clean up the blocks we go on scavenger hunts like "look for blocks that if you put two together they will look like this" it is great to see what they pick up. The joy of discovery when they figure out two ramps also make the unit is great.

You should look at "The Block Book" I'm not sure who wrote it but it was put out by NAEYC ages ago...so many ideas for involving blocks in every aspect of the classroom.

Nix Sidhe said...

While I have a TV to watch movies on, I am always appalled at parents who sit their children down in front of TVs or buy them every single trend toy made of horrible cheap (mercury/lead polluted) plastic. Wooden blocks, a hand made doll/poppet, paints, paper, musical instruments, and books. I don't get why children would need anything else.

Em said...

What a lovely job he did - he's brilliant! And I love how he looks so proud of himself!

amanda said...

wooden blocks, awesome art materials, and a weekly family hootenanny. It's no wonder I adore you so much, meg. ;)

KitKnitty said...

I love your blog! Your comment about blocks strikes a chord, because that's what we always ask for our children for any gift-giving occasion. The usual response is, "What? You mean like Legos?" And then we point them to some sites that sell wooden blocks. He still has yet to receive wooden blocks from anyone but us.

But about raw materials, I'm reading a bio of Charles Schulz right now and he said that his most important possessions as a child were his chalkboard and his rolltop desk.

luv Abby said...

I agree.... blocks rock... my 17 month old has a couple of small sets of wooden blocks and every time I find one or two more pieces at an op shop I snap them up...

Marcy said...

Those blocks do indeed look awesome.

I already have a set of multicolored wooden blocks from Michael Olaf for the little one, for him to use in a few months' time. =) I actually went on a bit of a shopping spree for baby toys from that catalogue, and I'm so excited for him to get to play with them when he's a bit older. I cringe when I look at most childrens' toys today.

wayfarer said...

Thank you so much for this post!!! First, i've wondered where to order montessori wooden supplies and this looks like a good source but mostly because i never would have imagined they had middle eastern themed blocks. I'm so ordering those right now. Very cool. My two year old is really into blocks right now. It's amazing the things they think to build and the way their imagination works with such simple things. Lovely thing to witness.

Christinesew said...

Hi Meg, Love your blog. You have been tagged.
1. Link to your tagger and post these rules on your blog.
2. Share 7 facts about yourself on your blog, some random, some weird.
3. Tag 7 people at the end of your post by leaving their names as well as links to their blogs.
4. Let them know they are tagged by leaving a comment on their blog.

KalykoKatt said...

Hello! I've been enjoying your blog for some time. I'm definitely saving this little lesson idea. Children are so brilliant!

PS Planning on making up your messenger bag hopefully soon. :)

vacuum queen said...

I have paintings and other art on laminated cardstock, but just for writing prompts and art prompts. Never even thought about well known landmarks for a sensory/architectural learning bent.....way cool.
Thanks for the brainstorm session. Just need to get out of the box every once in awhile and I can dream up 10 new things. It definitely takes more than one brain ......

Kristin said...

We are really particular about the types of toys in our home too. Blocks are so wonderful and leave so much to the creative spirit and ingenuity of children!

Also wanted to let you know that the drawing has been completed on the blog for the grand giveaway!! I am also holding a poll for another prize for the winning name. :) If you have a moment, stop on by and cast your vote!

http://homegrownrose.typepad.com/reclaimingthehome

Sarah B. B. said...

I've never taught Montessori, but I agree with you 197 percent about the blocks! I found a forgotten set, added them to my second grade classroom, and was more than a little amazed by the results. Thanks for the great links. :)

Vicki said...

I am an occupational therapist who is expecting twins in August. I am sure that your blog will provide many ideas for great, simple, safe and creative playthings. Is it too early to order some blocks? I could play with them until the kids are ready! Vicki at Hollyhocks.typepad.com

Teaching Handwork said...

I love your blog!
I would like to add you to my blog list. if you don't mind...
I will be trying out those aprons with my 8th grade! thank you!!!

Tina said...

Diego's creativity is wonderful! I'm printing out your post for our Montessori teachers (if they don't already do this) because I just love the idea of having "real-life" architectural inspiration for the kids' building endeavors. (And will try to implement it myself at home.)

The Keva planks are definitely on our "wish list". And they are made of maple in the US, how wonderful.

For your readers, the architectural blocks are made by Haba (the pyramid, roman arch, mayan temple, capitol building, etc.) and found in many online and independent toy stores. We have the Mayan Temple and the Pyramid and they are wonderful. I love the Russian set and the Middle Eastern set, and will hopefully get those next for my boys.

Anonymous said...

I found Constructive Playthings store which provides educational toys, teaching adds, games, & toys.....

Patty said...

Every preschool I've ever worked at had wooden blocks and they were always a big hit with the kids. Then I worked at a Montessori and the only blocks they had were for the pink tower and could only be used to build a pink tower. It's really nice to see your kids can be creative with their pink tower blocks.

David said...

My kids love to play with block set which got from Constructive Playthings... It is really interesting...

halinazairi said...

I am so proud. That is the KLCC here in Malaysia!

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