Last week there were a pile of large cardboard boxes by the entryway door and Mrs. Farber brought one down for each of our classes to play in. The students were excited upon spying the box on the carpet and began to crawl through it like a tunnel. But as more students joined in the play, it became more and more disjointed. The volume rose as there were disagreements over how the play should proceed. It began to get a bit disorderly but I refrained from intervening as I am a firm believer in giving them time to figure things out. Inevitably the box split into two pieces and it was jumped on or rolled up like a carpet. Many of the children had become unhappy and wandered to other centers and the ones who had stayed were not having much fun as they were still disagreeing. Eventually the cardboard became beyond saving and we returned it to the entryway pile.
During carpet time we discussed what had happened and how they felt about it. Everyone agreed that they were unhappy about events, for various reasons, and we discussed ways we could have made playing with the box better, including working like a team, listening to everyone's ideas and then cooperating to make as many of them happen as possible.
The next morning the boxes were still in the entryway so I set another one up on the carpet to see what would happen. As previously, the children began by using it as a tunnel but as more kids arrived it again became disorderly and voices began to escalate. I stopped the play and asked if they remembered our discussion from the day before and how we should try to make everyone happy by working as a team. They decided to talk about ideas and agree on which ones to try. And so they did. With minimal direction on my part. They used the box as a tunnel, as a play house, as part of a game and they coloured the inside and outside. And everyone was much happier. Including me. Students feel good about themselves as learners when they cooperate. Their self-esteem goes up, they have a better sense of community, belonging, and acceptance. I'm glad to have had a chance to help foster that in Team Awesome.