Fast forward to 2017. When I found out that a couple of my presentation proposals were accepted at the HighScope International Conference in Detroit, I looked at the map and saw that Guelph was a little over three hours from Detroit. I contacted Aaron to ask him about the possibility to do a presentation in Guelph. It turned out that Aaron and Melissa were good friends and they were delighted with my offer to come to Guelph. So after finishing the conference in Detroit, I headed to Guelph to do my first workshop in Canada.
I quickly realized that this was going to be a good workshop because the participants started to arrive carrying loads of different materials and every manner of tool to build with. When participants bring stuff to the workshop that means they have already started to think about building and are primed and ready to go.
After a 45-minute presentation highlighting elements and dimensions to incorporate when building that are important to children in their explorations, the real work---and fun---started. The first task, of course, was to brainstorm what to build and where to start.
That does not mean the ideas need to be fully formed to begin building. Many times participants start with an element they know they want to use in their construction and immediately go about creating it.
One group knew they wanted to use a cardboard tube cut in half. They immediately cut the tube using a sawzall, a tool one of them had brought. The person cutting said it cut like butter. Then they taped the two halves together to finish the element.
Now that this one element was completed, they again had to brainstorm, negotiate, accommodate and cooperate to complete the next step in the building process.
Near the end the workshop, I asked the participants to do a debrief. I asked them to talk to the group about their constructions. I especially asked them to talk about the features they chose to include in their structures. I also asked them to talk about the process with an emphasis on difficulties they encountered and how they worked around or through them.
As part of the workshop, I always have documentation on the walls showing things that I have built over the years. I display the documentation for participants to look at when they arrive and to reference when they start building. Indeed, this group looked at the documentation before the workshop, but they were so busy creating their own apparatus that they never used my documentation as a reference. Each one of their constructions was unique. Here are a couple I thought found especially intriguing.
Thank you to the educators from Guelph and its surrounds for playing with your hearts, minds and hands. Thank you Aaron and Melissa for making it possible to visit your fair city; for the warm welcome; and for the long conversations about our craft. I came away inspired and thinking, even though I no longer have my own classroom, I must start building again.
I urge you to check out Melissa's Facebook page ( Children's Art Factory ) because she is doing some very extraordinary things with sensory tables and art for the children in Guelph. Her drop-in is so successful, she will be moving to a larger space this summer.