A STORY FROM THE FIELD
By Erin Moulton, mentor teacher
Loving Lizard Land
(excerpt from the Field Guide Chp. 2)
When I entered Prescott Teaching Preschool one morning before the children arrived, I noticed an enchanting watery world complete with lizards, shrubs and stumps. I soon discovered that this enchanting play environment arranged on a table was intentionally crafted by teacher Melinda to help bring a child from the fringes of the classroom community into the welcoming center.
Some days earlier, Melinda had invited all the children to identify an ‘inside gift’ that they would like to offer to the classroom community. This gift might be an interest, an ability, or something else that could strengthen the community to support each other and learn together. Carlos identified his love of lizards as a gift he could bring to the community.
Previously, Melinda had described to me a difficult morning in which Carlos vented his frustration and anger with classmates by name calling and throwing big, heavy blocks. She shared with me her efforts to provide opportunities for him to experience new ways of expressing his strong feelings and engaging with others, while at the same time taking steps to keep children safe when Carlos lost control of his emotions. She did not want Carlos to feel shame for his behaviors.
As I joined morning meeting to hear Melinda describe the play areas available that day, I began to realize that she had created a play option where a child could join Carlos to enjoy his gift of loving lizards, a place to experience his strengths and his ways of being a friend. During morning circle she introduced “Loving Lizard Land” as a new interest area.
Teacher Melinda: “What will you notice about your inside gifts while you search for connections this morning? For example, how might clay, blocks, or tempera paint help you discover your inside gifts? Yesterday, Carlos shared his gift of loving lizards. Today, there is ‘Loving Lizard Land!’ Who would like to go there to learn more about Carlos’s gift?”
As the morning work began, a child joined Carlos in Loving Lizard Land. They played joyfully and found connections together. At reflection circle, Teacher Melinda intentionally shared photos of Carlos and his playmate enjoying their play with each other. She asked the boys to share what happened.
T. Melinda: Who remembers Carlos’s gift?
Anara: He loves geckos?
T. Melinda: How did you love the lizards and use your inside gift?
Carlos: I hung them on my fingers.
T. Melinda:How did they feel?
Carlos: Happy.T. Melinda:
Weyland: They fell from the waterfall under the water.
Carlos knows how to use his gift of loving lizards to make lizards happy. He invited Weyland to play. What happened with the lizards?
During outside play, I noticed that Carlos was all smiles as children chased him around the playground in a game that the children had created together.
‣ How did the ball toss start in this example and what kept it going?
‣ How might “Loving Lizard Land” help strengthen the classroom community?
‣ What is the role of the teacher? What could it mean for a teacher to be an organizer of opportunities?
‣ What opportunities is the teacher providing for Carlos to experience a repaired image of himself?
Teaching Preschool Partners
Interested in reading more purchase the Field Guide here