When you look at this photo, what do you see? What do you think?What if I told you this work bench is in a preschool classroom. My preschool classroom.
Some may look at something like this in a preschool classroom an be alarmed. I know I was when I first saw something like this in a preschool setting. The first time I saw this was at Ren’s House in the Harrisonburg/Rockingham area about a year and a half ago. (Which is a phenomenal ECE-homebased center) This was one of the many things that inspired me, and stuck with me from my tour of the center. I remember thinking “OH MY!” wondering how many children have gotten hurt, and what kind of safety precautions would need to be put in place prior to use. Ms. Sharon Dove (director/owner/teacher) told the tour group her philosophy on using real tools and materials, and how beneficial they had been. She even told us that injuries were not a problem for her, and that she teaches proper use of the tools. And the children become very careful as a result.
On the way home I expressed my amazement with my Director. I knew I wanted to try it for myself, and luckily my Director was on board.
I started off very slow in the class I had last year. Using plastic and wood hammers with golf tees and cork board. Coming from a corporate background, I was a bit skittish of taking risks. I instantly felt like the experience just wasn’t enough for the children. Sure it was good for their fine and gross motor development, but it wasn’t engaging them on the level I had hoped it would. So I started introducing real nails. And slowly, over the course of the whole year, I transitioned the wood working station, into a center stocked with real wood, real nails, and real hammers. (that is how we built a birdhouse!)
This year I took off the training wheels, and started the class off with the full woodworking table, nails and all. The older class “gifted” the table and tools to the upcoming class, as to pass the torch. It has been a hit! I have since added screw drivers and screws to the mix for more precise fine motor manipulation and strength building. There are of course safety goggles in the area, along with a tool smock. Since we carved our pumpkin, a wrench has been added to the mix as well. Which they use to pull out nails and screws.
We started a unit a month or so ago, where we became very engaged with taking things apart. Children started using all the skills they learn in our wood working center, and use it practically. We took apart all kinds of things!
Some friends even brought in some items from home to take apart! Here is a part to a dryer that we spent an entire morning dismantling this week!
It has been amazing to see the progression this lesson has taken not only with this class, but over the last year and a half. I can’t wait to see where else it will take us. And where else this shift and progression in ECE will go universally!