In school, however, friends play a big role in shaping the trajectory learning follows.
Dmitri Lavallée loves airplanes. His dad flies frequently and Dmitri goes to the airport to see him off and to greet him when he returns home. If you visit his early learning classroom at Redwood Acres Public School, you are likely to find Dmitri building airplanes in the block centre with his friend Dawson Dumont.
This friendship has developed because of their common interest in building.
Building creates many technological challenges that need to be solved. Dawson was interested in building tall towers, but they kept falling down when he put big blocks on top, said teacher Shannon Lafrance-Pitura.
“The big blocks keep making it fall when I put them on top. They must be too heavy,” Dawson said.
Lafrance-Pitura showed him photos of buildings and he noticed the base of the structures, so Dawson decided larger blocks needed to go on the bottom.
“I did it all by myself,” he exclaimed when the tower stood.
Dmitri spends a lot of time designing and building airplanes with blocks. Early Childhood Educator Dallas Cappellani saw how Dmitri noticed the pictures helped Dawson with his building design.
He was keen to use a picture of an airplane as a model to see how it might help him build a more sophisticated plane.
The teaching team challenged Dmitri to make a plane using recycled materials. He Dmitri created a list of supplies that was sent home with his classmates. Soon lots of recycled materials began arriving at school.
Dmitri selected the materials, designed his plane on paper, then started to build. Inspired by Dmitri's work, Dawson created an even taller tower with recycled materials.
In kindergarten, learning occurs in the context of social relationships as children make and build connections between experiences.
While Dawson and Dmitri each had an idea of what they wanted to accomplish with their individual designs, building with different materials presented new obstacles and opportunities.
Using models as a reference helped them revise their thinking and add to their existing knowledge. By paying attention to the strategies that each used, they advanced their own understandings of how to solve technological challenges.
When children are encouraged to identify and solve problems, they are willing to take risks. They become more confident learners.
In the next column, we will explore how outdoor play turns into a study in movement.
Norm Blaseg is the director of education for the Rainbow District School Board.