by Jordis Overödder
Adrian is now 5;4 years old. At the age of 3;0 he came to our kindergarten, but has only been in my group for one year.
You can read more about Adrian here:
Adrian, 5;0 Years
Adrian Takes to Reading the Newspaper – Questions of Life and Death
In the last year I observed great restlessness, impatience and frustration in him, which discharged into aggression and fingernail chewing.
With my support, he found good access to the older children who are now in school. He mainly played with them.
He showed a lot of interest in computers and got his PC driver’s license early (see: The Experts Principle in Our Kindergarten… (German version)). Today he still plays on the computer from time to time, but has exhausted this area for himself at the moment.
He is still very eager and active in his role as a computer specialist. If the others have a question, if the game does not start or similar, then he helps immediately and competently. This role is immensely important to him and fills him with great pride.
Our concern about what will happen when his friends are all in school has disappeared. The friendship with Mara, which is quite similar to him with its creativity, has strengthened. (See: Adrian, 5;0 Years.)
Adrian has also found a good friend in Justin, who joined the group, who has the same interests and a social and humorous nature as Adrian.
With Frank and Jesper two more boys in his age group came to us. Maybe something will develop here. Adrian has been very cheerful and carefree lately.
He enjoys his new role to finally become one of the „big ones“. He no longer has to fight for his status and can bring in his many ideas and talents.
A few observations
- Before the holidays, one of the grandmothers offered a guided nature tour. She showed the children many herbs and plants in the forest and on the pasture and told them something about their characteristics. Adrian was very attentive and one week later was able to remember special features: „If you crush the ribwort in this way, you can put it on a wound. It cleans the blood then.“
- After the holidays Adrian took over a new job: He watered the flowers in the group. He does that with great pleasure, sometimes a little too benevolently, so that he has to pour out the pot afterwards.
- At dessert, the children find seeds in the melon. Adrian wants to plant them and puts them in the flower pots. The others do the same to him. „You have to water them now, too“, Adrian knows and fetches the pot. Every single core is watered specifically.
- Outside he has found a mouse hole. For several days he designs the entrance area, which is located on the side of a tree stump. He builds a waterfall for the mouse so that it has something to drink and collects seeds and berries for it.
- I also remember the workpiece he built in the workshop course: a feeding station for birds.
Adrian is currently showing a great interest in nature. He likes to observe animals, discovers plants and takes care of their welfare. His interest is less theoretical than practical. He brings his social disposition to the care and handling of plants and animals and takes great pleasure in it.
In August there were flocks of wasps. Attracted by our apple trees and the fallen fruit, they became really annoying. They came into the group room and sat on the raw food plate, almost daily a child was stabbed.
Adrian and Justin appointed themselves wasp police. Armed with a clap, they took action against wasps approaching the children’s breakfast plates and cups.
I was not at ease, because my attitude towards animals also gave them the right to live. But since I also belong to those people who find the approach of a wasp extremely unpleasant, especially when they then crawl around on the children, I have approved their procedure for the time being.
But I didn’t want to leave the attitude „wasps are dangerous“ so uncommented and decided to perhaps steer the interest of both of them in other directions. I wanted to get to the bottom of the subject of wasps.
Impulse: Thematic and observation of wasps
In the group there is a small table, a place for visual objects, books and materials on current topics. It is filled by children and adults. I often lay out materials there and the children supplement what they find themselves, bring with them from home, and paint in addition.
I have selected nature guides from the library and my private collection. We bought magnifying glasses and large cucumber glasses with screw caps from the experiment room. First we have to see what a wasp looks like. Adrian collected three dead wasps from the windowsill.
Frank discovers „It’s got hair!“ in a magnifying glass. With an apple Adrian lures a wasp from the raw food plate into the cucumber glass. Quickly put the lid on it. That was exciting! Now a feeling of relief is spreading, because the wasp can’t do anything to us in the glass. Frank still looks skeptical: „It can’t stick through glass, can it?“ Adrian makes air holes in the lid. Does it still need something to drink? He wants to fill the glass under the tap. I quickly notice that there is enough apple juice in the apple and that it can manage with it until we let it fly again later.
Adrian does not have the inner calm to take a closer look at the wasps, but shows even more zeal in the procurement of further objects of interest. He shows great skill in tracking and catching. One also learns something about how the animals crawl or fly, where they hide and how to outwit them. This is much more exciting for him than looking at the pictures in the books.
At home I made myself smart by Internet research to the topic wasps still in addition. I saved some interesting pictures to show them to the children in their laptops. Unfortunately we did not get to it.
But it did have some effect: my own interest was aroused. I learned a lot of new things and that also had an influence on my attitude. Wasps not only seemed annoying and threatening to me, they were also really exciting. In conversations with individual children I was able to use my knowledge in the end.
Comment by the course instructor:
Ah great! This is exactly how „real“ research works: The adult takes up a current interest / an important question of the children and goes JOINTly with the children into the research. Of course the adult informs himself in advance, like you, but he lets the children make their own experiences. The adult is a „facilitator“, accompanies and supports – and expands his or her own horizon in the process.
In any case, the intensive occupation with the wasps has also brought about a change of heart in Adrian and the other children.
The next wasp that came in for breakfast wanted to lure Justin and Adrian back outside. Unfortunately, the little animal hummed outside their radius at the top of our ceiling lights. „They like sweets, don’t they? We can attract it with an apple!“ Said, done, Adrian had already fetched a piece of apple from the raw food plate. But his arm was too short and the wasp kept humming around the lamp. Adrian ran into the workshop next door and got a rather long roof batten, put the apple on the end. Then he climbed onto the table, marvelled at by the other children sitting around with their lunch boxes, and held the wasp’s bait with the batten in front of its „nose“.
We all had great pleasure in this action. Normally I wouldn’t have allowed him to balance on the table during breakfast with a batten from the workshop. But in this case I could understand his motivation very well and his approach was imaginative and also met my wish to find alternatives to killing the wasps.
His success was only indirect – the wasp was probably too annoyed and it flew out again on its own – but that didn’t stop Adrian’s joy.
The other children’s interest in the topic
Frank (3;11) has a special artistic talent. He likes to paint and draw. His spatial imagination is very pronounced, he painted early realistic pictures, for example machines with many parts, where he could explain exactly the functions. He sketched a wasp buzzing in a cucumber glass. To his discovery that the wasp has hair, he later expressed the thought whether it should go to the hairdresser.
Debbie (4;9) also draws the wasp. The correct attachement of the legs and wings impresses me. Emil (4;3) paints a thick bumblebee. He discovered it on a photo in the nature guide and finds it quite funny.
Larissa (5;10) wants me to write down her observations. She likes to file all possible work results in her folder. She dictates to me exactly what to write. This is also a good language support for her, because her family speaks Russian at home. I give her corrective feedback if she confuses the articles, for example.
Mara (5;9) disappears for a long time in the workshop and makes a wasp trap with windows out of cardboard boxes, toilet rolls and plastic. So that you can also look inside. The flap at the end of the entrance tube opens only to the inside. Mara fills Mara fills the trap with applest and places it trap outside on the windowsill. Works!
Comment by the course instructor:
Amazing idea of Mara! Above all, that she has also thought of the viewing windows!
Adrian catches several spiders in the cup magnifier. I offer him and Mara a portfolio sheet: „An observation of nature“ on which they can paint the spider. Mara starts right away, Adrian then joins in and paints a small spider with eight legs. “ It is also very small!“ Both then have so much fun painting the circles for the web that they fill the whole sheet with it.
Excursus: Discussions about observations
Adrian does not like to record his observations. Painting is too difficult for him, he finds dictation stupid. I write to him simply too slowly. I have already thought about getting myself a small dictation machine. Such a technical device would certainly be an incentive for Adrian. I can imagine that we could then be more persistent about his observations and other questions that arise for him from it, into the conversation. So he always leaves very quickly because he has something important to do. I would like to work on these conversations in order to help him to consciously steer his learning processes further, to formulate questions and to seek specific answers.
Comment by the course instructor:
This also seems to us to be an important approach for the further promotion of Adrian.
What else creeps and flies
We found an escargot outside. They are actually not so widespread here. It is under the glass salad bowl one day a guest in the group. Especially the little ones are happy. Outside they still find nudibranchs.
Adrian brings a crayfish from home, which he found the day before in the creek. He explains to me, „It must not be allowed in other water, otherwise it will break! We carefully pour it into a clear bucket – with the brook water, of course. The children are fascinated. Adrian releases it again in the afternoon. I am happy that his parents support him.
On the doormat in the open door to the outside area there was a tiny snake. This snake also briefly went into the glass, was admired and determined with the help of the colleagues: a grass snake!
Construction site: rabbit tunnel
Our two rabbits jump on warm days in their own small „outside area“ around. There the children can watch and pet them. But on this day Biscuit probably wanted to make an excursion and scratched himself unnoticed a tunnel under the little gate. It had already escaped! After numerous children and educators had caught it again, it had to into the stable.
Adrian, Justin and Mara immediately made it their task to close the hole again. But they didn’t just pour in some sand, but meticulously planned and thought through how the ground would hold up best.
They were busy for two hours: first they looked for small pebbles, then in the bushes with soil, which had to be knocked off, they mixed a tough mud. This was mixed with fine sand and applied to the pebbles as mortar. Finally, they plucked moss and planted it on top for fixing. This of course had to be stomped for compaction and finally watered. „Here it doesn’t grow out any more“ Adrian stated with satisfaction. It actually still lasts.
„There! A squirrel!“
As we sit in the morning circle, Jesper suddenly sees a squirrel in the meadow. Everyone immediately wants to look out of the window. Really! There it jumps around and makes use of our hazel bushes. This year there are many nuts. Finally it disappears from our field of vision. The children are disappointed.
Right after breakfast Adrian, Justin and Jesper go outside. They want to look for nuts for the squirrel to bury. Adrian has found a broken root that can be used to chop, shovel and tap at the same time.
I am nearby with the other children and am available when needed. They already have a question: „Where does the squirrel look for the nuts in winter?“ They want to make sure it finds them. A long time ago I had seen an animal film and was able to give some information: „In striking places.“ – „What is striking?“
I often use difficult words towards the children. It is just my way of speaking. When I notice that children don’t understand me, I say it again in a different way. It is important to me that they have a rich vocabulary on their way. I like to help them derive difficult words by pointing them to words of the same root they know.
Striking places: „These are unusual things that are particularly noticeable in their surroundings, a root, a thick stone. These are ‚landmarks‘ for the squirrel, like a ‚marker‘ in the landscape.“ – „Ah, like on a treasure map!“ – „And it finds it in the snow, too“ – „Well, then we’ll look for landmarks now! Here, the post from the stairs.“
The next day they find a nut with root while collecting supplies. „There, look, a tree! I’ll plant it now!“ Justin finds a small holly sprout. „What’s his name?“ he asks me. I should also photograph it. For his folder.
Adrian expertly digs a hole with his special root and inserts the germinated nut. „Now I still have to water! I need water!“ He goes in with the bucket. The colleague asks him about his plan. „Water a bush!“
That he had to water the bushes outside with our expensive tap water was not obvious to her. The bushes would get enough water from the rain.
Without water he came back and explained his dilemma. „She won’t let me!“ I went again with him together and cleared up the misunderstanding. I am very happy about our good communication in the team. Here nobody feels undermined in his authority, if the other makes for special reason other decisions.
Squirrels: Impulse through non-fiction
I would like to take up and deepen the interest of the children. I buy a book about squirrels. I would like to introduce this to an interested small group. In the morning circle I ask who wants to participate. Almost everyone raise the hand, except the youngest ones, who probably didn’t understand what I asked. So I decide to let everyone join in. So we all arrange to meet before noon on the carpet.
I design a small square with illustrative material: nuts, acorns, plums, berries, chestnuts – what the squirrel eats. While reading, the children can immediately look at the things and touch them. I have copied some pages. The children who feel like it can then paint the pictures and stitch them into their portfolio. There is a lively rush.
I was surprised that not only the big ones, but also the younger children were so attentive and interested in this offer. Everyone was involved in the process. As far as possible, I tried to involve everyone in such a large group and to capture comments from every child.
The next day the older ones search outside for the squirrel’s nest. It is raining, but they have put on mud clothes to look for the squirrel. They are lucky that the rain keeps the other children from going out, because they can actually watch the squirrel for a long time on the quiet outside grounds and follow its jumps and paths. I watch them through the window. They are very excited, but sneak and whisper quietly so as not to scare the squirrel away.
„The squirrel is my favourite animal“ Justin tells his mother as soon as she picks him up in the afternoon. Then he fetches his folder to show her the pictures.
Excursus: Frank and Mathematics
Frank (4;11) likes to count everything. Every morning there is exactly a dozen kisses for mummy. „…ten – eleven – twelve! Bye, Mama!“ He compares and measures and weighs. „There are three apples more than on the red plate!“
I think about what he might enjoy. In my own kindergarten days I always liked this Montessori hundred tablet. At home at the computer I design a table of hundreds with light grey numbers to trace. That goes down well! The older children all want a sheet of paper. Most of them can count up to 21. Only Frank and Mara are able to count up to a hundred. Frank looks thereby exactly on the numbers and reads. Mara counts rather by heart. Adrian is also there, very eager and highly motivated. Such persistent activities are not really for him. But here he benefits from the motivation of the others.
Outside, I suggest that the children collect a hundred nuts. I lay down four slats as a frame for them. Everyone helps with the search. By dessert we have the two hundred almost full.
The next morning the children look for the nuts again: The squirrel was there and stole some! They fill the table again. „Now we are running a hundred laps“ they call out and run off. After 26, they have made a mess of counting, but they had a lot of fun.
Frank and Justin try out how they can crack the nuts. It works with thick stones. If there’s anything to try, the others are also quick to get in and deliver supplies.
On another day, Frank has built four block towers of different heights. He shows them to me: “ It is small, it is medium“, he truncates for a moment and considers, „it is bigger and it is the biggest!
For breakfast I have filled two different jugs with apple spritzer. Frank comes and lifts both up.
Frank: „It’s heavier, it’s lighter“.
Jordis: „Where’s more in it?“
He points to the lighter, taller, narrower pot.
Frank: „In that, that’s higher.“
Jordis: „And which one is heavier?“
Frank: „The other one.“
Frank: „That’s because the water’s being pushed so high here.“
Jordis: „We can measure where there is more in it if we pour the spritzer into the same containers.“
Frank: „In the cups.“
Jordis: „Well, then get them from the breakfast table.“
Frank: „We’re all pouring the same amount.“
It makes 4 and a little from the narrow pot and 5 and almost full from the wide pot.
Frank: „Aha. There is more in it.“ He points to the wide one.
Jordis: „We can pour the same amount into both jugs now.“
Frank: „Yes. 5 cups in both cans.“
Frank looks again. He laughs, points to the narrow pot: „There is much higher! He weighs: „Both the same!“ He helps me to dry the cups and brings them back to the table.
With this little in-between action he has become aware of the distribution of fluid in different containers and he has made a reference to the weight.
Comment by the course istructor:
It is nice for us to read how relaxed and easy – and yet so clear and deliberate – you take up the children’s many questions and interests, integrate them into everyday life and accompany the children on their explorations!
Apple harvest and what can be done with it
It gets cooler. The wasps only hum around sporadically and slowly. „They will hibernate soon“, Adrian remarks. Now the children can finally venture onto the apple trees to pick the apples. Last month I had forbidden this to the children because of the large number of wasps that feasted in the apples. They eagerly pick and shake the trees.
Our apples are green and quite sour. They bring the apples in so that we can eat them for dessert. They collect the rotten ones outside and process them into „apple juice“ in the sand moulds.
At dessert we all have to laugh because the apples are so sour. There are many left. Adrian has an idea: „We can cook apple sauce after all! – „Ow, yes!“
Somehow apple sauce
The next day my colleague goes gymnastics with the younger children. The big ones are among themselves. „Now you can cook apple sauce“ I suggest to them. „You can do it alone. Just let me know if you need anything“.
Comment by the course instructor:
Fine! We like it well!
On the one hand I didn’t have the opportunity to prepare anything, on the other hand I’m very curious how they will do it now and whether they can develop the work steps themselves.
Adrian shoots off right away: „We need a pot!“ It is quickly fetched from the cook in the kitchen. „Now put the apples in there.“ Uiuiu. Nothing good shimmers to me. But I keep quiet for a moment. Thank God Mara complains that she doesn’t like the seeds.
„You have to cut them out after all!“ – „Well, that’s what we do. Jordis, we need the knives.“ I hand them kitchen knives from our closet. They get boards. Jesper wants to watch.
„Ew, there ist dirt on my apple“ – Larissa holds her apple up in amazement. „Then we probably have to wash them.“ Jesper thinks that’s good. He stutters excitedly, „I’ll do the hm-m!“ So he also has a task that he enjoys. Everyone who is finished, he brings another apple.
Let’s go. Put apples without seeds in the pot. „Now we’re cooking. Turn on the stove, Jordis.“ I advise them to add another small cup of water. I would like to spare them burnt apples. – „Hmmm, that smells delicious! I’ll give it a try – ugh! Sour!“- „My mum makes sugar in there. It’s in the closet, isn’t it? Laura always puts it in her coffee.“
The gymnastics children are also invited to eat apple sauce. Adrian counts the children and takes out little bowls.
Delicious! I still suggest to paint the work steps so that the children have their own recipe. They also want to write themselves. I get the letter cards and put the words they can’t spell themselves.
The children think it’s great that I’ve finally had time only for them after a long time. They are allowed to do something special all by themselves, because I can be there with unlimited attention.
With guidance and guidelines I deliberately hold myself back completely in order to challenge her thinking. That appeals to them very much. To belong to the „big ones“ is a new role for all of them. Adrian is of course a driving force and has a more or less clever answer to everything (whole apples unwashed in the pot). But he acts with the others and not alone. Everyone is involved, everyone can have a say. It is discussed and Adrian also experiences rejection of his rash ideas and actions, for example that he gets the pot from the kitchen alone.
Others want to join him, too! The girls will give him a contra. In the end, he’s probably glad that he didn’t scare the others away by giving in and doesn’t have to cut the apples all by himself in the end. It is a very harmonious round and and the interaction between the children is respectful. They are all very persevering.
I am very happy that Jesper has also found a place in this group. He was often excluded by Adrian in the first weeks, in my opinion because he speaks unclearly and cannot bring in his concerns quickly and fluently. „Jesper, you’re not playing“ he often got to hear. In other game situations Adrian was often very impatient with him and hardly let him speak. Negotiations and common considerations probably didn’t go fast enough for him.
Here I see a change in Adrian’s attitude. In situations like this he experiences Jesper as a valuable member of the group and also discovers many qualities in him. In the meantime the two have also found a common ground: They both like to be on the road with their learner bikes. In cycling Jesper is a manoeuvrable speedster and for Adrian a good buddy to compete with. Adrian has become more patient and lets Jesper play along more often.
Last weekend I took part in a mushroom excursion. I found that very interesting. During the walk I found a very beautiful fly agaric and took it to the kindergarten for the children to look at. Many immediately knew how to report „It’s poisonous“.
Justin was able to explain to us why the fungus is called a fly agaric. „Because if you crush it like that and then put it in milk, the flies will drink it and die.“ We look at other mushrooms in my mushroom book. „They grow also outside on the meadow“ Mara recognizes immediately. At noon we set off with a small group to find mushrooms outside.
„We have to put on gloves“ Adrian remarks, because there could be poisonous mushrooms.
In fact, we find some mushrooms. We look for their names in the identification book: green-leaved sulphur head and radish helmet – no, you can’t eat them! Adrian has another idea: „We can paint on and mark the ones we found here.“
What else Adrian does
Adrian asks his friends to „Come, let’s go on a treasure hunt“ after cutting out talers from the gold foil he found on the shelf in the workshop. Of course, he also painted a map.
He directs the group through the outside area and finally says: „So, here you have to search!“ When they find the treasure, I have to hide it again for them. I draw a map with arrows and they brood over the symbols: „That must be the ship. And here the stairs!“ (Our wooden ship in the sandbox is a popular climbing device and always encourages pirate games.) Already it starts and actually they find what they’re looking for.
Adrian asks again and again for a sewing needle. He likes to sew little bags or pillows for his sister. Mara also likes to be there. She sews hearts or cushions for her built things (doll’s bed…).
Adrian is still an avid computer specialist.
In the last week some children have contacted us who would like to become master children in the (wooden) workshop. Adrian has also „applied“. I took these children with me to the workshop course during the week to see if and how they fulfilled their task of helping the newcomers. Adrian and a girl preferred to deal with their own things, build something themselves and implement their own ideas. Adrian hardly took care of the other children at all. I also reported that to him in the same way.
Although I kept reminding him of his task in the meantime, he didn’t try very hard. I discussed with him that at a later date we would consider again whether he could become a master child and what exactly I expect from him. He is very concerned about that. I consider drawing up a „learning contract“ with him so that we can discuss exactly what tasks he has as a master child, how he can initially „practice“ this and how we can finally check whether he fulfils the tasks.
More ideas that I have for the continuation of the theme „animals and mushrooms“:
– Walk in the forest
– Collecting plants, pressing, designing books
– Invitation of the school in the forest
– A father is a forester and could show us how trees are felled.
– Project week in the experiment room
If the topic “ Animals and Mushrooms “ is closed, perhaps another one results. Frank is very interested in the universe, in stars and astronauts. Perhaps in the next months also something new results in this direction, which inspires also Adrian.
In the dark season of the year, Adrian’s interest in the PC could also grow again. Maybe he would like to try out new games, because he already knows all the others. I can make myself smart there times, what there is so new.
Adrian’s wealth of ideas and his creativity are no longer a problem for the others. They accept him and profit from it. In his new role as a preschool child, he now has much more room for independence and opportunities to try out solutions.
He shows more perseverance, even dares to tackle difficult things. In my opinion, this goes hand in hand with his solid self-confidence.
Comment by the course instructor:
For us, the question still remains whether such a positive development would have been possible for Adrian even earlier, whether you could have helped him more in his fight for acceptance with the older ones at that time. What do you think?
Now that the older children are gone, he doesn’t set himself any less high goals. Some of the girls or Justin and Frank are at eye level with him in some areas.
His frustration tolerance has become much higher, he no longer gives up so easily. His perseverance in repetitive activities is increased by the motivation of the other children.
My communication with Adrian has improved. He explains to me what he needs and why, and is no longer irritated or feels misunderstood when asked. I have more patience for him. His parents also question his intentions differently. He no longer has to fight so hard for the implementation of his ideas.
At the moment I notice that he is doing very well in the group. I am much more worried about a lot of other children. There is a danger that I will lose sight of his needs because others need me more.
Allowing exceptions, redefining rules, allowing special activities often means an extreme additional burden in everyday working life. Nevertheless, further training helps me to become aware of such situations. I am becoming more and more successful at simply allowing small support measures to flow into my work without any great hassle.
Date of publication in German: September 2015
Copyright © Jordis Overödder, see imprint.