by Doris Frese
The child to be observed by me, Elias (just turned 5), is rather hush in the group and keeps low key. He shows signs of extraordinarily high ability (among other things he reflects problems deeply and then quite eloquently puts forward his arguments). He was reluctant to reveal to the group that he had taught himself to read. I wanted to help him overcome his inhibitions in a project.
Basic ideas with regard to the project:
- It is important for everybody to know their potential and the possible uses it can be put to.
- Are my skills of any importance?
- What is it, that another person could learn from me?
- Not everybody is apt to learn just anything, but everybody has his forte, where he is a “professor”.
The project was done with the whole group (ages 3 – 6) over an expanded period of time. The idea was to get the children gain insight into their personal strengths and interests – all the other children, too, were to deepen their self-assessment. The object was to help the children recognize their own strengths and stand by them.
… in a nutshell …
A boy, just turned five, is making the experience that every child has outstanding skills and it’s for him to show his, even if it’s something the others can’t do yet, something one is not yet expected to be able to do, but which is not forbidden either: reading.
The other children in the group draw self-confidence from the project. A good example of successful integrative work at the kindergarten.
The course of the project
This is what happened during the project:
- We talked about and thereby tried to find out about everybody’s skills (for example during the morning circles).
- We created playing areas where the professors could get busy.
- We organised an event, advertising for it and exhibiting documentations of our work in the project.
- We enjoyed our success and threw a big party at the end.
- We made sure the project sank in with the children who weren’t changing to elementary school just yet.
We provided various materials to animate the children to discover their individual interests.
In the matter of only a few weeks into the project some children had already found their ‘professions’. Some examples are:
* Mehmet became the group’s warlock.
* Joline became the group’s nurse.
* Jonas became the group’s trainer.
* Moritz became the group‘s puppeteer.
About Mehmet: (5)
In my eyes he is an extraordinarily contemplative and highly sensitive loner who mainly keeps contact with adults. Among the group he hardly got involved, kept to himself, showed no emotions and wasn’t very self-confident; disorder as well as “dirt” on his hands gave him the creeps.
Through a witches’ broom and a witches’ poem we accessed his liking of the mysterious. He began to feel his “inner witchcraft” and felt increasingly free to even show some of his ‘witches’ fury’ sometimes. As a warlock he even began having fun inspite of having paint (dirt) on his hands. Out of all this emerged a “witches’ license” which the children could qualify for and which was enhanced by Mehmet’s ideas plus a “witches’ feast” together with the parents.
About Joline: (4)
Joline tends to show psychosomatic reactions, often complaining that she isn’t feeling well. In addition she is quite interested in her mother’s profession, she is a pharmacist. Joline set up a little hospital ward including a massage Salon.
At first she only wanted grown-up patients, but soon she started complaining that none of the children came for treatment. She also didn’t want the other children to be in her playing area. Only after her skills and knowledge were beginning to be requested, especially during excursions, she found her way back into the group.
In the course of two weeks our ‘nurse’ had developed a special service schedule and a Wellness-Day, which took place several times.
Bis hierhin redigiert.
About Jonas: (4)
He is a physically very active child and enlisted as a sports trainer. We developed a training schedule for and with him. With the help of his father the shower at our kindergarten was repaired so that trainer and trainees could take showers after training. His routine set out with a Fitness-Day. Unfortunately we could only let him do the trainings together with an adult “co-trainer” (due to the legal obligation of supervision). Jonas, however, insisted on his position of leadership during trainings.
About Moritz: (5)
He is our puppeteer. Our student apprentice was looking after his project. We went to see the puppet show “Hansel and Gretel”. Afterwards the children created a radio play on cassette, handcrafted little puppets from wooden spoons and staged shows with them. Moritz proved further skills as an electrician and has been consulted since, whenever there were cables to be hooked up.
The project continued to be developed further, more and more children found their own areas of expertise; if a child couldn’t think just what it was able to do especially well – which I thought to be rather alarming – the group would help: “But you can tie slip knots great.” – “Yes.” – “Well, then you’ll be the professor for tying slip knots.” Radiant smiling.
Bernd (4), who also shows signs of high ability (poses a great many questions, wishes to learn how to read and write), had been absent for quite a while. When he came back to kindergarten he noticed all the things that had changed. Next thing he got himself a pencil case, a study board and a knapsack, acting like a universally interested student. For quite some time it had been his wish to go to school.
As it were in a second going and after having witnessed the other children get busy the other children found their ’professions‘:
took on the part of an artist. He designed posters and offered art classes. We built easels for that.
Is an extraordinarily caring character and has an inclination for home economics; she chose the part of the maid and set up a cleaning cart with all the necessary items.
became an ardent dustman, he would empty all litter boxes in the entire house. He was also allowed to go out front and have a chat with the dustmen when they came to pick up the refuse. They would tell him about their job and how the hydraulic lever took care of the hardest part of the work, the lifting of the dustbins.
In the meantime the children had started operating the document shredder, shredding away the waste paper for the production of papier mâché.
Would like to publish a newspaper with interviews, texts and photographs. I would like to accomodate this and make use of the computer for it.
Eventually all children of 4 and older had their own business which they stuck with and played intensely until the summer holidays.
The playing areas which the children had created for themselves were initially very important for their identification with their roles. However, soon they noticed that the selfish occupation of these spaces made them lonely. It became boring and discussions about possible expansions of the rules and about social aspects of their ‘professions’ came up.
Then the idea arose to make the playing areas mobile. This is what we envisioned:a mobile hospital bed
– a mobile office
– sports areas
– a repair shop inside our site trailer
– a mobile snack bar
– a portable easel
– a disco/theatre
and many more things …
The next thing was to find adults who might be able to help us with the actual realization with their professional expertise.
Most of the ideas came true:
For the hospital bed parents brought some wheels so that we could also use the bed as an ‘ambulance’. Some fathers built a stage in one of our rooms. A robust table, some wheels and a portable electric stove made for our mobile snack bar which we put to use occasionally fixing foods and then going around the house offering them to everybody. Elias’ office would change locality on demand, even though not mobile itself it was carried around with the assistance of many helping hands.
Elias (5), whose skills had originally been the starting point of the project, only approached relatively late. He had been observing the goings-on for a long time, thought about it thoroughly, couldn’t be pressured and insisted that he find the right thing for himself by himself.
Eventually, rather towards the end of the project, when everybody else had already found their profession, Elias approached me and said: “Well then, I guess I’ll need an office then.”
I asked him, if there was anything he needed, and he named an elaborate list of items: waste paper basket, pinboard, map, pens, paper, magnifying glass, desk pad, lamp. He got all that and went about setting up his office. The office compartment we built out of two old bedframes which we set up upright and hung blankets over them, improvising a separate ‘room within the room’, which Elias even equipped with a shelf.
My next question was: “So what are you going to do in your office?” And to my great delight he answered if a little quietly: “I guess, I’ll be able to do some reading there.”
He liked his little office, he kept using it, never got around playing office though.
Only when one child in a conversation said, „you should call yourself Elias Know-It-All”, it occurred to him – and he felt encouraged enough – that he wanted to be the Cat Group’s secret agent. Elias, the secret agent, specialising in constructing a line of argument and committing himself verbally in situations of conflict.
The children would seek him at his office in cases of dispute, when something got lost (stolen?) or if they needed something read out to them. Finally he was able to show his talents at kindergarten.
Now he wants to – in due time – found the „Club of Smart Heads“. Bernd and Ali have already expressed their interest.
Date of publication in German: May 12th, 2010
Translation: Arno Zucknick
Copyright © Hanna Vock, see Imprint .