Crowds: Is a City Made of People, or Buildings?

OUR RICHMOND: Some thoughts about moments from this two year project.

The kindergarten started the 15/16 year thinking about the world championship bicycle races that flooded Richmond with people from all over the world.
This led to a year-long look at crowds and ultimately the question "Who are the people that make up the city?"

 The children considered the concept of 'crowd' in lots of different ways. I was surprised when the children turned to ideas about the volume of spaces, scale and number in this conversation:

What is a crowd? Is this (our circle a crowd?)

Penelope Maybe if there was a hundred and thousand a hundred and thousand people in here.
Cal- (It would be crowded) if we were inside of a ant’s belly!
? (What if the people) could be a thousand feet tall, like a thousand feet tall. The size of the door!
Sydney Yeah! Let’s crowd up in a bundle!  "Yea! Yea! Yea!"
What if we shrunk to the size of ants, like Cal said? Would this be crowded then? "No!" What number of people would be a crowd in the city?
Eve A Bunch, maybe one hundred and a thousand. Cause I can’t even count how big the city is.
Samuel Maybe one hundred and twenty five!
Cal inside in a small space and outside in… bigger people outside and smaller people inside? Because the smaller people don’t need as much room.
Cat That reminds me of what you were saying about the babies. Because you said babies are small so you can fit more in a space.
Do you think it would be easy to make a crowd of babies? How many babies would you have to draw to make a crowd?
Charlie Forty-five..  One hundred and a thousand…
Annabelle No, eighty-five, no, I would say Forty-five. 
Samuel My Dad’s age!
Mary B How many people are in the kindergarten?
20 thousand!
18! 18!
Mary B So there’s 18 people in our circle right now. Does it feel crowded? But what if all 18 of you went into the bathroom?
(squeals) 20 hundred-fifty!
M.B. Would that feel crowded? YES!
Caroline Yeah, that would be really crowded!   Let’s all go into the butler's pantry in the kitchen. 
Scarlett But we have to be tiny tiny!
Eve I love that place!
Do you think you will turn into a crowd if you go in there? Yes! Yes! No! Sydney thinks no. Should we do a prediction? (3 people think not, most thought so.) 
Annabelle If all of us went in, it would be crowded.
children crowded in pantry with Pippin

After experimenting with different places around the school, the children reflected less on mathematical concepts and more on feelings. I think it's so interesting how these two ways of thinking about a crowd are equally important to the children. Together the mathematical and social-emotional help the children form a complete mental picture of a crowd. What a perfect metaphor for the way we learn!

Eve (I felt) a little bit scared, cause sometimes it’s just that dark in a crowd is scary to me. And sometimes crowd in a light is scary! When I was in preschool, and we did stuff in a crowd I didn’t really like it cause I feel like I might bump into (someone) because it’s so squooshy, and people keep pulling me.
Cal  I had a feeling- Uh-oh! Uh-oh, am I gonna be crowded? So you were kind of worried you might get crowded? For a long time. 

Julia I wanted to get out and I felt too squooshed. I felt squooshed-wooshed. What did your brain say to you when you were in there? It said to get out!
Kate It felt squashed, and no people like that. People don’t.
Annabelle I like to be squooshed! 
Charlie It feels fuzzy, and it feels great, and it feels ticklish. And it feels great. So why does it feel so good to be surrounded on the front, side, side and back with animals, but when you're surrounded by people on the front, side, side and back, it doesn’t feel as good?
Scarlett because people are harder. They’re not stuffed animal-ly. 
Zack People’s heads are as hard as a coconut!

See more at Kindergarten teacher Mary's blog at gleaningskindergarten.blogspot.com


Why Don't I Like the Sound of 'Makerspace'?

In this line of work we tend to bump into the terms 'Maker Movement' and 'Makerspaces' quite often. Every time I do, I shudder just a bit. I just don't like it, but why?

I think it's similar to the reason I started this blog- I felt that teachers in classrooms weren't taken seriously in educational policy because our work usually isn't considered research. After reading so many studies in grad school I really wondered where the teacher's voices were. It's similar to all the hype about maker spaces. Why isn't just making things good enough on it's own? Making things, building things, tinkering, inventing are things children do with no prompting at all. With a little scaffolding they can take these creations to levels of ingenuousness and beauty that astound me every day.

In researching this issue I found this excellent article by Debbie Chachra that argues that making is seen as valuable because it leads to products that can be sold:
"A quote often attributed to Gloria Steinem says: “We’ve begun to raise daughters more like sons... but few have the courage to raise our sons more like our daughters.” Maker culture, with its goal to get everyone access to the traditionally male domain of making, has focused on the first. But its success means that it further devalues the traditionally female domain of caregiving, by continuing to enforce the idea that only making things is valuable."  (why-i-am-not-a-maker)

But I'll argue further, that the only things that are seen as worthwhile are 'makes' that use technology and can be hashtagged. The other day I was reading a story about a man explaining something to a woman that she already knew- the trendy term 'mansplaining'. I realized that I get the same feeling about that as I do about the maker thing. I don't know if I'd equate the Maker Movement with mansplaining- maybe it's PhD-splaining. But either way I find it belittling to the (mostly women) teachers and children who were teaching and learning, making and even using technology before the maker manifesto was a twinkle in anyone's eye.

To quote Lauren Britton in another series of articles: "The idea that ‘we are all Makers’ is repeated constantly through the discourse of the maker movement, yet the power and opportunity purported to emerge from this movement is strongly focused on STEM education and the ‘tools of production’. It is frequently said, as quoted above, that making is not limited to the tech experts or pro-amateurs, that cooking, coding, and beekeeping are all making (which is true) and that all are equally valuable (which much of the discourse would actually reject)."

I've been making things all of my life. Some of the things are more highbrow like fine art, and some not, like sewing clothes. I've been helping children make things for a really long time too. I know how much new understanding I have gotten from the processes I've used, and how much learning children gain from the same. Why isn't this kind of making taken seriously? Why must it be rebranded and codified? 

Lauren Britton again:
"If technical tinkering, STEM, and digital fabrication are the economic forces that will empower Makers, and women and people of color are not participating in these activities in a visible way, that power will remain unequally distributed. When gender is discussed in relation to the maker movement, the conversation starts with the notion that Making creates a unique opportunity for inclusive participation, and is quickly followed by the question ‘how can we get more women to participate?’ Generally, the responses focus on transforming women, on areas that need to be corrected, such as raising confidence, creating more woman/girl friendly learning environments, increasing ability in math and science, and so on. The women themselves cause the problem; they lack confidence, they are unable to learn in the ‘normal’ STEM environment, they do not embrace their full capability in math and science. It is the women who are deficient."

I am hopeful that as more voices are taken into consideration in our modern culture, that creativity, intuition and beauty can find real, permanent places in schooling. I hope through my own work I can show that science, engineering and technology aren't inherently more valuable than the 'soft skills' that I possess, even if they are historically more highly valued. I hope I can keep on providing media and materials to children. Maybe one day the school where I work will build the new space that many of us have dreamed of and talked about. This space will be huge and have woodworking tools and maybe a forge next to the easels and sewing supplies. Pippin and I have been calling it our workshop.


Dragon Story

here is a try at embedding a Slate digital story-see it full size here- https://slate.adobe.com/cp/ELcc7/
Does anyone know how to make it less narrow?