Three Year Olds Reimagine Downtown: Our Richmond

As a way to explore Richmond, the children and teachers in the Garden room (3years-4) last school year took a field trip to visit a parent's office downtown. While they played on a glassed-in walking bridge a man walked past and said "this is the most joy I'll have all day!"

I wasn't able to go on that field trip, but later worked with small groups of children in the studio to follow up on it.

In the studio, each group looked at some photos from the field trip. At first the children talked about danger- were they thinking about being alone in a big place? During the dialog, I wondered if I should bring the children back to those words about danger. It seemed to me at the time that it was almost like venting- they had to say things about being lost or hurt by cars in order to be able to move to a new subject. The four and five year old children had done much the same thing when they first talked about the city, except they focused on danger with strangers. Even though the subject of danger could have made for a rich discussion alone, I thought that maybe it was adult's words of caution coming out, and I chose to move past them. Soon the conversation took a silly turn, and in the end Sam P. drew a downtown building with a horn on it, a portent of things to come.
As ideas that could help the man and other office workers started to emerge, Sara and Jen and I talked about what the children could be doing until the next trip to the city, which would not be for some time. We decided to keep listening to see what would happen. During one conversation Kirsten had drawn a building with 'an orange street', explaining "How bout we could make a little tiny, little tiny, little tiny street that’s orange (her picture). And we could say “Dear Man, we would like to bring you a surprise.”. When asked about that later, she explained that the color would "give more beautiful" to the downtown workers. This idea caught on with all of the children, and one by one they began to design buildings that would be more beautiful and more fun for the workers, creating an alternative skyline for our city.
Jeb and Harry's plans for a kissing building and a monster building.
Jeb drew his plan and I added a shape to show him that he had drawn half of a heart.
This project was a good example of how the studio and the classroom can both be places that support children in their research. The original discussions and planning for the field trip took place in the Garden room, and then teachers Sara and Jen shared their documentation with me so that I could listen for clues to where to go next. The classroom teachers and I shared a common goal of listening and scaffolding the children while they were co-constructing understandings about downtown and work, and we wanted to help make the children's ideas visible.

More than anything all of us teachers were filled with wonder at the spirit of kindness and the brilliance of the children's idea.



 Here are pictures of the buildings the children made

friends for the man

Audrey's horse building has a saddle so the workers can go for a ride