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


  1. I love this project. And I, too, "think it's so interesting how these two ways of thinking about a crowd are equally important to the children." The way in which these children build understanding by combining academic or intellectual knowledge and social-emotional knowledge IS "a perfect metaphor for the way we learn!" Thanks, Anna!


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