When children come to the STEAM room, so many ideas can erupt from their minds. It can be difficult to know where and when to interject or question what they are doing so that we don't disrupt what they are discovering. Sometimes we want to supply them with ideas or thoughts we have come up with to lead them in a specific direction, but really, we don't ever have to really say anything at all and can just watch how things unfold. I, too, am guilty of asking questions for my own agenda to guide them somewhere, when I just need to sit back and let the children be in control. It's can be hard to let children be the ones that guide us sometimes, but letting them have that can lead to ways where learning can be enriching for the children.
Children are just naturally creative and with the right materials left at their disposal, can make for some compelling play. Children from the Peelim class were playing with a bin of water I had left out from another class. For majority of the time they were in the room I sat with them and tried not to interrupt their play. They were filling tubes and jars with water and dumping them, watching how the water flows. They started shaking the jars "to warm the water" when they noticed that water from one container was really cold. So before they poured the colder water, they shook their tubes to warm it and then dumped it into a separate bin. Looking at them doing this, I didn't understand what they were doing and instead of asking them I just watched. The conversations they had explained exactly what their intentions were. "We need to get the nectar and fill the jar with honey," said one child. "We have to shake the nectar to make it into honey and get it warm."
During their process of making honey, one child discovered something and informed his friends that he noticed that as they were filling the jar to dump it into the container, he noticed that the caps to their water tubes were were starting to float. It was an observation that was discovered and not pointed out by a someone. That's the key here. We need to let children make these discoveries on their own, as that's where their curiosity starts to form. This was one of the only moments where I asked them a question to reinforce their discovery of the floating caps. "What is making the cap float?" I asked them and the one that originally discovered it replied with "the water!"
Some children from the Zebrot (Zebras) class came into the STEAM room one day. I decided I would just try to watch what the children where doing and let them explore uninterrupted . They noticed my tool box and we brought it down and looked at all the different tools that were within it. We saw hammers and wrenches and screwdrivers. The children noticed my jar of screws and nails and we looked together to see the different types. With all these items in front of the kids they noticed the computer parts and took it upon themselves to build their own computer machine. This is where I stepped back again and let them explore the materials they had. With their understanding of what screwdrivers were for, they went forth and started putting things together in their own way. One child attached a tube saying it was to power the computer. All of them took screws and placed them into the holes of the peg boards and took screwdrivers to tighten them.
They were carefully placing the pieces as if there was already a plan in their minds as to where they were supposed to be. One child took these white plastic sticks and was placing them in the holes of the peg board and carefully observing the intricacies it was making in the gap below the board. Watching the children tinker and dig their heels into engineering their own machine is just a fun thing to see, especially knowing that it spawned from their interest in tools and that connection with tools led them to the idea of building something on their own.
When watching children discover with materials it's like watching the gears of their brains unfolding right in front of you. Letting them have that opportunity is more meaningful to them because it was something they came up with. They are more likely to connect better with their own ideas than something that was presented to them. It's not that children always need time to just figure things on their own; there is also room for structured play and directed play that can lead to great lessons too. Balance is the key, making sure that children are exposed to play where they can go deep into what they are doing without being pulled from their thoughts. That's why we should make sure (not all the time) to hold our questions, until they ask us something so we can engage with them on their interests to make their experience more meaningful and their learning more impactful.