I wrote thrice last week about how we played creatively with our odds and ends in preschool, sharing first about how we began to discover the possibilities of the materials, then how the younger children approached their play with the same stuff, and finally how the depth and breadth of our play with "junk" so perfectly illustrated the entire concept of a play-based curriculum.
What I didn't share with you was what was going on simultaneously over at the art table, then later outside at the workbench.
Anyone who has been a regular reader here knows that I'm a strong advocate for putting hot glue guns in the hands of preschoolers. They are such powerful tools, ones that give young children an opportunity to bring their 3 dimensional ideas to fruition with a precision and in a timeframe that perfectly suits their age.
In this case, they were invited to use anything they found amongst the odds and ends to create their sculptures, giving them yet another way to explore the materials.
This is not the first time these particular kids have used the glue guns, but still the adults always emphasize the hazards, regularly pointing out that the tip "will burn you if you touch it," and helping them remember that the glue itself, for at least the few seconds after it comes from the tip is also hot. I'm always struck by how focused the children are while using these tools, concentrating their entire being on on the task at hand, accepting responsibility for their own safety, working quickly before the glue re-hardens, but with a care for the safety of themselves and others.
People always ask me about burns. I'm sure there were some burns last week, but that's only a guess based upon the knowledge that I burn myself almost every time I use a glue gun for any length of time. For instance, I see a curled hand in this picture below that looks suspiciously like its reacting to something painful, but we heard nothing, not a tear, not a yelp, not even an "ow!" from any of the kids. Such is their concentration that a mere sting can't break it.
A burn from a glue gun is, of course, painful, but no more so than a fall on asphalt or a bumped head, every day injuries we take for granted in preschool, quickly soothed by a plunge in cold water. We have "systems" in place as well that we feel minimize the risk and give the children a framework within which to use these tools. For instance, we've decided that a supervision ratio of one adult per every 2 active glue guns is reasonable, we always set up our glue guns in a controlled space, away from more rough and tumble play, and we teach them to be careful to place their tools in a pan or tray when not in use to reduce the chances of inadvertently touching of a live one. And, most importantly, we ask that the adults, each time a child approaches the work area, to review the basic information: "If you touch this part it will burn you. If you touch the hot glue, it will burn you."
This was also the week we introduced the Pre-3 class to the wonders of hot glue guns.
We started with an explanation of the hazards, then a demonstration of how the tool works, and it's potential.
Then it was time for the kids, going around the workbench, taking turns.
First applying glue to the chosen target, handing the gun back to the adult, then placing the object to be affixed.
These are 2 and 3-year-olds, a demographic not known for its ability to concentrate, to wait their turns, to be responsible for their actions.
Yet, here they are doing all of that nevertheless.