An Unplanned (and Unimaginably Cruel) Cultural Experiment
Teacher Tom
by Teacher Tom
3d ago
A friend who works with young children recently texted me with questions about why I thought kids today seem more anxious than in the past. There are a lot of theories. Some blame screen-based technology, especially smartphones. Some blame the media. Some blame bad parenting. Some environmental toxins. Some blame a society that has gone off the rails. One of the most credible theories, however, is that our children are suffering from a deficit of good, old-fashioned play, and anxiousness is a symptom. Most of the leading thinkers on play (e.g., Peter Gray, Jonathan Haight ..read more
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The Girl Team
Teacher Tom
by Teacher Tom
4d ago
Charlotte was one of those kids who had been coming to Woodland Park since before she was born, arriving first in our classroom in utero to drop off and pick up her older brother, then continuing on her own behalf until she was five. If I've ever known a student, it would be Charlotte, and among the many things I know is that she is not conflict averse: she will stand up for herself, and for righteousness in general, like few people I've ever known, whatever their age. To say she knew her way around the place would be an understatement. When we began making our cl ..read more
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To Listen With Our Entire Self
Teacher Tom
by Teacher Tom
5d ago
"Your wish is my command." It's a phrase that originates in the Arabic folk tale Aladdin and the Magic Lamp. It's what the genii said to the boy who conjured him. It is meant as a declaration of gratitude for having been released from the prison of the lamp, one that the genii makes in earnest. He will, up to the limit of three wishes, obey the boy.  Today, more often than not, when we use the phrase we mean it sarcastically, as a way of indicating that someone has us over a barrel. As autonomous modern humans, most of us have learned to be uncomfortable with ceding our behavio ..read more
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Agreeing on Rainbow
Teacher Tom
by Teacher Tom
6d ago
We were making a rocket ship to use as a prop for a play the older kids had decided they wanted to stage for the last day of school. I'd procured a long cardboard box that the kids agreed would punch the ticket, but before we started, we needed to discuss exactly what kind of rocket ship this was going to be. "Black!" "No, purple!" "Yellow and green!" I was writing their nominations on a sheet of butcher paper. By the time we'd completed the list, there was no overlap. Each of the dozen or so kids had suggested a unique color or color combination. I read the list to them ..read more
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Training for the Unexpected
Teacher Tom
by Teacher Tom
1w ago
In science journalist David Toomey's new book Kingdom of Play, he writes about an animal geneticist and ethologist named David Wood-Gush who established the "Edinburgh Pig Park," a place where domesticated animals were allowed to roam freely. The idea was that they could live as closely to their natural state as possible, yet still be easily studied by scientists. It was known at the time that pigs that played more tended to healthier, so Wood-Gush and his colleague Ruth Newberry decided that understanding more about pig play would lead to more humane treatment of pigs. Like many mamm ..read more
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"I Do It!"
Teacher Tom
by Teacher Tom
1w ago
The boy had shed his jacket onto the floor, leaving it in a heap right in the middle of the room. Under normal circumstances I would have said something like, "Your coat is on the floor; it belongs on a hook," then waited for him to think things through. But this was his first day and he was only two, so I instead picked it up with the intention of hanging it for him. He rushed at me, screaming something that didn't sound like Nooooooo! but clearly meant it. He snatched his coat from my hands. "I do it!" I said, "The hooks are over there." It took some doing, but he finall ..read more
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Play Isn't Silly At All
Teacher Tom
by Teacher Tom
1w ago
You'd think that people would've had enough of silly love songs But I look around me and I see it isn't so Some people want to fill the world with silly love songs And what's wrong with that? I'd like to know 'Cause here I go again.                           ~Wings (Paul McCartney) Yesterday, I listened to BeyoncĂ©'s new album Cowboy Carter on which she covers and updates Dolly Parton's heart wrenching classic Jolene. Whereas the original is about a woman in love begging for mercy from a rival who has set her ey ..read more
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How to Create a State-of-the-Art Playground for $200
Teacher Tom
by Teacher Tom
1w ago
Awhile back, a reader left a comment on the Facebook page asking, "If I have $200 to make my backyard look a little more like your school, what should I get?" First off, $200 is a pretty good budget for a project like that, mainly because most of the coolest stuff we have in our outdoor classroom we acquired at little or no cost.  So here are some suggestions: Sand or at least someplace for digging. Backyard sandboxes are great, but they're often really too small and too shallow for growing kids. When our community has created playgrounds, we always talk about "full body" sa ..read more
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A Natural Learning Habitat for These Urban Kids is a Junkyard
Teacher Tom
by Teacher Tom
2w ago
She hadn't come looking for me, but when I passed where she played with a friend, she said, "Teacher Tom, look at our play area." They then gave me a tour of junk they had purposefully arranged, explaining to me how everything worked. There was a slide and a merry-go-round and several other things that adult play area designers haven't yet, and probably never will, invent. After admiring their project for a bit, a project that was still in process, I made my way up the hill to where the "bad guy" trap had taken up residence. This was a well-established project undertaken mostly by a ..read more
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A Place Where We "Finish" Using Stuff
Teacher Tom
by Teacher Tom
2w ago
Auke-Florian Hiemstra/Naturalis Biodiversity Center There was a street light just outside the living room window of my second-story downtown Seattle apartment. On top of the light fixture were ugly spikes, fixed there to prevent birds from landing on it. As far as I could tell, it worked. Nearby trees were populated with urban birds, but they left this particular street lamp alone, even as just down the block an un-spiked light was home to a crow's nest for at least one mating season. Not long ago, I read a fascinating article in The Guardian about corvids, crows ..read more
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