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X Marks the Spot: Following Children’s Interests

By: MAIRE CORBETT

Tuesday 28 February 2017

I was in a sessional preschool setting the other day. There was lots of talk about our senses. Children and educators shared ideas about seeing, hearing, smelling, tasting and touching. There were 3 small group activities for children to choose from, one of which involved Skittles and water, so children could discuss what they saw, in greater detail.

Some of you may have seen this ‘experiment’ before? I hadn’t, but was fascinated, as much by the conversations as the actual activity! Here’s what happened.

The children and early years educator arranged the sweets in a pattern on a white plate. On one plate the sweets were in a circle and on the other an X shape was formed. Water was then poured (by oTreasure chest with jewels - X Marks the Spot: Following Children’s Interestsne of the children) over the colourful sweets. As this was happening one boy said

‘X marks the spot’. The adult asked him what that meant and he said

‘Treasure! Buried treasure!’

‘Mmmmm…what is treasure’, the educator asked, reflectively.

 ‘It’s gold and jewels’ responded the little boy.

By then, patterns were emerging on the plate, so the conversation moved on to the colours, shapes and interesting things that were happening to these hard, colourful pieces of sugar. There was even a conversation wondering if the taste of the sweets changed by being soaked in water. And this idea was tested too! Lots of lovely words were used and the children really enjoyed seeing change happen right before their eyes.

When we spoke afterwards the educators and I discussed the potential to return to the idea of treasure that this boy was interested in. We talked about the possibility of chatting the next day about treasure. Maybe adding a treasure map to the role play space, maybe bringing in (and asking parents to contribute) some costume jewellery in a ‘treasure chest’, maybe burying some treasure in the sand tray or sand pit, leaving out paper, clipboards and pencils so children can make their own maps.         

Map with x marks the spot - X Marks the Spot: Following Children’s Interests

Child's drawing of a map on a clipboard - X Marks the Spot: Following Children’s Interests

Having added these few items to the environment stand back; and observe what happens? What conversations take place, what further suggestions do the children make? What stories and thoughts do the children explore? I can’t wait to see this learning story…and it would be a lovely tale for the children to contribute to the Early Childhood Ireland Book Club!

And then again…. the moment for treasure may have passed and other interests may be more engaging to the children…this is what makes our job fun!

Please do tell us your stories of noticing children’s interests and how you respond!

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