Someone asked how to introduce loose parts in an early childhood center where the teachers were not familiar with them. It would have been better to  introduce the idea at a staff meeting first. But it’s too late for that now. 

So I suggested what I did when introducing the study of balls.  I assembled 3 large bins of many sizes and types of balls, and put 1 in each of 3 classrooms.  I told the teachers that the only rule was to observe – and they couldn’t “teach” anything about them.

The staff meeting was 3 days later.  I told everyone about what I had done and asked each of the 3 teachers what happened.  One said “They didn’t learn anything, they just rolled them around and around.”  I asked her to tell us more.  They rolled them on the carpet and on the bare floor. They rolled them up and down ramps they made out of blocks.  Again, she said they didn’t learn anything.

The second one said they tried bouncing all of them. Some did bounce and some didn’t. Some of the children kept on trying to bounce the ones that didn’t bounce. Some children, after trying them, only would bounce the bouncy ones.

The third teacher said they threw the balls to each other.  First, they gently tossed them from very close to each other.  She did tell them not to throw them AT each other.  I said that was okay.  That morning, a few children made a throwing game – they stood on different sides of a cabinet and threw them over the cabinet.  Then they sat and threw them over the cabinet and tried to catch them.

The first one said, “See, I told you they didn’t learn.”

I said when children explored freely without adult interference, they explored different properties depending on their interests and their friends’ interests.  Without adults telling them what to do, one group investigated rolling, one bouncing, one throwing. 

This is PROOF that children learn by doing and by investigating on their own.  If I tried to set this up, I couldn’t have done any better.  I was SO excited by these results!

That was the first step towards developing studies of balls.  First children explore, then adults can come in and expand the learning opportunities.

This works with balls, loose parts, rocks – anything they can touch and move on their own.