Here’s what I heard in a toddler centre today: silence.
The clay was set out with branches on low tables with canvas drop cloths creating a pathway around it. The children came in slowly, taking in the new materials, the setting. The educators sat at the edges of the space and said……nothing.
As the children began to explore the clay, poking fingers in, scraping chunks off, the educators did the same, exploring in their own ways. A girl brought an educator a chunk of clay and said ‘bowl’, and the educator responded quietly, ‘bowl’? and fashioned a bowl from the chunk. Another girl stuck a blob of clay onto the end of a branch, and an educator did as well. They spoke to one another softly, discussing how to make the clay stay, trying different shapes. In another corner a boy and an educator share a camera, looking through the lens at hands, feet, the room, the ceiling.
We all sat in the space for an hour and a half, talking quietly, rolling balls of clay, laughing at the songs and movements that emerged. It was…peaceful.
The soft voices, the small conversations opened up larger spaces to hear, to listen to the sound of the giggles, the sound of feet on canvas, of the slapping hands on clay. The children, the clay and the branches became more visible when adult voices became less visible.
By talking less the adults could focus on the materials, the movement of the clay, the way children picked it up, manipulated it, moulded it, walked with it. We didn’t need to ask open ended questions, we observed and listened and we learned what children were doing. We didn’t need to ask how the clay felt, what it smelled like, what is that you have made?…by being attentive we observed all of that.
Lots of conversations occurred, songs were sung, jokes were made, ideas were shared…..softy.
I am left reflecting on my voice, what I say, how I say it, how loudly I say it, and most of all, do I need to say it. I suspect most of what I say…..really doesn’t need said.