E-, Two Sticks, and His Friends

This is the story of E-, two sticks and his friends. One morning, just at the beginning of our day, some friends were seated at the picnic table. Despite the chill, they were writing letters and discussing initial letter sounds. I was supporting their interest when E- came running up with two sticks in his hands. He proudly showed them to me, saying that one was very big and one was small. I agreed with him. As we chatted about his sticks, E- tried to hold them end to end in his closed hand. “A bigger stick!” “Yes, E-, the two together make a much bigger stick.” It was difficult to hold them in one hand, so he placed them on the ground end to end. Again he said, “A bigger stick.” He then ran into the woods. Thinking that the encounter was over, I turned my attention to the friends at the table.

The next time I looked, E- was returning from the woods with two more sticks. This was at least his third trip as there were already several sticks placed end to end on the ground. “More bigger! he proudly stated. Friends playing nearby noticed the growing line of sticks. “Can we help?” “Yes!”  E-‘s idea was to reach to our handwashing station with his sticks.

Together, they ran off to the woods. Soon there were many sticks end to end. As they neared the sink, someone suggested that they should try to reach the chicken “house.” There was agreement, so the line changed direction and continued to grow in length as friends added more and more sticks. The activity attracted more friends. “I want to do this, too!” More then joined the exciting endeavor.

As they neared the chicken coop, they were estimating, “How many more do we need?” “A lot!” Friends ran into the woods returning with one or two sticks each. “We need three more!” Then a resourceful friend returned carrying an armful of sticks! There was great rejoicing when they reached the chicken “house!”

After admiring their work, they formed a line and walked the path like a train. Then someone said, “That’s a lot of sticks.” “Yeah, too many to count!” “We can count them!” Together, we counted the sticks. Forty-seven sticks! More joyful celebration! Then we washed hands and had snack.

One child with a wonder, an idea, friends and collaboration.    Joy.

Spontaneous child-led play and investigations happen at all of our outdoor locations. Group play can spark from the seemingly smallest of ideas. There has been a pop-up pie store at the park and an ice cream store in the middle of the woods. Friends build structures together and invent storylines and games. This is learning in community.

Our image of the child is rich in potential, strong, powerful, competent and, most of all, connected to adults and other children.

– Loris Malaguzzi

The line of sticks remained at the close of the day.

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