Connecting with your Audience – Supplement

While working on the article Connecting with your Audience, I decided I should share some of the activities and techniques I have used. I’m going to throw in some additional stories and observations as well.

Chocolate hands – I’ll never forget this 3 year old girl who was  visiting the art gallery with her family. This little girl had just enjoyed a tasty treat before entering the gallery as her hands were covered in chocolate ice cream. While her family walked with her towards the bathroom, she spied a sculpture of a girl holding a bowl of mini-cobs of corn that was just this girl’s height. She headed right for the sculpture with ice cream covered hands out stretched for that bowl of corn. I’ll admit my first thought was not of this girl’s explorative, hands-on learning experience; it was ‘protect the sculpture’. This is the one and only time I ran across the gallery and picked up a child.

Building a village – Kids are so good at role playing families and thinking up stories. When trying to incorporate mapping into our lessons, the idea of letting the kids build a large map of a village came to mind. We put two tables together, outlined some main roads and a stream leading into a pond. Well, as kids do, they took it one step further. Instead of the flat pieces of paper representing each building in their village, the kids build three dimensional buildings and objects. Pretty soon their village was filled with stores, homes, churches, fences, cemeteries, trees, mills, fields, towers, signs, and more. The kids worked incredibly well as a team making sure every paper building was built well and had a place. To my delight, no one and no object was excluded. They talked about what their village needed. What could go where. Where new roads needed to be. There was a good deal of attention given to the cemetery as well.

Family trees – Each time a group of Pioneer Camp kids looked at the Stone family’s tree, I was amazed on how different their interpretations were. Some groups analyzed the family dynamics. They were interested in who was who to each other (siblings, cousins, grandparents) as well as the ages of the individuals. I remember one girl who was extremely concerned about the ages of the women. Other groups were much more creative with the tree. They learned about the individuals. Then they started creating their own stories, expanding on the family and imagining what their lives were like.

There are many things you can do with family trees. You can have kids create their own family trees. But, if that is a bit to ditto-sheet like for you or your kids, stretch a little further. Provide a visually interesting family tree of the family or families connected with the site you are at or are interpreting. Go one step further, work with a child’s sorting skills (developing in school age children) by creating a family tree puzzles.  For each family member, on a moveable disk, write their name and how they are related to at least one other person. (such as Mary Anne, is the sister of William.) Have the child or children place the people disks on an outline of the family tree.

Artifact puzzles – As children, my brother, a neighbor and I loved to dig through the newly dug drainage creek in the field across the street from our house. We found fragments of dishes that we were fascinated with. We sorted them then tried to figure out which ones went together. (I wish we would have saved some of those pieces.) The act of digging for treasure is almost universal for children. So is solving puzzles.

Working with the camp kids, I found two ways working with artifacts that appeal to kids’ enjoyment of treasure hunting and puzzle solving. The first is giving the kids a chance to dig for treasure in a pre-made dig site. Don’t just stop at having the kids dig up the items. Have them try to figure out the context of their finds and who may have left them. If working with a larger group, divide them into smaller groups with different dig sites each containing artifacts suggesting a different story. (nothing is more boring or disappointing then being the last group with the same information and nothing new to say.)

Another activity the kids just loved was getting to piece together broken artifacts. Each small group would get a tray with a broken artifact. (The artifacts were look-a-like pieces like plates, bowls or cups which were broken ahead of time in a paper bag. The sharp edges were filed with a file for safety.) The kids used tape to piece together their artifact. (tape is quicker and less stressing then glue.) The fun doesn’t stop there. Once their artifact is put together, they kids develop a story about what happened to their artifact, who it may have belonged to and how it broke. Be ready for some very creative and imaginative stories.

Story bag – Children have endless imaginations, love story telling and learn from hands-on experiences. One game Lisa and I developed for an amazing group of kids was the story bag. We filled my carpet bag with antique and reproduction items. Each kid took turns choosing an item from the bag. They could inspect the item to figure out what it was and how it might be used. (they could check with us to see if they were right.) Then they told a story about their object. In another version, a child picked an item without revealing it to the group. They acted out how their item would have been used similar to charades. The group guessed which item it was and how they were using it.

A few observations

Never underestimate the ability of a child – Educators are often required to learn all about developmental stages of children. I highly suggest being familiar with these as guidelines but not letting them dictate your program or activity development. Children are capable of a great many things. Third grade children can learn to do needlework  that will surpass many adults. At the same time, a blind student can learn to do tin punching.

Gotta have limits – It is very important to develop perimeters for any program or activity you develop. At the top of this list is the size of a group. A group of kids that is to large doesn’t work for you and doesn’t work for the kids. You have a difficult (if not impossible) time reaching all of the group. At the same time  the children have a difficulty paying attention to you. I’ve discovered tour groups of 50 children and classrooms of over 100 are just not fair to the kids or you. Set the maximum size group of children your particular activity or presentation can accommodate.

Which games for which kids? – Different games appeal to different kids. Both age and personality can determine which games kids will like. (Also keep in mind weather conditions. On particularly hot days, very active games could result in over exhausting.) Some kids like games where they can sit in pairs or small groups. For these kids games like pick-up sticks, marbles or period puzzles are good choices. Other kids like to be active but don’t like to be competitive. For these kids, consider games like puss-in-the-corner, chase the squirrel, or blind-man’s bluff.

Published in: on May 6, 2010 at 4:10 pm  Leave a Comment  

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