Who is Toad?
Toad lives in the Brown Room, and many of the children have grown attached to him. He sits on his lily pad, and the children often carry him around or take him to the cozy corner to snuggle. As many of you will remember, Toad came along for home visits this year, and for many children, they were instantly intrigued by him. During the home visits, children were also invited to draw Toad. Many of them did, and these are kept in a binder next to Toad's lily pad.
"Toad is lost! How could Toad leave us? I will cry!"
On Monday (9.26.22), Toad was moving about the classroom with the children. Georgia was playing "rescue toad" when Toad really did go missing! When we began to clean up the room for snack, the children noticed that Toad was not on his lily pad. We all began asking each other, "Where is Toad?" We looked all over the Brown Room, but we could not find him (no, really...not even the adults). As we continued the search, the children began to share theories about where Toad might be:
Drawing is a part of our process and you will see it at various stages of our work and projects. We ask the children to draw or create a graphic representation of their ideas and theories because it is an opportunity to expand/add details to their theories, provoke conversation among the children as they work, and to gain insight into their thought processes.
Below are some additional thoughts from current and former St. John's teachers on "why we draw":
Drawing is the most immediate connection to the brain-it taps into an ancient mode of expression -before verbal language existed (think cave paintings in Spain and Lascaux). It is a mode of communication that we have at our disposal; another tool in the toolbox. There are different kinds of drawing-expressive/figurative/imaginative, and then there’s drawing from life-observational drawing. Drawing and seeing go hand and hand. I think taking the time to observe, to see and notice details-structures-patterns-can make us more sensitive to the world around us. - Jennifer Azzariti
It’s an opportunity for children to verbally process at the same time. While they’re drawing they’re explaining their idea further. Drawing encourages children to identify shapes, colors, textures, patterns, and size quantities that are important to their theory or plan. I think that every time children draw, they can learn one new thing about what shapes/lines are best to communicate their idea. - Melanie Ruston
Examining details and the practice of observing closely develops focus for an extended period of time while also encouraging fine motor development. Mark making and drawing provoke thought and elicit details and aspects of children’s work that you might not otherwise see or know was there. It’s another way for children to express their thoughts and ideas. It’s a way for teachers/grownups to listen. - Jessica Kuhn
Drawing their theories
On Monday, when Cully requested to draw Toad, we paused immediately to draw.
On Tuesday, the message center/drawing area were intentionally set up for the children to expand on their theories about Toad in small groups. At morning meeting we asked once more, "Where is Toad?", and they were eager to look and share new thoughts.
The children approached the table, and while a few of them began by choosing their paper ("really big", a strip, the large clipboard, or "that's gray"), others approached the drawing tools first ("I want this marker."; "You can use the pink one to draw."). As they worked, they began to narrate their theories once more.
The children were observant as they looked at their individual shoes. Gracie noted that her shoe was "like a circle", and Gracie and Eliza were enthusiastic about the "sparkles" on their shoes. Adaline heard this and looked closely at the strap of her shoe, which she discovered was also sparkly. In response to this, we brought in some markers from the atelier which have a bit of glitter/shine to them. Below are the drawings of their shoes; all of which contain a Toad (or so we're told because he still does not seem to be in the classroom!).
Following the children's lead
Toad's disappearance was on Monday, only two days ago. The nature of our Brown Room schedule means that children who attend on WThF were not present when Toad went missing. Today, Wednesday, we observed and listened carefully for anyone to mention his absence. Georgia, who is at school on MTW, did ask about him. The other children did not attend to this comment though --they may have heard her, but they did not ask any questions or seek him out. We know, however, that on Thursday or Friday, our MTThF children will return and they may bring this conversation back to the group. We will be observing, listening, and taking notes to see how the MTThF children's experience may influence the WThF group.
We are often asked how we know when an idea or experience will become a project or a long-term investigation. This is a wonderful question with some complex answers. For now, we want to share a few reasons that we have chosen to "pull on this thread":
The case of the missing Toad created an opportunity for:
Joy and excitement among the children
Cognitive Conflict and provoking our imaginations - Toad was here and now he isn't. Where did he go? How did he get there? How will he get back? How can he disappear? (and many, many other questions)
Creating and expressing theories and hypotheses
Drawing these ideas - cognitive/creative connection
Collective Experience - From the moment we discovered Toad was missing, the children began look for him in groups and share their ideas with each other. Toad visited all of them at home, and there is a collective investment in him.
Connection with the school - Toad lives at school, and they seem to love him. But, their theories reflect their knowledge and connection to our environment and their developing relationship with the school. For example, they mentioned the cob house, the studio, and the sand.