As we prepared for the Thanksgiving Feast, one of the children's tasks was to create centerpieces for our tables. Following the children's interest in nature, we decided to incorporate natural materials into our centerpieces. First, The children hammered nails into white birch logs. Then they wrapped wire in fall colors around the nails to create a base for their construction. The third and final step of the process was to add natural materials (wood, pinecones, seed pods, and feathers) to the wires, giving height to the centerpieces. As this project progressed, the children were challenged both physically and cognitively.
Hammers and Nails
The task of hammering nails into white birch was an exercise in hand-eye coordination. As each child hammered their nails, they had to look carefully at their target and then complete the swing of the hammer.
Cal: Hammers go up and down to go around to twist to go together.
Whit: I need a screw for this. The screw twist-ses! The hammer bams!
The children also thought deeply about the task. Some checked the nails to see if they were sufficiently hammered into the logs after each swing, while others would check after only multiple swings.
Ford: I might need a little more on this one (nail), because it’s a little bit loose.
Charlton: Now this one needs a little bit more. Screech (the Nationals mascot) is going to play here.
Ford: I like Screech too! (A nail that Ford had been working on fell out of the log). I need to do this one again.
Ava: I think it (a nail) needs a little more tightening.
Ellie: That one (nail) fall out, so I need a bigger one.
Ava: Good it's all tight now. I’m going to do another one.
The task of hammering nails is often seen as a "grown-up" job, but the children were up to the challenge. They beamed with pride as they hammered and saw the fruits of their labor.
Charlton: I have used a screw before, but not a hammer.
Ford: Whoa! I haven’t used a hammer before, but at my grandpa and grandma’s they have a special truck with a screw.
Mimi: Oh, that’ so cool, because I never did that (hammering nails) before....Where’s the space to put this one? This one can’t get out because I hammered it in!
Isabelle: No one does this, because my mom’s not strong enough, My daddy’s not strong enough...because my hands are strong.
Wrapping Wire and Adding Natural Materials
Wrapping wire also gave children another opportunity to develop their hand-eye coordination and fine motor strength. The small muscles that wrapping wire engages are the same muscles that are used for a number of other tasks like snapping snaps, buttoning buttons, painting, drawing and writing. The children all approached the wrapping of wire with their own unique eye for design.
-Fay and Ford wrapped wire from nail to nail in one horizontal line and then repeated the same sequence on a parallel set of nails.
-Seon wrapped wire on two side-by-side nails and made repeated layers of different colors on each pair.
-Mimi made "bracelets" of individual wires and then fit them around the nails.
-Isabelle wrapped wire around wire and then added it to the nails.
-Whit created a zig zag from nail to nail.
After wrapping the wire around the nails, it was time to build the height of our centerpieces by adding natural materials. The children perused the materials and carefully chose their items. It wasn't just a matter of choosing materials though, as they also had to hypothesize about attaching the materials to the nail and wire structure they had already built. This required mathematical and scientific thinking.
Seon: I need to think about it. I’m going to put the wire first and then the pinecone later. First I need to find some red wire. Oh, this is too long. I need to find a shorter piece. I’m trying to stand up the wire. Look I am doing it... I’m standing this one up by twisting the wire. I’m standing the wire up. I twist it very hard because it is thick. I put the pinecone under the wire. I connected the wire to the nail.
Isabelle: Maybe a little one (bead) for the little wire.
Mimi: I want to add it to this one. I actually made it!
Our Thanksgiving Feast Centerpieces