The bare room had a corner with child-sized foam adjoining geometric shapes and hand-sized cubes. I looked at it and wondered how long this can sustain the children's interest (I had 2 other children with me apart from my three daughters). It was actually an intriguing consideration for me after observing that the children spent three times as long as other visitors in the previous art installation they went to as I sat waiting for them outside. Rough estimation nevertheless, I didn't have a stopwatch and table to fill in.
They ended up being there for almost an hour, and it was only because I intervened and suggested that we left as another child not from our group who joined them 10 minutes into play had become physical and verbally abusive. If only this was a controlled experiment!
The children in fact stayed the longest than any other visitors when we were there. A few groups looked in and walked away. One stayed for a minute before leaving when her son started whining wanting to play what was already being played by one of my kids.
The children manipulated the shapes by putting different combinations of the shapes together. They experimented with what could and could not go in different cavities and build models with the blocks before making them fall apart with their hands or legs.
There was also an exploration of their body vis a vis the shapes. There was a hemisphere with an elliptical cavity in it; the children went inside and got their friends to cover them with a hollow half hemisphere, and actually totally covering them with another similar piece; possibly reproducing a foetal experience or other reproductions during imaginative play.
While the space was only about the size of a small bedroom, the children interacted freely with the shapes in two-thirds of the space ( the rest taken up by the trolley holding the sanitizers and items belonging to the staff who was present all the time. I must commend her for not interfering in the children's play, I have met less accommodating staff at most places). They rocked on the quarter spheres; trying out different combinations of children on it and different sequences of motions and they chased after each other with the mini blocks (here I did intervene at least twice with reminders of no body contact after some pulling and shoving by the boy who joined us and whose carer was not around).
On reflection, I think interactive spaces can only be fully enjoyed when, as in a gracious societies, we have mutual respect and courtesy for each other; in this case the children are learning how to do so while in play and sometimes the elder (I guess that's me) has to come in and show them the proper way things are done in a community as such culture is something that one acquires growing up and being exposed to different interactions with people.
Secondly, it is intriguing how different the adult mind is compared to the child's! I stood there thinking- "What can they ever see in this?"- and the children just amazed me with having so much to do and enjoying it at the same time. I have to highlight what seemed like dull and basic materials to me as an adult was mesmerizing for the children because it allowed them to shape it into whatever they want.
Thirdly, I was happy to let the children go into the first installation on their own, I figured they have staff in there who are capable of looking after them; but most of all it was their chance to be free without direct adult intervention. Not intervening in children's play is crucial to letting them own it and make it their own and I think I have finally come to a point where I can commit to it in deeds and not just in my thinking.
By the time we got to the second installation, I have managed to control myself from time-taking, suggesting how they should play or suggesting other exhibitions we could go to because there are so many! The only time I stepped in was to prevent the play from escalating into something physically or mentally harmful.
In Montessori, we have a prepared environment where the children can calmly work on what they have chosen. To me having such interactive installations in public spaces like museums are an extension of that and is the way forward in reaching out to children.
On our outing, I gave the children the pamphlet for the Children's Biennalle, they took turns choosing where they should go and led the way (as much as possible, with some suggestions from me when they are obviously heading the wrong way). What a beautiful experience it was to have our lessons in two beautiful historic buildings that makes up the National Gallery. May we be blessed with more opportunities like this in the future.
It was a busy National Day week. We went to the library on Monday, Gardens by the Bay on Tuesday, National Day celebrations on Wednesday and Gardens by the Bay again on Friday.
As it was National Day month, the Gardens had an Orchid, our national flower, theme and discounts for residents (strong reason I was encouraged to go). We took the Downton Line to Bayfront and walked from Marina Bay Sands to the Domes.
On Tuesday, my complete collection of nature studies references, mostly from the Welcome to the Museum series by Big Picture Books, had arrived and I was excited to start using them. I would love to review those once I get to fully using them insyaAllah.
I had a chance to use some of them on Friday, when our usual nature walk group was cancelled. I used the Botanicum postcards to introduce the children to different types of orchids and their characteristics. In addition, we looked at cycads and the canonball tree that we saw on our first trip on Tuesday. The children also did a "find the difference" activity from the Botanicum activity book that had an orchid theme. All this was done at breakfast at McD's which had orchid-themed walls.
Having my Emily Dickinson nature journal meant I could easily include poetry recitation into our nature lessons. The children gave me a "cheesy mummy" look when I recited of course but went on to write their own rhymes into their nature journal.
Some extensions we can work on in the future:
1. Dissecting flowers and learning the names and functions of the different parts.
2. Study of Light
4. Pollination and fertilisation
5. Our national flower