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Teaching Journal Notes

By Kodo’s Guest Author Elinor Rifkin

I arrived at school, thinking of the flow of the day. I went to the resource room and stared at the shelves full of loose parts and art materials. My mind filled with questions: “ What material should we manipulate today? What will intrigue the children’s imagination?” I stood there, as if waiting for something to call my name, something to catch my eye, light a spark. 

After a few moments my eyes came to rest on the butcher paper rolls in the corner of the room. I was supposed to take the rolls out of the boxes and organize them on the rack.  I decided that there was no better time than the present to do so. As I worked, the long rectangular boxes piled up next to me. My brain’s light bulb flashed, there it was, I found what I was looking for!

I began thinking of the different ways the boxes could be used in the Outdoor Classroom. I thought of different schemas and gross motor activities. I remembered seeing another educator’s idea of using soft drink boxes as large Jenga-type blocks. So I dragged the boxes outdoors to set up the “Jenga” provocation. 

Educators, like children, are always on the lookout for new materials, new ideas, new excitement. Recycled and odds-and-ends materials are the most popular items in many resource rooms. These simple items are inexpensive, often right at hand, and encourage open-ended experiences. Educators aren’t the only ones who identify the value and potential of these materials;  children’s book authors are writing about the power of imagination and compelling children to activate their creative potential using sticks, boxes, and the bits and pieces they have around them. They say, “One man’s trash is another man’s treasure”. For me and the children in my care, a pile of empty boxes can only mean one thing – adventure!

Elinor Rifkin has been teaching for 12 years. She enjoys exploring with children and is constantly in awe of their endless sense of wonder. Currently Elinor is working as an Outdoor Studio Coordinator at the Rabbi Foster ELC at Temple Emanuel in Denver, CO.