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Teaching Journal Notes 

By Kodo’s Guest Author, Elinor Rifkin

This past week I’ve really enjoyed observing the children and their learning adventure with open-ended materials. I’ve noted the following:

  • scientific reasoning for choosing the materials
  • growing construction/engineering skills 
  • problem-solving and social skills

As the week wrapped up I was still curious to see them play with the long cardboard paper roll boxes, which was my original intention. A few of the girls were in between explorations so I invited them to join me. I introduced the basic concepts of the Jenga game and asked if they had played it before with small blocks. They recognized the game but didn’t look interested. I learned throughout the years not to take disinterest personally, but I still believed in the learning potential with these found materials so I tried once again to get them involved. Coincidentally some of the children accidentally jumped on the boxes. I asked them to please avoid jumping on the boxes because they would break.  

One of the girls took this all in and moved several boxes so they were spaced apart at the end of the latest obstacle course. Her idea was very successful! All the children joined in and enjoyed galloping and jumping over the boxes. This new challenge delighted everyone, including me!  

I was gently reminded that as a facilitator I need to come prepared, ready to give and receive, and to always be flexible. My intention for using the boxes did come to fruition, albeit in a way I did foresee. As I inspire the children, they inspire me, and that I believe, is the key to true learning.   

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.