Have you ever read the book Not a Box by Antoinette Portis? My students love that book. I think because it is funny, repetitive, and something that they can relate to. I love that book too. I love it because I think it teaches my students that a box (or stick, rock, cone, piece of string or paper, etc., etc.) can be used as just about anything that they can imagine. I love that it encourages and celebrates creativity and ingenuity, problem solving, self regulation, self expression, etc., etc.
We have had a LOT of boxes in my classroom. During the last school year they had been rocket ships, cars, boats, zombie castles, animal crates, jails, houses, guitars, gifts, hockey arenas and soccer fields, and once the head of a dragon. There were clearly no limits in my classroom as to the ways in which materials could be used or manipulated in the pursuit of the expression of an idea or in play. The furniture was no exception.
We had a beautiful table and set of benches visit our classroom for a while. The children were very drawn to them, maybe because they were beautiful or perhaps because, if they all squished in and added chairs to the ends, every child in the class could fit at it. It was wonderful to see how it enhanced the feeling of community in my classroom (as well as the beauty). I also marveled at the other, less conventional ways that my students used them.
The table was used as a stage, runway for a fashion show, fort, jail, animal kennel, art studio, kitchen, restaurant, etc. The benches were also used in many ways. Although the chairs in my classroom had been incorporated into play in the past, the benches added a whole new dimension. They became a bridge, bus seats, an ambulance, a stretcher, the patient chair in a dentists’ office, the back bed of a pickup truck, and a platform for building with both blocks and trains. Once a bench was even transformed into the log ride from Playland (with wavy blue cardboard once used to pack pears taped on to be the water) and used to test how different materials (blocks, water bottles, cars, etc.) rode down the ride (and how far they could shoot off the end of the bench).
I think these children are brilliant. I also think that they help me see the world in a new way, and I am ever thankful for that. A box is not just a box and a table is not just a table. I am proud to be part of a classroom where children are free to imagine and explore and so thankful to have the open ended materials, from boxes and sticks, to tables and benches, that they need to take their play to these thoughtful, inspiring places.