Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Hexagon Happenings

This year's final hexagon activity was also an optical illusion. Cristina prepared the materials for this activity months ago. I had given a lesson on hexagon tessellations and happened to spin the hexagon shape from the geometry cabinet. I spun it again and then many more times. Each time that I did, I focused on the image of a circle that appeared as the hexagon spun. I taped some colored triangles on to three sections of the hexagon and spun it again. The triangles made a shape that reminded me of the nuclear warning image. Now, when I spun the hexagon shape the circle was even more obvious.

I handed the blue, construction-paper hexagons, each with a crayon nib at its center, to my students. I also gave each of them three small triangles to glue in place.

Soon, they were spinning their hexagons on the table tops. It wasn't long before I heard, "Cool, I see a circle."

I didn't get into a long discussion on why the circle was formed. I wanted to let them enjoy the eye candy of this small optical illusion. It's okay to let a child walk away without all of his or her "Whys?" answered. It gives them something to think about when they are being driven home or when they lay in bed at night thinking back on the day. Contemplative, reflective thinking is a good thing. One of my favorite things to hear from a student who has just arrived in the morning is, "I thought about that work we did yesterday and I figured it out. It makes a circle because..."

There is something so magnificent about the look of a young child's face when they have spent time figuring out something in their own mind and then drawn a conclusion from those thoughts. It is the witnessing of a child maturing. This renewed sense of self-assuredness grows within them a desire for quiet solitude. "I am comfortable alone. I have the companionship of my own thoughts."


Anonymous said...

Susan, this is very powerful. I really appreciate how you explain the need to give children the freedom to think for themselves and not to constantly look to teachers or others (especially to look only to adults) for the "right" answers. Too often that is what teachers, especially non Montessori teachers do, or even are expected to do. I think that learning to be comfortable with one's own thoughts is a vital life skill, as important as any practical life activity and more important than memorizing facts by far.

Susan Y. Dyer said...

When I attended the 2001 International Montessori Conference in Paris, one of the speakers spoke passionately about the importance of providing time for a child to self-reflect, to maintain an on-going inner dialog with themselves during which they ponder questions such as "What will I be when I grow up?", "What will I name my children?", "Is there a God?", "Is there a heaven?", "How does electricity work?", so on and so on. These questions grow consciousness, morality, citizenship, spirituality and so much more.

If a child is so busy, warned the speaker, that they do not have time to be bored, to sit looking out the window or to do what may appear as nothing, if every moment is filled with activity until their head hits the pillow, then our society as whole will suffer the consequences - a list too long to cite here.

I used to say to my son Ian when he would tell me he was bored, "Good, your imagination will kick in any moment now." And it would.