I had to stop myself the other day. I had put out paper and scissors and glue sticks and punches. My plan was for the children to explore with the materials. I had a vague idea of "making cards for others," but even that was just a vague idea.
After all, the "rule" in my classroom is to use the materials to express your own ideas. A few weeks ago we explored punching holes as a new skill. So that's why I was at this point. We added some shaped punches to explore that idea and had scissors because - well, who doesn't like to cut up paper?
As they began to explore, I found myself thinking, "They are wasting paper. They punch one or two holes, they cut a large loop around the paper, they toss paper aside. Waste."
I almost said something aloud to them, but I didn't.
I watched. I commented or narrated occasionally. I let them make choices about what to do and how to do it.
And I realized that, yes they were "wasting" paper - no real concrete product was achieved. In fact, I'm not sure many took anything home that day.
But they were not wasting paper because they were learning and discovering more about what they could do, what the tools could do, and how they could manipulate paper to be what they wanted. Those are all great results from this exploration.
And the paper? Some I could salvage for the scrap box and another day. Some I tossed. But either way, the paper didn't care.
But the children did. They loved it.
Often I think we want to make sure things are under control. We want to keep things flowing in a certain way. But true learning is messy and complicated and a little out of control.
So, as early childhood teachers, we need to relax. We need to release (our expectations). We need to be less concerned with results.
It's not wasting paper if kids are learning something. Discovering something. Building knowledge and understanding.
After all, it's just paper.