After 9/11, we watched children build wooden block towers and crash them down. Children of all ages, working through the unthinkable images they’d seen and heard about.
On Monday, after the recent terrorist attacks in Mumbai, I remembered those block towers and watched children play again (I’ve been long term subbing as a team teacher in a classroom with K, 1st and 2nd graders.) Many of the students hadn’t heard the news, and most of them were spared the kind of graphic descriptions and images modern reporting makes possible–but not all of them. And one student has family in Mumbai (not physically hurt in the attack). We had some simple discussions. We expressed care and love for our classmate who will soon travel to India to see his family. He’s bringing our Flat Stanley visitor with him on the trip, as well as cards and notes with classmates’ well-wishes. Mumbai hasn’t bubbled up in play, yet–although it has in a few conversations.
Today, Wednesday, many of our students began “constructing” toys: building them with tape and paper, drawing with pencils, and bits of plastic strips one student had brought in from the recent home installation of a hot water heater. Some students were asking the best construction engineers in our class to create models for them. Other students were elaborating on the theme, adding attachments and enhancements. It was a quiet classroom fascination during indoor recess (weather didn’t allow us to go outside).
Today’s play was a reflection of our changing world, I thought, and I was a bit relieved to think it wasn’t a reaction to scary times. I found watching this day’s play helped me. It helped me to be hopeful about a peaceful future. These 5, 6, and 7 year olds weren’t building guns, or laser weapons. They weren’t fighting space battles or bad people (although they’ve been known to do that!). They were getting connected, they were creating a flat world. They built miniature Ipods and handhelds. They drew on screens, control wheels, speaker grills. One student constructed a docking station for his, and then went on to build a miniature computer, and removable flash drive.
It’s a connected world, alright.