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open-ended dramatic play is fundamental.

Updated: Jun 17, 2021

My PreK friends inspire me SO much. I love their unabashed energy and verve. I love my PreK teachers love for kids - they love those little peanuts to the moon and back and you can tell. On Friday afternoon, I walked into one of my PreK classrooms and saw something new, the beginnings of a cave... As they get ready to begin their study of nocturnal animals, the teacher and her (equally amazing) assistant had begun construction on a cave. The simple paper cave was up and while the 'official' beginning of their study of nocturnal animals hadn't begun yet, there was a small group of five boys who could not wait and were in the cave.

"Mr. Halpern, come in the cave!" They shouted in unison.

Now, this cave isn't that large and it was clearly designed for four-year-olds... but that wasn't going to stop me. I got down and crawled in the best I could. With the five of them in there already, the best I could do was to lay down with my front half in the cave and my legs sticking out. There we were, a band of boys in the relative darkness of the cave.

"Who lives in caves?" I asked them.



"Maybe owls and spiders?" One wondered.

Their curiosity was ripe and I knew they weren't starting the instruction on nocturnal animals yet, but the cave was up, we were in it, and I thought we should have some fun.

"You know, people could be in a cave, why do you think?" I asked.

"Maybe if someone was lost?"

"Or camping!"

"Yes, and with a campfire... and stories!"

And with that, we decided to tell stories about the cave. I went first, modeling a short story about all the boys in the cave, using their names, boys searching for bats, and then - surprise - finding some flying out!

They giggled with joy and then I asked, "Does anyone else want to tell a cave story?" And they did. And it was beyond wonderful.

After everyone had a turn telling a story, their teacher, who had wandered in during them, asked if they might like that campfire one boy mentioned. They were ecstatic. Within minutes, she had gone to fetch red and orange tissue paper and I asked the boys what could we use for 'logs' - they ran over to the block area and started grabbing blocks. One boy grabbed a rectangular prism and the other long and short cylinders. As they huddled around the blocks, I asked, "Which one looks more like logs of wood for a campfire?"

The boy with the rectangle block immediately put his back and pointed to the cylinders. "Those are called cylinders, they look like logs, don't they?" "Cylinders," they all repeated.

We walked over to a table where their teacher had the tissue paper and they crumpled and twisted and folded and fashioned something that looked quite like a raging fire. Two boys carried it into the cave carefully, "It's fire! It's hot!" As they sat around their fire, telling more stories, asking for marshmallows to roast, their teacher grabbed some paint brushes and white pom poms - a little tape and they were roasting marshmallows by their fire, telling stories.

None of this, beyond the cave itself, was planned. They were only getting READY to start learning about nocturnal animals. PreK is nothing short of magical.

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