I want to share something very close to my heart, a Big Dream of mine that all of us at Dream Big Science and Art are working towards. Something I hope can benefit all of us very soon…
My oldest daughter, Amelia, used to babysit this little girl, an only child who had both a bedroom and a playroom filled to the brim with fancy toys. She had Barbies and three giant doll houses and board games and everything you could imagine packed into these two spaces, and her favorite thing to do… was play with pieces of paper. She would tear them up and pretend the pieces were food, animals, money, anything and everything she could imagine. Even though her room was filled with everything that money could buy, she would not use it! She was so desperate to use her imagination that she gravitated towards something as simple as pieces of paper.
This has been mirrored time and time again over my years of working with young children. I’ve learned that it is the simplest things that capture children’s imaginations and keep them focused on an activity for extended periods of time. Inevitably, the fancy toys lost their interest very quickly. They might play with the toys for a few minutes, but then they are done. I found the specific, deliberate and intentional selection of materials offered (including natural and recycled), will encourage and support children to use their imagination and remain engaged for an extended period of time, leading to making connections and deep thinking.
I’ve experimented with these simplistic, open ended materials for years: pebbles, containers, tongs, string, recycled materials, and more, and the comments from my co-teachers and parents were always the same: “that’s so simple… but I never would have thought of it!
I felt that the children were learning so much from the set up of these specific materials that I wanted to share it with more than just my little pre-school. I started offering workshops in other schools, both for the children and their teachers. But I was only able to do one school at a time and therefore could only reach very few children.
I realized that the best way to share these fantastic setups so that the maximum number of children could benefit was to open a center.
I think a lot of people, including myself, may be thinking, why do we need yet another place for children to go? We have gyms, we have preschools, we have playgrounds, we have children’s museums, why do we need yet another place? The reason is, there really is no place where a child can play openly and freely without structure over a sustained period of time with earth, air, water, light and movement. The gyms are great and the children follow the instructions of the teacher. The schools are fantastic and provide a structured environment and social interaction with children their own age. Playgrounds are great for climbing and swinging and exercising their physical selves. Children’s museums are set up for a particular interaction with specific purpose outcome. This is why we need to create the Dream Big Science and Art Center, because there really is no place that is conducive to give children what used to be available to all children: free time to play and explore without an agenda, without structure, without time limits and without schedules.
My mission is to create the kind of space that is a child’s wonderland, filled with everything that has been removed from their environment. Where children of different ages can come together, influence and support each other. A place where they are not scheduled into a 45 minute or 1 hour slot. Where they can play and discover, slowly. A place where they do not run out of materials. A place of wonder, to come back to over and over again, each time a new encounter with the elements. Safe, fun, clean, exciting each time like the first time… The kind of place that I would have loved when I was a child. The kind of place that I know all children will love.
I am working every day to make the Dream Big Science and Art Center happen.
And thanks to YOUR support, whether it be emotional, financial, exploring these ideas in your home or classroom, buying a kit, clicking LIKE on our Facebook page, telling a friend and spreading the word, I know it is just around the corner.