If you have ever been on Pinterest, it is abuzz with beautiful ideas for young children to explore colors, textures, and play. Knowing several other teachers who regularly and successfully use the ideas they find, I decided to try out a sensory bin idea for Kindergarten carpet choice time in art class.
As the blue rice and sea creatures came together into these beautiful bins of oceanic exploration, with their endless pretend play potential, I have to say that I was feeling pretty pleased. The kids will be thrilled! They will love their new station, and will clamor to use it!
So, as the ocean-blue rice was drying near the doorway, waiting for my kinders to play with it, my fifth graders arrived for their first-period class.
The very first fifth grade student in the door paused next to the rice, looked at it a moment, and calming stated, shaking his head, "Wow. What a waste of food." He walked to my carpet and sat down, maturely ready to start class with me, a teacher who just. didn't. get. it.
Here's the scoop: He was right. I was all at once grateful for his perspective (and thanked him) and embarrassed at my own pride and ignorance about the project.
That bag of rice could feed a family for most of a week. Food security is an ongoing issue for many students, and yet this sensory bin suggests that food is abundant and not of any great value, which of course any thinking person would know is untrue. Yet, I had failed to think about it.
Many blogs treat rice as though it doesn't matter, shrugging at using the food staple for play, stating things such as "it's very inexpensive," or "I spent less on rice than on a box of markers, and it lasts longer." But those things are beside the point- the point is that in using food for play, I failed to consider other perspectives, which are real for the people who experience them, and need to be respected.
I am still learning. Learning everyday from my amazing, insightful students.