Saturday, 13 June 2015

Working with willow sticks

I attended a training session a few weeks ago led by Sharon Sadler, fabulous woman - look her up.  She brought with her loads of sticks. Now if you're in Early Years (and I presume you are since you're reading this) you know just how expensive resources can be, especially natural ones!  She had found these in B&M:

What a wonderful idea!  On Friday, to my surprise, she dropped off a bundle of these in our school. (Thanks Sharon!)  

Now this week has been HOT. The children seem to absorb the sunshine and it supercharges their batteries and they were bouncing!  So a nice sit down under the tree unthreading the sticks was just what I (and many of the children) needed.  Once we'd got all of the sticks together we set about with playing with them.

I have to admit I started the children off. I set up a simple triangle.  But it was impressive how many of the children could name the shape.  Then I heard one little boy shout, "rectangle." and eureka, he'd made a rectangle.  From that point onwards the play just flowed freely..

 Next came the what to do with the shapes which we had made.  The children began to fill them using different materials which they could find.  Sadly as our yard is new we don't have many 'natural' materials available at the moment so the children generally improvised, as they usually do. 

 Next a little girl came over with some water. She began to pour it into the shape nearest to her. 

Because of the this the other children decided this would be a nice idea too.

 The children eventually decided there wasn't enough 'control' so another child brought over a paintbrush.  With some fabulous fine motor control he began to 'paint' the inside of his shape.

Then (and this was my favourite part) one little boy (Boy D) noticed that the water was starting to come out of one of the shapes.

At first he tried to enclose the water (I helped him a little here). But despite the momentary pause, the water leaked through and kept on moving. (Apparently our new flatter than flat playground is on a slope!) 

Stick after stick he placed in front of the water to try and get it to stop moving. 

He began to improvise with grass, beads, cars, bricks. Each time he stopped and looked around for something else which he could use to halt the water. He began to discard things which weren't going to work for him.
It was a very carefully considered activity and at one point he even used a brush to push it back. As it gathered momentum towards the drain he stopped, looked at me and smiled. I think he'd realised that he wasn't going to stop it.
It was such a wonderful observation on Boy D. He's really engaged his thinking skills, testing and hypothesising and he showed incredible resilience.  


  1. Fabulous post, James! I love sticks almost as much as I love stones ;-)
    Have you seen Juliet's post about Rainbow maths sticks? Another fab way to use them...

    Keep up the good work!
    - Rachel (",)

    1. DEFINITELY. I hadn't seen this but its a lovely idea. Would really extend the children's thinking much further. Ta Rachel.