23 September 2007

Adorable Filler and Same Sex Education

Curious Girl's pre-K class is all girls this year. There are 3 classrooms in every grade at her groovy private school, which generally makes quite remarkable efforts to balance classrooms on a whole variety of criteria (things like leadership and interests as well as more conventional demographics). This year, they ended up with very few boys in the pre-K year. Were the boys evenly distributed across three classrooms, there would have been maybe 4 boys out of 16-18 students in a class. So they decided to try an experiment: they divided the boys across two clasrooms, and have one class of 16 girls.

It's fascinating to see these girls at play. The school is so groovy and egalitarian that I didn't really think it would matter too much (although CG was tickled at the idea, of course). I had noticed last yeart that the boys and girls started self-segregating for play (something the groovy teachers often intervented in, strategically, although there were plenty of chances for the kids to make free choices of activities and companions). Last year, the boys were building almost every day during free choice time. They built up: towers or castles that they took stuffed animals or plastic animals into and played various strategy games--contests, territory, ownership were key themes. It was fun to watch, of course, but the girls really never wanted in on those games. They'd play in other parts of the room.

This year, the girls play in all the space, and they work everything into their play. They take out the big blocks and build low to the ground, building out but never up. They build stages, and then sing or dance on it, or sit on the edge and chat. They build offices, taking blocks to outline work spaces and then they bring office supplies over so they can work (often ending up helping each other, and sharing supplies). They set up an orchestra space so they can take turns conducting. What fascinates me is how the pretending and the building go hand in hand. Last Wednesday I was there for an hour after lunch and there was a stage (which CG built just so other kids could use it). Even after most of the girls had tired of the stage and had moved on to other activities, a few of the girls took small blocks and handed them around to everyone who had been on the stage (who were now either at the writing table area, where CG was showing them how to make jewelry by tying yarn to paper scraps to do necklaces, bracelets, or earring, and where some girls were making cards for their parents, or in the music area, playing with sand blocks or chimes). As the girls handed out the blocks they said, "here's some root beer, for everyone who was on the stage. You need something to drink now." And the root beer was received with thanks, and just got incorporated into the other play (they would stop their coloring to sip their drinks). Eventually someone decided her root beer was really a microphone and the singing started all over again.

This kind of thing just never happened with boys in the room last year. It's amazing to see.

I went to a girls' high school and loved it. Same-sex pre-K isn't going to happen anytime soon more generally, but it sure is interesting to watch.


Bonus Conversation from the two girls at the end of the table making cards for their parents:

"Hey! My dad's name is D-A-D, too!"


Songbird said...

It's amazing how differently they play. I saw it in my three. Love that DAD story.

niobe said...

Fascinating. It almost sounds like confirmation of the old "boys build towers; girls build enclosures" theory.

Magpie said...

That is fascinating. My child's daycare class was predominantly girls last year - just happenstance, and the teachers all found it interestingly different.

I am a proponent of single sex education - while I was fine at a public high school, I blossomed at a woman's college. There is a different tenor to the learning that happens without the other around.

liz said...

I love this story. And the dad story too!

I remember building elaborate houses for my little people when I was a girl. Many many rooms, but only one bedroom where they'd have a huge sleepover every night. And a swimming pool in the living room. Every. Single. Time.

susan said...

CG has a cardboard dollhouse (from IKEA) that is six rooms--three on top, three on the bottom. The wallpaper makes it clear which room should be which, but she reliably piles all the beds into one room, and all the chairs and tables into another, leaving the other rooms empty for visiting stuffed animals or other toys. Who needs a big house when the whole family can pile together? She'd love your little people layouts, Liz!

landismom said...

Wow, that is really cool!