This year, we have added Design Lab to morning work time. It is a time when the children explore open-ended materials and build and create. We were thinking about how the 7-8s is the first year the children no longer use blocks, but that that kind of building and problem solving is such an important skill.
In Design Lab, there are a variety of materials on each of the tables. Initially the children are asked to explore the materials without an assigned task. Over time, once they are familiar with the materials, we then give them an assigned task, such as, “Can you build a structure that is freestanding?” or “Can you create a structure that is two levels? Three levels?” The children need to collaborate with one another, negotiating with both the materials and each other. We think this kind of problem solving is necessary for them to further their critical-thinking skills and allows them the opportunity to stretch out of their comfort zone.