Tuesday, June 28, 2011

out with the police and in with the mermaids

The gazebo is prime preschool real estate.  Perched high in the far corner of the playground it is a sought after venue for children who want to feel like they are away from the prying eyes of adults. 

At the beginning of term a small group of children seized control of the gazebo and turned it into a police station.

The ensuing weeks have seen said children creating a complex system of traps and barricades to "keep the baddies out"

All well and good for the police - not so good much for anyone else wanting to play in the gazebo without fear of imprisonment.   

We let the occupation of the gazebo run for so long because the play was rich and complex.  It was an opportunity to support the kids as they negotiated the social landscape of friendships; respecting the rights of other people and exploring the age old theme of good versus bad.
Eventually, after much discussion, the police were evicted from the gazebo (in the nicest possible way).   They were given the challenge of relocating, and they built themselves a new station:

With the gazebo now 'boy free' the girls moved in.  First they swept the floor - apparently the police are a messy lot.  Then they set about decorating with streamers and ribbons.

Before long, the gazebo became "Mermaid World" complete with mermaid shrine:

I couldn't believe how the play fit so neatly into the stereotypical roles of males and females:  boys building and defending their territory and the girls cleaning and decorating it. 

But I've been wondering - Is it too easy to see this as an example of  how boys and girls playing differently? 

Or did we somehow suggest to the girls that they could now use the gazebo for "girl stuff".  Was there an emphasis on "boys out, girls in"?  Was there gender bias in our approach that we weren't aware of?

And as if on cue today I came across  Should we teach boys versus girls differently in preschool? from Deborah Stewart which explores the importance of reflecting on our own practice, and then a preschool in Stockholm that is going to great lengths to reduce gender bias in their setting.

Food for thought.  Either way, I'm looking forward to seeing what unfolds in the gazebo next term.

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