Earlier this year I was talking with my daughters about - well just about everything really, as we do, and the phrase "thinking outside the box" was used by me to which Isabelle answered...
"well I think inside my box, because it is bigger on the inside, and travels through time and space".
Which of course made us laugh (as my daughters call themselves Whovians - Isabelle has been knitting a LONG Fourth Doctor scarf for the last few months)...
This got me thinking...
There is so much focus on thinking outside the box that we are forgetting about the boxes themselves.
Maybe children come to preschool thinking creatively in their radically different boxes - a safe place to think, but also with the ability to share ideas with others... the ability to look into each others boxes, to be inspired.
I get what the phrase is about... thinking outside the box... it is that one way of having a box - that box we are told we should have in school... that one way to approach life - change your box to look like this and all will be well. But of course we need to think out of the box all the time when things within the box don't work!
I, though, work with preschoolers... children not yet conditioned by this one box way of thinking. Children that are filled with play and creativity - who are still learning about taking inspiration from other boxes in order to furnish their own.
If we are all encouraged to "maintain" our wonderful variety of boxes (and by maintain I mean stay true to your own individual creativity, as I assume a box would change over time with new experiences and inspirations changing the fabric, design and technology of the box) - then there would not be the need to think outside the box, but to think by connecting, by box collaboration.
Loris Malaguzzi talked about a 100 languages that became 1 in school... which is more or less the same sort of thinking as this box theory I am developing here (lol). What we as preschool teachers need to learn is how to identify the boxes and how to enable the children to stay true to them and how to learn how to learn, be inspired and interact with others to fuel their box creative drive.
How, though, can we who have been taught to think within a specific box refind our childhood box of creativity?
I believe it can be done through play.
I believe that if we as teachers/adults take the time to mess about with ideas, with loose parts, with nature, with each other... to play then we can learn as children learn... and down this learning path is where we will find our original packaging ready to be filled with all our experiences.
David Hawkins developed the idea of Messing about - and was one of those people that had inspired Malaguzzi. I do recommend that you take some time to find out more about his ideas, as I have found them so valuable in developing a better understanding of my role and responsibility as a teacher and how I can improve my interaction skills with children... by better understanding play and learning.
So I am never going to ask a preschooler to "think outside the box"- instead I want to arm them with the strength to never exchange their box for the standard issue at school (it would be even better if we could persuade the politicians to think "outside the box" or better still refind their original box - and encourage schools to be a place of play, learning, creative and critical thinking - a place that allows children to be creative and to collaborate).