I recently posted some images on Facebook of a factory tour that I led at Bullseye for a group of second and third graders. Then I casually commented that children’s tours helped me to understand “what it is about glass that most attracts kids.”
I should know better. A friend immediately jumped in and asked me to list “the top 3 or 4 things” that make this material so attractive to kids.
It sucks when someone asks you to support opinion with facts. I don’t really have any. I am not qualified as an educator. I am an observer. But I’m happy to share the conclusions I’ve drawn from leading (or tagging along on) factory and museum tours for kids, attending projects and workshops.
So here goes – “My Top Three Things”:
#1. Glass is a natural art medium. Kids get it instantly. Kids also get art instantly. The younger they are, the easier they seem to see. Their natural curiosity hasn’t been quashed by the pressure to have “the right answer”. Art doesn’t have right answers. Art should be a perpetual question. Art should provoke wonder. And questions. Glass asks similar questions: What’s going on here? What’s the story? Is this a solid or is it a liquid? How come it’s hard as a rock, but I can see through it? Every time we think we have a glass answer, we’re proven wrong. Wrong is the new right. I was comforted not long ago to read that the President of Harvard suggests all incoming freshmen read Being Wrong.
#2. Glass is dangerous (or so They say). Kids are constantly told not to touch it. That it breaks. That it’ll cut them. I’m convinced that today’s hyper-protective parenting has got to be making childhood pretty damned boring. OK, easy for me to say. I’ve never raised a child. But I’ve been one. And if all the metal corners in my playground had been padded, I doubt that I’d have learned to watch out for myself (nor felt so confident at 15 to run away from school and live on the street in London. OK, maybe not a good argument to make here).
#3. Glass loves fire. So do kids. Heat transforms material. In ways that seem magic. And- again – dangerous. I am not encouraging arson. Heat is part of our lives. We use it everyday on our stove tops. Whether it’s watching glass ladled at 2000°F or bent over a tea light, the magic of the material re-shaped in fire captures the child’s imagination like little else.
And THAT in the end is what glass does best: it captures the imagination. Once captured, a young mind can be aimed in all sorts of directions. To other subjects. To science. To math. To literacy. Learning should have the allure of the dangerous, the attraction of magic. That’s what glass can do.
I’ve wanted for the longest time to have the Marketing Department make big signs for the front of our Resource Centers that would say “Give us your children. We want to put fire and sharp objects into their hands..”
For now I’ll be happy with a “Kid-formed Glass” sign.
Anyway. Those are my top 3 things.
If I have to name a 4th, it’s probably the hackneyed but true old adage: Glass is magic.