Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Lunch Table Conversation

Many people forget that one of the things we do when we sit down to have a meal together is converse. Adults will sit at the table for hours sometimes, visiting over a meal.

We believe it is important for children to experience the social aspect of sharing a meal together, so we make a point of sitting down together, waiting for everyone at our table to arrive before we begin eating, and waiting until everyone at our table has finished before leaving. Preschool table conversation can be a lot of things, but boring is rarely one of them. Sometimes, it's ridiculous (such as the time some kids pretended every single edible item in their lunch boxes were telephones) or serious (like the conversations sparked by things kids have heard about on the news) and sometimes it is educational.

Today, the PA system interrupted our lunch conversation to inform us that "There will be a disruption of the fire alarm service in the West building. In case of fire, call 66#."

"That's not for us," stated J, authoratatively.
"What did it say?"
"What was that?" -- these are both frequently asked questions after an announcement. The children know that sometimes, the announcement tells us someone is sick or hurt and needs help from a doctor right away (code blue or nursing response) and that the person no longer needs help (code blue/nursing response is all clear). The important ones (and the reason the children loudly shush each other when the annoying dinging noise preceeds the announcement) are the "Code Red" announcements: Those ones might be "fire drills". We are really good at fire drills.

I explained that the announcement was so we know that if we see a fire, and we pull the fire alarm, it won't work, so we should just call the switchboard and tell them about it instead.
"Six-six-pound! That's what you call!" one child reminded me.
"Why is the fire alarm not working?"
"I'm not sure. Maybe they need to fix it or test it or do some work to it. Maybe it is just not working right now."
"Maybe it's not working because there's some wires, and the wires that go in it are rusty and they have to get it out," offered J.
"I think so maybe a ghost got in there and it putted its hand in and got rust in the wires and broke it," was A's thought.
"Ghost-iz are not real," Z objected, sparking a brief debate over whether ghosts are real or make-believe.
"HEY WAIT A MINUTE!" yelled J, "I know what happened to the fire alarm!"
"Oh? What do you think, J?" I asked.
"They have to take it down and take out the battery and put a new one and hang it back up."
"Oh, it needs a new battery? Could be."
"I think J was right all along!" exclaimed G, "It hadded to get a new battery and get the rusty wires out."

The conversation wandered away to something completely different, but I thought it was significant that one of the "medium" kids brought some of his prior knowledge (probably he is linking the fire alarm service with the smoke detector at his house) to share with his peers, who used it to construct new knowledge. Hours later, when the announcement came that the fire alarm "is back in service", someone who had not been sitting at our table (but had obviously been listening) piped up "I guess they finally changed the battery..."

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