Beyond UM: The FLAT Goes Back to Pre-school

We have had visitors of all sizes around the FLAT this year, from wriggly-worms to awkward teenage chickens. We’ve welcomed student groups, guest presenters, readers and writers and curious passerby’s into our space. Yet I must admit my favorite visitors this year was the Afternoon Class of the Learning and Belonging Preschool (LAB).

I decided to reach out to the LAB to work towards a partnership that engaged children in our space and allowed the families to interact with the FLAT and FLAT Mates. The LAB is unique in that it is driven by student exploration. To spark some curiosity I joined the class during story time to share with them the fabulous book ‘Mason Meets a Mason Bee’. After numerous questions, very few related to our topic, the class broke up into groups to assemble Mason Bee homes that would be utilized at the LAB and the FLAT. The children loved using the screw-drivers and enjoyed counting the stalks as we tightly packed them into the rectangular homes.

After growing excitement the children were able to accompany me to the FLAT the following afternoon. We explored the space- petting the chickens, looking for eggs, talking about compost and gardens, and the biggest hit of all- the sink on top of the toilet. When parents accompanied the children a few weeks later the most frequent question I was asked involved the sink on the toilet. “So is there really a sink on your toilet?” “Where does the water come from?” “Do you actually use it?”

Wanting to provide a rich-experience for the children I setup another afternoon for the kids to return to the FLAT and have the opportunity to rotate through a variety of stations to better understand what exactly the FLAT is all about. We invited parents to join, and a brigade of 40 followed me to the FLAT on a cool spring afternoon.

Thanks to the help of fellow FLAT Mates, we had a rotation of stations. Compost, Seed Bombs, and Energy Exploration. The children turned compost and explored the creatures hiding within. Hands were muddied as blobs of bombs were ready to be dropped, and curiosity was sparked as we watched the magic of solar energy power hand-held propellers.

As the excitement whirled, the fire was stoked in preparation for cob-oven pizzas. Pineapple, pepperoni, mushrooms and cheese decorated the dough as the pizzas were plopped into the oven. Curious eyes, fixed and mesmerized, anxiously awaited the dough to reach the perfect golden brown.

Hot chocolate and a slice of pizza were the perfect end to an eventful and educational afternoon. I look forward to the future of the LAB and the FLAT!

Sophie Hainline

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