Icy Transformations

Taken and adapted from a story written by Lead Teacher Larissa Kratt


During the winter field trips we took around the Royal Oak area, we noticed that the children's focus was centered around ice play and exploration. In particular, it seemed that they were most interested in the ways ice could transform and break apart. We watched them enjoy breaking the layers of ice on puddles and ponds and try to poke or push sticks through to the other side. Once back at our preschool, the children demonstrated that they were equally interested in the new forms the ice took on our yard and noticed the effect from the changes in weather.


The children continued to effect change on the ice, smashing and breaking it up into smaller pieces.

Days later, Teacher Miles decided to freeze cups of colored water and add these chunks of ice to the yard. The children readily used them as props for dramatic play pretending the ice chunks were "eggs" or "babies," that ice chips were "fairy dust." Their ease in using the ice in a purposeful and symbolic way mirrors the play we see inside the classroom with open-ended materials - also known as loose parts.


At the end of recess one day, Teacher Miles stacked the colorful pieces of ice right outside of our classroom window and on the brick structure. Over the next few days, Miles continually returned the ice chunks to this spot and began referring to the space as the "Ice Gallery."

The children have continued to use the ice during our time outside and they also have begun placing the ice on the brick structure carefully and intentionally, once they've finished playing with it.


Soon, Owen began using the various pieces of colored ice to create sculptures on the brick shelving. Owen's work is, again, clearly tied to transformation. However, this time, the focus is not on transforming the ice itself but, rather, transforming a space at our school ...into something much more beautiful.


Transformation is one of many schemas we see in our work with young children. Schemas are repetitive patterns documented in children's play and which are representative of underlying cognitive processes. Learn more about Schema Theory by joining this Facebook group devoted to it or by checking out this book that shares stories from the classroom.