“Playdough is for girls!” Jason disagreed to participate in our activity. He frowned upon the idea that we would be using playdough, despite it is for building electric circuits. He turned his chair away from us and sat down, with his arms crossed over the chest. This would be a classic classroom moment you sometimes find yourself in as an instructor with a bunch of 4 or 5 year olds.
That playdough is for girls is a common association and a fallacy. Yet it does exist among some kids, though it often only comes as an initial feeling out of reactive nature. And I wondered… if it would make a difference to Jason if given time and space to ponder over it a little bit. So I responded to him, “Maybe or maybe not? But I understand how you are feeling about it at this moment. And that’s okay. Let’s just stay in the chair for 5 minutes. Then we will ask ourselves again.”
The class moved on with the activity and other kids started making different things with playdough. They giggled. They exchanged ideas. Some were busy fiddling around with the cookie cutters to make heart or bear shapes while one was attempting to make a cupcake. Jason tried hard to not pay attention to their laughter or conversations. But it was in vain. He just couldn’t help it. Before we knew it, he had elected his option and was already back into the group and started playing with playdough as preparation for our circuits. What can we say? Joy is something that is hard to resist. But we can also call it the power of positive peer pressure too! LOL.
Actually, I made a short story long. The turnaround only took a few minutes.
But Jason’s change of heart mattered. He had an enjoyable experience because of it. On top of that, through play, he also gave himself an opportunity to see and learn that some playdough can let electricity flow through, just like wires. An LED can be lit up with it. A buzzer can go off with it. And it doesn’t have to be a narrow wire. Shape or form alone do not determine whether something is a conductor or not. And yes, even some toys, like playdough, conduct electricity! They key is that we experiment to test our assumptions and see for ourselves. Like the assumption that playdough is for girls, it proved to be not true for Jason, at first hand, in the end.