I visited the Science Museum with my children, a few months ago. Whilst there, we spent a long time in The Launchpad zone, where they joined in with with lots of other children playing on the .
Out of all the interactive exhibits in the Launchpad, the Big Machine was the equivalent of bees around a honey-pot: children of all ages crowded around in a hands-on display using the pulley, lever, screw, wheel and axle and wedge to move the plastic lentil shapes (or seeds, as the children were calling them) from one part of the machine to the other.
It was as fascinating for me to watch, as it was for the children to be playing. I watched as the older children gravitated towards the pulley, where they were tall enough to use it; whilst the younger children gathered up the seeds to put into the “plughole” for the next child to turn the corkscrew to drive the seeds up to the wheel.
Sometimes they worked together; at other times there was conflict over who got to operate the most popular parts of the machine.
These are my mindful, bigger-picture observations of the children at work:
* There was no exclusivity over who could join in. All were accepted into the game without hesitation
* When faced with conflict, there was no adult intervention to resolve – the older children delegated roles to the younger children and they in turn accepted the direction
* Each child knew what their role was
* All of the children could understand what their role was in the bigger picture
* The children knew that their role was as important as the others in creating the bigger picture
* The children took turns; there was also an unspoken, non-negotiated swapping of tasks throughout, as their interest piqued in each part of the machine and moved on to the next part of the task
* The children were connected with each other and knew that they could not work the whole of the machine by themselves
As I pondered on these observations, I was able to see a comparison between how children work together, and the roles communities bring for one another; to compare how communities work together and the roles the natural world around us have in order to maintain balance and flow as well as structure. We know that communities working together bring benefits for everyone involved; we know that the insect and plant world work closely together and have an effect on the environment around it; we know how the sun – our greatest energy source – provides everything for us in one way or another and that we rely on every aspect of its energy supply to maintain life on earth.
So Connection is the key. We are all connected with each other and with the environment around us. If one system isn’t working properly, it has an effect on those around it.
The children in the Launchpad who were lost in their own world of imagination and discovery demonstrated this beautifully. I felt humbled to witness the perfection of that moment, as a mindful observer.