We painted small wooden cubes. I found a box full of cubes that all had "J." written on them, and I had not prompted children with a 3D painting experience yet this school year. This became a real example in expectation and vision versus the children's agenda.
My expectation was that the children would paint the blocks different colors, getting paint on their fingers as they turned them around and over and tried to get all sides. Then, they would dry, and we would use them for some tabletop construction, or combine them with another material as a prompt.
But from the very first child that sat down, the agenda was different. Children began using the paint as a sort of glue, creating towers and other connected structures.
One of the reasons that I was surprised was because we do not have blocks in this classroom. It makes me a bit sad that we do not have blocks because it has to be my favorite open ended material. And when we use small table top blocks, like these or others, the children have not been engaging with them. I have not found the reason why, and it only aded to my confusion when the children began making structures out of these cubes with the paint.
Many of the sculptures fell apart as they dried, and they have become the painted blocks I was expecting, and we'll use them again. I have to remember that I can plan for our hours and days and weeks, but there will always be an unknown. Maybe this is because I strive to make all of the opportunities open-ended and there will never be 15 worksheets traced and colored in, looking the same. For me, this is better. No one was forced to stay at this table and work for 20 minutes - they did that on their own accord. They made the material more engaging than I could have planned for!