To Glue or Not To Glue

A different post than my usual..this time I reflect on the use of glue in the classroom. There has been an ongoing discussion in my school about using hot glue on projects. At a staff meeting, a question arose on the use of hot glue being used to reinforce children’s work.

It all began with the completion of a holiday project. The children had used Elmers glue to create their projects and then teachers reinforced the children’s work with a hot glue gun. The purpose of reinforcement was so children’s “holiday center pieces” would stay intact and the child’s work would not fall apart during transport. ALL “creative work” was completely done by the child.  As weeks went by we reflected and more questions emerged.

What is wrong with glue or children using a hot glue gun (with teacher supervision)? How does this not honor a child’s work, if the child is doing the work? If a child does all the gluing and it gets reinforced by a hot glue gun, how does that diminish the value of a child’s work? How many times have children attempted to take their work home and it breaks along the way..children crying, parents come back and ask for it to be fixed. Is this an extension to the learning, dealing with life’s disappointments? Do we empower the child to fix it themselves?**

So I asked my professional learning network for an opinion . Trusted friends, ThinkinEd  gave me this answer. “If a teacher uses a glue gun alongside the children – guiding, demonstrating a skill, inviting them to participate, then this is a valuable experience. However, if a teacher “finishes” the project once the children have gone home (perhaps due to time constraints) or squirts the glue for the children to minimize risk, then the full learning potential of that project becomes lost”.

According to Google, “finish” has the following meaning. It has 2 definitions;

1.“Bring (a task or activity) to an end; complete.
2. Complete the manufacture or decoration of (a material, object, or place) by giving it an attractive surface appearance.

So when exactly is the project considered finished? After it is reinforced or before?  Is it the meaning of  “holiday project” that becomes questionable when using hot glue to reinforce?  Does that validate reinforcing because it is a “holiday project”? What is the purpose of a holiday project? Is it different than a non holiday project?  Is it emergent?

I suppose we could take the giant risk and ask the children, “how would you like to make a take home project for your holiday tables”.  “What would you like to make that reflects the holiday in your home?” I could see this happening in the future, however glue may or may not be involved in their process and that would be their choice. Next questions, Could teachers accept all answers and empower children’s creativity at the same time? Would parents be happy with the end result? If it breaks at home and the parent reinforces the child’s work does that change what was learned? So many reflections all stemming from the use of a hot glue gun to reinforce a child’s work that has already been glued and created. Should a holiday project require glue as an option? Who decides that a project needs reinforcement?

Well, I digress and concede the following. If the project required a hot glue reinforcement than that reinforcement should be done by the child with proper teacher supervision.  Hmmm…sounds correct, however the sheer reality of it with a classroom of 10 or more children takes us back to the reality of projects, parent expectations and “finished” works.

**After sending a recent project home last week, I was greeted at the door by the parent of one of the children in the class. She handed me her daughters project and asked if I would fix it. I actually paused, laughed and said to the parent, ” Am I honoring your child’s work by fixing this for her?” We both laughed and she said well I tried but she only wanted her teachers to do it with her.”

More thoughts from ThinkinEd to fuel my thinking;

We avoid glue in our own programs because it pushes people out of their comfort zone (which gets them thinking) and preserves the open-ended aspect of our materials library. Our goal is not to ban glue (or paint, or any other consumable art supply) in the classroom but to advocate for using it sparingly and purposefully.

To achieve this goal, we always begin with these valuable questions:

What is the purpose of this project?
Do we absolutely need glue to make this the best it can be, or is it possible to do this without glue?
Can we shift our thinking about materials in a way that extends their life?
Can we rethink our creations to make them more versatile rather than permanent?

We ask these questions because we are passionate about challenging the current culture of disposable thinking. We want people to think differently about the inherent generational qualities of materials.

After I posted a tweet; to glue or not to glue, I did get a response from another trusted friend,  Laurel Fynes . Through her research with Reggio inspired classrooms, she “stopped putting out glue as a way to capture natural materials in artwork”.

Who knew glue in preschool would be so reflective :). So much to think about…would love to hear your thoughts..

2 thoughts on “To Glue or Not To Glue

  1. Visiting my parents and my mother – a retired, veteran teacher – and father and I read this together and got into an incredible, and long, discussion. It was amazing! My father (87) traveled back to his kindergarten year when he remembers a teacher sketching in outline a huge scene for a class play. He remembers that only the kids who could color well were invited to color in the scene. He just accepted that he was “not artistic”. He also remembered going to the Bronx Zoo and because it was raining, the children were taken into a room to “make animals out of clay”. He “could only make snakes, I had no talent.” So we talked about how Nan’s classroom would put out provocations and invitations that would lead to his own personal art success. In Nan’s room, he’s never think he was not an artist, but would be a creator of his own work, with his own materials.
    These discussions between professionals make us all better educators, facilitators, thinkers and creators. Hooray for Nan for putting these subjects our for us to consider.

    Liked by 1 person

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