A cobblestone sidewalk surrounds the perimeter of our Outdoor Classroom. Today, MM went all the way around it, drawing an arrow on each stone. When I asked what was happening, she said, "This is the way to go." When she finished going all the way around, she doubled back and put x's on some stumps parallel to the sidewalk and x's on the sidewalk in places, parallel to her arrows. The x's, she said, showed everyone where not to go...I suppose in case the arrows were not enough information to guide the traveler.
The children spent the rest of our outdoor time arranging the signs...Go, Stop, Slow, One Way, and Parking, adding these new "rules" to make MM's directions more complex. At one point, J began to cry. "I want to go any way I want!" she complained. The other children were quick to show her how she could circumvent the directions, and MC drew her some new directions on the sidewalk that allowed for two-way traffic in one spot, and that seemed to satisfy J.
I have been thinking about the kind of play in which MM and her friends engaged today...symbolic representation, to be sure, but in many ways it seems different from other drawing that the children do. As I was pondering how to classify MM's sidewalk chalk symbols, I happened to tell the story to a colleague in IT. She pointed out that this is, in fact, coding, as in writing computer programs. That is, the children are creating remote communication to direct the movement of people (as one would write code to direct the movement of an avatar in a computer program). Perhaps there are other ways to categorize this kind of representation. But how interesting to think of this representational play as part of the continuum that a few years from now could include the writing of computer programs!