when muck means more

What could this be a drawing of? Three guesses:

p68 patricks drawing

Patrick, 4yrs

Ignore the blue arrows for now. They were added to describe various parts of the picture and we’ll find out more about that in a mo. But what do you think this drawing is about? Patrick is 4 years old. He’s gone to a lot of effort. He’s not merely scribbling. Can you recognize anything?

His name, for starters. To the bottom left, we can see ATI from Patrick and an attempt at a P before the other letters. This is encased in green, so it’s a unit in itself.

The yellow elements constitute a single unit. Same goes for the orange units (we’d say they were crosses, at a first glance) and the purple section in the middle.

Any ideas?

Have you noticed how well organized this piece is: the yellow elements are deliberately placed around the purple element at the centre. The orange crosses are not a slip of the pen; they are too controlled. And I’m sure they are precisely where Patrick wants them to be.

There’s a clue in the title of this blog entry. Still no ideas?

Well, hold on to your socks:

p68 patrick sewer works 4yrs

Sewage works: a child’s perspective. source: DECOPRIM Project. University of Luxembourg, 1997.

Patrick has drawn a sewage plant after watching a programme about one on TV.

I’ll start at the top and work clockwize:

i) Ausgang der Leitung, wo das Wasser wieder sauber herauskommt: exit point of the pipes where the water comes out, purified

ii) Hier entsteht Schaum: this is where foam is made

iii) Toiletten, durch die das Abwasser in die Kläranlage gelangt: toilets via which the sewage enters the sewage works

iv) Momentane Darstellung des Names: current depiction of his name

v) Leitung der Klärange: sewage pipes

vi) Krokodil, welches in der Kläranlage wohnt: crocodile who lives at the sewage plant

Admit it, you’re impressed! Here, as on many other occasions, we would be unable to decipher young children’s texts without their aid. What we would be inclined to dismiss as scribble is in fact a young child’s highly elaborate means of assimilating the world around him. A host of skills are on display here, including:

maths: specific number of toilets

science/technology: how the different components of a sewage plant fit together

language: Patrick explains the various aspects of his picture

technical drawing: this is a plan of a sewage plant

writing: Patrick adds his name to his work

culture: we have a depiction of how a specific culture treats water. I didn’t see the programme myself, but I’ll take Patrick’s word for the crocodile and assume the film he watched was of a sewage plant in a tropical country. What’s that dark purple place in the middle of the crocodile, Patrick? I hope he hasn’t gobbled up anyone!


‘If the culture of the teacher is to become part of the consciousness of the child, the culture of the child has to first be in the consciousness of the teacher.’ (Bruner)

‘prendre un enfant au sérieux est aussi une forme élémentaire de respect qu’il faudrait essayer de faire renaître en classe’ : to take the child seriously is also a basic form of respect which we should try to revive in the classroom (Zepp)

‘Effective education is developmental. It builds on the skills, knowledge and experiences that young children acquire in their homes and communities prior to coming to school and while they are in school; it extends and broadens those skills and knowledge in developmentally meaningful ways.’ (Genesee)


What do you want to be when you grow up, Patrick?


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