‘There are bubbles coming out of volcanic mud’ – Jack
It all started with a book. A simple non-fiction book that I rotated into Jack’s bedtime reading basket about six weeks ago. Jack had never seen a volcano before and something about these pictures of giant fiery eruptions captured his imagination. This was the start of something. An opportunity to discover and explore; an opportunity to follow his lead and let the experiences emerge naturally. This is what I love most about the Reggio Emilia Approach, the fact that I don’t have to come up with all the activities, that his interest is enough to motivate Jack to want to know more. That activities aren’t done once in isolation. Jack has and indeed needs, exposure to the same activities again and again in order to develop his skills and understanding. These child-led investigations or projects are the corner-stone of Reggio Emilia.
It started with a discussion, ‘this is a volcano. This is lava. Lava comes out the top of the volcano. It’s very hot. The volcano is erupting’. Jack took it from there. He represented his understanding by drawing. You can see his deepening understanding of how a volcano works as his drawings became more elaborate.
I put out red, black and white paint and he chose to paint volcanoes. Again, you can see his understanding of the relationship between the volcano and the lava in the paintings.
We did a simple baking soda and vinegar activity which he associated with eruptions.
We went to the library and borrowed some more books on volcanoes and watched YouTube videos in order to build on his prior knowledge.
Jack’s also represented his understanding of volcanoes through clay sculpting, dramatic block play and sand play. None of these activities are difficult to prepare and are entirely child-led. My role is to simply provide him with the tools to express his understanding; to pursue his interest until he has had his fill and his interest shifts to another topic. This is my understanding of the Reggio Emilia Approach.
The Reggio Emilia Approach is an early childhood approach to learning in centres although this is my understanding of how you can apply the main principles to your home.
- has an interest in constructing their own learning – they decide, not you (relieves a lot of pressure, doesn’t it?)
- constructs meaning through their interactions with the real world – real play, not worksheets
- expresses their understanding visually – drawing, painting, building, sculpting…
- needs to have access to authentic art materials
- is a guide not a director – don’t think ‘what will I teach them today?‘ Think ‘what are they interested in and how can I build on that interest?’
- observes the child and follows their lead
- presents opportunities for the child to express their understanding visually – make their thoughts or ideas come alive
- asks open-ended questions to encourage thinking, discover ideas, imagine, remember – not questions to elicit facts
- presents open-ended activities with no pre-conceived ideas about learning
- allows the child to explore freely
- is the ‘third teacher’ – everything in the room should have a purpose. Why is it there? How does it benefit the child?
- encourages investigation, communication and discovery through its design
- is ordered and engaging
- is aesthetically pleasing
- is fully accessible to the child
- uses natural and authentic materials
I don’t know how much longer Jack will be interested in volcanoes; six weeks now and still going strong. I wonder what he will be fascinated by next…..
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