Real Life Experiences
One cornerstone of the Reggio Emilia Philosophy is "real life experiences". This refers to the idea of bringing the project work to life by allowing the children to engage in hands on learning and to have an authentic experience directly related to the project work. This is a critical component of learning and building knowledge for children because it allows for a far deeper level of understanding, helping to foster an authentic love of learning, and allows children to construct knowledge and question deeper. When the children in the Sky classroom began to become interested in space travel, the teachers began to think of ways to bring space travel to life! Obviously we cannot shoot our little explores to the moon but we can find ways to bring space travel to them.
With the support of a parent who is a NASA engineer, the children were able to learn about the struggles of astronauts in space, explore real life tools made for astronauts, and try on a space helmet! One item the children were amazed by was the helmet. In the following days, the children worked with paper mache to create their own helmets. In class, the children explored why they would want to go to space, what is an astronaut and what foods do they eat. In an effort to bring space travel to the WIDE school, our music room was transformed into a spaceship traveling through space! The children proudly wore their helmets, ate real astronaut food, and got to simulate taking control of a command center. The culmination of this project led to a field trip to NASA, of course! The field trip was far more meaningful because of all the project work and exploring regarding space travel that was done before the trip to NASA. With the support of the ateliers, the classroom created a galaxy mural to share photos and write their thoughts about their field trip. This mural serves several important purposes - namely it is a visual provocation for the children to continue to wonder and question about space. The teachers are hearing things like, "We should make a spaceship!" and "Was does an astronaut do up there?". The teachers have supporting their questioning and the children are examining blueprints of space shuttles and learning about real men and women that have visited space. The teachers are also using this interest to reinforce counting backwards from 10!
Tell me and I will forget;
Show me and I may remember;
Involve me and I will understand.
The following developmental/academic skills were incorporated and/or naturally occurred as part of this child-led, play-based project:
Language/Literacy: During the investigation, the children had to communicate and write about their ideas of space travel. We also read several books about space travel and practiced writing related words.
Mathematics: The discussion of space travel in itself is mathematical. This project allowed the children to explore the concept of space, distance, time, and gravity. The creation of the helmet required estimation and counting.
The children’s loose part creations were also used for counting and one to one correspondence. The children took turns placing numbers 1-10 backwards to create a countdown.
Fine Motor Skills: The children exercised control and focus over their fine motor skills while making their helmets and various writing and drawings were continually incorporated into this project.
Cognitive Thinking: Throughout this entire project, the children had to stretch their thinking into a world that is not tangible or directly observable. They were asked to make decisions and analyze abstract information. All of this reinforces their critical thinking skills.
Social/Sense of Self: The children took this exciting journey of learning about space travel together. They helped each other make observations and engaged in discussions with peers, their teachers, and a guest speaker. The children’s “trip to space” in the music room was a wonderful way to support their relationship with each other and to see themselves as an important member of a community which ultimately also leads to a strong sense of self.
Parental Support: Anytime a parent takes the time to do an activity with their child - especially an activity that is an extension of school work - the child receives the message that their work and learning is important and valuable. Please extend this project at home by discussing space travel, looking at photos of space or pictures taken from the Hubble telescope – anything you can think of that will spark a continued interest. these terms at home! Let your child help slice various fruits/veggies. Explore the similarities or differences. Even a few minutes will greatly aid in your child reinforcing important concepts all on their own. Have them explain to you what they notice and offer them materials to demonstrate their knowledge – this could be markers and paper, play dough, or finger painting!
Feel free to take pictures of this process and to bring from home so they can share it with their class!