Following a Child's Lead

In the Reggio Emilia Philosophy, paying close attention to children is of paramount importance. Observing children, how they play, and their verbal and non-verbal communications allows for the teachers to extend their learning in an authentic way. When children are interested in what they are doing, they are far more engaged and this naturally leads to more critical thinking and long term learning. Most importantly, the child has a good experience with learning and being challenged. The children give their teachers infinite opportunities to infuse the projects with classic academics such as literacy, math, and science in a multi-sensory way. Below are some projects happening around the school that beautifully demonstrate children being engaged and learning on their own terms.

SEAWEED/SEASHELL PRE-K CLASSROOM

With the international festival approaching, we have been learning about our diverse cultures. One student's heritage lead us to China. As we discussed Chin as a class, it led to a conversation about eating with chopsticks.  We had a lesson on using chopsticks and incorporated math into our project!

DAY SKY & NIGHT SKY CLASSROOM

The children in the sky class have been making many lego boats and they enjoy the different provocations with play dough. To offer an additional challenge in critical thinking, the teachers set up two separate provocations for the children. With the lego boats, the children were challenged to predict if theirs would sink or float. With play dough, the children were given popsicle sticks and challenged to make a 3D object - this is a common STEM activity because it incorporates so much math, physics, and analytical thinking into the creation.

SAND CLASSROOM

The children in the Sand class are still interested in shapes! We find shapes in the books we read, the drawings we paint, our faces, our environment and everywhere else we can! To further enrich this project, the teachers created shapes of glue lines with cut yarn for the children to place on the glue. This was a difficult fine motor and gross motor task for the children to complete but they did not give up! The children were also presented with tape outline of shapes and colors we have been discussing often in class.

STAR CLASSROOM

Our infants are constantly curious! Food is always a fascination at this age. They instinctively touch, squeeze, pinch, and explore food. The teachers created a beautiful and inviting provocation with apple slices on the light table. We encourage our infants to grow their natural curiosities by giving them plenty of sensory experiences and opportunities to make sense of the world around them.


Learning Opportunites through Play

Day Sky and Night Sky

In our school it is essential that children spend a considerable part of the day learning through play. We believe playing is an absolute necessity that children have. In allowing and promoting play throughout the classroom, the children are far more engaged, relaxed, and happy - which allows the children to be themselves. When children are in their authentic state of self, they can truly learn and develop emotionally, cognitively, and socially. Additionally, when children are playing and being themselves, the adults around them can observe their level of knowledge and stage of their emotional, cognitive, and social development.

A recent child-led and play-based project emerged in the Day Sky and Night Sky Classrooms. The children in this room love to cook. They use real and pretend foods, play dough, sand, dirt, sticks, rocks, loose parts, and anything else their imagination can turn into a meal!

It is truly amazing to see a child being so resourceful and imaginative by transforming anything available to them to carry out their ideas. When a child has the space and freedom to think and create their own ideas, they will naturally develop skills that will serve throughout life, such as: focus, determination, willingness to learn, and self initiation. This is not only true of children, but all ages of people. When someone feels that own part of something, they willingly work harder to realize their vision because they feel a sense of owndership.

As the children cook (or engage in any form of play), it allows vast opportunities for the teachers to infuse academic work into their play. Social and emotional development happens naturally from open ended play. The teachers richen the experience by first asking questions:

"How do you make that type of food?"

"What are the ingredients?"

"Where does that food come from?"

They are endless questions that can led to the science of foods, different forms of cooking, raw vs cooked foods, cultural eating/cooking, geography, etc. One this day, as the teachers questioned the group, the answers helped the teachers realize that the children did not have a true understanding of the words "recipe" and "ingredient". This project could have taken a number of different paths but the teachers chose to explore the meaning of these 2 words.

The children were then promoted to write these words while discussing letter sounds. The teachers are also continually discussing what these words mean and are asking the children to create simple recipes they commonly pretend to make.

The following developmental/academic skills were incorporated and/or naturally occurred as part of this child-led, play-based project:

Literacy: Writing the words "recipe" and "ingredient" and many other words included in recipe lists that extended from this project

Mathematics/Fine Motor Skills: As the children "cook", they often have to count how many plates/bowls are available and then make the correct amount of "food" to fill them. This reinforces one to one correspondence, addition, and number sequencing.

Collaboration/Language: The children had to communicate with each other what they were cooking, make decisions on who was cook which items, and decide on recipes.

Cognitive Thinking: The children used loose parts to create their "foods" and build knowledge to understand the differences and similarities between foods that are ingredients vs recipes. The children also had to create recipes.

Social/Sense of Self: Taking turns, helping each other, working on a collaborative project with their peers.

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 these terms at home! Let your child help you make a fruit salad (or any simple meal) by helping to create a recipe by selecting all the ingredients. You could also discuss a meal you plan to make and have your child help you make the recipe list for the grocery store. Feel free to take pictures of this process and to bring from home so they can share it with their class!