Friday, 28 December 2012

Experimenting.... more RE reflections

Sometimes its not just the children that need to experiment - we teachers (and parents) need to as well. I feel this is an essential part of a Reggio Emilia Approach. If we are not prepared to try and test things and make mistakes, then how can we expect the children to do this?

Sometimes I will experiment beforehand, as a part of my own education - what happens when I move my camera during a long exposure shot of the garden Christmas tree? How can apply this finding? - children moving torches in the dark while I photo with a long exposure? How can they learn to make patterns? Would it be enough to show them the image on the camera or would printing out some images be necessary? Suddenly one little experiment triggers a whole series of questions - and that is before I start discussing it with others... because that is when ideas really take off - becoming bigger and grander, or smaller and more refined...

without flash
with flash
 Sometimes I need to experiment with my camera AT work - what kind of photographs am I wanting? Ones that show the glitter and the colours and the faces of the children clearly? Or ones that reflect what the children see and experience? A choice needs to be made - which one gets chosen for the wall/documentation/portfolio? And why? I find myself leaning more and more towards images that reflect what the children EXPERIENCED rather than snapshots of the children themselves. I find myself leaning towards the photographs that tell the story of what we did/experienced/experimented with and I can be quite brutal with the delete button.

melted sweets and saltdough - sweetie-vulcanoes
 Sometimes I experiment WITH the children - this is my FAVOURITE kind of experimenting - it allows the children to see that I do not always know the outcome, that if it does not work that we can try again and reflect upon how to do it better, it allows the children to see that I am not afraid to make mistakes - that in fact making mistakes is an essential part of learning.

The sweetie-vulcano was a challenge - we talked it through as a whole group and with the two children who initiated the mini-project. Was it going to be big, or small, one together, or one each, what kind of materials would we need. It was quite clear that none of us had made a sweetie-vulcano before, and I let the children know that if it didn't work that we could have another go (so far our projects had been working - we made yellow ketchup together when the children said that there was no such thing as yellow ketchup when we read it in a book - and even though I presented the children with the ingredients - they decided the quantities - and whether some extra spices should be added or not - and in the end it tasted like ... ketchup! - I was as amazed as the children ... I truly believed that our first recipe, that we documented, would have to be adjusted, but it did not). The sweetie-vulcano worked in so far as the hard sweet melted with heat like rock turns to lava - and that when it cooled it turned hard again. Our question was that it did not go black like cold lava... so this was discussed and various reasons came forward and no solution to make the cold lava black but maintain the red molten sweetie lava could be found...

Sometimes experimenting does not mean science

  • it means rhyming and joking and playing with words etc to experiment with language...
  • it means drumming and blowing and testing out instruments, singing and dancing etc to experiment with music
  • it means climbing, jumping, running, rolling etc to experiment with how our body moves
  • it means mark making, drawing, painting etc to experiment with literacy, art etc
  • it means experimenting with the pedagogical environment - daring to make changes
  • it means experimenting with creativity, imagination etc etc etc etc etc
of course, if you are experimenting, you are also documenting, so that you can learn from the experiments - what SHOULD be tried out again, what should be AVOIDED, and what needs adjustments? And why?

I have also EXPERIMENTED in front of the children. I have taken some of my planning time to be in the same room and to just test something out - I remember making a pipe-cleaner animal and experimented with plaster of paris bandages to see if I could make it look like an ornament - it did not take long before there was a gaggle of children around me watching - that suddenly disappeared and then reappeared armed with their own pipe-cleaners. They could see how mine was wobbly at first and how I needed to make adjustment after adjustment - and we all helped each other with advice and extra fingers when necessary. The children involved learned that sometimes things do not have to work first time but that does not mean you have to give up, it means re-think...

I am hoping 2013 brings plenty of experimentation. I am looking forward to it.

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