Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Beautiful Stuff!

"Children construct their own intelligence. The adult must provide activities and context, but most of all must be able to listen." - Loris Malaguzzi

I'm grateful to have the opportunity to review, "Beautiful Stuff" by Cathy Weisman Topal and Lella Gandini. Beautiful Stuff chronicles the experiences of 2 teachers who were inspired by the Reggio Emilia approach to learning. It is a terrific resource for parents who wish to bring the Reggio Emilia philosophy into their home. There is plenty here to inspire you, the photographs, the quotes by the children, as well as the projects themselves. Beautiful Stuff demonstrates how to foster a child's innate creativity with the use unusual found materials, many of which can be found in your recycle bin. The focus here is on process not product. It is a beautiful and natural way to learn...through experience and reflection.

Feeling inspired by the aforementioned book and also by Polyglot Theater, I cleared out the basement to create a large open space. I brought out all the moving boxes that were flattened in the storage closet to use as large building blocks. On the hottest summer days, all the kids from the neighborhood come over to our house to build enormous castles and mazes and all sorts of wondrous creations.

I discovered several benefits to this form of play. The littlest ones must work together as a team in order to move the largest boxes. In fact, they ALL must work together as a team to accomplish their goal, otherwise they have random piles of boxes rather than a piece of architecture. However, one must be patient and let them discover that for themselves as they all scramble enthusiastically to build.

Soon after, they came to me with a squabble. I listened...

then I spoke:

I believe that all of you can solve this conflict and work together on this project. I can solve it for you and tell you what to do but then I'm not giving you all a chance to use your power. If I solve the problem, I'm taking your power away and using mine. If you all talk about the situation calmly and find a solution that you can all agree on, then you are all using your power.

There was a momentary hush then they went right to it, trying to learn what works for everyone. There were girl forts and boy forts each with their own passwords, but separate forts meant smaller forts. Eventually they began to realize that they needed to work as a group, organize, design, delegate.

It was wonderful to witness!

*For S, building with large boxes meets the requirement of "heavy work" which is part of his sensory diet while also engaging his imagination and creativity.

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posted by Wendy at 5:10 AM


Blogger Cathy Shepherd said...

I love your blog! I've never heard of Reggio Emilia and so I looked it up. I agree with that philosophy! I'd love for you to take a look at my blog
I'm adding your blog to my favorites and hope you might like to add me!

12:30 AM  

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