The Beauty and Chaos of Free Play

No, not a beautiful provocation but instead a picture of the real chaos that results from children deeply engaged in self-directed and exploratory play with materials – beautiful nonetheless.

Alison Gopnik, in her book The Gardener and the Carpenter, muses that children are designed to explore and that “the messiness of children makes a special contribution to human evolvability.” (p. 31-32) I take heart in this message, especially as I think of the creative energy and the jubilant manipulation and transportation of materials and loose parts I witness in my own Kindergarten classroom each day and the resulting chaotic mess of those materials that often results.

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Do I Really Need to Create an Aesthetically Pleasing Environment That Could be on the Pages of a Home Magazine?

‘Environment as the Third Teacher’ has become a common mantra in the early years community. As it has, beautiful classrooms, displays and carefully arranged invitations at centres have proliferated. Yet, is it all really necessary? What if we don’t have the money? or time? What is the intent behind it all?

Considering the environment as a third teacher has allowed us to think about the importance of the the environment in early years learning programs and that is crucial. There is no doubt that our surroundings have an impact on us and that in early years settings, they are of primary importance.

If, however, we want our environments to have impact, then it must be about more than decorating, collecting materials and following the latest Pinterest trend. We have to consider the intention and rationale of what we are doing.

Why are we doing what we are doing? How is what we are doing helping to promote and honour student learning?

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Will Adding Baskets to my Classroom Make me Reggio Inspired?

While the beauty of the environments of the preschools of Reggio Emilia is renowned, and while the importance of environment is a critical component of the philosophy, the educational philosophy of Reggio Emilia preschool educators is about so much more than the aesthetic beauty of their environments. Many of us have been attracted to the aesthetics and seek to implement this idea in our programs, yet as I addressed in a previous post, to focus merely on surface belies the import and potential impact of the Reggio approach.

For me personally, it is the profound attention to and respect for the development of thought in young children that is the power of the Reggio philosophy.

Children learn by doing but also by reflecting on what they are doing. They go forward and pause, stop, go backwards. This all takes place in exchange with others…the process is never linear or made up of a predetermined sequence…[We need] not to understand what they have learned but how they have learned it, not the product but rather the process, the construction of knowledge with other children and how they learn to learn.

The Educators of Reggio Emilia, Canadian Study Tour to Reggio Emilia, April 2011

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