Wow, this is the first time in my blogging history that I let so much time pass between the last post. This fact creates stress because so many meaningful, powerful and surprising things have occurred since my last post.
Where do I start?
Chronological? Thematic? Most recent?
I just went to hear Kathleen Kushman, author of Fires In The Mind speak about adolescents and motivation & mastery. It occurred to me, that the same issues are relevant in Early Childhood. I would even go so far in saying that motivation and mastery in learning are born of and sustained by provocation.
Provocations. This concept embedded in Reggio inspired environments is one of my favorite values. Instead of handing children knowledge and asking them to regurgitate it, Reggio Inspired teachers plan, create questions, consider the environment, materials, groupings, trips, experiences and guests for “how will this provoke learning?” And then “What do we see and hear that informs further exploration and learning”?
I have decided I will simply post some snapshots of provocations that were both planned and unplanned over the past 6 weeks. The stories will follow (soon!) See if you can see and even hear these learning experiences through the images:
(Editing an idea into a symbol for a quilt square.)
Creating fixative for natural dye and natural dye collection contributions (as brainstormed by the kids.)
Laila is tracing her symbol. The tracing paper was cut to create a dressmakers pattern. The pattern was pinned to the child selected recycled textiles and cut. The symbol was pinned to the naturally dyed fabric and put in a hoop, and all the Kindergarten children are slowly sewing.
P.S. The above project was provoked when I applied and received a Partner ship with the Textile Museum with the two Kindergarten classes which revolves around the ideas of recycled textiles and going green. All the pre-k’s are provoked by the textile frenzy and will also be sewing soon.
I am currently in Boston, visiting my son who is a student at Berklee College of Music. Last night we were talking, and he told me about this moment he had, where he was practicing flute, it had been hours of planned playing, and then, he didn’t even realize it but his eyes were closed, and the music was just happening.
More and more, I am fascinated by these moments, where time and space disappear, and creativity happens, almost in an altered state. It is a deeply personal moment, so I am truly amazed at being a witness to it in the studio, to actually seeing it.
The child, who keeps on working, unaware and/or uncaring that they are now alone, strikes me. Because in fact, they are not alone at all- they are in connection with the creative force that resides within. I call this phenomenon the “last child.” You know, the child who for some reason does not notice that everyone has moved on and is the last one working. They are still painting, sculpting drawing. They are not always the same type of child. In fact, I have seen this happen to both extremely social and extremely introverted children. I have seen this with children whose engine can run very fast and very slow. Once again, I am interested in the altered state where, as Howard Gardner says, the Creative self is like a laser beam, and nothing around it exists.
Recently, I have been grabbing my camera and documenting some of these “last” children. To me, it is an affirmation. It is the image of the child, as strong and powerful. No TV or computer needed. It is a reminder of the possibilities within all children.
It’s funny how culture and ritual can define a place. In my studio, I have always had an old phonograph player. Children know, in their free time, if they choose, they can make a whirly plate. For 13 years, it has become a daily act, again and again. Sometimes children add a string or streamers to the plate. Sometimes they glue jewels. For some reason, it is very important. For some reason, it is an obsession for some kids. For some reason, it never grows old.
Last week, Mark, a Kindergartener was waiting his turn. Instead of crowding around the machine, he began to draw bears in a circle, directly onto the plate. When the machine opened up, he casually said, ” I’m going to add lines now to my drawing.” He placed the plate on the machine and carefully let his hand go gently up and down creating waves. He came and showed me.
“It’s like a movie!” I exclaimed, you should show your friends. Through play, Mark had discovered how to animate his drawing.(Clip takes a minute to load) markwhirl
The next day, Charlotte, a Kindergarten student from a different class was waiting for the whirly plate machine. “Hey, Charlotte. Yesterday, Mark from room 9, drew bears in a circle, and then he placed it on the machine and added lines, and it made it look like a movie. If you want, you could try while you are waiting too.”
Charlotte drew all types of Halloween characters holding hands. She added the word “Boo” several times in the circle as well. For her, the results were enchanting. I ran and got Mark to show him how his idea inspired Charlotte to make a different movie. A small group gathered round to view this 2nd animation. (Clip takes a minute to load) New Project CC
Today, Casey gave it a try, inspired by the images on my computer of Mark and Charlotte’s animation. “First it’s people. When it’s fast, it’s a snake.” I showed him how to control the settings on the machine. As he went from slow to faster he exclaimed, “They’re going down the stairs now.”New Project 1
Will, on the other hand, created an almost wheel like structure out of 2 plates and put it on his finger. When it kept falling off, I gave him a dowel to experiment with. He found many ways of creating movement and sound with the dowel and plates. “Hey, are you ready to film mine?” (Clip takes a minute to load) willplatesmall
This happened in between painting and building dream houses, talking about color, and taking care of brushes after using acrylic paint. In free time, in choices, in play, in rich studio environments is the space for a 5 year old to invent and discover animation. And if an adult is watching, therein lays the opportunity for such a discovery to grow so that it touches another child. And when the next child takes the idea and adds their experimentation? This is creativity at it’s best. An act of curiosity, that becomes a theory, that becomes a shared value. This is Constuctivist Theory in action. And to think I was wondering if the childrens addiction to making whirly plates was healthy!