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Materials and Research

Materials and Research

This post, by Susan Harris MacKay, continues from Children as Researchers of Their Own Learning, an entry featured in last week's "Documentation" module. 

Children are equipped with an amazing number of natural
learning strategies to make meaning of their world.  Human beings are such natural inquirers that Carlina Rinaldi says, "The first cry is a why."

Throughout our investigation of interdependence within living systems, we took great care to offer the
children many tools for expressing interpretations of their
research. The languages they
used to express their ideas and discoveries offered the opportunity for a reciprocal process of meaning-making through reflection. Because of the commitment to this process, they knew more about what they knew – and their peers knew more about what they knew. They also each knew more about what their community interpreted them to know — both as individuals and as the group. There is such power in making thinking visible within a learning community, such potential in the arts to uncover the ways in which we see and understand the world and to find out what we'd like to understand better.

Consider the following images, capturing ways in which the children used the arts as languages for learning:









The mental images of the children’s varied interpretations
of the world as they explored it were represented in many languages and
constantly shared.  The reflection
on what was shared helped the children realize that the others in the community
were vital to each person’s own developing sense of who they were.  We can know who we are only in relation
to others. 

We also discover that there is a great deal of pleasure in
communicating and listening in this way, which generates an incredible sense of
belonging and understanding that the others in the group offer much to learn.

By making thinking, understanding, and wondering visible, the arts help develop shared meanings in a community that provide everyone opportunities to be a listener and to be listened to.  Rather than being an "extra" or some kind of "motivation," this reciprocal listening opens the door to dialogue
and creative thought.

A framework like this has to be put in place intentionally in
schools.  In this sense, we can
talk about the aspects of creativity that are a learned habit of mind.  It is our clear intention to support
children to become capable listeners of one another’s ideas by giving them
tools to express themselves, time to reflect and question one another, and by
being openly influenced by their thinking ourselves.

Following the intricacies of ideas as curriculum development
is an inherently creative process which mirrors the learning process
itself.  I like Carlina Rinaldi’s
definition of creativity:

 the ability to construct new connections between thoughts and objects that bring about innovation and change, taking unknown elements and creating new connections. 

These children's reflections help us understand the experience from their perspective:

You can't exactly accomplish something good without someone with you, unless it's small. Our offering help, research, and work has made our brains stronger — just like someone sewing a piece onto a quilt. – Scouten, age 7

I think the bug museum helped 'cause someone would say, "Hey, I'm a ladybug, too!", and then they would start to be friends and then there was a person who was a friend of that person and a friend of that person, and on and on. – Naomi, age 8

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One response to “Materials and Research

  1. I am inspired to see how clay was used to investigate the structure of nature’s forms. I use clay in our prek class in very open ended ways and I use it more frequently now. After our children feel more comfortable with it as a material I would like to use it to model forms.

    Now that the school has finished is there some form of documentation for taking part?

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