"To begin the project, it means in some way to have already, within ourselves as adults, the awareness of what one is doing and what could be done. That means that there are already many expectations and predictions, or hypotheses, on the part of the adults. Some of these expectations will be disappointed. Others will become greater, lost, or found again. We will have to run after some others during the journey that the children make in the course of the project." - Loris Malaguzzi
Recently, among teachers and parents, there has been discussion about provocations, materials, environment, and how to extend the provocations. Some of you have asked us about how to build on these provocations; how to create depth. While we are not trying to turn you into teachers, we do want to provide support and encouragement for you all, the parents (their first teachers), as you become the ones who observe, document, collect the materials (with the children), set up provocations, facilitate, and even experience that sense of "disappointment" when it does not go as you anticipated. We recognize that there are varying comfort levels, and we know that you all are getting a bit of a crash course, so we are here to support you during this strange and unusual time.
"We imagine the interaction as a pin-pong match. [...] For the game to continue, the skills of the adult and child need appropriate adjustments, which allow the growth through learning of the skills of the child. [...] Value should be placed on [...] the construction of a wide network of reciprocal exchanges among children and between children and adults." - Loris Malaguzzi
As we work with the children, we imagine throwing a ball back and forth. As the children interact with each other, the teachers, and the environment, we receive the metaphorical ball from them. We rely on active listening, our observations, documentation, and discussions (with each other and the children) so that we may plan how we are going to toss the ball back to them-- What were they interested in? What were they questioning? Did they have hypotheses (expressed orally or through their actions)? Were they making a connection? Could a different language help them work through something? What does their process tell us? Was there a lack of interest? Is there something we could have done better when providing materials, asking questions, etc.? Would a different language simply give them a different way of expressing their idea(s)? How can the other children/our community enrich this exploration? And we toss the ball back and forth, allowing the "children [to] take an active role in the construction and acquisition of learning and understanding" (Malaguzzi).
"The teachers--participant observers-- respond to what they see by asking questions, initiating face-to-face exchanges, redirecting activities, and modifying the way or the intensity of their interaction with particular children. [...] Adult and child roles are complementary: they ask questions of one another, they listen, and they answer." - Loris Malaguzzi
Revisiting and revising provocations is a great way to create depth, explore new hypotheses, make new connections, and construct in depth knowledge. We know that feeling of disappointment when you set up something that you feel is beautiful, engaging, and most importantly, responsive to the ideas/hypotheses/interests of the children, only to observe that they "do not seem that interested". Though it may not go as you expected, the children are going to gain something from this experience, and we cannot always anticipate exactly what it may be, but the children will always save us in this way. They will show us something new; they will bring us a new hypotheses. They might show us that perhaps we did not interpret their thoughts and ideas in a way that they anticipated. And this is okay. Perhaps we revisit by offering the same provocation the next day, or maybe we add a new material (or take something away). We rely on our observations as we discuss and revise, always focusing on following the child's lead.
One example, from the classroom, that comes to mind is when we set up a shadow exploration using our geometric shapes. Our original intention was to set this up in response to some of the children's experimentation with light source and how it influences the location of the shadows. They had been moving lamps and flashlights around to manipulate the location and strength of their shadows on the shadow screen. They wondered why they could not see their shadows from the back of the screen; how did their shadow move?; if they covered the light, why was there no shadow? In response, we set up a lamp (that could be moved and manipulated) and geometric solids on the table which was covered in white paper.
The children, however, did not seem as intrigued by the light source and shadows for this set up as we originally thought. A few days of observations and conversations with the children revealed that construction seemed to be the primary interest. How could they put these pieces together?; How tall could they be? What other materials could they add (magnatiles)?; etc. So, we began to document this (as did they), and we maintained a similar set up on the table for at least a week. Though they were not discussing the light and shadows with us, it did not mean that they were not thinking about it, processing it, and experimenting with it in their own way. They added their own new materials (primarily magnatiles), and we did too (drawing tools). Though it looked similar each day, the children returned to it over and over again.
Taking this home
We have seen some beautiful, and thoughtful, responses to the provocations on SeeSaw, and we know that there are so many wonderful experiences happening at home. We are trying to respond to them with ways that help you extend the work, and we hope that this is helpful. Every bit of documentation and insight that you provide is helpful in this process.
As we prepare for parent-teacher conferences, we want to invite you to revisit the provocations provided on seesaw. Is there a particular language, or provocation, that your child was draw to? How can we extend that work; make it more complex? Can we find connections between these provocations that will enrich the work?
We understand that all of our "toolboxes" look a bit different at the moment, so there will be some things that are not easily achieved. You may not be able to go outside as much, time might be limited, or you might be running low on drawing tools. First, we encourage you to interpret each of these provocations in a way that makes sense for your family and resources. We do, however, want to help you explore new ways to think about this list.
1. How can you take "it" outside? e.g. If you are drawing, can you move outside to draw? Can you find sounds outside to make a sound riddle?
2. How can you take it inside? e.g. If you were using the sun to find shadows, what kind of light source do you have inside? Can you find the rainbow of colors inside?
3. How can you connect two (or more) provocations? e.g. If you go on a symbol hunt, can you then draw the symbols? Make symbols out of clay/dough? What kind of shadows will the symbols create? Can you draw those shadows?
4. What could you add to the original provocation? e.g. If you were using a regular lamp or flashlight to create shadows, how can you add color? How does color change the shadow or your choices for drawing/tracing the shadow? OR If you are making a collage with paper, how can you add natural materials (leaves, grass, etc.)?
5. How can the children document their own work? e.g. The language of photography is a favorite in the Brown Room; cameras, iPods, iPads, etc. OR Using the audio recordings on SeeSaw, how can they share their thoughts about a photo or video that is shared?
6. Can you revisit with an additional goal in mind? e.g. If you are going on a hunt for text, is it possible to collect some materials with interesting textures and use them in a collage, message, dramatic play set up, cardboard box transformation, or birthday gift? OR If you captured a photo of a shadow, how can you capture it's movement (video, drawing, painting, sewing, wire, adding music, etc.)?
7. Can you change or add a tool? e.g. If you have been using a glue stick, how does it change if you use liquid glue? If you have been cutting paper with scissors, how does it change the experience if you tear the paper instead?
8. Can you leave the provocation just as it is and return to it multiple times, each time experiencing it in a new way? Maybe you change very little about the experience, and simply return with fresh eyes the next day.
Environment as the third teacher
During a one-on-one call this week, a parent shared with us that this time at home has emphasized "the importance of the environment as the third teacher".
Lella Gandini says, in The Hundred Languages of Children, "The environment is seen as educating the child. [...] To act as an educator for the child, the environment has to be flexible: it must undergo frequent modification by the children and the teachers to remain up-to-date and responsive to their needs to be protagonists in constructing their knowledge."
What can this mean during this time at home? Many things, but it does not have to be elaborate. One way to think about the environment is to ask yourself, "How can I make it a "yes" space?"; a space where I can say, "Yes that is for you to explore/manipulate/create/change." Another thing to consider might be how long you can leave something set up. Can you keep two or three spaces or provocations available at a time? Children naturally move among experiences, often returning or bringing them together. It can also be helpful to consider how they can be set up for independent exploration.
Please feel free to reach out to us at any time for support or guidance with extending the work. We are here to discuss your observations (and share our own), your child's dialogue, and brainstorm for ways to toss the ball back to your child.