“Learning and teaching should not stand on opposite banks and just watch the river flow by; instead, they should embark together on a journey down the water. Through an active, reciprocal exchange, teaching can strengthen learning how to learn.”
~ Loris Malaguzzi
Recently I visited a special exhibit in Toronto about Reggio Emilia –The Wonder of Learning. I was struck by a number of things like the beauty of the learning environment and materials provided for children; the idea that children possess aesthetic awareness and can appreciate beauty; and the obvious respect for children’s
thought processes and creations. I was fascinated by the great care that was put into documenting children’s learning about different concepts such as sound, shadows, writing, things that are white. The collections of photos, children’s drawings, sculptures and quotes and videos of children at work were quite inspiring. This seemed to me a beautiful and unique way of observing and interpreting children’s learning, an approach that is broader and more intuitive than the checklists typically used that tend to limit our vision of children’s capabilities and ways of understanding the world. It was a lot to take in, and I will absolutely visit the exhibit again, this time connecting ideas here to other ideas I have been learning about emergent curriculum and pedagogical documentation.
I have attended two workshops since autumn of 2015 on Exploring Emergent Curriculum, with Susan Stacey, and Documentation as Relationship with with Jason Avery and Karyn Callaghan. These learning experiences helped me to address my own questions – about what has shaped the way I develop curriculum for, and observe children, what has influenced my ideas about what should be documented, and how, and also where there is room for my own professional development and growth. This has been an ongoing struggle for me because new research on curriculum planning and pedagogical documentation – and the desire to put these ideas into practise – is not always aligned with what is expected of and done by educators. It’s not always straightforward and easy to do what you believe in. Still, my own exploration of pedagogical documentation in the past several months has been a valuable opportunity for reflection, a chance to find more meaningful ways to engage children as learners and to let my observations inform my teaching.
To further my understanding, I began reading An Encounter with Reggio Emilia: Children’s Early Learning Made Visible by Linda Kinney and Pat Wharton. It has helped me to summarize some of the key ideas that emerged for me from the workshops I attended, and my visit to The Wonder of Learning exhibit. These ideas are as follows:
- Adults and children are co-collaborators in the learning process, and in an environment that honours and respects their rights, children are the driving force behind their own learning.
- Documentation is a key process to making the learning of children visible and it gives educators a window into their capabilities and potential.
- Adults should be encouraged to use a variety of methods to listen to children and record their learning (e.g., active listening, observation, collecting quotes, writing samples and artwork, taking photographs etc.)
- Children are viewed as able to make connections, form theories and construct meaning from learning experiences that invite their participation and open exploration, and encourage collaboration with other children and with adults. Children are part of a learning community.
For me this has all been part of an ongoing journey as an educator coming to new and
deeper understandings about children’s learning as well as my own. I will share further discoveries in upcoming blog posts! In the meantime, please enjoy the poem The Hundred Languages of Children by Loris Malaguzzi because it truly captures the wonder of learning.