Tuesday, July 14, 2015

Building Relationships: Exploring Our Richmond With Visitors From The Institute

Our school invited interested visitors to come and see our work with children, using the Reggio approach, during our spring Institute. Visitors were able to see children working and playing in our classrooms, hear Lella Gandini, who has led the United States initiative to spread Reggio concepts, and Ben Mardell, who shared his experiences with Project Zero. Our guests were also able to hear about our experiences here at Sabot at Stony Point from preschool and lower school teachers. On the last day of the conference, Anna Golden, our studio teacher, gave the visitors a provocation: to co- construct a structure using a choice of materials or musical/movement interpretation to make visible how the teacher connects the child to the city. This provocation was inspired by our school wide intention to study "Our Richmond" this year as a way to bring our children to the city as contributing members of the community. How would the children view the city and what ways would they think of to interact with the places and people they encountered?

The Forest Room's interest in the Light Studio made our decision to provide building materials reflecting or obstructing light a natural provocation for our visitors in the Light Studio. The visitors worked together collaboratively to construct their vision of the teacher connecting the child to the city. They used the materials to represent the child looking through a tunnel pathway leading to a city of color and magical illumination.The participants also thoroughly explored concepts of connection and reflection as they worked.

The visitors left the structure in place so the Forest Room children could see it. The children approached the structure and stood around it, moving from carpet square to carpet square to get a view from different angles.

Lauren, our studio teacher, asked the children to see themselves as part of the city.

The tunnel, representing the magical pathway of connection


 The beauty and  the complexity of the mirrored blocks, light sources and  images projected on the wall were inspiring to the visitors as they made connections to their representation of beauty and complexity in the relationships between the teacher, the child and the people of the city. 

The children told us what they noticed:

Z: "Look right there in the tunnel."
J: "I wonder why there's a tunnel."
G: "If we go under the tunnel it will take us way over there."
G:"I notice the light turning round and round but never getting mixed up too bad. Things are going crazy."
Z: "I saw a house and the bird goes inside and goes 'tweet tweet!'"
A: "A bird is flying into the house over there by Zoe."
G: "I see a crown."

Children playing at the light table after these observations called the structure a castle and immediately began fixing  food and medicine for sick puppies and kitties.

Lauren wanted to see how the children interacted with similar materials in the classroom and studio. Could they replicate the structure in any way? We placed pictures of the structure at the light table, the easel, and the block area.

                        We continued to provide materials from the structure on the light table.

I. wanted to see if the globe fit over the tube and J. dropped various building materials down the tube. He played a game of making the materials disappear and then giggled when he lifted the tube while watching them fall out.

L's airplane

S made food for G.


Making a pathway to the structure


What we noticed was that the children used the materials in ways that made sense to them. They "messed about" and created stories about their ideas. They played together, taking on roles and then leaving the ideas so they could explore how to get a golf ball out of a container with a narrow neck. We have seen children interact with each other and "new materials" in this way before they are able to use them in new ways.

Making pathways has been an interest of the children as they make roads with the carpet squares in the light studio, taking them to "Grandma and Grandpa's house", to the fire, and now to the new structure the Institute visitors left for us. We have taken the children's interest in pathways to the classroom when the children are signing in by asking them to drawing their houses to see if they could represent the roads between their homes, our school and other places of their interest in our city.

We kept bringing the children back to their idea of mapping their homes and their city. Lauren provided some ribbons to represent roads on the light table, and by using their favorite cars from the classroom they created a hospital, an ice cream store, a toll bridge, a train station and train track.

A made a bridge over water and started a toll bridge game.

The toll cost money.

The bridge connected the town where several children lived.

There was an ice cream shop and a hospital.

J built a train for I's track.

In the classroom we brought the children back to the city map of Richmond where we had placed origami houses in September to represent where our homes were in relation to Sabot School. It was fun to use string to form the roads connecting each other's houses. The children were reminded of how the places we live are in relation to our school and the city of Richmond.

One day a group of children were getting really excited while playing and were invited to bring their fire truck game to the art table to draw a story. They drew the fire station and placed the fire trucks there waiting to be called when suddenly Guiseppe yelled out, "My house is on fire!" The fire trucks drove from the station to his house to put the fire out. Other children came and added their houses and roads, connecting them to each other. A child from the Rainbow Room joined them and, after waiting to understand their game, he added Sabot School and his own house to the map which developed from telling and drawing the story. 

Burning house, fire station, roads and Sabot School

                                                        Alices' smiley face and family

Sabot School by Rainbow Room friend

Isaac's fire station

It has been exciting to see the youngest children respond to the structure the visitors from the Institute left for them. They were surprised by the structure's beauty and intricate pathways, as indicated when they pointed out the tunnel and wondered about why you would need a tunnel in the city. The Forest Room children have developed strong relationships with each other this year as they tell their stories, moving through the space of the light studio.  After a period of time messing about with the materials from the structure,  they were able to represent their stories in more ways as they interpreted distances between where they "live" and the places they love to meet each other, like the ice cream store and the toll bridge. The children have once again explored their internal map by moving through the space in the light studio, exploring with the materials until finally they were building and representing places that were important to them by drawing them on paper as a map. The children's stories were about helping each other to get from their house to visit a friend, to help put out a fire or to get ice cream together. There were toll roads, bridges and rivers. They built a hospital to help those in need and they built their beloved Sabot School. The Forest Room children have created a replica of their city noting the places that are important to them. We now have a view into "Our Richmond".

"Parents have to have an idea of a school in motion, because the children move around all the time and not only physically; for their minds and social exchanges are in continuous motion, just as their language is." - Loris Mallaguzzi