Reggio-Inspired Kindergarten: Classroom Materials

Friday, 24 July 2015

Summer learning included a week long stay in Ontario, Canada where I attended the Transform Ed Workshop Series, given by Joanne Babalis.  There she shared her experiences with a Reggio-Inspired Approach to learning and her Masters' research on the seven layers of Inquiry-Based learning.

The fourth layer, and the focus of this post, is classroom materials. Other blog posts discuss the other layers that include image of the childtimespacelisteningdocumenting and planning.

Exploring Open-Ended Materials

On a recent vacation, I had the pleasure of watching a 3-year old at a beach wedding. She was the flower girl and her job was to throw rose petals.

During the ceremony, she played with the sand and petals, using her foot as a tool to dig and bury and make patterns. 

using hands on materials in kindergarten classroom

She was focused and engaged throughout the entire ceremony (much to her family’s delight) and learning about the properties of sand and petals.

Through her petal-sand explorations, this little cutie was doing the work of a scientist, engineer, and artist, though most would just see play!

More Than a Worksheet

I’m a big fan of using hands-on materials in open-ended ways because they naturally provide opportunities for discovery as children use their senses to find out more about an object or conduct experiments using the practices of trial and error and cause and effect.

Can this be said of a worksheet? I don’t think so.

natural materials for inquiry based learning in a kindergarten classroom

Here children were given a piece of bark, along with other parts of a tree to discover the answer to this question, "Are Trees Alive?"

Materials as Provocations

While using hands-on materials is not new, the Reggio way of using them as provocations was new to me.

I learned that a provocation is an object or set of materials offered to children and intended to "provoke" thinking and/or learning.

The materials are chosen with purpose and intention and designed to encourage curiosity and interest while meeting learning standards.

exploring ramps to learn about force and motion in a kindergarten classroom

Here ramps were placed in the block center to provoke learning about force and motion.

An Inquiry Mindset

This past June, a friend brought me an almost perfect robin’s egg.  Later, she asked if I had showed it to the children.

I hadn't.

Instead, I stored it with my “bird stuff” thinking I would share it next year in early Spring.

I realize now that if I had been teaching with an inquiry mindset, I would have used this intriguing object as a "provocation" for learning.

It was a missed opportunity that could have led to deep engagement, thinking, and learning about animal behavior and life cycles.

Take a Materials Inventory

Take a close look at how materials are being used in your classroom and ask yourself these questions:
  • Which kinds of materials are children most interested in using?
  • Are they able to freely explore these materials?  
  • How can the materials be combined or used in new ways to provoke learning and meet standards?
  • Are there hands-on materials I might offer in place of a worksheet?
  • How can I showcase what children are doing with the materials to teach and inspire others?
Using loose parts to explore how snowflakes are made

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