We have just finished our fourth day of the Reggio Emilia Conference, and each day becomes a little more intense. The work of this conference is spiraling just like the work that we do each day as we teach our workshops. Now, you have to know that the weather here right now is prime, with the perfect temperatures, clear blue skies, and the flowering of spring happening right before our eyes. Also know that we have spent most of this glorious spring day in a windowless auditorium, but have done so willingly because the work we are witnessing is so compelling.
The morning was spent in exploring three different projects, all which had something to do with drawing. The first was a study of frogs, the second was an observation of people going and coming, and the third was designing the work that would cover a scaffold in the center city that they called “Girl with Perfume”. Each of these projects lasted for the entire school year, believe it or not. I’ll describe the first, and try to explain how this work could possibly last over the course of a year. The children decided they wanted to make a book about frogs, for they had seen another book that children had made. There is a pond on in their school garden, but they started the project before ever seeing a frog. They began by drawing frogs in the way they thought they looked, and as you can imagine, the variety was wild. They then began looking a pictures of frogs, checking out frogs from every angle, describing what they saw. Their drawings kept changing and evolving, some stretched out, some that originally looked like odd humans. By the end of the year they had painted and drawn the skins of frogs, comparing them to the skins of other things, including our own skin. They made frogs out of clay, and ended in the spring by finding a real frog, and observing him as they continued to make changes in their work. The teacher then created a book with two pages of frog drawings from each child (think of Leonardo d’Vinci’s anatomy studies—that’s what they reminded me of). The sparks of imagination are flying!
This afternoon we went to the school that houses preschool (ages 3-5) and the primary school (grades 1-5) that is located in an old parmesan cheese factory that has been renovated. The spaces are amazing, as one class flows into another that moves into a courtyard that transitions into an art area. There are multiple levels, beautiful light, and remarkable ingenuity. How about a bike tire that is used as a loom for weaving? I was able to see ways in which they used the Reggio approach in their work with older children. The “big kids” were working on geometric angle with graph paper, brads, and string that they used to create and record angles. My only regret is that I wasn’t able to take the pictures for I wanted to show, not tell, so much of what went on today. Now it’s off to dinner with new friends, and a chance to talk about what each of us will take back home.