And now that the school year is over, the Reggio experience continues as I look at the world with eyes that are seeking possibilities. One day at the beach the early morning was shrouded in mist. We couldn’t see the horizon, or the pier, or any of the familiar landmarks that help us remain grounded. This is something of what summer can be for an educator, looking ahead to the next adventure with the children who are coming in August. We are peering through the mist, wondering what we can do to prepare for the year to come. We are trying to glimpse the horizon, but it isn’t yet in focus.
Some of our preparation involves reading during this time when hours are less encumbered with the tasks of the school year. One of my parents gave me two books as a much appreciated end of year gift. One is called Beautiful Stuff, and is involved with using found materials to stimulate learning. This book is right up my alley, for there is nothing I enjoy more than using “junk” to create treasures. The authors inspire ways in which we can involve the children to become collaborators with the adults in their life (both at school and at home) to collect materials that can be used as expressions of learning. One of the big take-aways from the Reggio Emilia conference was the REMIDA Recycling Center in Reggio Emilia. At the REMIDA center, discarded matter and materials, the remnants of industrial and artisan groups, are collected, sorted, and offered to schools and to the community as a source of reusing materials in new and imaginative ways. The schools in the city use these materials abundantly in their projects and art work. The REMIDA network includes nineteen centers in Italy, Denmark, Germany, Australia, Norway, and Sweden. Closer to home is the Durham Scrap Exchange that provides the same kind of thoughtful recycling that I saw in Italy. The Scrap Exchange also holds classes for the public to instruct in ways in which to use recycled materials. In Italy patrons pay a yearly membership fee, and in Durham people can pay by the class or by the amount of materials they collect. This is something I’d love to see happen here in Charlotte!
The other book I was given is called Visible Learners, which looks at ways to incorporate the Reggio approach in all schools, from preK-12. This book was produced from researchers from Project Zero at the Harvard Graduate School of Education, and demonstrates the ways in which the comprehensive approach to documentation that is so evident in Reggio can be a powerful tool throughout the grades. This book is rich with information that I still need to explore, but has a wealth of ideas in the appendix that will help me as I look through the mist toward the year ahead. Some of these include ways to include families in the learning process, engagement during parents’ night events, and ways in which the parents can stretch their children. Much of the book involves ways for documentation during the year and how strong documentation makes the learning of the children visible, not only for the adults in their lives but for the children as well. This is such an important piece of work in this age of accountability, for growth can be seen over the course of the study rather than relying on the final result, or assessment. Through documentation we are able to witness the growth of the child as well as the process that children go through as they make their way through the subject area. Thank you, Mills family, for these enriching gifts that are helping me to continue to grow through this lovely summertime.
So summer continues, and as it progresses and as I read, as I observe, as I discuss, as I collect, the mist will gradually lift, and the plan for the year to come will emerge from the fog. The horizon will come into view and the children I’ll bond into a family will soon be here. But for now, summer will reign!