As we continue on our Harvard course using the techniques of Reggio Emilia to find ways to make learning visible, our work becomes richer and deeper. The course work spirals around, making our thinking more involved as we think of the ways in which we can see our children’s learning. The past two weeks have been involved with using documentation to demonstrate the learning we see. So much of assessment of the growth of our children is involved with tests and formal assessments, but this course has helped us all to realize that there are many other ways to record the progress of children, from photos to recordings to videos. As we spend time watching and listening to our little ones as they work, we come away with a vivid picture of the learning that is occurring.
One of our group activities involved creating a paper airplane that could fly ten feet with a cargo load of five pennies. Five of us were builders and the other two were documenters, recording the ways in which we worked together. We were able to see, first hand, how the children worked. In our group, there were a few who just dived into the process, learning by trial and error. Others felt the need to plan before making an attempt at the task. We documenters were able to witness and record the differences in style as the group tackled this job, and were able to see the ways in which they began to come together as a team. They began to use the ideas that others had suggested, thinking about cargo loads on planes, thinking about how their thrust could determine how far their plane could go, thinking about what they could add to their plane to make it more aerodynamic.
What does this tell us about our children and their tasks? I took away the idea that when given time, the children are able to collaborate more effectively. It is all about providing the time for the children to find ways in which to voice their opinions and to hear the voices of their friends as well. It is also important for us as educators to give ourselves to opportunity to sit back and listen, really listen to what the children are giving us. Sometimes it is hard to sit on our hands and let them go, but often this is when the most powerful learning can occur. The learning isn’t just a pencil and paper activity, but involves working together with materials and finding ways to come to a consensus.