Classroom, Student, Teacher, and Studio Collaborations: Creating in our Natural Environments and Community

Today, groups of children from all classrooms at the Thompson building came together for a trip the canal. Here we found a natural, open-space where were able to set up an easel, canvases, different types of paper, paints, brushes, and other painting tools. The children-freely explored and worked in this space as they collaborated with one another, teachers and volunteers. They also conversed with passing adults. The teachers were intentional in having the children focus on the surrounding environment in hopes of making connections between their work and the natural world. You can see the children lying next to the canal, using the water to clean their hands. Here they noticed how the color disappeared from their hands and spread throughout the water, prompting some to take more of the water to use in their works. It was a rewarding experience to see this team of children and teachers (some of whom may have not been familiar with each other) work together to make such a large collaboration feel natural. We noticed many people walking along the canal stop and observe our group with curiosity. Some were even intrigued enough to pause and talk with the children about what they were doing. These experiences are so valuable in connecting to the outside world. We know we should all be advocates for our ever-important cause, but to allow the children to get out and advocate for themselves has value that cannot be overstated. The demonstration of collaboration and displayed curiosity can show those who are not in-the-know just how capable and thoughtful children are. Making learning visible in this manner gives a direct assist towards advocating the Reggio model and early childhood education in general. We look forward to many more like-experiences in the near future!


The amazing, accompanying teachers also shared their thoughts on this, and the meaning  of like-experiences…


Julianna Battista: St. Mary’s Child Center believes that young children are engaged, active learners who construct knowledge with peers and teachers. Authentic relationships are the foundation of learning, development, and change. Today, a group of children and teachers (from each classroom) collaborated together in a large group experience-Painting on the Canal. This learning experience engaged the children to investigate the world around while collaborating in small groups. Children began talking about the different things they saw around the canal- ducks, trees, water, water fall, blue, green and waves. Exchanges and dialog shared between children and teachers is evident when you look at their paintings. A group of children discussed and painted the ducks swimming in the water. Others expressed interest in painting the blue and gray waves they saw in the canal.


Jennie Atlogic: Painting on the canal was a valuable experience for the children. They observed things in their city and in nature, and had conversations with adults and peers about what they saw. While we were painting, I noticed that several adults who were walking on the canal stopped to watch the children or ask about what they were doing. The children got to show the community that they are capable of working together, handling materials and accompanying experiences with care, and creating beautiful and meaningful artwork.


Samantha Osborn: As young children are often very curious, we believe in letting children explore art in many different ways. This was done by giving the children the opportunity to paint in a different location outside of the classroom and studio. Taking painting supplies to the canal allowed the children to experience painting in a new way while also making the children visible to the community. The canal is a place where people from all over the city gather to eat, walk and enjoy the beautiful surroundings. As the children enjoyed this new exploration, people walking by got to experience the work of the children. Children are often heard but not seen by members of the community and this was a great opportunity for the community to see the children do one of the things they do best… creating art. We were lucky enough to have volunteers helping and as members of the community they also got firsthand experience with the children. There were also lots of people walking the canal enjoying the beautiful day that were curious about the children and what they were doing. Allowing the children to be seen on the canal in this way offered a unique approach for the community to experience children in a positive way.

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Painting Processes, Glue Tape, and Much More!

Today, groups of children at the Gilliate building were very, very active in their studio! The children worked on process paintings and freely moved on to other areas as they finished, or vice versa. New children to the provocation were eager to try constructing with the “glue” tape. In addition, the kiddos were extremely creative with lots of different materials throughout the studio! To be able to move so freely while still respecting the natural flow and resources of the studio shows how children learn to connect with their environments. They are developing an understanding of how to work WITH their environments, while finding more and more models of social interactions!




Brandon: It look like my dog.

How so?

Brandon: Because he black and white.

Kaley: I’m painting up!

Brandon: It (paint) smells like oil.




David: Look what happened… it’s (paper gum tape) sticky!


Brandon: I found nature!


Kaley: Three light-ups (holds three flashlights together)!


Kaley: These are vegetables (makes me a “plate of veggies” using colored blocks)… eat!


Brandon: This is the crocodile, alligator medicine! Food so they don’t get sick. I’m given’ ‘em somethin’ in they medicine tanks! This all my crocodiles, alligators, snakes, raccoons, lions, and tigers medicine (BJ works with small manipulatives and medicine containers to make his own animal pharmacy)!

Jason: Es mi castle!

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Exploring New Materials... Adding New to Familiar: Paper Gum Tape

Today, groups of children visited the studio where a new provocation with a new material was waiting for them. Over the past week or so, children who have been in the studio have helped to deconstruct cardboard. Today, children were able to investigate how we could implement the small pieces of this familiar material with something new… paper gum tape (we decided to re-name it glue tape)! This special tape is wonderful for constructing and introducing children to multi-step processes. First, the children were given a larger cardboard square to use as their “platform”. They were then given a demonstration of how to use the glue tape (it only works when the adhesive side is wet) to create designs or build structures with the smaller pieces of cardboard. These creations are also wonderful for printmaking, a possibility for further investigations! This shows how when given the opportunity, children will learn and grow through building upon familiar processes! It can go as far as they want to take it!

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A Busy Studio & The Power of Observation

Today, children from the Gilliate building visited their studio. The space felt alive, with children exploring all areas of the room. The teachers were sure to observe each child as they worked with different provocations throughout the space. This gave us all an opportunity to watch and learn about particular interests of the children. It is awesome to see the intrigue that new explorations and spaces bring about. You listen to the chatter as they move freely throughout the studio. You recognize the social development as they interact with one another. We observe them having talks in passing, negotiating materials, working together toward common (or uncommon) goals, and figuring out how to negotiate space with both their peers and themselves.


While watching the teachers observe, there was a pondering about observation in general, the ways we document, and how these experiences can translate to everyday learning. I have sometimes caught myself dictating too much of a conversation, asking questions about what I deem appropriate for them to know. In actuality, the children will gain much more when we let them bring their questions to us! When I allow this to happen, the direction in which projects/investigations will go is often gifted to me. This makes planning for what comes next both authentic and much simpler as you have listened, and know where the kiddos would like to take things next. In looking through the book In the Spirit of the Studio, I read one portion of an excerpt that I thought helped to describe these processes and their purpose!...


“My great dream is the extraordinary adventure of understanding, of documenting, the microprocesses of learning. I intend to document them live and then to interpret them and discuss them with others. The final product will not be abandoned, but each child and teacher will be given a way to reflect on the processes of understanding.” – Vea Vecchi, from In the Spirit of the Studio by Lella Gandini


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Studio Explorations: Natural and Recycled Materials

Today, children at the Gilliate building were eager to explore their studio space. Most were quickly drawn to provocations featuring natural and recycled materials. They closely examined branches, leaves, and rocks as they worked together on their “landscape”. A few children were especially interested in helping to “deconstruct” cardboard… creating many different shapes and designs. The children will use the cardboard pieces in a future investigation!

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Pet Store Pictures: Early Experiences with Photography

Today, children of the Thompson building took a field trip to the pet store, hoping to buy some fish for their new classroom fish tank! Before they left, the children were introduced to a camera and were very eager to take their own photographs! So, they brought the camera along with them to document their experience at the pet store! The children were shown how to use different features on the camera, testing them out as the explored the store. In the children’s photographs, you could notice improvement in each try at a photo as they got a feel for photography!

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Observing Transitions & Recognizing Individuality... Paint/Light

Today, groups of children chose to visit the studio after being asked if they wanted to help finish our paintings. They we’re A.O.K. going directly to the paintings as they entered the space. However, their attention didn’t stay there long. They were quickly drawn to the light invitation that remained from previous investigations. Each child had a different priority as to what they considered flashlight-worthy. Regardless, it was very interesting and thought-provoking to sit back and observe how each child had their own thoughts and processes as they continue to investigate light and their environments in general.

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Exploring Familiar Materials in New Ways: Painting Processes

Today at the Thompson building, pairs of children were taken into the studio where they found paint, canvases, brushes, droppers, and other tools waiting on them. Each child was asked about how they typically paint and most were quick to mention the brushes. As soon as they began to talk about their familiar processes, I removed the brushes and asked them how they could paint without them. One returning child immediately stood up and went for the droppers and began to drop paint onto the canvases from above. A new child was seemingly amazed by the splatter effect and was eager to join in! Once they had tried this, the brushes were re-inserted and the children were given the freedom to paint with tools of their choosing. A lot of the children were very intrigued with how the watery paint mixed (similar to marbling), as some pointed out the changes in color and how the wet paint moved around the canvas.


Ryan: See how they mix? Double time!


Desharell (forgive me on the spellings): I’m making pink. Make it stop moving!


Ryan: You can move it (the canvas)! The paint mixing though.


Desharell: You move like this so you can paint there.


Xavier: I want the brush.


Roddy: I want to spray with that (spots the spray bottle filled with paint)!


Gi Gi: Whoa!

Callie Rae: Yeah! My paint stayed on top.

Gi Gi: Yeah, you drop it!

Callie Rae: Then it mix up.

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Bringing Experiences Back to the Classroom: An Extension of Light

As an educator, it is always an amazing thing to see the ideas gained from outside experiences being extended into the classroom. Our teachers are incredible at recognizing these interests and expanding upon them, seeking out every opportunity for growth and learning. Room 1 at the Thompson building has done just that, by showing continued interest in light and shadows. You can see how they have created different shadows and how they move materials to be manipulated by the light! We look forward to seeing how all of the children’s interests continue to expand as new ideas and concepts are developed in all of our classrooms throughout the year!

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Natural Provocations: Connecting with Nature

Today, groups of children visited the studio and were immediately drawn to a table covered with natural materials intended to resemble a real outdoor space. They were deeply interested in using different tools to investigating dirt, chunks of wood, rocks, and plants to see what they may discover! Other children were drawn to the light provocations as continued interests have been prevalent in our studio experiences! As always… there was lots more fun to be had as well!


 Christian: There are too many needles (hammering nails into the wood chunks)!

Jamiya: I found it!

Ms. Tish: What did you find?!

Jamiya: The bug. He went down in there!

Daniel: It’s (nail) going in. It’s hard to do it! We just workin’… but it’s too hard.

Christian: I’m going to find a spider.

Aiden: I found a bug. It’s just a ant. He was getting some food!


Jamiya: It’s a shadow, ‘cause it make a picture of the side of it.

Iker: It’s no hot!

Kamari: It is hot!!!

Iker: Why is there light? Can you see the light?

Christian: (puts flashlight to his ear) I’m a robot!

Vivian: It’s supposed to make a shadow, ‘cause that’s what it’s for!

Vivian: It makes yellow (light through colored manipulatives)!

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