The Reggio Emilia educational philosophy (established in Italy) is one that is quickly gaining momentum in countries world wide – and for good reason. I spent three years working at a kindergarten school that followed the Reggio philosophy which is where I gained a thorough understanding and love for it! The Reggio approach has many wonderful facets but today I will focus solely on Reggio provocations. If you are interested in the Reggio approach to early childhood education, I encourage you to take some time to read this.
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Today’s Topic: Reggio Provocations
Provocations (as They Relate to Reggio Emilia)
- What are Reggio provocations?
First, it is important to note that there is no set or specific objective to be achieved. Simply put, the sole purpose of a provocation is to elicit some kind of response. Then, based on the response given, new materials, questions or opportunities are introduced to further explore a topic.
- What is so valuable about Reggio provocations?
The idea of learning by means of provocation (rather than ‘being taught’) is valuable because there is:
- Genuine Interest – Children have a lot of control over the direction of their learning
- Genuine Experience – Children learn through touching, moving, listening and observing
- Natural Curiosity – Children are encouraged and provoked to explore materials, relationships and environments with as few limits as possible
- Genuine Self-Expression – Children can be afforded endless ways and opportunities to express themselves
- Authentic Tasks – Children are engaged in work that is purposeful and meaningful to themselves and others. They are more likely to retain the knowledge (and more importantly) the skills that they acquire, because their desire to do the tasks is intrinsic; therefore they identify problems themselves and eagerly want to solve them.
- How can I set up Reggio provocations?
While setting up Reggio provocations requires careful thought, they can be simple, inexpensive and the possibilities are infinite!
- Initial Topic – Observe and question your tot about a topic of interest.
- Choose Materials – Materials can include anything; books, natural materials, art supplies, collections, tools, blocks, light, mirrors, water; the list is endless.
- Set-Up – Set up should be visually appealing and intriguing – inviting exploration. First, consider where you will set up. What kind of space is required? Next, choose a way to display your materials; consider the type of containers or holders you will use – they should be interesting and compliment your materials. Last, define the workspace using trays, mats, table cloths, paper, etc. When you define a work area, children naturally move towards it.
- Observation – Observe your tot interacting with the provocation you have set up. What is interesting? What is said? What is asked? What is being done? Take notes.
- Extension – Based on your observations, add new materials as needed. Respond to your tot’s interests by supporting his/her efforts to “do” something. (This inevitably leads to some sort of ‘project’)
- Can I see examples of Reggio provocations?
Of course! The example below is a brief overview of this post (if you want to see the full thing). However, that post does not include the extension, which is crucial and is noted below.
- Initial Topic – The girls had been talking a lot about catching butterflies with nets, going for walks and going to the playground so I decided to present my materials using spring themed containers, holders and colours.
- Choose Materials – I chose the materials to be textiles related to bathing because our theme this week is ‘bath time’. I also added some art supplies (stamp pad, markers and paper on the wall)
- Set-Up – I chose a space with natural light in an open area. The items used to display the materials were engaging. I defined the work space with the green tape on the wall to add another dimension and to provide a larger-than-usual canvas.
- Observation – The girls were VERY interested and much was done, (click here to see the initial response) but the element of this provocation that generated the most interest was the decorative tree and even more specifically, the decorative eggs in the tree.
- Extension – As a result of the observation, the next day, I introduced plastic eggs to the table.
This led us to two projects: (Keep in mind that the girls are 2 years + 4 months)
Project #1 – Creating ‘Surprise’ Eggs – While exploring all the materials, one of them decided that they wanted to put something into the plastic eggs to make a ‘surprise’. I asked them what they would like to put inside. The unanimous response was “chocolate”. I told them we didn’t have any chocolate. Rather than choosing to solve that problem, they came up with a different suggestion. “I make a picture, put in eggs. Please get me paper.”
Problem 1 – I used suggestive language and said, “Here is your paper, this is quite a big paper to fit into a little egg”. They quickly decided to cut the paper. Then they drew pictures which I labelled for them.
Problem 2 – There were 4 eggs that needed to be divided equally. They chose one at a time until gone. (“M 2 eggs & O 2 eggs”, was said) – They’re teaching themselves math!!!
Problem 3 – The drawings were still too big to fit into the eggs. “I cut, use scissors”, said M. As she began to cut, O said, “No! M, break picture my made” – so cutting was no longer an option. With A LOT of prompting and questioning by me (my final prompt was, “How do we get our clothes to fit into our drawers?”), they came to the conclusion that we could FOLD the drawings. Then they placed them into the eggs and gave them to guests that visited later that day.
Project #2 – Decorating Eggs – They decided they would like to decorate the plastic eggs and tried using marker on them which kept coming off on their hands. They asked me about a book we recently read inwhich the characters decorated eggs. I explained that they were real eggs. “I decorate real eggs too”.
Problem 1 – I tried having a conversation about how eggs are fragile and break open easily and that we needed to find a way to make them hard. In the end, they just had no ideas and no way of knowing how to make an egg hard. So I told them that we would cook them in boiling water. I asked them to choose the pot that was most appropriately sized to cook the eggs in. I showed them the bubbling water which amazed them! “Steam, very hot”, they said.
Problem 2 – They wanted to decorate them right away but obviously they were too hot. “How can we make them colder?”, I asked. “Put it in fridge”. Done. I asked them how they wanted to decorate. They told me they wanted to paint the eggs so I chose this opportunity to introduce them to water paints, which they have never used before.
Problem 3 – They wanted to eat them for lunch. How do we get the eggs out of the shell?
They really liked the water paints…so now I might set up a provocation table related to water paints with flowers and a Claude Monet book, etc. It is important to note that even though the projects shown were short-term projects, they can take as long as is needed.
- In Summation
This was a lengthy post, I hope you found it helpful and worthy of your time. That being said, I would like to leave you with this idea: I liken Reggio provocations to planting seeds. You provide a seed and your child’s knowledge, curiosity and creativity will cause it to flourish in beautiful ways; often in ways that you could never predict or imagine.
P.S. Last Chance!!!
This weekend is the last opportunity to take advantage of our anniversary sale (20% off all of our curriculum). Use the code: CTM20 at check-out and bag yourself a bargain!! This offer will end March 29, 2015.