Why do we documentation at Stretch the Imagination?
According to Carolina Rinaldi, a Reggio Emilia educator, Documentation is the process of gathering artifacts and evidence of what happens in the classroom. Documentation is not only the process of gathering evidence and artifacts, but also a physical collection of evidence and artifacts, the reflection on and analysis of the collection, and the presentation of that collection, in a way that makes the children learning visible to the children, the teachers and other adults.
Investigation: The elements and the work of Andy Goldsworthy
During this winter session the Green Room has been exploring the artwork and creative style of Andy Goldsworthy. His art explores basic shapes and structures, working with the natural elements and creating images that are informed by or reflect the passage of time. As a group we are interested in investigating the elements of earth, air and water with the children as it relates to their artistic and tactile development.
Goldsworthy works with stone, leaves, grass, branches, snow, ice and other natural materials tocreate intensely personal art works; most of our art projects have been inspired by this process. His intuitive approach to creating art is seen naturally in the way the children create and express their artistic endeavor as well.
As part of exploring the element of water in the form of ice and snow, the children were presented with various forms of ice and given the opportunity to examine, deduce and create. Blocks of ice were made using a variety of shapes and colors. Ice cubes were placed in the sensory tables in order for the children to observe and relate to the qualities of the form. We also froze toy animals into the ice and examined the melting properties of ice using warm water to excavate the animals. The colored ice blocks were utilized for painting, building and as tools for observation. We explored snow using a snow-making machine allowing the class to begin to understand the relationship between water, ice and snow, while giving them a sense of creative ability.
We have also begun our exploration of the earth element. For our study we have presented the children with magnifying glasses and various objects collected from the outdoors, including many types of pine needles and cones, leaves, flowers and seed pods.
In many of the classes the children are showing great interest in creating collaborative art pieces. These projects have included the colors and textures related to the elements as well as using different mediums such as sand, glue, paint, leaves, natural materials and the collaging of combined materials. During one such collaboration the class was given glue, sand and paint and it was incredible to see how the children combined these materials to create a unique and vibrant textural quality to the art piece. Through collaborative artwork we find that the children are able to communicate with one another well; sharing ideas about what forms they have created such as using feathers in their collage and describing the shapes they make as looking like spiders or snakes and bugs. They also seem to learn from one another about individual technique, continuously comparing interpretations of their art.
The children are enjoying learning various methods for painting, some using their fingers, while others enjoy rollers, paintbrushes, or even pine branches as their tools of choice. The children also became excited when they realized that they were able to paint beautiful shapes with colored ice while it melted as they slid it across the table. Most of the children who were not initially comfortable with various mediums have become highly involved in the process, likely due to the interest and encouragement of their peers.
We were interested to see whether the children would be inspired by the unique and natural design strategies of Andy Goldsworthy. We noticed that they related especially well to the snake-like shape presented in many of his outdoor pieces. This shape was recognized by the children and in different ways as they noticed that it reflected both the shape of a racetrack and the curves of a snake. We are currently working on encouraging the children to notice repeating patterns and to compare items that are reflective in some way (i.e. the snake-like shape in a painting versus the same shape in sand). As is our intention, the outcome of the artwork is not actively anticipated in order to allow the children the freedom to explore their materials in a unique and individual manner.
The Essential Role of the Teachers
The teachers can begin a new dimension when they can be experienced with the intensity and wonder of the vantage point of the children and those who know how to see and listen with them. (Lella, In the Spirit of the Studio).
Carolina Renaldi says that the role of documentation in the Reggio programs involves the teacher hypothesizing on the possible developments of the educational project. This is closely related to the other aspects that characterize the teacher's work: listening, observation, documentation, and interpretation.
The Unique Spirit of Each Child
Educators of the Reggio Emilia philosophy believe children make connections in their own time and that each does so individually. We also feel that it is important for the children to approach each material at their own pace and that they support one another in the growth and formation of new concepts surrounding those materials. This is the reasoning behind presenting the children with multiple ways of interacting with the materials and many opportunities to find their own individual ways to relate to them.