Last Saturday I took a trip to Seattle to visit The Wonder of Learning exhibit, hosted by Reggio Children. You can read more about where to find the exhibit, as well as information on the displays, here.
Photographing the exhibit panels was not allowed; however, I was allowed to photograph the mini-atelier spaces which were set up around the exhibit.
There were many large panels, and so much information that I couldn’t write it all down in my phone (I already knew from visiting Reggio Emilia that one should expect to take copious notes because photography is prohibited, but in my excitement I goofed and forgot my notebook). Thankfully, on the website there are links to pages which offer summaries of what was on the panels. Otherwise I might just have to drive all the way back to Seattle with a notebook to jot everything down.
I was impressed by the variety of projects, and the depth of research undertaken by the children on some of these projects. One project that stood out to me was “The Stairway’s Voice.” In this exhibit, a group of preschoolers learn about the acoustics of a stairwell, by experimenting with various shoes to learn how to distinguish the sounds produced on that stairwell. I was struck by the way this group used the scientific method to conduct their research. One of the methods of recording data was drawings the children made representing sounds connected with specific shoes making specific paces. I appreciated this because of the intersection between science and art; an intersection which I think is undervalued in the USA. I thought about acoustics at Elm House, and wondered if we could have a dialogue with the ceiling of the basement. The children often remark on the sounds they hear in the basement, produced by movements upstairs.
“Black is made of all colours
all the whites”
As I walked around the exhibition, I noticed two large foam pads covered in either all white fabrics or all black fabrics and other materials. I was unsure of what it was that I was seeing until I came across a panel connected with it, far across the room. The panel was about children’s compositional strategies, with monochromatic materials.
I was also surprised and delighted when I saw a self-sustaining project that they had set up in the exhibition, titled “Weaving the Dream.” My delight was because the project involved tying bits of cloth to a fence which looked very much like some of the fencing we have bought for the backyard in Elm House. I’ve been wondering lately how we could have a self-sustaining project at EH, and also how we could use the fencing in the backyard. I think it might be interesting to make strips of fabric, as well as other materials such as grasses, available for the children to weave into the fence.
And speaking of the backyard, there was a set-up with some stumps and carving tools. As I manipulated the stumps with the tool, I noticed that it could be used to peel off bark, to chip into the wood, or to scrape designs on the surface. I noticed that the tool was not particularly sharp, actually rather blunt. Which leads me to believe it could be used as part of risky play with the stumps in our backyard, with adults supervising and explaining how to use the tools safely.
There was a room devoted to light studies, with a little light table (similar in some ways to the one we have in the Nest), and a table on which there were four portable light pads which look and function much like a tablet.
There were many possibilities for layering transparent materials. Frosted glass “rocks,” dry erase markers, strips of plastic, vellum paper, just to name a few examples of materials that could be used to create compositions with light and color. I liked that there was a larger table for group collaboration, as well as smaller “tablets” for individual compositions. I connected this idea with how we paint and draw on paper at Elm House: sometimes as a group on a big sheet of paper or wooden board, and sometimes on our own smaller pieces of paper. I think that having both options in the same room, as with the light experiments in The Wonder of Learning exhibit, keeps open many possibilities for learning.
I feel fortunate for having had the opportunity to visit this exhibit, and I expect that I’ll be ruminating upon and drawing inspiration from what I saw there for quite some time. If you have the chance to go to Seattle, I would recommend the exhibit to everyone! Of course, it is kid friendly, so bring your children and play together in the exhibit while you learn about Reggio Emilia.