In Italy, Gianni Rodari would need no introduction. He is a household name amongst educators, parents and children and is considered by many literary historians to be Italy’s most important writer of children’s literature in the 20th Century.
Rodari, in his book called the ‘Grammar of Fantasy’, he shows compassion for children, combined with respect for educators and their ideas and experiments.
Rodari begins with a premise that children’s lives are highly prescribed and that if they are to learn and act and think for themselves, they must be encouraged to question, challenge, destroy, eliminate, generate and reproduce their own language and meanings through stories that will enable them to narrate their own lives. Rodari reflects upon how children learn and demonstrates that the imagination has rules of its own that must be respected if children are to respond and seek more knowledge about language and the imagination. He also reflects on Sir Ken Robinson’s idea that “a culture of innovation depends on cultivating three processes, each of which is related to the others”. The processes Robinson refers to are:
• Imagination: the ability to bring to mind events and ideas that are not present to our senses.
• Creativity: the process of having original ideas that have value.
• Innovation: the process of putting original ideas into practice.
The innovation is the aim but the process of getting to it, has to begin with imagination and creativity.
Attention has to be focused on what happens in the children’s encounter with their environment, paying close attention to the unique events that take place every day. When imagination is valued and encouraged in all aspects of the curriculum the classroom becomes alive with the creative problem solving input of children and teachers.
The late, renowned physicist Stephen Hawking stated “We live in a strange and wonderful universe. Its age, size, and beauty require extraordinary imagination to appreciate” His view further supports that of John Dewey and Loris Malaguzzi that scientific thought and imagination are not separate mental operations but are different points within the complexity of human intelligence. (Cooper M-2009)
A fundamental contribution from Loris Malaguzzi and the educators in Reggio Emilia is the notion of the “Hundred Languages of Children”. They have helped to increase our understanding of how children use the graphic, verbal, symbolic and imaginative languages and a “hundred, hundred more” languages in making meaning of their world.
Children have always used found materials in their play. In his article ‘How Not to Cheat Children: The Theory of Loose Parts’, the British architect Simon Nicholson coined the term loose parts to describe open ended materials that can be used and manipulated in many ways. (1971) For Nicholson, the richness of an environment depended on the opportunities it provided for making connections. “In any environment,” he wrote, “both the degree of inventiveness and creativity, and the possibility of discovery, are directly proportional to the number and kind of variables in it” (Loose Parts-Lisa Daly, Miriam Beloglovsky).
Within Bialik’s ELC, there is a very special room. The name given to this space by the children is ‘The Centre for Hidden Treasure’. It is here that many ‘found’ and natural objects (loose parts) are stored, waiting in anticipation for the children.
Children can spend hours playing with objects such as rocks, shells, sand and water, and other loose parts. These are materials that children can manipulate, move control and change while they play. Children can change the objects into anything, a stone can be made into soup, or a character in a story. Their creativity, curiosity and imagination knows no bounds and for us the maintaining of these dispositions is essential to the children’s learning. Children possess a natural openness to the potential of materials.
Maintaining supplies to the Centre for Hidden Treasure as well as keeping it well sorted and in good order takes time. We are always on a hunt for materials to restock and replenish our shelves.
If you’d like to contribute, some suggestions of supplies are items such as wire, feathers, beads and buttons, costume jewellery, tape, string, ribbon, old keys, small machines that do not work, seed pods, wood scraps, containers baskets, cardboard, nails, screws and bolts, other metal items plumbing items such as pipes, stones fabrics all kinds and sizes. PVC pipes, wooden and plastic cones, old wheels etc. The items are endless and are only limited by our own imaginations.
In addition, there are lengths of fabric and other loose parts in the Kinder, Prep and Year 1 play area where children of all ages, abilities, skill levels and genders congregate, enabling them to play together in complex, pleasurable, imaginative, spontaneous and open ended ways.
If you feel that you have something to donate, please contact the ELC at [email protected]
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