Summer Intentions – Teacher as Researcher through Building

IMG_0860During the summer, each classroom is asked to use one of five Reggio Emilia principles as an intention for summer school. The Orange Room felt most drawn to exploring the Role of Teacher as Guide and Researcher. We are focusing on facilitating children’s ability to represent what they know and imagine. To review and help the children tell the story of their own learning as well as listen to and reflect with the children about their ideas.

In the Reggio Emilia approach, teachers work alongside the students as researchers and learners, they are not simply dictating knowledge to their students. Teachers guide the students and observe, listen and document the growth within the community of learners.

While that intention was percolating in the back of our brain, we noticed that during playtime children were repeatedly requesting to “save it” after children built a structure with the wooden blocks. While rummaging through the Art studio, we spotted a stack of shirt boxes  and an idea began to take shape.

We asked ourselves: What if each child had a container to hold their building creation and they could work on it throughout the summer and reflect during their building process? What if the children were asked to think about what they wanted to build before they began? What if both teachers and children asked each child questions to better understand their ideas?

What if we incorporated measurement, numeracy, comparative language as well as literacy to further our exploration?

023Soon after the initial idea, we read the story The Dot by Peter H. Reynolds about a young girl named Vashti, whose teacher challenges her to make “just a mark” even though she doesn’t believe she can draw. When she arrives at school, she is surprised to see her dot hanging in a fancy frame above her teacher’s desk. She decides she can make an even better dot and displays them in the school art show.

A light bulb went off in our heads after reading the story: What if we created an art gallery in the hallway and featured our Orange-aroo artists’ building creations?

After each child shares his or her reflection with the class and answers any questions by friends and teachers, we take measurements of their building creation. At last it is time for a grand opening and we all stand in front of the hallway gallery and hang the final artwork, we clap and the artist takes a bow.

024016When the project was introduced to the class, there was much excitement about having their own box with their picture on the outside. On the inside of the lid, is an architectural plan (a gift from one student’s dad) to inspire and remind them this is for constructing.

Before beginning, we contemplate what we want to build.

A house. A school. A rocketship. A stable for my unicorn.

We use found objects as building materials and glue to keep it together. Before we are “all done” we gently shake the box to see if there are any loose parts and discover some objects need lots and lots of glue.082

Through reflection, we move from simple processes to intentional work.

Why did I choose this form, this material? What do I intend will happen with my piece once it’s created?

Interest in our building project increased after reflecting on our work. Children request to be next in the gallery so they can tell their friends about their vision.031

Early measurement skills begin with comparing the scope of one object to another. Before children can understand an abstract concept like inches or centimeters, they can grasp the idea that it takes 4 blocks to match the length of the piece of tubing they are playing with.0571

During his gallery show, one student describes his rocketship.

This is part of the rocket. There two pieces for the motor so it could blast off. This is the long motor, so it doesn’t fall off the motor bucket where you put water and sand (red canister). The rocket comes out of these boxes. This is the trash can. This is the caps of the motor here. This is the flip that turns on the motor. This is the part so it doesn’t break. This icky thing that goes on top of there and you can take off tomorrow. (Points to stick next to blue foam) This thing turns it on.

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The students help install the work, “No, up and down!”

After presenting his rocket, he answers questions from the rest of the group.

Is it like a TV?
No, it’s not a TV.
What is that pink thing for (points to pink foam)?
This is a seat.
Who sits there?
Actually, that’s a bed seat.
Who gets to sleep there?
All of the children, but it’s too big for you guys ‘cuz we are getting bigger. 

Reflection by Lani Schuster and Susan Missett-King, Orange Room Co-Teachers