Thursday, July 8, 2010

In Harmony With Nature

You are only fully aware of a space when you have lived it in all weather.

We visited Allende School where children spend as much time outside as possible. They use the outdoors as the classroom and many natural materials are present. It reminded Kelley and me a lot of BHCP because of the value they place on outdoor play.

Life in Reggio

Every day, we take a 20 minute walk to the Loris Malaguzzi Centre. The streets are pedestrian and bike friendly with few cars in the city. Many people are on bikes--the very young and very old. There are no Vespas zooming around like other Italian cities.

The historic part of the city feels like a maze with 4-5 story buildings lining the streets and alleys. We pass churches, museums and the many shops that sell food, clothing and of course, shoes. Businesses and cultural landmarks seem to open around 9:00 am and close for siesta from 1 pm to 4 pm. They re-open in the late afternoon and close for the day around 7:30 pm. Our sessions seem to run during these business hours, so it has been difficult to experience all the city has to offer.

Last night, as we hear is true of every Wednesday, there was a festival in the town called Reggio in Rosa. Every piazza and restaurant was transformed with pinks and purples and cultural opportunities to provide a place for the citizens to gather and enjoy the city. Bands and duets were playing live music at every turn. Historic images of the town projected on screens and we even saw a belly dancer. People also gathered to watch the semi-final game of the World Cup. The shops and restaurants stayed open until 11 pm but the party in the streets lasted well into the night.

Italian fashion right now seems to be infused with purple, raspberry and lavender, in both men's and women's clothing. Other popular styles include shoes with ankle cuffs (like a combination boot/sandal); linen clothing; shirts, skirts and pants that poof like a bubble at the hem; and men wearing colorful scarves. The people watching in Reggio has been most enjoyable!

Drawing as a Graphic Language

I (Susan) attended a lecture entitled “At The Cinema: Drawing as a Research Tool”. This subject was very interesting to me since the 2009-2010 intention at Beverley Hills Church Preschool was “Why do we draw?”

The presenter explained that a group of teachers wanted to focus on the language of drawing. He said, “Children just draw, they just do. We don’t have to ask them. What can we discover and confirm about children and their drawing?” The presenter then described how these questions influenced the experiences of the children.

In the 4-5 year old class at one school, they have a block of time for drop-off in the morning. So, some children come earlier than others. While they wait for the whole class to be present, they have time to explore the classroom.
One day, a group of 4 children gathered at the drawing table. This was a spontaneous group, not a planned group. The teacher happened to be near enough to the table to document the children’s discussions but was not directly involved at their table. She overheard Alex say, “I went to the cinema the other day.”

At the end of the day, the teachers discussed the work done in the classroom. One teacher had drawings that the children had done. The other teacher had the conversation and the teachers connected the pieces together.

The presenter showed us photos of the drawings. There were up-side-down figures with their feet touching a flat rectangle. Alex was not satisfied with his work and said, “I wanted to do children at the cinema but…it looks like they’re attached to the roof.” This study goes on and many different techniques are used among the 4 children to show the idea of going to the cinema but nobody seems happy with their results.

The teachers decide to consult previous drawings to see if the subject of drawing the cinema had come up before. It had. The teachers see that this is a great opportunity for a class project. The teachers took what they had found and brought it to the whole group. They showed the works of the children in the spontaneous morning group. The whole class observed the drawings and made comments. They also used their bodies to imitate what they saw in the drawings. Then the teachers asked, “Would you like to try to draw children watching a film at the cinema?”

The supplies were carefully selected. The children started trying. They spoke as they drew and their comments were captured by the teachers. They were experimenting with perspective. There was some struggle with placement of the screen in relation to the way the people in the drawings were facing. One child said, “We need to think about it a little bit. It isn’t easy at all to make a drawing of the cinema.”
There was a trip planned to the theater. This was a wonderful opportunity to see the rows of chairs with children in them. This changed some drawings. The placement of heads and feet were considered more carefully. The experience of going to the theater provided another perspective for the children.

The teachers wondered why the children had drawn faces and then scratched through them. More research was done to discover that the scratching over of a face represented the backs of head because from the back of the theater you don’t see the face, only hair.

Hearing about this project made me more deeply regard drawing as a method for me to understand the children’s thoughts and ideas. There are communications within drawings if we only listen.

A Visit to ReMida

In typing up this reflection on my visit to ReMida, I realized that 4 pages was probably too long for the blog. I want to share with you that the experiences Kelley and I have had the opportunity to participate in are packed with rich philosophy and content. I think that the best thing that I can do is offer a slice of my experience but I will have to hold some material for future sharing. In this particular entry, I also want to share that there is a lot of philosophy/theory involved but I will be telling you about the events.

I had the opportunity to go to a facility called ReMida. The center collects, exhibits, and offers alternative and reclaimed materials, obtained from unsold stock and rejects or discard materials from industrial and handicraft production, with the aim to reinvent their use and meaning. This facility is a project run through the Municipality of Reggio Emilia. It is a resource for teachers, parents and artists.

The name of the workshop I attended was "Material books: Intrinsic Possibilities in Materials Fashioned into Books" by Alba Ferrari and Luisa Cigni. We had a tour of the facility. You can see the pictures. They also had many aesthetically beautiful ways to display their recaptured materials. The instructors provided examples of their work, and one parent workshop involved storytelling. The provocation involved working in small groups to tell a story from a fabric color swatch book with no words. The story the parents told was so interesting and creative that I simply enjoyed hearing the story.

Alba and Luisa provided my study group with the challenge of creating an “unreadable book” like the one used in this parent group. We were encouraged to use any materials we found in ReMida. There were two rules. First, the book should be unusual, without words, curious, attractive and no more than 8 pages. Second, it should fall into one of the following categories: mono-chrome (one color), olfactory (smell), square, bi-chrome (two colors), sound, rectangular, black/white or round. In walking around to look at the various materials, I listened to another participant named Elizabeth who was viewing the materials. She was talking to herself as she looked. And, if you know me, you know that I was also doing the same thing. In listening, I realized that we were saying the same things. I suggested that we might want to work together and Elizabeth agreed. We fashioned a square book that is meant to be read with the sense of touch and without the sense of vision. We proved a blind fold that read, “Touch. No Look.”

The possibilities are endless when you give new life to discarded materials.