Recently, I have seen a wave of criticism about the idea of designing aesthetically inviting environments or presenting Loose Parts to children. The focus of Loose Parts play is always on how children explore, interact and play with the materials. There is also power in knowing why aesthetics matter and how it supports children's growth and development. Children have the right to be part of aesthetically designed ecosystems. In the Schools of Reggio Emilia in Italy, aesthetics are an integral part of the pedagogy, interactions, and ecosystems. Children are seen to have a Hundred Languages to express their ideas, intentions, and thinking. The Hundred Languages are supported by the environment (third teacher) and the pedagogistas (educators).
My mother was a brilliant and active person. She loved Sudoku and playing poker. She had a burst of powerful and contagious laughter that pulled you into her world. In her last year of life, she struggled with Parkinson's disease, and there were moments when her brain was not as sharp. We brought her cards to play with and puzzles to keep her active. Sometimes, she would just move the cards without any reason, and other times, you would see her sharpness return as she engaged in a game of solitaire. She would smile as she would place the cards in order. That brilliant smile reminded me of that creative person who would find ways to express her ideas and interest.
Too often, I hear educators ask, "How do you connect loose parts to standards?" I often see that standards have taken over children's ability to create, design, and innovate. There are many educational toy stores selling items by making connections to standards. Educators spend too much time setting activities to observe and record that the children meet the required learning criteria to please parents and administrators. We have basically reduced the power of childhood to a few measurements. Furthermore, when we look at the dictionary definition of standards, we find that when the term is used as an adjective, it means; "used or accepted as normal or average." I fail to see how we want children to meet this limiting definition.
As I read multiple social media posts asking this question, my initial reaction was to gather various resources and share them with people. However, as I am learning to step back and question my own assumptions and responses, I decided to further ponder the question. My answer may surprise you.
The first entry in a series of blogs about Play and Ethics
The recent events we have witnessed and experienced these past few years have raised a concern about forming the ethical identities of young children. We continuously talk about teaching children what is right and wrong, but we fail to define it for ourselves. We set confusing rules that children tend to break because they don't understand them or agree with them. As adults, we have opinions that are cemented on our beliefs and experiences, and we fail to question them or vet them through research and theory. These opinions impact our views and perspectives about what children need or don't need to do.
Fall is upon us and the colors are changing. Every year nature surprises us with deep burgundies, intense yellows, flaming oranges, strong crimsons, and a variety of greens and browns. We are also presented with a variety of leaf shapes from oaks, aspens, ginkgo, maples, beech, birch, and sycamores amongst others. These wonderful leaves and beautiful colors can become an inspiration for children to create and explore art. As we go on one of our daily walks, Armen comments excitedly, “I see colors on trees.” Mariana looks at him and says, “Is because the wind is cold and it makes different colors.”
Welcome to the blog! The place where I play with words, play with questions, and often go down the rabbit hole.
I invite you to read and ask questions, be inspired, and discover your thoughts and ideas.