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How do Materials Support Learning?

At the onset of the school year, the Faculty at Richland Academy met to identify an area of research to inform our practice.  Having experienced the impact of students’ exploration with a rich selection of materials, we decided to deepen our understanding and conduct a collaborative research project on the connections between materials and learning.

Why are materials so important?  Essential to the Reggio Emilia Educational Approach, materials provide children with tremendous possibility; the possibility of expressing their ideas and understanding in a way that is unique to them.  As educators we value this and provide students with open-ended materials.  These materials have the potential to be transformed and re-interpreted in order to allow students opportunities to express their knowledge and creativity.  Reflect back to your days as a child…adults may have just seen the cardboard box for recycling, but you saw the house, the rocket ship, and the magic!

Each Richland class is currently exploring a variety of Big Ideas – inquiries into areas of the curriculum that provide a lens for learning and enable students to make meaningful connections that enrich their understanding.  As part of the inquiry process when studying these Big Ideas, students have also been engaging with a variety of materials.  For example, Richland’s Grade 3 students have been investigating the Big Idea of Structures.  Part of this investigation has involved designing and constructing a creative range of structures using a broad selection of materials.  Our research as a Faculty is not to focus on their investigation of Structures, but rather on the relationship to learning that exists between the students and the materials offered.

The time we spend collaborating with colleagues on this project brings insight and perspective to our work with children; and is also an essential element of the Reggio Approach.  We look forward to sharing the documentation of our process, and the resulting insights from our research.

Watch Richland’s Piazza transform over the coming months as our project unfolds to inform and engage you in the magic of materials; which will ultimately culminate with Student-Led Learning Walks of the Materials Exhibit in late April.  Student-Led Learning Walks are an innovative, collaborative community-based leadership practice that documents learning and makes it visible and intentional for all. The Learning Walks will capture the process and curricular connections from the inception of the project, to the final presentation – all from the perspective of our students.  

Children need the freedom to appreciate the infinite resources of their hands, their eyes and their ears, the resources of forms, materials, sounds and colours”.  ~ Loris Malaguzzi

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