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Immersed in the Wonder of Messing About: The Canadian Opening of the Hawkins Exhibit

Our days at Richland Academy are awesome – full of discoveries and connections among our students.  This weekend was no different – only this weekend it was the Faculty and Staff who were making incredible discoveries and connections at the Canadian opening of the exhibit, Cultivate the Scientist in Every Child: The Philosophy of Frances and David Hawkins.

Friday evening over one hundred guests gathered at Richland Academy for the opening reception to hear Dr. Ellen Hall, colleague of Frances and David Hawkins and Founder of the Boulder Journey School in Colorado; deliver the keynote address.  The energy and passion for science and learning permeated the school, and new friendships were formed among the guests almost instantly.Dr. Hall’s keynote speech touched upon the history of the Hawkins Exhibit, as she shared the dedication and approach of the Hawkins’ to science and learning.  The work of Frances and David Hawkins is not limited to their own personal research, but is rather an approach that we are all capable of embracing – a philosophy akin to that of Reggio Emilia.  Connections were drawn between David Hawkins and Loris Malaguzzi, about their shared belief that children are curious and capable.  This idea resonated with the many Reggio-inspired educators, keen to learn more on the Hawkins’ concept of Messing About.Saturday morning delegates gathered once again at Richland to experience a series of Messing About workshops and presentations.  There was a room dedicated to exploring light, exploring our inventive nature, another dedicated to balance, one to outdoor spaces, one to natural materials, and even one to tomatoes!  Each room was alive – sparking inquiry and discovery – facilitated by passionate educators.

As the day drew to a close, and was reflected upon by Dr. Hall, it became apparent that the Messing About had only just begun.  The inspired group was left to consider one question:

How does your road lead to Hawkins?

Here are some of the inspired tweets and reflections from the Conference’s attendees:

“What an inspirational, thought provoking and mind challenging experience it was.  To be in a place with other passionate educators, who had come with open minds; to listen, reflect, dialogue, and wonder at all the incredible work so many were so willing to share.  Ellen Hall opened the Hawkins ‘living room’ to us all.  A place where educators could con-construct a curiosity based vision for education.  The “Messing About’ exhibit challenged us to follow a curriculum, where the understanding of math and science happens naturally as children become deeply engaged through project work.  It gave us an opportunity to ‘mess about’ with materials, as children do, and learn through those experiences.  We experienced the scientific and creative ‘languages’ of light, loose parts, balance, ramps, forces and motion.  It was a wonderful opportunity to experience the joy of a child naturally exploring and making meaning of his world.” – K. Daniel

“Messing About is a three-phase cycle of exploring materials, ideas, or situation to bring familiarity, make meaning, and raise questions. The three phases include a time for unstructured, open-ended play; a time for pursuing multiple hypotheses (based on observations); and a time for discussing theories and questions that have developed.”“I had the privilege of attending the Canadian Opening of The Hawkins Exhibit last Friday, followed on Saturday by a series of workshops inspired by the exhibit. The exhibit opened with a moving speech by Ellen Hall, who had the honour of working with Frances and David Hawkins and knew them personally. Ellen brought their passion for education and knowledge to life. In the spirit of the exhibit, and moved by Ellen’s words, a large group of close to one hundred educators began to “mess about”, not only with materials, but also with ideas and theories. It was a gathering of dedicated, caring professionals who wanted to better understand how to naturally bring science into their classrooms. The energy and connectedness I felt among this large group of educators is something I will never forget. Thank you Ellen Hall, and thank you Frances and David Hawkins for helping us “Cultivate the Scientist in Every Child”. – K. Brown“I was part of the wonderful crew of people that experienced the North American opening of the Hawkin’s Exhibit.  I felt valued as a teacher, a learner and a ‘messer’ of beautiful scientific materials.  I truly believe in that idea of giving the materials to the children and allowing them to mess about, explore, reflect and work through their hypothesis through hands on experiences.” – P. Ciocio“From our perspective, the ‘Messing About’ conference was a tremendous learning experience for ourselves, the school, our guests, and ultimately for our children at Richland. To have so many ECE teachers, administrators, educators, etc. present who are like minded and all share the same vision and passion, clearly resonated throughout the opening evening and during our tours and workshops. The dialogue, the deep thinking, the imparting of thoughts/ideas/resources and experiences, all were very powerful for us. Through Social media platforms, friends that we had connected on-line now became new friends. We were ever so proud to tell our story and share our Reggio journey with educators from as far away as Florida and in our own backyard.Connections were made, plans were devised to reconnect, relationships were fostered and collaborations have already emerged. Even the weather did not stop us from engaging in our ‘Messing About in the Outdoor Classroom. ’ A brave crowd ventured outside to immerse themselves in the beauty of the outdoor classroom, imagined what play would be like in our spaces, and asked thoughtful and significant questions. We look forward to continued visits with our children into the Hawkins learning exhibit and, as we write this message, our work has already begun to blossom. In fact, the PK and JK children have spent several sessions in the Lobby exploring ‘Messing About’. When we asked them what ‘Messing About’ meant to them, one child contributed: “When you build something, it keeps changing and… it never stays the same.” – L. Abreu and J. BlackOur thanks to the Reggio Professional Learning Collaborative of Rosalba Bortolotti, Louise Jupp, Diane Kashin, and Marlina Oliveira for their dedication to bringing the Hawkins Exhibit to Canada. If you would like to explore and experience the exhibit, Cultivate the Scientist in Every Child: The Philosophy of Frances and David Hawkins at Richland Academy, please contact Laura Murgatroyd, Director of Community Life at Richland, to coordinate a visit.

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