Reggio inspired educators talk about ‘Provocations’ — reflective, intentional and thoughtful actions taken by adults to provoke, entice children to wonder and imagine, or extend and enrich children’s thinking. Materials, artifacts, items from nature, all contribute to creating this inspirational palette of learning. This shared concept recognizes that children, as well as adults, would rather make their own discoveries than be told what to do or given a step by step guide or ‘how to’ list.At this time, a perfect example of a ‘Provocation’ can be explored in our JK/SK Atelier. We have offered winter ‘deciduous’ tree branches, winter/cold colours of beads and buttons, wire, and paintings and photos of winter trees. We have left a message for the children sharing: ‘Transformation of Winter Trees’. A message for the children to explore. No one pointed at the materials or the branches out to the children, saying “Look at this! Look at the colors!” No one asked, “Would you like to paint the trees or create a winter tree?” They are simply in the Atelier, waiting to be discovered. The children are very curious about the branches and materials. They have found them, asked each other curious questions and were delighted with their discoveries. The children have begun to create. They have had new ideas about how to embellish the ‘bare tree branches’ and in fact, their ideas have taken everything to a whole new level.
They understand the possibilities, and they immediately began to incorporate them into their thinking. The children have also begun exploring new ideas of their own, which is leading them forward while extending their knowledge and their learning.Mrs. Daniel and I, want the children to come upon the Atelier every day and not know what they might find. This, we felt, would encourage them to see their classroom as a dynamic, ever-evolving environment where anything could happen. In turn, we also felt that the Atelier and the rich ‘provocations’ that the children have experienced would help encourage habits of curiosity, creativity and interest.
Using ‘provocations’ as our inspiration, we have been most thoughtful about the function, the purpose and the pedagogy behind the Atelier. The Atelier is an extension of the classroom where children can explore their interests deeply, using materials that have been offered to them. “…The Atelier had to be a place for the individual (or collaborations) exploration of projects…a place for researching motivations and theories of children from scribbles on up, a place for exploring variations in tools, techniques, and materials with which to work.”
Rather than announcing any new addition as a special treat and drawing attention to it (which creates the additional issue of 24 children wanting to use it at once). We simply set out materials and let them be discovered. In this way, the JK and SK children work together. The children share with each other, showing and learning together. We incorporate the Atelier with things that beckon — books, sketchbooks, journals, photographs, paintings, natural materials, cozy nooks, shelves filled with their own work and the work of others, science tools, field guides, magnifying glasses, etc. And always, always, most important — room to work. A clean table, an empty place on the floor or counters or shelves. Not only exciting new things to find and use, but a special place of much interest to use them in.If we had put out the same items, the similar materials and then told the children that everyone would take a turn making a tree, the beauty of the exploration would have been lost. No wonder, no excitement of discovery, no figuring out what was there. No deciding what to do with your find, no thrill of showing another child or designing together. Instead, a defined task and 24 children producing the same tree.
We wonder what will continue to happen as the ‘Transformation of Winter Trees’ unfolds?