Friday, January 27, 2012

What is the Reggio Approach?

As an artist, I am interested integrating art into a Montessori classroom.
I have recently become aware and interested in the Reggio approach or
method. There are a few schools that combine the methods and have
an Artilier as part of their Montessori programs.

(MacDonald Montessori Child Care combines programs with some compromises! )Here is an good article that explains Reggio and the Artilier:

This article discusses an early childhood program administrator's reflections on her visit to the preschools of Reggio Emilia, Italy. The following six themes are discussed: (1) teachers' respect for each child; (2) teachers' emphasis on relationships; (3) the importance of art as the medium chosen to represent children's thinking; (4) the critical role of communication; (5) the relaxed pace in the schools; and (6) the teachers' different roles. The article concludes with ideas and questions inspired by the visit that the administrator would like to share with colleagues in a gifted education environment.

"The graphic arts, broadly defined as any form of 
visual artistic representation, are their chosen media
to share with others what children are thinking,
doing, feeling, learning, and experiencing. They teach
children art techniques to give them tools to express
their ideas.
Being artistic and creative is highly valued in this
school culture. Large space is allocated to art
studios, called ateliers, for the school. Each
classroom has a small art studio, mini-atelier,
connected to it where art materials are plentiful and
accessible to the children. Aesthetically pleasing
environments are designed purposefully. The ateliers
in each school are filled with recyclable materials
(e.g., glass beads, pipes, sockets, ceramic pieces)
and natural elements (e.g., rocks, stones, beans,
barley, seeds, seed pods, dried flowers). All of the
materials are laid out aesthetically on open shelves
and in clear containers, creating hues of colors to
behold. In the bathrooms, there are glass containers
of colored water...mobiles hang from the
ceilings with materials that reflect light such as
clear beads, tin foil, and coins. Dividers are made
out of transparent materials including acetate murals,
strings of beads, and low, see-through shelves.
Furniture provides space to work at all levels,
including tables and chairs that are at adult heights.
Children have high stools to sit at the high tables
and small chairs to sit at the low ones. The
difference in levels is aesthetically pleasing.
The children's work in progress is left out,
reflecting active and ongoing engagement. Teachers
carefully lay out materials for the next day's choices
of activities. Materials are chosen thoughtfully. In
one room, I noticed the teacher in her mini-atelier
working with a small group of 4-year-olds. The
children were painting representations of flowers. The
teacher had premixed four shades of pink for the
children to use. No matter what the children did with
the paint, the colors were beautiful! I saw the
teacher put her hand on a student's hand to help him
wipe off the paintbrush so paint would not drip. I saw
a teacher go to another part of the room to get a
child who was engaged in another activity to come into
the mini-atelier to work on a clay representation of a
tree. It was something that she wanted him to do.
In another school, I saw large murals of colored
designs in different hues of color. One contained
oranges and yellows. Another was a mural with pinks
and purples; another contained blues and greens. The
atelierista told me that she mixed these colors for
children to "experiment with the pleasures of working
within hues of colors." There were signs on the wall
about how to mix colors. One board that was displayed
in the atelier explained in great detail all of the
ways one could mold clay to create spirals, circles,
rectangles, triangles, the sun, and crosses.
Many of the students' investigations were about
natural phenomena. I saw an ongoing study of trees.
While making clay representations of trees, the
classroom teacher helped children learn the technique
of using water and clay mixed to form a glue that held
other clay pieces together. The other teacher in the
same room showed children how to use a real leaf to
make an imprint of the veins onto a clay piece.
Children had many opportunities to learn, practice,
and apply techniques related to visual arts.
Their artistic representations were highly valued and
were the basic medium for the public to view their
work. I bought a book from one school that contained
children's drawings of trees and quotations about
their drawings. Many schools sell other artifacts,
sharing the children's work with the world...
 Artifacts include bookmarks, T-shirts,
sweatshirts, books telling the story of their
projects, and posters of children's drawings.
I saw beautiful mosaics at one school where the
atelierista specialized in both science and art and
had a particular passion for working with natural
materials. The mosaics were done on glass-covered
tables-not glued but carefully placed in a background
of small seeds. The texture was like sand. Each mosaic
could be done again and wiped away with a block to
smooth the palette. Children were carefully building
structures with stones, marble scraps, blocks, and
other materials while I was there. I observed children
explaining their building structures to all of the
other children under the teacher's direction. I was
most impressed with the atelierista's guidance of an
activity with an insect. He put a dead insect under a
large magnifying glass and projected the enlarged
image onto a video screen. He provided black markers
and white paper for the children to make an
observational drawing from the large screen image."
(The article goes on to discuss music here)
Volume 3 Number 1

©The Author(s) 2001
Reflections and Impressions from Reggio Emilia:"It's Not about Art!"
Nancy B. Hertzog
University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

So...What is with those Hanging Froebel Yarn Balls??

That was my question after noticing that Nienhuis Montessori is
now selling a version of Froebelian hanging yarn balls
for toddlers. The stated purpose is:
"Use of this material provides the toddler practice in hand-eye coordination, recognition of color and the differences between 2 and 3 dimensional shapes."

Check the Niehuis version out here:

The rational straight from the Froebel USA website
for the original idea (known as a Gift 1) is:
"This Gift consists of 12 soft yarn balls of approximately 2" in diameter -- two balls each in red, orange, yellow, green, blue and purple. One of each color pair has a string, the other does not. The string (approx. 6 inches long) has a loop on one end so that they can be dangled. It is introduced while the child is still an infant and is used for children ages 3 mos. (with adult participation) to 4 years. The balls come packed in a wood slide-top storage box. Froebel recognized that a ball is often a first or favorite toy of infants. It is lightweight and easy to grasp or hold. For Froebel, the ball symbolized unity because it is a complete whole, a pure form. The whole is the beginning of understanding and everything else is derived from the whole."
These can be purchased here:

Here are some creative yarn balls from Etsy:

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Toddler Trays

...or how to organize your activities for young
children. If your activity is organized on a tray
it isolates the activity and gives it a time (work cycle) and space
control. The child takes down the materials to
a rug (which is another space control) and lays
out the materials, does the activity, replaces the
materials on the tray and then returns the tray
to the shelf or cubby. The teacher/parent
replaces consumable items and its ready to
do again the next time or for the next child.
An important step for the teacher/parent is
to either display the work or put it in a journal
so there is a record and accountability
for the work accomplished. Sometimes this
can come in the form of a photograph of
the completed activity placed in a work
journal. If it is a stamping activity or small
book or similar consumable, the item
should be saved and/or displayed.
Some great examples of trays are
at Tot Trays here:
She gives some good storage ideas
as well. I store my materials in plastic
stacking drawers from Rubbermaid.
They are in primary colors and fit nicely
above between the spaces of my
oak shelves and the ceiling. Of course
they could be stacked up in a closet
as well or on shelves or just stacked
one on top of another in a corner.
Rotating your trays and activities
is important. I like the idea of setting
out equipment that will fit on trays
with guided activities, viz the small
red and blue rods, or numbers and
counters or part of the pink tower (the smaller cubes).
Anything that can fit on the tray
and be carried safely will
be creative!

Monday, January 2, 2012

New Geo Shapes for Toddlers!

Happy New Year!
Our friends at Young Minds at Play are
offering a coupon on their geometric shapes
puzzle. The quality is outstanding! I bought
several myself and they are really superb!
Here is a pix of my grandson working with Jeff's handmade materials.