By: Diane Kashin, Ed.D, RECE. It has been a few weeks since my return to Reggio and I am still processing the experience. The opportunity to spend a week in this historically beautiful environment with others on the 2018 Canadian Study Tour was one that I will always cherish and hold close to my heart. Looking over my notes and the photos from the week I am trying to capture, contain and retain what stood out for me the most. What was the context of my experience? For me it was being in this inspirational place of learning with others. Others, who may have started out as students but have become friends and colleagues. Others, who started off as colleagues and have become beloved friends. We have a shared history, a common context of having worked together for the same community college. Although not all of us are still in this context we continue to learn together in reciprocal and respectful relationships.
The context of my experience in Reggio was all about the people, the place and the time. Rarely do I have the time to fully engage in encounters in my busy life at home. Here in this place with these people I had time. The experience was rich and meaningful. In Reggio, I encountered approachable and friendly people. The educators that I encountered offered rich and meaningful examples of learning that took place within a context of experience. According to these educators these are “curious contexts of experience”. Curiosity motivates learning. In Reggio I was curious to make sense of my world through the engagement in the environment and with others. This article on A Vygotskian Commentary on the Reggio Emilia Approach has really spoken to me and it is one that I will return to time and time again. According to Stone (2012) “the focus of much Western literature that refers to the Reggio Emilia approach is on the learning process; a process in which each child can be curious and seek to make sense of her world through engagement with the environment and with others” (p.286). It has left me thinking about the suggestion that “teachers can highlight the concepts that they value in their society and they can make these concepts available to children throughout the learning process” (p. 286). I believe that the Reggio educators intentionally made certain concepts available to us during the study tour so that we could create our own curious contexts of experience. In the ray of light atelier experience, curiosity was piqued and learning happened with light and it’s scientific concepts and metaphoric qualities.
As a believer in a Vygotskian approach to early learning, I value the opportunity to learn with others. In Reggio, I had wonderful conversations with many esteemed and respected colleagues from across Canada. We talked about these curious contexts of experience and reflected on the lack of the use of the term “provocation” by the Reggio educators.
What we did hear was the word proposal. In one video we watched a teacher interacting with a child within a curious context of experience that involved people, place and time and she said to the child, “I have proposal for you”. To me this is a provocation. It arrives as surprise to the child and the child is curious. It is also an invitation. I have tried to grasp the term provocation in the past and it still perplexes me. Why has it become a tangible and physical thing, one that is set upon a table? A context of experience has so many layers. It defies depiction in a single image shared and labelled a provocation. The table top photo does not reflect the people (the particular children involved), the place (the room, the school, the community) or the time spent before, during and after the set up, thinking about the concepts learned and the experience itself. I am still thinking and look forward to more opportunities to learn with others and to talk once again when there is time (six days), a place (the beloved Swan Lake) and the people (including friends and colleagues) when we will come together during the Rhythm of Learning in Nature, 2018. This is our place, our piazza for learning and encounters in curious contexts of experience.
The Rhythm of Learning in Nature returns to Swan Lake for 2018. This year we are graced with the presence of Juliet Robertson, author of Dirty Teaching and Messy Maths and blogger at Creative Star Learning who will inspire us within this curious context of experience. Signing up for the Rhythm includes free admission to a full day of learning with Juliet on August 18th at the beautiful Kortright Centre. More information about this event to be posted soon on the York Region Nature Collaborative website. Hope to see you there!