Setting up Reggio Inspired activities in the classroom has been easy for me to do on a small scale, at home with my own kids or as a single “station” during our kindergarten center time. Thinking about Provocations and Reggio Inspired work on a larger scale has always been a bit more intimidating for me. I was inspired by the You Tube video that Joanna Babalis shared of her classroom and their Inquiry Spaces. Her children move freely, throughout the classroom, choosing which Inquiry Space they wish to explore. I decided to try out multiple Inquiry Spaces in the classroom during this past week.
I collected branches from a flowering cherry tree and purchased some Pussywillow branches from the garden center. The branches, along with a few books, some magnifying glasses, and some watercolor pencils were all we needed to get started here. I was hoping to engage the kids’ sense of wonder in this space. We put the cherry branches in water and left the Pussywillow branches dry. As the days went on, a few kids started to question why we didn’t give both branches some water and several kids noticed the changes in the cherry blossoms.
At another small table, we displayed a few books, some bark, and several different tree rounds. I also had some small paper and crayons for kids to draw and document what they saw. To me, this seemed like a table that would not be chosen as frequently as the others, but I was surprised by how many kids stopped here to explore for a while.
The rocks have already provided hours of exploration and learning in our classroom this year. Recently kids started asking if they can add to the rock collection, so we started talking about what we needed to begin a rock collection. The books served as great springboards. Kids enjoyed sorting our rocks and many kids decided they would start their own rock collections at home.
There were many other Inquiry Spaces set up around the room too. We had sea shells and books at the light table. There were pinecones of every different size and shape with some “how to draw” books for inspiration. The favorite station was the clay sculpting station. Kids were trying to replicate different dinosaurs. Now, you must know, that I know nothing about dinosaurs but I have a student in my class who knows every fact imaginable. He became the expert in this space and the kids learned so much from him.
Sometimes our Reggio Inspired spaces feel like true Provocations. We begin with questions and plan activities around those questions to help kids engage their sense of wonder, explore, find more questions, and maybe even find an answer or two. Other times our Reggio Inspired spaces are just that. They are Inspiring. We set out materials for kids to explore and then they start asking questions. I’m not sure if there is a right or wrong way, according to the great minds in Reggio Emilia, but these spaces in our classroom certainly felt like a success to me.
Whether you start with a question or simply start with exploration, I know kids will become excited to learn more and that’s really what it’s all about.