Two children were sitting at the light table. On the table were several recycled jars filled with colorful transparent materials. A sign on the table asked the children a question. “How do you feel today?”
The two children were sitting side by side working quietly. On occasion one child would look over to the other child and quickly say something about the work they were engaged in.
The children continued working slowly. They were choosing items from the jars and experimenting by placing materials on the lighted space in different patterns.
From my observation vantage point these few interactions were all I could see. The children continued working at the light table for an hour. They occasionally would take breaks to look at their work, talk a little then continue creating with the materials.
After an hour, the work period ended and the children gathered for a meeting to share stories and songs.
Looking at the limited information I witnessed during this observation.
What does it mean?
This is a situation where the observer (me) has a limited knowledge of what is happening because I only observed this one moment in time and I am not aware of the learning journey that led to this provocation. Is this observation still a useful experience?
One of the questions explored in a learning story is what the experience means to the witness?
I found this observation meaningful because it was part of a bigger examination of self. I know this because there existed other documentation in the classroom that pointed to this investigation. The provocation was an extension of a bigger question that has been going on for much of the school year.
Often when we are visiting another classroom there are clues about the learning journey. As educators, clues exist in our work with children that are revealed when we engage in observation. Observation when included in our practice opens up windows into the learning community.
The provocation offered children an opportunity to investigate self, using different materials and contexts than in previous investigations. Changing materials and methods of investigation opens up new opportunities for children to make connections with the question they are exploring and invites other children who may have not been interested in the question to begin or further their investigation of self. There are an unlimited variety of materials that can be employed for any provocation.
This type of investigation invites the children to work together to share images and words about self. The provocation invites children to engage in a social connection on a deeper level as the investigation moves forward.
There was a different provocation related to this work in another part of the classroom. The children investigating that space were also working in tandem sharing images and words as they created their expressions.
The possibilities of this investigation invite us as educators to be open to the variety of materials we have at our disposal. There are materials that we may think would not be viable to offer in connection with a certain question. By embracing all of the possibilities materials possess we invite children to explore a question further.
One way this observation could enhance our practice is by remembering all materials are in play for possible provocation of a question. As educators, we can take time to experiment and reflect our ideas about materials with other educators and create interesting invitations for the children.
The idea of exploring self with different materials and then sharing the documentation of the expression with the community invites the families to experience and become part of the learning journey. Seeing your child’s expression of self in many materials, dimensions, and patterns offers a depth of examination that parents will recognize and embrace as part of the co-learning process.
What invitations have you offered children that featured multiple levels of materials and processes to explore the same question?