Self-directed child engagement

From Ricardo Levins Morales Art Studio

The Reggio Emilia approach encourages deep exploration of topics that emerge from children’s interests. Given the many school closures with COVID-19, you may be wondering how you are going to keep your children engaged over the next month. Adults often see themselves as responsible for keeping children entertained, particularly during times like these. However, social distancing provides the opportunity to flip the switch.  How can we provide opportunities for children to direct their own learning in ways that engage and sustain their interest?

The following tips come from years of guiding a Reggio Emilia program where children guided long-term projects. I’ve seen children as young as two create irrigation systems, yellow submarines, and larger than life monsters. The sky is the limit for children of all ages.

Like many things, this approach will require the most adult guidance on the front end, and then require adults to give children space to develop their ideas and use materials.

Set the stage

  • Start from inspiration. Ask children to make a list of their current interests and research questions. What are they into? What do they wonder? Are there topics that were discussed at school that they want to know more about? Are there current topics being discussed that they want to understand more fully?
  • Engage in research. Use research as an opportunity to refine their interests, and identify images that match their curiosity. It provides an opportunity to discuss credible sources for information and news. It creates a connection between their interests and your guidance.
  • Encourage big thinking and ask children what structures they want to make to demonstrate pull together their ideas. Do they want to make 3D structures? Paint a large cityscape? Use technology or music to teach or entertain others?

Unleash your artists

  • Check your supply of clay, wire, popsicle sticks,  masking tape,and cardboard boxes. The kids will know what to do.
  • Prep your space as needed with plastic tablecloths, garbage bags, newspaper, or cookie sheets. Have paper towels and baby wipes nearby. This will help keep this experience positive.
  • Think storage and identify a place where their work can go uninterrupted for days at a time.

Use technology in new ways
Richard Byrne has a great blog you should follow.  Two of his articles are referenced below. Such fun stuff!

  • Make toys new again by adding apps, like these for stop-motion animation. Consider sharing them on youtube or another sharing platform.
  • Support child-collaboration through online meeting apps (Google Hangouts and Zoom). What could groups of children working on these projects result in?
  • Make music in new ways that reflect the topic of their interests, or demonstrates the new information they have learned.

Please share your child’s creativity by adding comments below.



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