The term, "Awake Minds," comes from Pam Oken-Wright, a pedagogical consultant who works with the Kindergarten team here at Bensley. When Pam and I first began our journey to incorporate the Reggio philosophy into the public school setting, she would constantly tell me that when children's minds are "awake," the traditional academic learning comes naturally to them. I have found her words to be true.
I am fortunate to witness these moments of wonder and amazement each day. The children are curious about the world around them. They constantly ask questions, develop theories, test hypotheses, and make connections. This is when the deeper learning occurs from the standardized curriculum.
Below are a few of the many moments I have watched the children's minds become awake!
Back in September, Rodolfo made kites at the Making Table day in and day out. He knew kites were typically diamond shaped and had a tail. Though his design did not differ from day to day nor the materials he chose to use, he did indeed become quicker at creating them. Others in the class would sit next to him and copy his work, which is truly a sign of admiration for his thinking. After several days of making kites and taking them home in his book bag, he shared with me that he wanted to bring one outside during recess to fly.
When he brought the kite outside, he paused. My guess for this moment of hesitation was to reflect on how to get the kite up in the air as there was no wind on this particular day nor string attached to his kite. He then quickly ran down the hill and then across the blacktop grasping the diamond at the base, allowing the tail to flutter behind it. Guessing from the smile on his face and the laughter heard, he viewed his kite flying experience a success. In no time at all, Rodolfo had a following of classmates behind him cheering him on. They all had the opportunity to watch his kite take flight.
Though his kite never took flight as I may have originally envisioned, there was a lot gained by Rodolfo making his image of the kite into a reality. Not only did his understanding of geometric shapes grow as he cut each piece out, so did his spatial awareness as he assembled the kites. Most importantly through this process, Rodolfo's confidence grew as he now understands that he can represent any vision he dreams! This is a powerful idea not only for children, but adults as well. Executive function (the ability to plan and organize one's ideas to complete a plan), allows for individuals to problem solve, collaborate, and negotiate, not only with people, but materials, like in Rodolfo's case.
One of the elements of the Reggio philosophy is creating an environment that becomes a second teacher and sparks curiosity and wonder from the children. On the science shelf there are many pieces of nature and tools for the children to explore the world around them.
One morning, Amy discovered the triangular prism. She became fascinated with the perception of the objects as she looked through it. Her excitement and joy was felt by several other classmates as they surrounded her waiting for an opportunity to experience the prism too.
This idea about how prisms can affect images has spread to other tools in the science area with the children eagerly trying to make sense of magnifying glasses, binoculars, colored transparent blocks, and mirrors. The children are able to make connections to how these materials and tools are similar, but yet differ with the each purpose set. Their minds have been awakened with the possibilities!
One day at recess, Joel gathered some sticks and created the letter I on the blacktop. He was so thrilled with his idea of making letters out of a new material that he invited me to come see his creation. Not only could I feel his exuberance, but so could Amir and Arryn. They too followed us to see what the commotion was about.
As the boys stood around the letter I, each child brought a different perspetive. For some, it did indeed appear as the letter I. But for others, it resembled the letter H depending on where they were standing. This moment brought the idea of point of view for us to discuss.
As the excitement grew about how one letter could actually be two letters, these three children explored other letters that could be made with this selection of sticks.
On their own, they would challenge themselves to create letters, some only needing two sticks. Matthew joined the fun and helped the other three boys create more letters from the alphabet.
They also realized other letters, such a Z and N, could be created as just one image and represent both letters, depending on one's point of view.
I soon challenged the children by inviting them to try to make the letter M, knowing that it would take more than the three sticks that they were currently using. In no time at all, all four children came to the conclusion that they would need one more stick to complete it. Just as some of the other letters, they realized that the letter M could also be the letter W, depending on how they looked at it.
My hope is to continue this momentum and invite the children to complete the remaining letters of the alphabet to create an alphabet wall of their work.
As I continue my journey in kindergarten, I have realized there is always joy behind the awake mind- just as in the case with these boys!
Someone recently shared with me that scientists have determined that it takes approximately 400 repetitions to create a new synapse in the brain, unless it is done though play, in which case, it takes between 10 and 20 repetitions. Watching the children each day and their awake minds, I can't help but believe this is true.