The BC Early Learning Framework (p.23) states: The capacity to explore and create is vital to nurturing the zest for life that is the basis for learning. Through play, children express their natural curiosity about the world and explore multiple early learning goals simultaneously. Supporting children’s explorative play is perhaps the most important-and the most natural and accessible-means to promote meaningful learning in the early years.
Our exploration of natural materials allows the children to explore the world using their bodies and senses. We have painted and felted rocks; glued small objects found outside to pieces of bark; crushed and ground clay, leaves and chalk using a mortar and pestle and a grinder. This wide range of materials has given the children the flexibility to transform the materials in creative ways. Through their play with real tools their experiences have been meaningful as they expressed their curiosity of the world around them.
We have painted leaves and added them to mobiles which we beaded.
We have ground leaves into fine sprinkles which we glued into beautiful collages. We have experienced the heavy scent of dried cedar boughs as they went through the grinder.
We have practiced our cutting skills as we cut leaves and moss.
By offering materials in interesting and different ways the children's creativity can blossom. The way they consider the materials is challenged; crushed leaves are not trodden on and overlooked but instead are caught as they fall from the grinder and focused upon as they manipulate them with a glue stick. These materials were collected by the children on walks in the forest or found in the yard and playground.
In the lead up to Christmas, we made presents for our families using some of the natural materials. Using air drying clay as a canvas the children selected materials they wanted to use and pressed them into the clay. Each child took their time, suggesting that a lot of thought went into deciding how to arrange the materials. Some of the materials were collected especially for the project while others were a product of our exploration, such as the finely ground leaves.
To extend their interest and to involve their families, an invitation went out, and the response was wonderful:
Our intent is to create a space where they can once again explore natural materials through play.
Unpacking our treasures
“The development of languages and literacies among young children provides them with a strong basis for successful learning throughout their lifetimes. “Literacies is a broad term used to describe the development of the physical, emotional, social, creative, linguistic and intellectual means of communication among young children.” Early Learning Framework (ELF).
Revisiting their materials gave the children many valuable experiences of sharing, rich descriptive language, storytelling and wonderings.
Descriptive words such as : ‘prickly’, ‘hard’, ‘soft’, ‘pointy’, ‘sharp’, ‘dead’, ‘alive’, ‘crunchy’, ‘stinky’, ‘gooey’, were used to describe characteristics of items.
We compared and distinguished the materials: “Green is alive, brown is dead”.
Stories were told: “Under the moss was an egg that Raven stole.”
When sorting their items, some matches were obvious to us while others seemed unrelated. A rolled up piece of bark was tossed into a basket of pine cones with the explanation that it was a rolled up pine cone. – A fine example of a literacy goal of being able to express one’s own point of view.
An invitation to play with the materials was extended to the children.
We were surprised at the speed in which the children dumped scattered and arranged their found materials on the nature world table. The pieces had no meaning to them unless they had found the materials themselves.
It wasn't until they began to play with them that the children began to discover the potential of the materials.
What began to emerge was an interest in animal habitats and dwellings. Sticks, pine cones, shells, rocks were manipulated to form homes for the animals that we had added to the table to evoke their play.
To support and extend their interest we offered clay and salt dough for them to build more sturdy and permanent dens.
The children have painted their homes and were invited to cover them with materials that they have ground, crushed, broken and transformed.
To show the children the possibilities that natural materials offer, we provided them with opportunities to explore and use them creatively:
Our natural materials exploration will continue in next month's blog with a visit to Mayhew.