Thank you to all the families that brought in beets for the class exploration! We used them in a variety of ways throughout the past few weeks.
Using fresh fruit and vegetables in the classroom allows the children to become familiar with all of their characteristics. They become familiar with the names of the fruit/vegetable, they learn how to eat it, how to grow it, as well as concepts that support literacy and mathematics. It’s during this familiarization that picky eaters start expanding their palates and trying different foods.
Usually the first interaction the children have with the food is in its whole form. They are free to pick it up, feel it, talk about it, and explore it his/her own individual way. It is in a sense an open-ended material for the children.
During this exploration, we engage in conversation to discuss:
- Number of leaves, seeds, stripes, spots, etc.
- The spelling of the food
- What parts we eat
- How the food tastes
In the photos, you will see a few shots from different interactions the children had with beets. We created the same color of the beets with red and blue paint. This is a color theory activity that will allow the children to become familiar with primary and secondary colors, as well as tints and shades.
We provided the children with different opportunities to see the beets cut and dissected in different ways. This helps us analyze the parts of the food we eat, the names of the parts (leaf, root, stem, etc.).
At times, the children have certain ideas they want to do with the materials that we will allow to support creativity. For example, the children began to use the stem part of the beet leaf to paint with. It is similar in shape to a paint brush, and they began exploring the types of marks the stem made with the paint.
Although these explorations might become messy at times, it is important for us to support their curiosity and innovation. This supports the creativity they are born with through their early childhood years, and allows for it to continue as they get older. Something as simple as painting with the stem of a beet leaf can support creativity for engineering, mathematics, science, or other careers when they are older.
Our goal is to encourage the natural curiosity of the children and provide them with an environment where they feel safe to explore objects, materials, the world around them, and their imaginations. It’s through unlikely connections (like using a beet stem as a paint brush) and intentional exploration (like adding red and blue paint to make purple, like a beet) that the children learn mathematical, scientific, and language concepts that will help them throughout their education and lives.
“Once teachers have prepared an environment rich in materials and possibilities, they observe and listen to the children in order to know how to proceed with their work. Teachers use the understanding they gain thereby to act as a resource for them. They ask questions and thus discover the children’s ideas, hypotheses, and theories. They see learning not as a linear process but as a spiral progression and consider themselves to be partners in the process of learning. After observing children in action, they compare, discuss, and interpret together with other teachers their observations, recorded in different ways, to leave traces of what has been observed. They use their interpretations and discussions to make choices that they share with the children.” –Lella Gandini
This activity speaks to the core of the Reggio Emilia approach: the children had some control over the direction of their learning, they learned through experiences of touching, moving, listening, observing, etc., and the children developed a relationship with other children during the exploration and with material items in the world.