Our Pre-Kindergarten students began a project on bridges when a couple of children started playing with the blocks in our classroom.
As the project progressed, the children learned different parts of a bridge and we encouraged them to use a different medium in addition to the building blocks, so they began to use a dry erase board to make their own personal bridges. As the teachers guided and participated, they noticed that one of the older children helped a younger student create a bridge. The younger student was struggling and the slightly older child saw that, recognized it, and helped her finish the components of her bridge.
In this project, we focused on encouraging a child-led activity and did not limit their resources. Both of these characteristics are common with the Reggio Emilia approach. The activity started with children playing with blocks, then the blocks formed bridges, then the children were encouraged to take a 3-dimensional concept and design it onto a 2-dimensional platform (dry erase boards) and during each step we studied and talked about each other’s bridges.
The most rewarding moment was when an older student assisted a younger student. A sense of community is invaluable for children and we stress strong community involvement at Little Wonders. The children regularly witness how adults interact with one another, how adults interact with children, and then they learn how to apply those interactions to their own situations with other children. It allows for the older child to build self-confidence and have a better understanding of information as she re-teaches what she knows. The younger child is more engaged while learning from her friend, and the younger child has an opportunity to learn that people working together can improve her understanding.
Encouraging older children to help younger children is a common practice in the Reggio Emilia approach. Montessori along with many other childhood psychologist and philosophers, such as Dewey, Piaget, and Gardner influenced the educators of Reggio Emilia. For an enlightening article that explains the benefits of older children helping younger child, click here. Even though it’s from a Montessori philosophy, the concept is one that has been adapted by the Reggio Emilia approach.