The children came in one morning and decided they needed to “make milk.” We first asked the children what they needed to make milk. They began listing a few ingredients and things:
- “A Cow” (this shows that the children know where milk comes from)
We continued the discussion to analyze how the children were thinking. It seemed the ingredients they listed to “make” milk were actually ingredients they thought to combine to make a substance that looked like milk.
We then asked the children where they could find all of these materials.
- “The market”
- “The store”
- “A farm”
We explained to the children that we did not have permission from their parents to go to these places on that specific day, so then we asked them: “Where in the school could we find these ingredients?”
The children instantly said “the kitchen!” (This is a special aspect of our program because the children always have the opportunity to travel and use the resources available to them). So, the children took a trip to the kitchen and asked the cook for powder (flour) and oil. Once the children went back to the classroom they got to work pouring and combining the ingredients. During this experience the children practiced their social skills by using teamwork to make the milk. The children also practiced their math skills when figuring out how much of each ingredient to pour. Combining the ingredients was great practice for their fine motor skills. Additionally, measuring and combining the ingredients promoted the development of their hand-eye coordination.
The children were encouraged to write as we continued on this process so that they understand how the writing process can help document their thoughts as they get older. One of the key takeaways from this experiment is that the children learned that they have the opportunity to take ownership of their learning and test their theories with the resources available to them. Through activities like “making milk,” the children learn to be responsible for their own learning rather than depending on an adult to give them the answers.
A special aspect of the Reggio Emilia philosophy is using available resources to further the learning process. Having access to the kitchen helped further the children’s experience of making milk. In this case, the process was more important than the product. While milk cannot be “made,” it was more important for the children to test their theories and discover answers as they investigated rather than to find out if they were right or wrong.
Reggio Emilia classrooms use self-guided curriculums to empowering the children to take ownership of their learning. Having the children make an impact on what they learn relates to more engagement and interest in the classroom. The children directly experience how their work and effort can make a difference. While collaboration is sought after in the classroom, the children are not relying on others to reach a decision or answer. Using problem-solving techniques, they are able to test theories. In this particular activity, they realized through experimentation and trial-and-error that their original theory of how to make milk was incorrect. Being incorrect sometimes is important because it makes the children less afraid of making future mistakes. And sometimes, the greatest discoveries happen after mistakes!