During our outdoor learning/play time, the children have all expressed an interest in interacting with the leaves. In response, we incorporated another provocation into the classroom this week by adding a basket of oak leaves from our outdoor classroom. Bringing the leaves inside allowed the children to take a closer look and engage with nature in a different environment.
In our outdoor classroom, we spend time building a special relationship with nature. Through encounters with various aspects of the natural world, the senses and creativity within the children are excited and the opportunities for play, imagination and learning abound. However, natural encounters indoors, through the use of natural materials, can provide equally valuable learning opportunities while building a welcoming environment that incites exploration.
The children found great fun in dumping and collecting the leaves, carrying them around and crunching them under their feet. One of the children found particular enjoyment in walking around the room with the basket, scattering the leaves along the way. While the dispersing and crunching of the leaves might seem like nothing more than play, such actions can also be viewed as forms of self-expression and creativity.
By using their sense of hearing, the children could observe the difference between the sounds of leaves crunching in the grass versus leaves crunching against a classroom floor. Because we only brought in one basket of leaves, they had to communicate with one another to determine who could carry the basket or how to share the leaves, developing interpersonal skills. Mathematical skills could be employed if the children were to count how many times they scattered the leaves, or if they were to scatter them in certain shapes or patterns.
Ultimately, bringing a little piece of the outside world indoors is a great way to examine parts of nature more closely. By shutting out the multitude of sights, sounds and smells that all coexist outdoors, the children could better hone in on the sights, sounds and smells of the oak leaves that they were so interested in, and this was a great opportunity for children to learn through experiences of touching, moving, listening, and observing, which is a core principle in the Reggio Emilia approach. While this type of targeted interaction was great for building communicative skills and instilling simple scientific concepts, being allowed to make a little mess while having fun was accompanied by a sense of freedom that played a large role in encouraging the children to let their imagination run while quenching their curiosity.