One day in class we started an Octopus project when we noticed the preschoolers were playing with a plastic octopus toy and play dough. Initially, we used images of an Octopus projected onto a wall to inspire writing, drawing, and counting, however the exploration didn’t stop there. We extended the project again by incorporating clay and loose parts to create representations of the Octopus, and soon thereafter we got the real thing! That’s right! We went to the grocery store and bought one large Octopus and 5 small Octopuses and placed them on the light table in the hallway for the children to study, touch, inspect, draw, and write down their observations.
Take a look at the photos below and pay special attention to the wonder and amazement in the children’s faces. It was an incredible experience for them to see the Octopus in person and have the opportunity to explore this unique creature openly.
Parents are aware that the Reggio approach places a great emphasis on nature and interacting with it… but I’m sure you never thought we’d actually go out and buy Octopuses! This study was a continued lesson on the Octopus that we blogged about earlier this month. Projects like this begin with teachers just observing and talking with the children about different topics. Based on each child’s response, we introduce materials, activities, projects, and opportunities to engage the children with their current knowledge and to have them express that knowledge in multiple ways. We then continue this unique exploration by providing materials (like a real Octopus) that the children may not have otherwise encountered so they can compare, contrast, seek relationships, create, and pursue similarities and differences… all things that exhibit high-level thinking. While learning in general is great, we also believe that learning should be challenging and intrinsically rewarding. You can see in the photos above that throughout this activity, the children practiced drawing and writing the Octopus (and in the earlier blog post, the children used clay and loose parts to create their representation of what an Octopus looks like)!
“The goal is not to pass information along or replicate thinking, but rather to advance thinking.” – Valarie Mercilliott Hewett