One day we set up a simple provocation: we provided fabric on the playground. Several children took the fabric and attached it to our playhouse, making a house/castle of some sort. We were pleasantly surprised to see what the “princesses” were making when we peeked in… dinner!
They were all gathered around the table, adding elements to their intricate masterpiece. The children were using sand, rosemary, and flower petals to create a “dinner” for everyone. The children then described how the rosemary made the castle smell good. Many schools try to plant a “sensory garden” so the children can further their knowledge and development with nature using their senses (sight, smell, touch). We were elated to see that the children initiated this sensory experience with the rosemary on their own.
Their interest in rosemary continued to grow, and we decided to continue exploring this herb through baking rosemary bread and using the bread to make Panini’s with a Panini maker.
We started by measuring the ingredients to create the dough. We discussed each ingredient, why it was important to the final product, and the changes that happen to the dough when we 1) leave it alone to rise and 2) place it in the oven.
Watching the dough rise from the yeast and the fact that rosemary is an herb, not a “weed”, particularly fascinated the children. Each child made their own rosemary bread and we introduced brie cheese and prosciutto to them. We discussed different kinds of bread, shapes of bread, different kinds of cheese, and different tastes of cheese. Our goal was to incorporate as many sensory experiences as possible, from tasting the cheese, seeing the different shapes of bread, feeling the dough, and more. This activity is at the core of the Reggio Emilia approach: it allowed children to have some control over the direction of their learning, the children were able to learn through experiences of touching, moving, listening, seeing, and hearing, the children had a relationship with and were allowed to explore material items, and the children were provided with numerous ways and opportunities to express themselves.
This project simply began with us observing and questioning the children’s topic of interest. Based on their responses, we introduced materials, asked questions and provided opportunities to provoke children to further explore rosemary, herbs, baking, and gardening in general. In addition, this project allowed for a unique sensory experience. Sensory play isn’t all about touch… it can involve smelling, seeing, hearing, and tasting too. Sensory play is important because it helps children’s language skills, fine motor skills, is calming and helps children make sense of the world on their own terms.