A Rich Image of the Child
In her book In Dialogue with Reggio (Routledge, 2006), Carlina Rinaldi speaks about the many different images that adults hold for children: Each of us holds deep down an image of the child. This image has many reflections that affect the way the child views her world. If we view children as fragile and incomplete, then we raise children who are dependent and weak; and if we view children as competent and clever, then we help raise children who are self-learners, confident, and expressive.
Inspired by the Reggio Emilia philosophy, our educators at Frog Hollow Children Centre hold a Rich image of child; an image that reflects the child as a person who is a constructor and a co-constructor of knowledge, a producer of culture, values and rights and competent in living and learning.
Our educators listen to the children’s thoughts actively and respectfully, carefully interpreting their theories, rather than treating them as ‘cute’ or merely funny – but understanding that these are real theories worthy of our attention. By taking them seriously, we show them that we value and respect what they have to say and this will, in turn, encourage them to develop more theories and to think creatively.
Our centres are museums of the children’s thoughts and expressions; their creations and their stories are displayed with care and attention for the children, families and educators to view and reflect upon. This practice also shows the children that their creations are of value to important people in their lives.
At Frog Hollow Children Center we take these words of Loris Malaguzzi to heart: “Our image of children no longer considers them as isolated and egocentric, does not only see them as engaged in action with objects, does not emphasize only the cognitive aspects, does not belittle feelings or what is not logical… Instead our image of the child is rich in potential, strong, powerful, competent and, most of all, connected to adults and children” (Malaguzzi 1997: 117, emphasis added)
Everyday Stories: The Competent Child
From the very young age children “have autonomous capacities for constructing their own thoughts, questions and attempts to answer” (L. Malaguzzi). We are fortunate to be able to stand back and listen to the theories children construct, and provide them with opportunities to share their theories with others and to test them.
Our educators and children at the Satellite Toddlers program have been investigating a hypothesis for the past few months: “How do toddlers perceive other’s points of views?”. Toddlerhood is an exciting age when children start to learn about the other’s world. They share their theories with other adults and children and they give each other feedback on their thoughts. As educators, we have been curious of how this sharing of ideas take place and how toddlers understand the very complex issue of perceptions and points of views.
One of the ways the educators chose to explore this concept was the use of the overhead projector and magnatiles. Educators decided the overhead projector provided a romantic metaphor to the idea of “points of views”: as one constructs an idea on the overhead screen, the machine projects its own perception of the idea to the wall and although the presented idea on the wall is the same as the original one, it is a little different – it is perceived a little differently by the projector (“other”)
As the educators introduced the provocation to the toddlers, they watched closely and listened carefully to the theories the toddlers constructed and the ways they shared and tested these theories:
Sheyda (age 2.5) starts exploring the provocation. “I’m making a butterfly” – she shares her vision with the educator.
The beautiful colours on the wall get Jordan’s (age 2.5) attention and he proceeds to touch the large shapes with an “awe”. Sheyda notices Jordan’s love for the beautiful scene: “Look at the colours!” she says excitedly to Jordan.
Scott (age 2.5) tries to make sense of the shapes on the wall. He takes magnatiles and places them directly on the wall and he watches curiously, examining the shapes on the wall and the one he holds in hand. Sheyda notices Scott’s attempt to understand how the shapes ended up on the wall. The educator, quiet until now, sees opportunity for collaboration and asks: “Can you tell him how you did that Sheyda?” Sheyda beams with the opportunity to share her theory; she points to the screen and says: “You put it like this and put it here.” Scott joins Sheyda at the projector for further investigation.
Damian (age 1.5) has been watching the exploration. He proceeds to test his own theories and moves his bottle and then the shapes around the projector screen. He sees a correlation between the movement on the screen and shadows on the wall. He continues to test his theory by periodically moving objects on the screen and checking the wall.