Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Learning with Light: Exploring with Loose Parts

I have had the pleasure of working with Pam Humphrey for a few years in Full Day Kindergarten. She taught next door to me for a couple of years and I was always inspired by the way she extended children's learning and brought new materials in to explore. Pam is very creative and thrifty! She has so many little treasures that she has stored away at home that she brings into and out of the classroom to spark interests and engage children.

Recently, Pam and I went to a workshop that focused on light tables and playing with light. Pam and I were more excited by our side conversations and I was drawn into listening to some of the simple, yet effective ways that she is exploring light with and alongside her children.

We had great conversations around...what does the learning look like on the light table? what different expectations have you seen being met/uncovered on the light table? How do you find balance between "prescribed" provocations (e.g., tracing letters) and open ended materials that may inspire and bring to the surface many different areas of learning.

Thank you Pam for taking the time to share on my blog - I look forward to sharing more about how things progress on your light journey. In your writing, I personally reflected on how much learning was evident (and truthfully, how many areas of the curriculum are present). I was also able to see that learning with light does not require expensive products made for the light table...in fact many of the items may be sitting in your home right now!

Exploring with Loose/Found Parts:
Shared by: Pamela Humphrey

How can I support my students’ learning at the light table? 
This is the question I have been challenging myself with this year.

I began with an assortment of coloured gems, jewels, and river rocks that I had purchased at a local dollar store, Dollarama.  When I removed these objects, the students continued to ask for the “treasures” so these objects have now become the light table "staples". 

I then added some wooden beads.  These beads were given to me by a coworker who had removed them from a car seat cushion cover.  The students seem to gravitate towards these beads and often use them as body parts.

The next “found” provocation was the coloured water bottles that the students had made as part of an ongoing art inquiry.  The students took the bottles off the window ledge and added them to the light table, which led to the introduction of the coloured sensory timers.

Sorting is a very natural process on the light table and when using found materials.
Here a student is sorting the water bottles, gems and stars by colour.  The stars were found at a local thrift store.

Patterning with gems and recycled marker lids.

Many of the students were using the marker lids as straws so the next provocation was some whole multicoloured transparent straws, and then cut up straws for lacing.  For some reason, the straws were left unexplored. Sometimes we put out materials and wait to see if the children respond to them in the way that we anticipate.

In the background are a collection of transparent cups that were also a material that many children were drawn to. The idea of building on the light table brings in new dimensions of learning.

  The students brought the beaded necklaces from the dramatic play centre (that at the time had been transformed into a castle) and added them to the light table.

Representations with Loose Parts:
A Mickey Mouse

Simply adding one material (shower curtain rings) brought to the surface new learning and representations from the children.

What have I learned so far? 
I have learned that the “found” or loose, inexpensive objects are “treasures” to the children.
I have learned that the students’ interests FUEL light table exploration.
I have learned to look at everyday objects in a “new light”.
I have learned that there are numerous learning opportunities at the light table and this is just the beginning.

Thank you Pam for taking the time to share your explorations. I want to leave this post with a photo that continues to remind me of the beauty of light in our classroom. This student spent well over an hour creating this picture one gem at a time. Each artistic decision had a meaning and purpose. 

It is true that...

“Young children are perfectly capable of concentrated effort over extended periods of time if what they are doing is their idea."
                       (The Play’s the Thing, pg 15)

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