Te Anau Conference~Connecting Children to the Atelier of Nature

Posted on August 3, 2016

 REANZ Newsletter 

Winter 2015

2015 has already been filled with many REANZ events. A highlight has been having Elena Giacopini, Loretta Bertani and Jane McCall with us for our seminar in Auckland and our conference in Te Anau. We hope you enjoyed the updates we included on our REANZ Facebook page. 

In this issue we have included reflections on the Conference from Lesley Pohio, Anne Meade and Pam Wilson. Elizabeth Battersby has also written a reflection on the evening where Elena Giacopini shared her wisdom and insight through stories and memories of research projects from Reggio Emilia.

For those of you who were fortunate enough to hear Margo Hobba and Chris Celada in 2013, you will be pleased to know that they are returning to New Zealand in August and will be offering seminars in Kerikeri, Auckland, Palmerston North, Christchurch and Queenstown. Be sure to enrol as soon as registrations are open to avoid disappointment as spaces are limited. 

Connecting Children to the Atelier of Nature... 

I was accompanying my 16 month old grandson on our early morning walk during the recent holiday weekend. He gravitat- ed towards a long line of leaves stretching the length of the path- way and delighted in making loud crunching sounds as he swished his way through the leaves. He often paused along the way, looking closely at the foliage spilling through the fences. A yellow daisy caught his eye andheheldituptome

saying ‘flower’. Later on he picked a piece of lavender and held it to his nose, absorb- ing the lavender fragrance. Through- out his journey Mayer was tuned into what nature had to offer in this ordinary suburban street. This small encounter re- minded me once again of the words shared by Elena at the conference in T e Anau, where she urged us to fully emerge ourselves in the space of nature; to

take time to breathe and listen to the smells, the sounds, the textures and sensa- tions the landscape had to offer. When we walk the landscape with young children they help us to become more attentive and curious and as Ann Pelo says, to “walk with my [our] senses awake” (p. 69).

By Lesley Pohio Chairperson 

A Symphony of Contrasts... 

The conference was a time for us to both learn and to create. I recently saw a comment that when we look at people and things, we are missing from our own picture. However, what Elena, Loretta and the REANZ conference planners did was to make sure that we WERE very much present in the picture we were looking at as the conference process- es unfolded. The con- ference wove together the story and illustra- tions of a year-long investigation focused on a bamboo wood in the garden of a pre-school

in Reggio Emilia and our 'accelerated' small group investigations of some aspect of the beautiful park on the shores of Lake Te Anau. The process of having each small group create or perform for the whole conference some- thing that symbolized a feature of our nature expe- riences in the park over the conference weekend pro- voked us to be creative in different ways to our usual documentation. The group I was in created a "Symphony of Contrasts". It was a sound symphony, with no images. I found the recording, and the sounds in nature during the time when our colleague

captured the 'symphony', spiritually moving. The hour when the conference participants were silently 'being' in that beautiful natural environment was also a gift that we treasured.

Thank you, Reggio Children, REANZ South and REANZ for prepar- ing that gift.

A reflection by Anne Meade Reggio Emilia in Dialogue (REID) 

Stories from Reggio.. 

This wonderful evening lived up to its promise of engaging participants, as Elena Giacopini lucidly shared her wisdom and insight through stories and memories of research projects from Reggio Emilia.

For Elena, working with children is a privilege, full of discovery and, in her words, “never boring”, for it means grappling with the uncertainty of knowledge. Elena contin- ues to learn, and knew she would return home with ques- tions, doubts, wonderings, and interpretations - the essence of Reggio pedagogy.

She stressed that Reggio educators seek constantly to understand how to “do educa- tion”, learning above all from the children who are already on journeys of research that they are able to recount, if we listen to them. Elena com- mented that a pedagogy of

listening compels teachers to be totally dedicated to consid- erable documentation about children’s lives, what they know, how they know what they know, and how they process their knowledge. The absolute respect for children inherent in this approach brings Reggio educators closer to children, gaining their trust as they become aware that their teachers are genuinely interested in their learning. Teachers and children become co- protagonists in children’s learning. Teachers strive to make learning visible through close observation of children, research into their learning, and discussions with parents. Elena illustrated the signifi- cance of documentation in helping adults to understand children’s learning in the stories she shared, explaining that the deep thinking behind a very young child’s graphic representation might not be apparent without pedagogical documentation to make the learning visible. My lasting impression of Elena is of complete devotion to children’s learning; an educa- tor who grasps Malaguzzi’s poignant belief that she shared with us:

It is our obligation to think about the future. The actions that we do not take today are actions not taken for the chil- dren who will be growing tomorrow”.~ Loris Malaguzzi

A reflection by Liz Battersby 

Relationships between materials and place... 

It is sometimes difficult for adults to see something as familiar as nature with different eyes. Children do this so well as we all saw throughout Elena’s and Loretta’s presentations culminating with the Planetary Messages on the closing day. Listening to the group presentations after two sessions at Ivon Wilson Park, I felt the adults had got it. Just as children’s ideas about nature are complex, so are the adults. This was evident in all the presentations and also obvious that the conference participants had begun to look at nature with all their senses through observation, with empathy and through immersion, with cultural knowledge and closeness. They were able and willing to imagine themselves in the object's place and show the relationships between materials and that place. Listening to these presentations was quite an emotional and spiritual experience for me and as one of the organisers, made all the work so worthwhile. 

So, thank you to Elena, Loretta, Claire and all conference participants for your energy and enthusiasm, your willingness to actively involve yourselves and your apprecia- tion of nature in our place.

A reflection by Pam Wilson of REANZ South. 

Lake Southland