Learning from the Reggio Approach -valuing reclaimed and natural materials by Linda Thornton

14th March 2017

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Following on from Linda’s seminar at Childcare Expo London at the beginning of the month, she explains how we can learn from the Reggio Emilia approach…

For historical as well as philosophical reasons, the use of natural and reclaimed materials has always been a feature of the work of the infant-toddler centres and preschools in Reggio Emilia.

Many of the reclaimed resources come from the REMIDA (King Midas) Creative Recycling Centre where the resources- including plastics and packaging of many kinds, fabrics, metal, electric components, string, glass, wire, rubber, yarns, papers and card- are exquisitely displayed in what has been described as a ‘warehouse of wonders’. The materials are arranged to be captivating and stimulating; they are not randomly arranged but are displayed in an orderly and beautiful way.

Reclaimed and natural materials have no predetermined use. They can be used to express and develop ideas, thoughts and feelings. Children will spend long periods of time discovering the potential of such open-ended materials, discovering what they are and what they will do. By offering children a wide range of reclaimed and natural materials early years professionals can encourage them to use their imagination and creativity.

The value we place on reclaimed and natural materials is sometimes demonstrated by the language we use to describe them. In the UK we talk of ‘scrap materials’ and ‘junk’ modelling, both fairly derogatory terms. Perhaps we should take inspiration from the educators in Reggio Emilia who speak of reclaimed resources as ‘intelligent materials’, suggesting higher expectations and greater aspirations. Obtained at very little, or no cost, reclaimed and natural materials are quite simply ‘priceless’.

For further information read ‘Understanding the Reggio Approach’ or ‘Making the Most of Reclaimed and Natural Materials’ by Linda Thornton and Pat Brunton.

Reflections on Learning sells a range of natural materials, glass pebbles, stones and minerals and storage baskets and boxes.

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