Young children have a natural desire to collect and study materials. We decided to use this natural desire to begin a project of investigation called The Beautiful Stuff Project. Inspired by educational practices in Reggio Emilia, the purpose was to collaborate together in discovering, collecting and sorting materials.
We invited the Kindergarten children to collect found materials at home and bring them in a concealed bag to school. It was interesting to see excitement and curiosity build as the bags slowly came in to the classroom and we awaited new discoveries. The children began to talk about the properties of materials and what the purposes of different objects were. The oral language used to describe their collections of found materials showed some complex thinking and immediately gave us a sense of the expressive language abilities of the students.
We asked: “What do you notice about the materials in your collection?” “What is one object that is particularly appealing to you and why?” and “How did you collect your materials?”
The next step is to have the children draw their collection of materials and begin to write a list of the objects. Once we have had the opportunity to conference with small groups of students, we will work in larger groups to amalgamate all of the collected materials and begin an investigation into how the materials can be sorted, classified, and organized. This investigation will hopefully lead us to further discoveries and questions about the physical properties of the collected materials and allow children to begin to make connections to the properties of objects and materials in the world around them.
Children Describe Their Beautiful Stuff
“Some things are shiny and some are sparkly. I got the little green plastic sword in Hawaii – it was sticking out of a smoothie. I notice the ball is made out of wood, the ribbon is made from string and my brother, my mom and I made the bead from clay. My favourite object is the clear, plastic crystal.” -Anna
“There’s actually a shark in my collection – it’s just a toy. There are two diamonds. Check this out – it’s round, sparkly and bumpy. It sparkles in the light. I think it’s a medal. I also have a piece of glass – it’s beach glass. I have my dad’s broken watch, too. Me and my mom and dad found these special things all around the house. I think the thing that I have that is my favourite is the round, green, plastic case. I like it because it was from a Squinky from Chelsea’s birthday.” -Connor
“My collection smells good! If you smell one thing at a time, you can smell what it is. I have a lot of nature in my collection like poison berry, a pine cone, a fern and sea glass that I found by the ocean. I have a little Cinderella and Grover. I like the ring a lot and it is so sparkly. When I went on a treasure hunt in San Diego I found it.” -Caitlin