Blog: Nurturing Children Together

The Mystery of Materials: A Reggio Workshop

By: Lorna Rankin

Several weeks ago I and four other Allen Creek teachers had the pleasure of attending a delightful workshop, “The Mystery of Materials/ The Magic of Loose Parts,” presented by Brianne Bongiovanni, Creator and Founder of Bambini Creativi, in Kansas City, Missouri, a Reggio inspired preschool.

Ms. Bongiovanni inspired us with a dazzling array of materials to use in our classrooms in the categories of food, paper, nature, metal, graphics, clay, and paint. The organizers of the workshop, members of the Michigan Inspirations community, created beautiful displays of materials for us to see and explore.

But the heart of Ms. Bongiovanni’s message was not simply a listing of materials for the classroom, but stories of how children have used different materials to make their thoughts tangible. This is what people in Reggio schools call 'The Hundred Languages of Children'.

One of Ms. Bongiovanni’s stories was about her time studying the Reggio Emilia approach in Italy.  She had created a beautiful display of materials (a provocation).  One of the teachers asked her why she had created the display, was it only because it was beautiful? The teacher went on to explain to her, every provocation should have a thread leading to the birth of the rainbow.  Besides the fact that Reggio educators like to display materials in rainbow order, I took this to mean the materials and the way we choose to display them in our classrooms should have the possibility to discover something wondrous,  important or meaningful about the world, themselves or each other.