Monday, 2 April 2018

Engaging the Senses ~ Creative Expression

"The senses, being explorers 
of the world, open the way to knowledge. 
Our apparatus for educating 
the senses offers the child a key to guide 
his explorations of the world..."

Dr. Maria Montessori

Many of the children within our learning space engage in imaginative play in the kitchen area on a daily basis. As they re-enact familiar experiences, roles and construct dramatic play with their peers the children build meaning about everyday life. As an observer of this play, one can gather a multitude of information about the children's thinking. We ponder the following: In what ways do the children communicate their ideas? How do they show their previous experiences? What connections through relationships with each other and materials are formed during this play? 

In response to the children's play they were offered the sensory play proposal in the photo above. To engage their senses dried chocolate mint was placed on the wooden scoops. Each material was carefully and thoughtfully chosen to enrich the children's experience. The children were already experienced with scooping and filling using many of the materials from previous experiences within the learning environment. Offering children these types of materials develops not only fine motor skills but leads to the development of their ability to problem solve, make decisions, and connect to the everyday experiences they may see in the kitchens in their homes. What the children within our learning space had not been offered before was the mortar and pestle. They curiously asked about this tool and eagerly added the mint to the mortar and began to pound with the pestle. It will be a tool that we will definitely include more in our provoking of the children's thinking. 

The aroma of chocolate mint was enticing and filled the air. Their reaction to discovering the smell of mint was one of excitement. They held the bowl of crushed mint up under their noses breathing deeply. Several children gathered at the table and began to share the sampling of mint. Each negotiating their role in the play. One child searched the cookbook for a recipe to follow. Another child pounded the mint. The third child co-ordinated the project choosing from the materials and designing a cake from the recipe they agreed upon. I was in awe of the children's ability to coordinate this play. They easily listened to each other's ideas and gave value to each member's contributions to the play. 

The children designed this cake inspired by the photo and recipe in the cookbook. They communicated their understanding of the formation of cakes through their actions and connected the circular indentations in the tray to the cherries in the photo of the cake. 

Many children engaged with the materials over the following weeks. Their hands feeling the texture of the mint stalks and the mint leaves becoming finer in texture with each exploration of the mortar and pestle. 

After several weeks of engagement with the chocolate mint, the children we offered cocoa playdough. This would be a completely different sensory experience than the dry mint. The dough's aromatic chocolate smell came from substituting some of the flour with hot chocolate mix when making the dough. 

Each child responded to the playdough based on their experience with this creative material. Many initially explored rolling out the dough. Others used the cookie cutters and materials to design cookies. However, I noticed that several children began to sculpt with the dough. This was a new way of working with the dough that I feel is reflective of our work during our ballet inquiry with clay. Below you can view the children's creative explorations with the dough. I ask you to reflect on the photos with the questions from the beginning of the post in mind: 

1. In what ways do the children communicate their ideas? 

2. How do they show their previous experiences? 

3. What connections through relationships with each other and materials are formed during this play? 

What did you see? What did you notice? How will you consider engaging the children's senses in the creative invitations you offer children? 

Wishing you many creative explorations within your own inquiry spaces and wondering places too!