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Line Dance of the Intellect: Revisiting a Reggio Emilia-Inspired Educational Project for four-year-olds from 2005




In the Reggio Emilia approach to early childhood education, educators design projects using 'progettazione.' This concept refers to a dynamic process of planning and projecting possibilities that engage children in meaningful and collaborative learning experiences. Progettazione is not a rigid plan but a flexible framework that evolves based on the children's interests, discoveries, and ideas, empowering them to take a leading role in their learning journey.


 

To view a comprehensive PowerPoint presentation about this project, please visit:

or use this QR Code:
















 

Unfolding the Project: Progettazione in Action

The 'Line Dance' project from 2005 at a Melbourne-based Early Learning Centre (ELC) is a prime example of progettazione. With their keen understanding of the Reggio Emilia approach, the educators selected the' line' concept as a focus, recognising its potential to enrich learning across various domains. They took the lead in mapping out the project's possibilities, brainstorming questions, and planning activities to explore lines in multiple dimensions and contexts.


Planning the Line Dance Project

As part of the ELC's 10th anniversary celebrations, the educators embarked on a journey to stage a retrospective exhibition. This exhibition, titled 'Mosaic of the Creative Self,' was not just a showcase of the 'Line Dance' project but a powerful testament to the educators' commitment to innovative and engaging learning experiences that have a profound and lasting impact on the community, inspired by international trends such as the Reggio Emilia Philosophy and the Primary Years Program (PYP).


Guiding Questions to Spark the Children's Curiosity:

·       What is a line?

·       Where do you find lines?

·       Where do lines go?

·       How do we make lines?

·       Are lines different from each other?

·       Do lines work together, or do they work on their own?

·       What can lines do?

·       Can lines move?

·       What happens when lines meet?

·       Where do lines begin and end?


The educators foresaw that these guiding questions would evolve from simple two-dimensional drawings to complex three-dimensional constructions and collaborative projects. This progression would eventually encompass the fourth and fifth dimensions of reflection and community engagement, showcasing the project's comprehensive and practical approach to learning.


Initial Conversation and Understanding

The project began with a simple yet profound question: "What is a line?" The children's responses demonstrated their rapid understanding and varied perspectives:


Teacher: What is a line?

Child 1: It is a straight thing.

Child 2: It's straight like your finger.

Child 3: You can do it any way. You can draw it.

Child 4: It goes straight all the way up. (He holds up his finger.)

Child 5: Your neck is a line. It is short and fat.

Child 3: A piece of string makes a line.

Child 2: Your fingernail is a line.

Teacher: That's very interesting, Child 2. Where is the line?

Child 2: (She points at the end of her fingernail and curves her finger around it.) Here is a line.

Teacher: But we have said that lines are straight. Is that line straight?

Child 2: No, but you do get curvy lines!

Child 6: Sometimes, lines are curvy or straight.

Child 7:  A piece of string can be curved into a line.

Child 2: String can curve into a ball of lines.

Child 8: A line can also be a circle.

Child 1: If you untangle a circle – you get a line.

Child 9: You can turn a ribbon into a curled-up flower, then straighten the green things.

Child 5: Our bodies can be lines. (She lies down and stretches her body out, and the other children join her to explain.)

Child 10: You can also make a line standing up.

Child 6: The letter 'I' is a line.


Through this conversation, the children explored several thresholds of understanding. Starting with the idea of a straight line, they elaborated their discussion to include curved lines. They related and compared lines to parts of their bodies and postures. They concluded that the letter ‘I’ is a line, thus entering the realm of line as a vehicle for symbolic meaning.


Relaunching with a New Provocation: Visit to Federation Square

To deepen the children's exploration, the educators planned a visit to Federation Square, an iconic Melbourne landmark known for its eclectic and intricate architecture. Federation Square was chosen for its artistic array of lines and structures, offering a perfect environment for the children to observe and interact with lines in real-world contexts.

During the visit, armed with cameras and drawing paper, the children explored the Ian Potter Gallery, focusing on a curated selection of artworks that emphasised different interpretations and uses of lines:


Indigenous Gallery:

·       Emily Kame Kngwarreye: Yam Seeds

·       Christopher Pease: Wadjati Country, Belief and Disbelief

·       Ngurrara Canvas: Large-scale compilation of artists' drawings.

·       Judy Watson: Drift Net

·       Jon Cattapan: The Melbourne Panels

·       Melinda Harper: Geometric

·       Mick Namarari Tjapaltjarr: Maripi Rockhole

·       Joseph Brown: Sculpture: Continuity of Line

·       Jesus Sot: London Scrubbings: Live Line

This curated selection allowed the children to see lines in various contexts, from natural and cultural representations to geometric and kinetic expressions.


Documenting the Journey: The Hundred Languages

Every conversation, artwork, and story was meticulously documented throughout the project, honouring the Reggio Emilia principle of the "hundred languages of children." These languages include expressive, communicative, symbolic, cognitive, ethical, metaphorical, logical, imaginative, and relational forms. By acknowledging and nurturing these diverse modes of expression, the educators created a rich tapestry of learning experiences.


Art media used Throughout the Project


Drawing: Using pencils, inks, and charcoals.

Painting: Utilising watercolours, fabric paints, and porcelain paints.

Mobiles: Constructed from wire, wood, and polystyrene.

Collage: Created with paper, wool, and masking tape.

Finger Painting and String Painting: Exploring tactile and dynamic line creation.

Spatter and Drip Painting: Techniques to explore fluid lines.

Sculpture: Using materials like clay, wire mesh, and metal.

Woodwork: Utilising pop sticks, dowels, and large planks.

Lazy Susan/Suspended Bottle: To create kinetic line art.

Puppetry of the Line: Exploring narrative through line movement.

Natural and Man-made Lines: Observing and documenting lines found in the environment.

Optics and Optical Illusions: Investigating lines through light and shadow.

Kinetic Art: Exploring movement and balance with mobiles and other constructs.

Mirror Tiles and Mosaic: Reflective and patterned lines.

Light and Shadow: Using overhead projectors and translucent materials.


Timeless Relevance and Learning

The "Line Dance" project remains a testament to the enduring relevance of inquiry-based learning and the Reggio Emilia approach. It exemplifies how a simple concept, explored with depth and imagination, can lead to profound learning experiences. The children's insights and creations from 2005 can inspire educators and highlight the limitless potential of young minds to engage with and understand the world around them.


In retrospect, the project underscores the importance of progettazione and documentation in early childhood education—approaches that value curiosity, creativity, and collaborative learning. Exploring lines, as both a physical and metaphorical concept, remains a rich and infinite way to create meaningful projects with young children. This ongoing relevance underscores the power of thoughtful co-creation with children of educational practices that honour their voices and ideas, leading to lifelong learning and discovery.

To view a comprehensive PowerPoint presentation about this project, please visit:

or use this QR Code:

















 

Lili-Ann Kriegler (B. A Hons, H. Dip. Ed, M.Ed.) is an education consultant and author of ‘Edu-Chameleon’. Lili-Ann’s specialisations are in early childhood education (birth to nine years), leadership and optimising human thinking and cognition.  She runs her consultancy, Kriegler-Education. Find out more at https://kriegler-education.com




 


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