Beautiful stuff preschool project

A couple of years ago I secured a copy of the text (affiliate link) Beautiful Stuff!: Learning with Found MaterialsIt follows the journey of a school inspired by the Reggio Emilia approach, as they collect and explore interesting found objects with their class.  After reading the book, I had always wanted to try something similar - to encourage children to view things in many ways inspiring creativity whilst valuing our precious resources.  

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In Australian early childhood settings we use a national framework - Being, Belonging and Becoming: The Early Years Learning Framework (EYLF), as our guiding curriculum.

There are five Learning Outcomes -



  • EYLF Outcome 1: Children have a strong sense of identity
  • EYLF Outcome 2: Children are connected with and contribute to their world
  • EYLF Outcome 3: Children have a strong sense of wellbeing
  • EYLF Outcome 4: Children are confident and involved learners
  • EYLF Outcome 5: Children are effective communicators
With an invitation to visit the local recycling centre, we wanted to focus on sustainable practices at the preschool I teach at ahead of our excursion.  A 'Beautiful Stuff' project would allow us to engage many of the EYLF outcomes whilst encouraging involvement of preschool families.

To start the project

Letters were sent home to families to explain what we were doing and why.  Some parents took the opportunity to do a clean-up of their own 'stuff' and brought it in to the preschool.  The shells and beach pebbles pictured above came to us this way :)

Following this initial letter, a small paper bag along with the poem from the book 'Beautiful Stuff' was sent home for children to use for their collections.

Sharing

The following week, the children started to bring their bags back to the preschool to share what they'd found with us.

Beautiful stuff preschool project.  Find more information at http://youclevermonkey.com

There was all manner of stuff to look at!  We created opportunities at large group time across the week for the children to share with us what they had collected.  

Beautiful stuff preschool project.  Find more information at http://youclevermonkey.com

They were so proud of their bags of stuff and, excitedly for us as educators, even the most hesitant speakers took their opportunity to share their findings.  They told us what their favourite thing was, where they found their stuff, who helped them.  We had many grandparents involved too which we hadn't expected, many whose sheds are now slightly emptier.

Beautiful stuff preschool project.  Find more information at http://youclevermonkey.com

After sharing their collections at group time, we then sorted the objects.

  • by colour 
  • by type (material/metal/plastic/natural) 
  • by texture (smooth/soft/rough/hard).  

After that we used them for a range of different projects including this colour wheel.  I seen the idea in a few different places before like the one over at Preschool Daze.

Beautiful stuff preschool project.  Find more information at http://youclevermonkey.com

Here's what it looks like so far with some of our found objects added.  In making the colour wheel, many pointed out that we had nowhere for different coloured materials to go like brown, black, white, pink and silver so together we made another wheel to accommodate these items.

Beautiful stuff preschool project.  Find more information at http://youclevermonkey.com

We used more of the materials for our interest table along with some recycled placemats with cork backing - perfect for making on, as an invitation to create.

Beautiful stuff preschool project.  Find more information at http://youclevermonkey.com


Beautiful stuff preschool project.  Find more information at http://youclevermonkey.com

We used some of the same placemats outside for the children as a frame to make on and then they were invited to draw their creation.  This was one of my favourite activities of the project.  Shortly, my own family and I will be doing Lori Pickert's (of Project Based Homeschooling) free Observational Drawing for Families class.  We're just starting our short winter break here so the timing is perfect.


Beautiful stuff preschool project.  Find more information at http://youclevermonkey.com

We also did a variation of this activity another day where children could use some of the found materials to collage and then again draw what they had made.



Beautiful stuff preschool project.  Find more information at http://youclevermonkey.com

We also found some of the objects made beautiful sounds so we decided to turn one of the trees in our outdoor area into a music tree.  The holey shells one family had found were the first addition to go up.


Beautiful stuff preschool project.  Find more information at http://youclevermonkey.com

Another family had given us a box full of timber offcuts as part of the project.

Beautiful stuff preschool project.  Find more information at http://youclevermonkey.com

They were beautiful to build with and prompted lots of discussion about what shapes you could make with them.

Beautiful stuff preschool project.  Find more information at http://youclevermonkey.com

On reflection, the 'Beautiful Stuff' project successfully engaged both the children and their families in their learning.  It helped the children view objects in new and interesting ways and made them value materials that previously might have been discarded.  It created enquiry amongst the staff and students of the preschool and has led to several ongoing projects.  It has also provided us with some free and quite unique resources thanks to the generosity of families involved in our program.

I hope you enjoyed this glimpse of our journey over the past few weeks.  For those of you who work in school settings,  what ways have you engaged families?


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11 comments

  1. Beautiful Stuff was one of the first Reggio-inspired books I read. It really resonated with me and absolutely got me started thinking about and using loose parts in different ways. Such a great book :)

    Lovely post Nichole. And those triangle offcuts are amazing. How wonderful for your class.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. It's a very useful book in that respect isn't it Kate. The level of ownership amongst the children was noticeable. Have you read 'The Story in the Picture'? It's another book you might enjoy.

      Yes, the blocks are great and there were so many - plenty to go around. The big bag of shells was my favourite. We live so far from the coast, shell and beach stones are real treasure ;) The peewee shells make such a lovely sound hanging up in the tree.

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  2. Gorgeous photos and lovely ideas

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  3. ooh those timber triangles are fabulous!! What a great way to collect all kinds of treasures to be used for learning and exploration and what a great way for the kids to really own the project!

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    1. Aren't they just Kate! We had some very interesting items brought in and the kids were so excited to share. It was just lovely!

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  4. I just love your giant colour wheel!

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    1. Thanks Danya :) We've made them before but with the children adding their own found items, there was much greater investment.

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  5. What a wonderful project to inspire the kids and also involve your parents! I just love this and you have inspired me to do something similar, really like the sound of that book! FB sharing and pinning lovely!

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    1. Thanks Jodie :) I'm often inspired by your page so your comment is appreciated. The book is beautifully done - well worth trying to locate a copy.
      Thanks for sharing too :)

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  6. What a gorgeous color wheel! I love that the project encouraged the kids to find the beauty in anything. It was interesting to read about the Australian EYLF, for too, those of us in other countries.

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