When I first heard the words 'project work' I immediately thought back to late nights with mum sticking pictures onto a large sheet of cardboard and worrying that my handwriting was neat enough to warrant my teachers seal of approval when I gave my morning talk, entitled 'All About Apples' the next day. This was definitely not something I wanted to inflict upon young children and, at first, I dismissed the idea. However, I have since learnt that project work is a keystone of the Reggio approach and, in their context, refers to in-depth investigations usually undertaken in small groups and allowing children to make fuller sense of their world and the things they wonder about. Throughout a project children are encouraged to share their ideas, ask questions of each other and relevant experts, seek out information, collect artifacts and represent their new understandings and ideas in a wide variety of media and symbolic systems or as Loris Malaguzzi puts it - 100 languages. Now this is my kind of project work!
I now try to undertake a number of projects with my kids each term. I am still learning what makes a really good project - whilst some take off and capture the imagination and interests of the children some fall flat and don't go anywhere at all but this is what I really enjoy about teaching - seeing, each day, which direction the children will take their learning and watching them grow in confidence as powerful learners.
Here are some of the projects my children have undertaken that have been particularly successful:
- Creating a city
- An investigation into rubbish (which led to a group of children designing rubbish trucks and taking a trip down to the local dump)
- Building a zoo and making animals to go in it
- Constructing boats and canoes (and learning about how the Maori people travelled to New Zealand while we were at it)
Have you undertaken any projects with your kids lately?
What do you think makes a project successful?