How do we find meaning in a child’s exploration? Carlina Rinaldi, a pedagogical adviser to and President of Reggio Children believes listening to be key, not as a pedagogical strategy but as a way of thinking and looking at others.
“To listen is to be open to difference and uncertainty and to give meaning and value to different theories and perspectives. Observe and listen to children because when they ask “why?” they are not simply asking for the answer from you. They are requesting the courage to find a collection of possible answers.” (Carlina Rinaldi)
Let us focus on the meaning in mark making. Art, at its simplest, is a form of communication and means whatever it is intended to mean by the artist. As asserted by artist John Hoyland, “paintings are there to be experienced…they are not to be reasoned with, they are not to be understood, they are to be recognised”. This statement tells us not to look for meaning in the mark making of children, even where specific meaning exists. Our role is to acknowledge and to appreciate the process each child goes through when creating a piece of artwork or making marks.
Paul Klee once said “drawing is like taking a line for a walk” and in our own practice we can use this concept to deepen the learning of the children. We can talk to the child about the marks they are making, including the shape they take, the colours used and the place and way in which the marks are made. We can try to elicit meaning in an indirect way, supporting a child in their own storying.
We should give children the freedom to be curious and not restrict their exploration by asking questions or giving direction. Instead, we should watch, listen and reflect on the process each child takes in their unique learning journey. I use the term “unique” as each child will find their own way to research and their own way to use the tools available to them.
In the words of Loris Malaguzzi, “stand aside for a while and leave room for learning, observe carefully what children do, and then, if you have understood well, perhaps teaching will be different from before.”