By Mary Scott Hackman, Early Childhood Programs Coordinator, Providence Childrenâ€™s Museum
At Providence Childrenâ€™s Museum, itâ€™s pretty common to see adults taking photos, holding their phones in the air, capturing their childrenâ€™s experiences. And sometimes, they call their children over to show them what they shot. Photos certainly provide evidence that the child was here, that they enjoyed playing with some things, but what stories do they tell? You might ask your children.
In Discovery Studio, our hands-on art and science exploration space, we use a documentation board to make learning visible â€“ in other words, to tell stories of our visitorsâ€™ experiences. An educator asks the adult for permission to speak to the child. The child may want to talk about what she is doingâ€¦she may not. Nothing is forced. But the educator goes in lightly, asking, â€œCan you tell me about your drawing?â€ or â€œYou chose to paint with the pinecone. How is that different from using a brush?â€ A recent panel showed how thoughtfully children make decisions about what materials they use and how. We donâ€™t know these things just by looking â€“ the conversation is key to our understanding.
Children today are certainly used to being photographed, but what about having a bit of reflection time with you after the experience is over? If you are good at organizing and cataloging the photos you take (unlike the writer of this article!), then you archive the experience for your child. What would happen if you showed your children the photos â€“ would they tell the story in the same way?
In schools using an approach developed and practiced in Reggio Emilia, Italy, teachers take a lot of pictures of the children.Â They also record childrenâ€™s conversations and ask them questions about their work and play, the goal being to understand what excites them and what the possibilities are for curriculum. In the same way, you â€“ as your childâ€™s first teacher â€“ can listen with both your eyes and your ears to childrenâ€™s accounting of their experiences. Remain open to what they say. It may inform you as to what they want to learn more about, why they play the way they do, and what theyâ€™re dreaming about!
The next time you take photos of your kids, take a moment to look back together and see what bubbles up. You may be surprised. Maybe something happened that creates quite a different story than the one you thought was unfolding. This may also be an opportunity for you to understand your children and their experiences in the world more deeply.
Photo album or story book â€“ which do you and your child want to create this summer?
Thereâ€™s so much summer fun at Providence Childrenâ€™s Museum! Get Out! for hands-on activities in the Childrenâ€™s Garden on Tuesday afternoons, climb aboard a different vehicle during Wheels at Work each Wednesday morning, encounter live worms and critters, and much more. Check the calendarÂ for details.