Maryam amd Trish at the Roundhouse, looking at the Encounters Exhibit

Although she's out of the office at the moment, Maryam Naddaf, Director of our Reggio-Inspired Learning Centre, was kind enough to share her thoughts on the Encounters Exhibit, which recently ended.

For more information on the exhibit, you can read our previous post here.

Q: What made you decide to choose title of Encounters for the exhibit? What did you hope for?

A: The Encounters exhibit project was part of our Making Children Visible initiative at Frog Hollow Reggio-Inspired Learning Centre. The initiative aims to bring children and their work out of schools and into public spaces. By doing so, we hope to change the popular attitude towards children and remind adults that children are not unproductive individuals waiting to grow into productive adults – but rather, they are contributing members of our society with capabilities to engage in their communities and the right to be treated as citizens of today.

The idea of the exhibit was to bring children’s learning out to public spaces so that people who are not engaged with children in everyday life can see their work and appreciate their deep thinking. The exhibit wasn’t meant to be for educators or parents or those engaged with children’s work or education; instead, it was meant to engage the general public in everyday spaces. The title “Encounters Exhibit” comes from this intention. Our hope was for the exhibit to create natural and organic encounters between children and adults through sharing children’s ideas, theories and learning processes.

Q: What do you think that the children might feel or think about having their work presented in the community this way?

As members of the society, we all deserve to be taken seriously and to be recognized for our ideas and contributions. I hope – and I do think – that children whose work was presented in the exhibition would feel a sense of pride in their work. I also think all children – even those who did not participate – would perhaps feel proud. You see, I believe children are a marginalized group in our society and in our world. And when a member of a marginalized group sees their group’s work displayed with respect and honour, they feel proud of their whole group and of themselves. I believe that this is the case for all children who saw the exhibit.

In fact, when we were in the process of putting up the pieces up at Roundhouse Community Centre, there were many children who stopped and asked us what we were hanging on the walls. After hearing about the work being displayed, they were quite interested; they would read the pieces and they would talk about it amongst themselves. I also saw children reading the displays at Frog Hollow, sometimes with their families, and I think this interest was accompanied by a sense of joy and pride that children deserve to feel more often in our society.

Q: How do you feel this exhibit benefits children who visit? Adults?

I hope that the exhibit was a window of contact – an encounter – for children and adults to get to know each other more. We live in a demanding society and we are all so busy with our everyday tasks – both adults and children. It is hard to remember sometimes to slow down and get to know the other members of our community. My hope is that the exhibit gave people the opportunity to slow down and learn about each other, to think about the concept of education and childhood, and to consider each other’s contributions to our society. I hope it brought joy and a sense of accomplishment to both children and adults and I hope it was an organic way of learning about children’s capabilities of deep thinking and fantastic theorizing.

Q: How does the Reggio approach shape the body of work that was presented in this exhibit? What are the qualities that newcomers to the approach might find surprising or interesting?

We contacted schools that identified themselves as Reggio-Inspired for this project because we believe that the Reggio Emilia approach offers children and adults possibilities that are rich in process and product. All projects that were presented in the exhibit were inspired by the idea of Emergent Curriculum and they required a huge deal of flexibility and critical thinking for both adults and children at play.

The Reggio approach is not a simple method or recipe. It is complex and requires ongoing learning and reflection. For me, the whole thing starts with acquiring a rich image of the child. Once we truly believe that children are capable beings with the right to be taken seriously, then anything is possible!

Q: What is involved in preparing a documentation?

Documentation is a complex and on-going process. It is beyond pictures and quotes put on the walls. It requires continuous re-visiting and reflection. There is also not one way of doing documentation. One thing I always remind our own educators is that documentation does not need to be beautifully written or put together. It is supposed to be the data of your work and if you have seen data in any other work you would know that it is almost never beautiful or “representative” at first. At times, it can eventually result in a beautiful product – as with the exhibit – but the true “living documentation” has to be part of our everyday life; something we engage with on a daily basis.

Q: Where can people find additional information about the Reggio approach?

There are many resources that can be found on the internet these days. I recommend the book “Hundred Languages of Children” for anyone who is beginning to learn about the Reggio Approach. And I suggest for those who are a few years into their journey to re-read the book as they will get so much more out of it the second time.

We also have resources on our website that are useful for understanding the approach in “real-life” situations. At the Learning Centre, we have made a commitment to make our workshops and trainings practical and tangible. Readers can visit our courses and events page for our workshops and our free roundtables in which we discuss many subjects related to the approach.