The One Hundred Languages of Children

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The One Hundred Languages of Children

© 2016 Madeley Nursery School, UK
© 2016 Madeley Nursery School, UK

“The One Hundred Languages is a metaphor for the extraordinary potentials of children, their knowledge-building and creative processes, the myriad forms with which life is manifested and knowledge is constructed. The hundred languages are understood as having the potential to be transformed and multiplied in the cooperation and interaction between the languages, among the children, and between children and adults.”  

Carlina Rinaldi (2013) Re-Imagining Childhood

I have been thinking about and re-visiting my thoughts about The One Hundred Languages poem and what Loris Malaguzzi meant by it, and how it is interpreted in both the Reggio context and in contexts outside of Reggio Emilia.  For Carlina Rinaldi (2013) in Re-Imagining Childhood she says the one hundred languages are transformable and that they are multiplied in the interaction between the languages, children, and between children and adults.

I am interested in what is meant by the interaction between the languages, and between the protagonists of adults and children and what it produces.   So often this metaphor is only used as the individual ways, or preferences in which children express and construct knowledge as a dancer, or through clay, or by writing, or as a scientist.  I think it is one of many interpretations, on a continuum of meaning-making.  This interpretation supposes that children have access to one hundred, but that they choose only one of the hundred as a way of communicating and learning about the world. The poem suggests that it is school who steals the ninety-nine.

I am wondering about the spaces that exist in-between the languages, as children go from one language to another to another – transforming the thinking.  A group of children from Madeley Nursery School in the UK have this year been wondering about the sounds of things that grow.  The idea was born as they listened to seeds jiggling about in a packet and comparing those to other seed sounds.  The work itself transformed for one group, to become about the relationship between two trees and of their relationship to the children.  They listened closely with intent to the seeds and the trees themselves, as the educators listened too with intent to the ideas and theories of the children.  What may have at first appeared as a whimsical and playful idea about trees in communication linked closely to ideas of fungi and tree roots collaborating as they pass nutrients and more to each other, under the floor of the forest.  This represents one language moving to another, from one of listening physically to the tree, with pipes and tubes, to expressing with voice and gesture.  It is the space in-between that transforms the learning into expression.

© 2016 Madeley Nursery School, UK
© 2016 Madeley Nursery School, UK

Later in the year, as ideas evolved the small group of children came together to gift the tree with a song.  The song was collaborative, negotiated and composed interweaving many cultural and symbolic meanings together with known nursery rhymes.   The song existed as a song to be sung and as a written document, it was transformed into a set of symbolic drawings representing the many elements of the song and was transformed again from 2D to 3D clay compositional signs that were transformed again with colour.  The clay signs were then given to the tree, together with parents as part of a celebratory coming together.

© 2016 Madeley Nursery School, UK
© 2016 Madeley Nursery School, UK

I wonder how these transformations from one language to another helped in the transformation of thinking.  Applying the metaphor of a rhizome Deleuze and Guattari (1987) in A thousand plateaus suggest that thinking is multidirectional, holds no beginning or end, and has many possibilities of pathways (tubers).  Olsson (2009) in Movement and experimentation in young children’s learning suggests that thought is provoked when encountered by something unfamiliar.  In moving between languages we can create contexts of the unexpected, so that thought is in a state of continual movement and evolvement.  The song that was sung became an unexpected set of signs in which new stories emerged about its constituent parts.  The transformation from written sign into clay brought another unexpected encounter as 2D signs were made 3D with new possibilities for change and evolvement into more complex signs and symbols that were gifted and left to remain on the tree itself.  Now, the tree was gifted, it formed a new meaning that contained ideas about reciprocity and symbolism for both children, educators and parents.  Its meaning was neither closed or complete as ideas about its existence and transformation continued to provoke new thoughts in the audience it ‘spoke’ to.

According to Deleuze and Guttari (1987) assemblages are structures, metaphoric in content and form that are created through connections and relationships between interactions, materials and artefacts including the cultural and community context, time and place.  We could call the gifted tree an assemblage of an encounter between tree, children, place, and materials capable of expression and meaning-making (languages).

Finally, Rinalidi (2013) reminds us that, “It is the responsibility of the infant-toddler centre and the preschool to give value and equal dignity to all the verbal and non-verbal languages.”  In this way we must create multiple opportunities for all languages capable of both meaning-making and expression in our work with children.  It leaves us  the challenge not just to recognise the One Hundred Languages but to provoke them too, and thus enable the unexpected encounter that gives rise to the birth of new thinking in the continuum and evolvement of learning.

Reflecting on Words that Describe the Processes of Children’s Learning

“The teachers art is to CONNECT in real time, with the LIVING bodies of the children with the LIVING bodies of KNOWLEDGE.”
Stephen Nachmanovitch(1993) 

Free Play: Power of Improvisation in Life and the Arts

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A page from my visual notebook

 

I have been part of a wonderful learning encounter in Toronto, Canada called #Rhythm2016 with Diane Kashin of Technology Rich Inquiry Based Research.  As part of this experience I have been reflecting on words that are important to me that describe characteristics of children’s learning.  The above quote is never far from me.  It is a quote that reminds me about the relationship between children and their learning and the art of the teacher.

Vitality is a word I am drawn to as a way of describing learning that is alive, fluid, under constant construction and grows in organic and multi-directional directions. It is an energy that must also be present in our teaching.  There are deep patterns of curiosity  and connection to the natural world that go beyond interests in popular culture and schema’s of play.  Relationships to more interrelated and more complex ideas about interconnectedness and interdependencies of nature.  At the centre of their research is a characteristic or drive to find out what it means to be alive in a context of other things that are also alive and full of vitality.

Encounter is a word that for me describes the way in which children experience the world through shared experiences with other children and adults.  If learning is constructed as part of a social group, the encounter serves as either a planned invitation or spontaneous happening or indeed as an offering of an idea that holds a different point of view than your own.  I prefer this over provocation, as it is suggestive of a meeting or coming together of materials, experiences, concepts together with children, ideas and thoughts.

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Felted compositions made as part of a workshop at #Rhythm 2016

 

Playfulness is the word that I try hard to embrace in everything that I do.  It is a characteristic of my own play as an artist with coloured wools and yarns as I felt and create layers of colour representative of my ideas and thoughts in the present time.  Sometimes this playfulness is shared with others, sometimes I am alone in my playfulness.  Working with children, this playfulness is a site of exploration, testing, hypothesising and messing about (David Hawkins) Messing About – Hawkins Centers of Learning

 

 

 

Exchange is about how I consider the foster and generate situations that enable children to exchange ideas with each other so that differing and multiple perspectives can rise up and be ‘encountered’.  It is also a characteristic of teacher/educator reflection on children’s learning  – a process involved with pedagogical documentation that enable teachers/educators to come together to revisit traces of documentation collected (photographs, notes, dialogue, video etc.)  in order to reflect on the strategies of learning of the children and to re-present/re-construct it for further audiences to make further layers of interpretation.

Collaboration for me is the process of working together on a shared idea of the group to realise ideas and thoughts.   It could be a shared question or hypothesis, a shared point of view, a shared representation of thinking in a creative way.  The process of collaboration is linked to the social constructivist idea that children learn socially with and from and each other.  It is the opposite of competition.

Mutual Learning is for me the result of interaction in the process of collaboration.  Again an interdependent process of evolvement in multiple directions rather than progression in linear and hierarchal ways.  Learning that happens as a result of social interaction, in a context of playful encounter, exchange and collaboration.

These words have resonated and reverberated with me this week together with many, many more.  I leave you with this quote that I took from Ontario’s exhibition of Reggio Children’s The Wonder of Learning that for me prompted and reminded me about these words and introduces others.  It feels important to recognise the connectivity of these works that give that vitality to learning.

“Encounters between curiosity, spacial sensitivity and a places ‘invitations’ give form, energy and rhythm to moments.”

The Wonder of Learning Exhibit, Ontario , Reggio Children