I read something yesterday that I've never heard before and I found it fascinating. Vea Vecchi worked for years as an atelierista at one of the Reggio schools in Italy. I was reading a book she recently wrote in which she tells her stories about the Reggio arteliers and the practices that were founded on Magaluzzi's theories of early childhood education.
Vecchi speaks about her concern with the lack of attention that modern teachers pay to aesthetics in their learning environments. I've found that aesthetics is something people seem to either have acquired or not have acquired. It seems impossible to fake it. I've always been concerned with the way things look. I like to look at pretty things and feel a lot of satisfaction when I create them, so this is something that's always interested me.
The Reggio centres are constructed very differently to the centres here. Photos show large, white rooms with big, glass windows and doors, wide tables for producing artwork, and lots of plants and mirrors. They're not the typical children's spaces we're used to but they've been set-up specifically to cater for children's learning and creativity.
Vecchi said that aesthetic awareness is the ability to experience empathy with materials and objects, which results in the ability to arrange them together in seemingly unrelated ways. The interesting thing is, she believes aesthetic awareness not only enables children to create beautiful art, architecture and design, but it also enhances their learning in general.
Vecchi uses an example of children's exploration of leaves. The children will be given leaves to hold. They will examine them with magnifying glasses. They will observe the colours, textures and elements. They will represent their leaves in drawings, paintings and sculpture. The children will now have built intimate relationships with the leaves based on their appreciation of their beauty. This could in turn result in them developing a fascination with the entire plant world.
This is a subject worthy of a lot more thought. In the meantime it wouldn't hurt to create beautiful spaces for children to work in, arrange art materials in visually appealing ways, give children the opportunity to engage with the natural world, and surround them with shades of coloured paint, fabric, lights, shadows, images, photographs and pieces of music. I believe that I model aesthetics and creativity for my children at work, and I'm so proud of the artistic creations that they're developing on their own. There is always more to be done and now I'm inspired to construct more of my environment and learning experiences with this in mind.
Vecchi, V. (2010). Art and creativity in Reggio Emilia: Exploring the role and potential of ateliers in early childhood education.