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  • Skribentens bildSuzanne Axelsson

The Story of Light

Over the years I keep coming back to light as a tool for play, a tool for learning, a tool to explore and experiment...

In a way light, for me, has become a symbol for learning...

we become enlightened..

We can also use the word illuminate and elucidate in similar ways...

As educators we strive to shed light on new things... experiences, knowledge, perspectives...

This is part of my love for playing with light... it is much deeper than just the play and exploration, the science and the art... it is also the opportunity to view something in a "new light".

The short film below is all abut that... seeing the items in a different way... if the light is shone on it from the front or the side or from behind makes it look different... it allows you to notice new details... and by seeing all of them you can put together you see the greater whole...

There are two kinds of light - the glow that

illumines, and the glare that obscures.

James Grover Thurber

For me this quote is important for us, as educators... we need to be aware that we can overshadow the children's learning by directing too much, through restrictive instruction, by only allowing the light to be shone on certain stories. We have to get to know the learners we are working with to ensure that we understand how much light we need to shine, to provide learning environments that enhance their learning rather than hinder.

Standardised testing, and teaching to get grades, is, for me, more about treating the mind like a vessel to be filled rather than enabling the children to ignite their own learning fires... Once the fire is lit there is light to learn. We, as teachers, need to facilitate learning... this is something I have written about many times, it is essential to "Original Learning"

At times our own light goes out and is rekindled by a spark from another person. Each of us has cause to think with deep gratitude of those who have lighted the flame within us.

Albert Schweitzer

We also need to think about our own lights... we need to be refuelled, we need inspiration to ignite our imaginations and our energy. We also need to remind ourselves of those that do give us that spark - from the smallest to the largest spark... and take the time to acknowledge the role they have on your life... I am grateful to all people that write comments, give feedback to this blog... either here or on my facebook page, instagram or twitter. These interactions ignite my energy, illuminate new perspective for me to reflect on - in fact without light there are no reflections... they allow me to think more deeply, more carefully and to become a better educator and human. This does not have to be compliments... but food for thought... I want to thank all of you that I have met face to face over the last few years in Canada, USA, UK, Palestine, Iceland, Greece, Turkey and China - you have all impacted me and enabled me to evolve. I hope in the coming years I get to meet you again, and also get to travel to new places and meet others... I also like exploring light and shadows with children, for a great variety of reasons, which I will now link to the points I raised in Athens about Original Learning...











Often play and learning involving light and shadow creates an enormous sense of wonder, there is such beauty and magic that awakens curiosity and fuels joy. The children get to interact with materials and peers... and they get to see how the materials interact with each other - solid, transparency, refraction, reflection etc - these interactions connect to maths, art, science, engineering, technology and relationships - this allows the child to learn, to understand and build knowledge through their experiences and reflections on these experiences. The children get to imagine.. what would happen if... create stories that connect to the shadows and lights, become the stories as they role play, make inventions to create new types of shadows, this often requires collaboration with others, physically and cognitively. All of this needs time, time to experience, to repeat and test ideas, to refine ideas, to deepen understanding, to reflect and dialogue together, to play, to learn.

Below are a few images of various light and shadow play and learning...

natural light coming through the window and transparent coloured blocks - these were positioned in a variety of ways to see how they changed

more natural light and coloured cups...

drawing round shadows... a great way for children to discover that natural light is not stationary...

The international Fairy Tea Party has been a great opportunity to explore the magic os play, light and shadows

exploring space with light projections onto several layers of mosquito netting hanging from the ceiling, so that the children could feel like they were in space. The also constructed space station shadows with loose parts

discovering height with shadows... this child was SO surprised when he saw his shadow was so much smaller than mine

designing shapes to make shadows... how do they change depending on the angle of the light source

coloured ice and light exploration

construction with small light sources

playing with light and rainbows...

seeing how light shines through water

using the light table as a surface for small world play

bubble shadows

exploring colour on the light table

telling stories with shadows and plasticine

shadows can also show us how we can see the same thing in different ways

different materials create different shadows, or the light passes through them in different ways

using wire to design shadows

nature and shadows...

exploring UV light... did you know that tonic water glows, but not tap water? (its the quinine)

the simple things like our own shadows... they are different lengths at different times of the day... and different times of the year.

hanging transparent paper on the washing line to explore colour mixing

nature bottles and natural light... I explored these bottles over a whole year with different light sources...

different coloured light from different angles, creates shadows of different colours... also my moving the light source you can make the shadows longer and shorter, bigger and smaller - a great way to further explain the outdoor shadows

using an overhead... suddenly a small spoon can be made huge

jumping and exploring shadows... they also jumped from step ladders, bringing an element of risk... candles and fire produce interesting flickering light and shadows, if this is a risk you feel comfortable exploring (I don't really have photos of this, as I put the camera down in situations where I feel i need to be more observant)

tunnels are great to explore light and dark as well as shadows

Switching the light off and exploring the dark with various light sources... a risky thing for many of the children who are afraid of the dark... but manage to overcome their fear through play

discovering that they can create light art, by looking and reflecting on the photos we have taken

allowing the children to experience their own art, and own experiences in a new way... For me it is about giving the children the time and opportunity to experience a new perspective of life, of their play, of the items they are familiar playing with and using. To not always see everything in the same light but to shed new light onto the situation. Also don't forget the beauty of natural shadows - trees and plants have fantastic complex shadows, then there is water and reflection... oh I could go on... but I won't as this post is already long enough...

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