The Story of Projecteering...
I am a bit of a word nerd, and sometimes I can't find the word I want... especially as I live in two languages.. and there can be a great word in one language that does not exist in the other...
In Swedish there is a word "projekterande" which refers to working on a project, but encompasses more than that... especially for those that are "projekterande" rather tan just "doing projects"... it is closer to the Italian "progettazione" which is often used in the pedagogical philosophy connected to the Reggio Emilia Approach(TM).
I think of it as educators being like architects of pedagogy - when we are designing the learning spaces and experiences for children we need to consider the context and choose materials that work with that, design the space that is right for the social and play climate, how to make it accessible to everyone, how the learning space can be entered - welcomed, and inclusive, and that there are also windows out to the future and the outside world so tat it does not become insular.
We are not so much designing the content, but creating the space - the walls, the rooms, the connecting spaces, the necessities that allow the children, together with you, to start adding content.
It requires that we not only understand what the children already know, but also what is unknown and would interest them. We need to create the sweet-spot where wonder and curiosity are motivation forces the keep the process going.
The above circles is not a left to right process... it goes in all directions... we play with what we know to understand the unknown... we play with the unknown so that it becomes known, we play with the known to feel safe... etc..
Play becomes the tool children use to process the unknown with the known to create knew knowledge. The further the unknown is from their own body of knowledge the harder it will be to process, this is why it is so important for us, as educators, to get a good understanding of what the children already known and understand so that this knowledge creates the basis of designing the best curriculum for each child and the group as a whole. The curriculum emerges.
This is why it is so important to observe the children's play... to discover what the children know, and also what they are discovering, and what strategies they are using to navigate the known and unknown to build on their knowledge.
This gives us clues in our architect work - our projecteering.
We are not simply finding a topic, project, theme for the children to learn about... but a much more complex construction of mutual learning, discovery and preparation.
Projecteering requires us to understand HOW the children we work with learn, WHAT they already know, and HOW that can support WHAT they want to know... We need to find out WHY they use the learning strategies they have, and WHY they are interested in wanting to know . We need to learn WHICH strategies and skills they need to master to be able to access the knowledge they want, and plan HOW they can learn these skills through activities, practice, play and each other. We need to look at the environment and think WHERE they can learn all of this best... inside, outside, both... HOW much space do they need, WHAT materials, WHEN is the best time to access them and WHICH interactions will have the best impact? Projecteering requires us to understand the complexity of each child and the group and of our own physical and social contexts so that we are creating LISTENING play and learning environments
We are all now... and we need to slow down enough to be aware of our now. But we also need to acknowledge of past has brought us to where we are now... and that we are also in a state of becoming... so our now is made up of ceasing to be and becoming. Rosi Braidotti's thinking is at the root of the diagram I created above... as it is a child, the past is smaller that the future, as for the vast majority of children, there is more future awaiting them than there is their own personal past... but each child will also be impacted by the social past that they are born into... in a way I would have preferred triangles that were not closed - but for now, this image will suffice...
As educators, having an awareness of the child's past, now and possible futures is what guides us in our projecteering. We have an understanding of child development, we have experience of working with children, we have knowledge of theories and we can apply these to the construction of the curriculum. We listen to the children to ensure that it is relevant, and that they are collaborators in designing the content of the rooms we have designed for their play and learning. We step back long enough to be able to fully observe the children, to ensure that our own agenda is not clouding our design vision. Agency is given to the children by educators providing the mental and emotional space for the children to be a genuine part of the process... and not just visitors. We are not creating museums for children to come and look and learn and then leave... projecteering is about designing a community building where all voices are equally valued and impact the direction of current and future projects/learning/play.
I have previously written about "progettazione" together with Debi Kayet-Hartland... you can read it here I will in the coming week be writing about projecteering in connection to Original Learning and also my observations at AnjiPlay kindergartens in China, where there was a big focus by the educators on designing spaces, materials and routines that allowed the children to fully engage in immersive play and learning experiences...