Education For Sustainability - Midas touch

Kylie Ridder
Thursday, April 28, 2022

In Western Australia, an organisation that makes waste materials available for reuse is helping early years settings resource for schema play. By pedagogical leader Kylie Ridder, with educator Fernanda Santiago.

The loose parts enable schema play while providing an opportunity to introduce the topic of sustainability
The loose parts enable schema play while providing an opportunity to introduce the topic of sustainability

Have you walked into a room that is ‘buzzing’? Excitement is in the air. You hear laughter, conversation, and the crash and fall of resources being played with. You immediately get caught up in the atmosphere, feel the weight of the world lift off your shoulders and take delight in the curiosity and engagement of young children as they play.

I had this experience recently as I was involved in a SchemaPlay journey with a two- to three-year-old year old room at St Peter and Emmaus, Wanslea Early Learning and Development (WELD) in Western Australia. As a pedagogical leader within the organisation, I had previously presented educators with information about schemas and play, both in a staff meeting and a smaller focus group context. My work at Murdoch University, Western Australia exposed me to SchemaPlay in the UK, and I participated in a trainers workshop at Schemaplay.com. The SchemaPlay journey with St Peter and Emmaus WELD coincided with a membership to REmida, instigated by the wider organisation.

REmida is a Reggio Emilia-inspired organisation which collects clean industrial discards from shops and factories around Perth and makes these materials available to schools, childcare centres, artists and families who become members of the organisation. The name REmida comes from the name ‘King Midas’ in Italian, and reminds us of the Greek mythological tale of Midas, whose touch turned anything to gold. REmida is about finding beauty and value in the unexpected and strives to foster a cultural shift towards the revaluing of waste materials and educate for a more sustainable future. WELD recently joined REmida to facilitate creativity and sustainability in their children’s services.

WITHOUT A FIXED PURPOSE

Educators made several trips to REmida considering the SchemaPlay that could be extended through providing different resources. As they began to understand the children’s operational schemes, they were more purposeful in their visits and what they collected and offered to the children. The resources included a variety of materials – cardboard, metal, plastic, fabrics from a range of sources. These were set up as specific provocations addressing individual and group play schemes and were also available on a loose-parts shelf for unlimited access.

On a table were egg cartons, tubes, connectors, trays, lids and much more. I watched children operating as ‘enclosers’, putting their arms through round circles, I watched children working as ‘connectors’, joining up the tubes. I watched those operating within the ‘containing’ scheme putting objects in and out of the containers provided. The two-year-olds were engaged as they experimented and explored the materials.

Every now and again, Fernanda (the educator) would carefully add new items to the resources on the table. Sometimes it was the same materials but a different size, sometimes it was a different type of recycled material, but each time, the play would evolve. The scheme would remain strong but the play would change as this resource was incorporated and children’s investigations were followed.

I looked over to the floor mat and Fernanda had added a large silver tube to this space. The ‘rotators’ turned around and around with it before making a large circle and hopping inside it. Later the children showing a strong scheme of enclosing tried to enclose their bodies and, when unsuccessful, settled on enclosing their arms.

EACH CHILD’S UNIQUE LEARNING

In the loose-parts area, other ‘enclosers’ were hopping in and out of boxes and putting recycled shoes on and off, enclosing their feet; ‘containers’ were filling boxes with items and taking them back out. Back at the table, a child was engrossed at connecting small tubes to his fingers, later connecting these to other items on the table.

It makes me consider how diverse recycled loose parts are. When educators do not have a fixed purpose for the materials, they are not influencing how children perceive and use them. I was in awe of the children’s creative use of the materials. To hear children giggling and laughing as they engage with their play schemes, I know that the educators have got the SchemaPlay pedagogy in action; observing, affirming and responding to the schemes they observe and extending the investigations they note/hear. To see this level of engagement and pleasure gives me satisfaction that we are catering for their unique learning and development while also creating a more sustainable future.

REmida – committed to sustainable communities

REmida has grown from humble beginnings to become a leader in sustainable reuse of everyday materials.

It all began in 2004, when the teachers and parents of Bold Park Community School collected a thousand containers of waste materials. These materials became a feature in the artistic installation ‘Materials in Dialogue’, which was set up in Forrest Place, in the heart of Perth. This installation inspired the community to rethink waste and discover the endless possibilities of reusable materials.

By 2005, the REmida centre opened at the old Cairne TAFE campus and exhibited the ‘Sculptures of Identity’. This body of work highlighted the many expressions of identity from children in the local community. From here, REmida began to grow and evolve, building relationships with members, volunteers and suppliers.

In 2008, REmida WA was incorporated and relocated to a larger premise, allowing the centre to attract even more enthusiastic members. And in 2020, REmida took the very important step of registering as a charitable organisation dedicated to creating sustainable communities where children can flourish in education-rich environments.

Its many activities include training sessions for early years, primary and secondary teachers. CPD around Reggio practice is an important focus.

Perth has a rapidly growing community who want to embrace sustainable practices; watch this space as REmida is set to lead the way in creative reuse.

Ongoing collaborations: Daniella Giacopelli

‘I met REmida Perth at the beginning of 2021 and I am currently co-operating with the team of work on two different creative projects.

‘I graduated at the Modena and Reggio Emilia university in science and technologies and I started to work in 2009 in the Atelier From Wave to Wave.

‘The Atelier was created from the co-operation between the National Park of Appennino Tosco Emiliano, Reggio Children and the local municipality.

‘Located inside a hydroelectric power station in the middle of beautiful forests, the Atelier offered to people from birth to 99 years old experiences of research about water and energy; art, science, pedagogy were the protagonist to support each visitor in building the process of learning, constantly nourish creative process and using unique competences and qualities.

‘Nowadays I am creating a project where the pedagogy, the art and the nature will be strictly connected in a zero waste farm in the middle of the Tosco Emiliano Appennins.’

MORE INFORMATION

Kylie Ridder is pedagogical leader at WELD and lecturer at Murdoch University in Perth (MEdPsych, BEd (ECE), DipT)

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