This past August, I had the opportunity to attend a workshop based on loose parts and natural materials, facilitated by an inspiring educator who goes by Right Brained Mom. She provided all the materials and necessary tools to create a treehouse that we were able to bring back to our centre for the children to enjoy. She also had an array of her own homemade loose parts and natural materials on display for us to explore which allowed us to become even more immersed in her world. I thoroughly enjoyed getting to work with the scroll saw, belt sander and wood burner (all three of which I had never touched before in my life). Brandon (Right Brained Mom) instilled confidence in us and encouraged us to try new things and think outside of the box, which allowed our creativity to flow. Each person was given the same set of materials however, we all created our own version of the treehouse that was as unique as we are as educators. It showed us that this can translate into our classrooms as well; if we provided open-ended materials and an environment that allows mistakes to be made and creativity to flourish, we set the children up for authentic experiences and for learning to take place through play.

Upon returning to work the following week, I felt truly inspired and began revamping my classroom, as well as my ideology on pedagogy and how the environment and the materials that you provide can dramatically impact the children and their development. I observed that providing more open-ended materials allowed the children more freedom in their play as they could use their imaginations and use the materials in many different ways.  A pine cone wasn’t just a pine cone anymore; it was a tree, it was broccoli, it was money, it was whatever the children wanted it to be.

It’s been several months since the workshop, and I still find myself wanting to learn more, and am even more aware of how important it is to put thought and consideration into the materials that I provide and the provocations that I set up in my classroom. I have enjoyed seeing how the children have a sense of wonderment and excitement when they are exploring something new and trying to figure out what they’re going to do with it. The best part of all, is that they (and myself as well) are learning that play can happen anywhere and you can learn and make fun out of almost anything!

Erin Stevenson, RECE