Wednesday, 11 January 2012

the endless possibilities to be found in natural materials - and why such rich discoveries happen when there are plenty of loose parts and lots of time

“A “loose-parts” toy, as Nicholson defined it, is open-ended; children may use it in many ways and combine it with other loose-parts through imagination and creativity…. Nature, which excites all the senses, remains the richest source of loose parts.”

Last Child in the Woods, Richard Louv.

I work with natural materials as much as possible, they give rise to endless fascination, discoveries and explorations.  They can alert all the senses and connect us to the world around us.  So many aspects of life in the 21st Century mean we are at great risk of losing our connections with the natural world and this is further compounded by the pace at which we are often asked to live our lives - whether we are young children or adults... 

If you take time to stop and look - there are wonders and treasures to be found everywhere around you.  There really is a story underneath every stone...  I love working with children and the endless ways in which they find these stories and how they love to share them.  Adults sometimes rush by things which children will notice and stop to question.

Natural resources can be found in so many places; you can work with them there and then or have the delights of collecting things to use later.  In my work as artist in residence at Dunkirk Primary and Nursery School we use natural materials as much as possible - inside and outside.  Autumn leaves are used to make endless dens and patterns and costumes outside - and then back in school we look at them on the light box, we draw and print with them, we use them with clay, we make mobiles... 

“Natural materials have very high play value and contribute to all major areas of development.  As a resource for play they are entirely open-ended and can be used
in a myriad of different ways.  They allow children to make sense of the world
around them – first through direct contact with its elements and then as play
materials for following their own interests and creative ideas.  What other educational resource does so much, and for so little expense?”
“Playing and Learning Outdoors” by Jan White.

On an exploration of the local area we found acorns galore and the children were bursting with their enthusiasm and delight in the different properties they found within them. 
Acorns with hats, acorns that were smooth or wrinkled, acorns in a rainbow of colours, acorns that had a face on them, acorns that could turn into a space rocket or
a house, acorns with grubs living inside them... 

But if we'd rushed past the place of acorns (or not gone out for a walk at all) we would never have found out so much.  And life is a richer place when you make time to find acorns that look like a catterpillar...

“Any natural place contains an infinite reservoir of information, and therefore the
potential for inexhaustible new discoveries…”
Last Child in the Woods, Richard Louv.

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