The Paper Pod Project began in January 2015 and came to an end in July 2015. Educators at Thames Tiddlers Nursery had the idea to create a pod of paper materials for the children to investigate and explore. This idea developed from a previous project called The Secrets of Materials. The Secrets of materials is one of our first action research projects that began from joining the South East Network. This network is supported by sightlines initiative who are the steering group for enquiry based learning approaches and Reggio Emilia connections in the UK. The Secrets of Materials began with four settings collecting a selection of intelligent recycled materials to share with each other. One of those settings are with us today Little Barn Owls. The nature of this project allowed for a rich dialogue between children and children, adults and adults and adult and child. We began the Paper Pod Project by setting up the materials in the atelier space and we sat back to observe and document how the children explored and encountered the materials. This is why we find it so important to work in pairs as one educator can be documenting and one can be interacting with the children where necessary.
The children explored the paper through its sculptural properties. The children ripped, cut, stacked and combined various types of paper. These exploratory sessions lead to Chloe using the paper as a tool to illustrate her ideas of creating a wedding at the nursery for her friends George and Lucie.
From this point Chloe took an active lead in determining the direction of the project. Chloe was very particular on how she wanted the wedding to evolve such as how the customs and decorations would be created and displayed for the wedding itself. From Chloe marrying Lucie and George Chloe’s and George’s relationship strengthened, enabling the children to feel comfortable to debate and dispute key aspects within their work. I found from working in small groups the ideas discussed and raised by the children were rich in their complexities, supporting thought provoking and interesting conversations in the atelier space.
Whilst continuing to explore the properties of paper in the atelier with Samantha and myself a statement as a question of sorts arose from Chloe. ‘Paper can’t understand us because we’re humans. They haven’t got anything we’ve got like eyes, ears, eyebrows, head, mouth’? This became a particular interest of George and Chloe’s and they debated and re-questioned their initial ideas, with Chloe believing paper could understand us humans and George was sure that it couldn’t. This collaborative spirit shown by the children influenced Samantha and myself in our reflection meetings and highlighted the signification of these discussions for the evolution of the experiences and provocations for the project.
George and Chloe continued to explore various techniques to communicate with the paper. The one that stood out for us was when Chloe made a snowman, which you can see in the image. She told us she was making this snowman so the paper could understand us. This led to visiting some trees locally as the children discussed where paper comes from and Chloe wanted to bring her snowman with her. There was also an element of role-play as they took it in turns to talk to the tree through the newly created snowman almost as a catalyst between the two worlds. The children collaborated well together and although there was this element of role-play, which I believe was a way for them to test out their ideas such as, could the snowman really communicate between the paper and the humans? There was also time for reflective thinking and understanding with the children. For example during one session when the role play was taking place George was using the snowman to talk through to the paper or to Chloe and it wasn’t until the end Chloe become quite and thoughtful whilst looking at the snowman she then says ‘but you cant be talking I haven’t given you a mouth yet’