In January 2013, Find & Seek offered a "Winter Light" workshop for a group of families in the Upper Room at Visitation Church in Red Hook, Brooklyn. For two hours in the afternoon, children ages 1-5 and their parents explored materials, built structures, made and played with shadow puppets, and shared stories in a cozy tent lit by a glowball.
The Common Senses exhibition at MoMA was a major inspiration for our Winter Light workshop. This exhibition was curated by MoMA's education department in collaboration with a team of Italian educators from the Reggio Emilia preschools. The exhibition featured an installation of moveable materials, many of which were painted white, juxtaposed on the floor in the area between a projector and the wall. Children moved and changed the objects, from blocks and mirrors to plastic animals, such that the exhibition was constantly reinvented. This set up proved to be engaging for children (and adults) of all ages.
One notable thing about the Common Senses exhibition which we also foster at Find & Seek is the combination of open-ended materials with more specific animal or human-looking dolls/toys. MoMA had an array of plastic animals juxtaposed with the very basic painted-white shapes of the blocks. At our Winter Light event, we introduced 2D shadow puppets--cut-out cardboard shapes on sticks--into the mix of blocks that we set out near our projection. The children responded by play-acting with their puppets against the backdrop of the moving landscape of the projection. It was beautiful.
We are committed to providing experiences for young children that invoke in them a sense of wonder and awe at the beautiful world we live in. Explorations of LIGHT are crucial in our ongoing research and practice. Looking at light in new ways simply . . . turns the lightbulbs on . . . for our kids! The wonder spews forth in beautiful original comments and super creative stories! The eyes go bright! The adventures and ideas multiply! The shadows morph . . . into animals, monsters, robots, trees, anything we could imagine, and more. The simple materials of light and dark, aided by electrical technology (ie: an overhead projector, a video projector, a flashlight, a table light, a slide projector) become a door through which children can enter mysterious and captivating imaginative worlds. The folks in Reggio Emilia know this (see their Ray of Light Atelier), as do folks like Allie Pasquier of Play Lab/Bakers & Astronauts in WA State, Turtlewings in Brussels, Beginnings Nursery School in NYC, and many others . . .
So often it's hard to trace the tracks of our multitude of influences. They run together like streams of water into the river of our experience, research and investigations. At times (like this, when writing), it's helpful to take account of the many incredible kindred spirits the world over who are as we speak, both in 1's and 0's to other professional educators, and to parents, and in real-life conversations with 3 and 4-year-olds, facilitating meaningful play and making. We need their inspiration, to validate our work and to spur us on to Believe. Of all of these many influences, neither of us can discount the wonderful foundations given us by our own parents (see Kristin's in this image above, with her granddaughter). Because Mom and Dad (now Tatty and Papa to my two girls) provided a loving, beautiful childhood for me, I am able to claim that dream not only for my own children, but for the many children we will serve through our Find & Seek programs in Red Hook, Brooklyn.
Our Winter Light event was just a 2 hour glimmer of the hope that lives in our plans for our program. We are so excited to see our steadily growing flame grow and burn bright, bringing beauty, color, light to a neighborhood that has struggled through the decades and that needs more innovative and free arts programming for very young children.