Monday, 25 November 2013

Invitation to Explore

A few weeks ago, before we entered our 'unschooling' season, the science book that we were loosely following had some experiments involving light that I thought the boys would enjoy, so I ordered a couple of bits of equipment, namely some mirrored tiles and a prism.  As our last vestiges of structure disappeared, the tiles and prism also disappeared into the science box, for future use.

I wasn't bothered by not using the equipment immediately - I knew from experience that it would be used eventually.  Take for example the electronics kit that we have had on the shelves for several months.  The boys found it a couple of weeks ago while mooching for inspiration, and it has been in almost constant use since.  That first day they were fully absorbed all afternoon, going through each of the circuits in the book and then making up their own, and it has been out frequently since - a definite favourite at the moment.  In fact I'm pretty sure they were playing with it the other day while I was browsing sites online and came across a lovely post from one of my favourites, The Imagination Tree.  In the post, the author had set up an area for open-ended maths investigation and learning - similar to the Reggio-inspired 'Invitations to Play' that we have come across before.  To me, these 'invitations' are a bit like strewing, just on steroids: not just leaving out say a book or game to maybe catch the eye of a passing child, but deliberately setting up an area with several interesting items, often on a theme, and making them look inviting for a child to dive in and explore.

Well, I did like the idea of the Maths zone, and am planning one of our own in the near future - but as I read, I remembered the prism and mirrored tiles lurking in a box, and thought they would make a great Invitation to Explore Light.  So this morning that is what I did: I set up the table with the mirrors and prism, and added some magnifying glasses, coloured cellophane sheets, shiny card, torches, a dish of sequins, another dish of coloured see-through counters and a tray of glitter...
The playdough was quickly added as Middle came to explore before I'd finished setting up, and immediately got stuck in with the mirrors, shouting delightedly "I can make four of me" - he wanted some way of holding the mirrors vertically in place on the table, so playdough it was. 

Youngest also found us quickly and got stuck in, particularly enjoying shining the torches and making reflections bounce off different surfaces. 

They played for a long time!  Following books is good, but can feel a bit too much like 'lessons', even with just a small amount of structure.  This way, rather than deciding what I felt the boys would benefit from learning, I had the delight of seeing them come up with their own questions, investigations, discoveries etc.  They had a lovely hands-on exploration time - we'll definitely be doing more "invitations" in future.

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