As a parent of two young daughters who attend a Reggio Early Childhood Center called Amazing Magic Beans in Sunnyside, Queens, I was beyond thrilled to hear about The Wondering of Learning: The Hundred Languages of Children exhibit. In previous years, Reggio exhibits have designated a small interactive area for kids due to space constraints. We lucked out this year with two different discovery-based ateliers in large open spaces where children can play and explore to their hearts' content. We went as a family and the girls had so much fun, we literally had to drag them out of there at closing time!
So what is Reggio Emilia you may be wondering? This approach to early childhood education was developed by Italian teacher Loris Malaguzzi after World War II. The goal is to inspire a new way of learning through color and activity, allowing kids to follow their own paths. Children's ability to engage with the world and express themselves through different mediums is what Reggio is all about.
Our first stop in the exhibition was the Natural Materials Atelier, a rotating display on the seventh floor. The theme during our visit last month: Forest/Woodland. Ocean/Beach is now up through March 29 and will become Plants/Gardening from April 1 until May 15.
My five-year-old loved looking at natural objects under a magnifying glass and then drawing them. Meanwhile, my two-year-old enjoyed painting different patterns onto slate with water, watching them dry and painting some more. Not only were both girls engaged with all the materials, but they were also able to work independently. Other activities included using a projector to create different shapes and projections. I also loved that kids were able to document their reactions and discoveries via index cards strategically placed on the wall.
Our next stop was the Light and Shadow Atelier, a permanent display on the sixth floor. This part of the exhibit is only open on the weekends and is very popular. A backdrop of the city skyline is projected on the wall, allowing kids to see their shadows and ultimately build creations using those silhouettes. Kids are able to manipulate objects of different sizes while watching their handiwork come to life on a huge white sheet.
At one point, my daughters sat by the projector and took turns placing objects on it. They discussed the size and shape of their projections, as they experimented with making the shadows larger and smaller. Once they started playing this game, they stayed in that section for the rest of our time at the exhibit, and most likely would have stayed there forever if we had let them!
The Wonder of Learning Exhibit is located at the Williamsburg Northside Lower School, 299 North 7th Street, entrance on Meeker between North 7th and North 8th Streets. The exhibit in on view through May 15 and is open to the public Saturday and Sunday noon to 6pm. Admission is FREE. One day to not miss—Materials Day on Saturday, April 18 from 10am to 4pm. There will be local artists with different kinds of mediums to work with and musicians with sound making materials. FREE.
Find out about other great exhibits for kids in our Museum Guide.