Empty Space: giving children room to grow

Child with sandals standing on deck

Last week I left our little town by the sea to attend London’s Nursery World conference. I had the privilege of listening to the Director and Atelierista of Reflections Nursery; a beautiful setting inspired by the Reggio Emilia approach to early education, with no small dash of Danish forest school action.

Their starting premise, that every child is rich in potential, inspires a search for expansiveness; in time, space and imagination. Through photos of sunlit rooms, blank walls and natural resources, Director Martin Pace shared his appreciation for empty space. There are no toys in the setting, yet it’s filled with playful creations made by the children; constructions that facilitate their ideas, with materials that are flexible to their greatest imaginings.

Billowing bed sheet art

Ideas are given space to grow, with projects lasting several terms. Atelierista, Laura Magnavacchi, shared a recent project with two year olds that developed over the course of several terms to share and explore an ongoing story. I was struck by the big life questions that these young children were able to express through their play and creations. The project-based work is an invitation to learn by exploring what excites and interests, with adults that support and challenge in a collaborative way.

With this appreciation of empty space comes a valuable perspective on empty time: not as a vacuum to be filled, but a moment to reflect and shape our thinking. Martin expressed a desire to slow down the process of education, to allow for an emergent curriculum that is led by the child’s own interests.

From the audience there was interest in paying more attention to a child’s natural pace, and agreement on the importance of giving staff the same space and time to reflect and consider their work, to view our role as observant facilitators, nurturing inquisitive minds that are filled with potential.

I would love to visit the nursery, to talk with others about this approach. As a Speech and Language Therapist, I’m interested in the potential opportunities for rich conversation. I often share with parents the value of waiting and giving children quiet attention. This glimpse in to a nursery world was a beautiful reflection of an ideal shared by many of us.

Featured image by clmcghee on Pixabay

1 thought on “Empty Space: giving children room to grow

  1. Thank you so much for your lovely comments, Bryony. We are delighted that you connected with these ideas and values. We are holding a Professional Development Day for visiting educators on 20th May 2017 – we hope you are able to make it. Martin :)

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