I was so excited to recently receive a copy of the wonderful Rachelle Doorley of Tinkerlab‘s brand new book, Tinkerlab: A Hands-On Guide for Little Inventors. This book is filled with activities that encourage young children to tinker, explore and think creatively, and I love that the hands-on activities are interspersed with nuggets of wonderful wisdom from Rachelle and a range of fellow educators and influencers passionate about young children’s creativity and learning. Here’s a snippet from her interview with Parul Chandra of Bing Nursery School;
How to Set Up a Discovery Area
An Interview with Parul Chandra, teacher, Bing Nursery School, Stanford University
Q: The discovery area of your classroom seems to shift with the seasons, and it’s always filled with inspiring objects. Can you tell us about this area and how you organize it?
A: Our discovery area consists of a low table with plenty of baskets and bins that are thoughtfully filled with seasonal and natural materials that act as provocations. We’ve found that the discovery area is most meaningful when the materials relate to the children’s experiences, so we often display objects that connect to the time of year or include nature-based discoveries made by the children. Seasonal additions could be pine cones, leaves, shells, and different colors of sand. We include tools such as big jars, binoculars, wooden trays with dividers and maps for children to pick up for outdoor explorations. The trays can be numbered or categorized in different ways to encourage further classification and exploration. There are also plenty of interesting papers and notepads for children to use in recording their questions, observations and ideas.
The table is accessible, always available and child-centered. The goals in the space are set by the child, and we see a lot of experimentation, hands-on exploration, and understanding of materials but setting challenges and asking questions.
From Tinkerlab by Rachelle Doorley, © 2014 by Rachelle Doorley (page 186). Reprinted by arrangement with Roost Books, an imprint of Shambhala Publications, Inc., Boston, MA. www.roostbooks.com.
I was so inspired by this particular interview that I have actually moved our art table to sit by our big playroom window so that my girls can look outside and feel inspired by our backyard. The light from the Winter sun in this particular spot is lovely in the morning.
I exchanged the big tub of playdough tools and tray of sparkles for some rocks and wooden rings. These I will change out after a few days, or a week, adding and subtracting natural elements as I watch and see how my girls’ interests are inspired.
More from Rachelle and Chandra, for those who would also like to create a discovery area at home;
Q: What advice do you have for someone who would like to set up a discovery table at home?
- Have a low table with bins or baskets to collect objects and provocations.
- Include tools for inquiry and exploration, such as binoculars, maps, and clipboards with pencils.
- Display, sort and organize seasonal objects.
- Display a quantity of natural objects, such as potatoes or rocks, along with a book about each object.
- Set up an intriguing provocation for children to discover in the morning, For example, if your child shows an interest in tree branches, gather a collection of twigs, sticks, and branches. Add paper to make rubbings.
From Tinkerlab by Rachelle Doorley, © 2014 by Rachelle Doorley (page 187). Reprinted by arrangement with Roost Books, an imprint of Shambhala Publications, Inc., Boston, MA. www.roostbooks.com.
I love the idea of including a divided tray for sorting and classifying so I dug out one that I had packed away and have added it to our table. I have also added a magnifying glass, a simple bucket of pencils and a pair of child friendly scissors, and we always have sketchbooks, notebooks and loose paper on hand.
Just as the location of your discovery space is important, I would also suggest thinking about all of the elements of the space as you never know what will inspire their questions and exploration. We have these recycled, decorated CD’s (shown below) hanging in ours and my girl’s both love the spots of reflected morning light that dance across the walls as the CDs spin.
Your discovery area doesn’t need to be big or fancy – just think about what sorts of objects, especially natural objects, will captivate and interest your child. Keep it simple and uncluttered with a plan to swap things around to keep it interesting and engaging. You can also regularly exchange the creative mediums you include in the space to encourage a range of responses – playdough, clay, felt tipped markers, oil pastels or crayons, watercolour paints or pencils.
Tinkerlab: A Hands-On Guide for Little Inventors includes 55 playful activities and experiments. Divided into four categories – designing, building, concocting and discovering – you’ll find creative activities, science experiments and investigations, construction challenges, sensory explorations and more!
Rachelle has presented each of the activities with simple instructions and suggestions for presenting the materials as an invitation, and long time Childhood 101 readers will know how I love an invitation! I appreciate that most of the activities only require common household items, making it really easy for parents and children to dip in to find and set up an exploration at a moment’s notice. This really is a wonderful resource for facilitating young children’s experiences tinkering, experimenting and creative thinking.
- GIVEAWAY –
Open to residents of Australia, United Kingdom, Canada & the United States
One lucky Childhood 101 reader will win their very own copy of Tinkerlab: A Hands-On Guide for Little Inventors by Rachelle Doorley.
This is a game of skill and entries will be judged based on creativity and originality. To enter, leave a comment on this post in response to this question:
Design, Build, Concoct or Discover? – Tell me about your little tinker’s most recent experiment.
Entries close 5PM AEST, 27th July, 2014.
To purchase your own copy of Tinkerlab (and believe me, even if you win the prize copy, this book will make a marvellous gift), it is now on sale via;
Be sure to check it out.