Wednesday, January 19, 2011

A Matter of Aesthetics

My blog friends Sherry and Donna at Irresistible Ideas for Play-Based Learning always inspire and sometimes challenge me. I think the idea that has been most intriguing to me has been their emphasis on creating aesthetically pleasing as well as engaging learning activities and centers. Just peruse their blog and you will see all kinds of ideas for setting up activities in fun, attractive ways.

I've been working on that idea, too. However, my set-ups certainly are not like Sherry and Donna's, at least not yet.

Recently I noticed two girls working in the blocks center. Many times my boys dominate that area but this particular day the boys were elsewhere. These girls began to build - and this is what I observed.

As I thought about it, I realized that these girls were concerned as much about aesthetics - how the creation looked - as construction. They carefully chose all the same colors and arranged them in a particular pattern. After this building was toppled, the girls continued to create patterns and designs among their "buildings." (Sorry, no pictures of that.)

This confirmed to me that young children think about how things look. Sure, I can throw a bunch of stuff in a box and set it on the floor - and my kids would have a ball. But thinking about how things are arranged and stimulating the aesthetic portion of their thinking (learning) can be effective as well. Maybe that helps them think about the world and its arrangement. Maybe it helps them grow in visual discrimination. Maybe it's just emotionally satisfying. Whatever drives it, I need to be aware of it and make sure I'm paying attention to it.

Thanks, Sherry and Donna! You are helping me become a more well-rounded teacher.


  1. oh, i love this type of work. what a treasure to find it.

  2. wow- that is really neat. Those are some very detail oriented kids! (looks like something I would have done with blocks as a child :) By the way, Sherry and Donna inspire me as well! I've always viewed the environment as another "teacher", but have never taken it to the level that they have! (still working on it!)

  3. don't you love when you get that stuff on camera? nice post, great reflections. food for thought : ) -stephanie

  4. Awww blush, that's very kind of you Scott. Thank you!
    You now Scott, we kind of view things a bit like ... first impressions stick ... and we reckon you've got a very small window of opportunity to grab a young child's attention to try new things, which is why we started thinking by our mantra "make it irresistible"! It became our aim each morning to engage the children visually in order for them to want to explore further. Sure, it doesn't always work, but it's not too often we failed to created a little curiosity from the greater majority of the children as to what an activity might hold. Our children soon looked forward to coming into kinder each day to discover what we had for them to play with and I think that is what really inspired us to want to make things look more aesthetically pleasing. I guess it's just our way and for us it worked really well!
    Is it a girls thing? ... hmmm don't know!!
    Donna :) :)

  5. I too love Sherry and Donna's inspirational environments. I also find that the books by Deb Curtis and Margie Carter are fantastic for inspiring ideas for aesthetically pleasing learning environments.