As I posted previously, the classroom was in need of a complete revamp to fit with the Reggio way. This past week I was finally able to go ahead and purchase the shelving I had my eye on at IKEA in New Haven, CT. New Haven isn’t very far by highway, but it’s certainly a chore to go all the way down there. Since I brought the shelving home on a Thursday night (there was no way I was starting the assembly process at 9:00pm) I was able to start the process Friday morning.
It all started with one set of shelves. One set of shelves became two identical sets of shelves. I built these before the students arrived for the day. Assembly went really quick. I chose these shelves for their bare wood and simplicity of style. The shelves were large enough to hold bigger objects and they were tall enough were I could place things out of reach of the smaller children. They did come with wall anchors which I felt were completely necessary to use as small children can easily pull these shelves over
By the time the children arrived, I was just beginning to open the boxes that contained the new birch cubby shelves. Immediately, I was surrounded by eager little bodies that couldn’t wait to see what the final products would look like. As I removed each piece from the box, including many little bags of hardware, and some awesome paper that had been laid flat between the shelves (we ended up saving ALL of the paper to reuse for art work!) the kids were already asking if they could help.
The first and most revolutionary principle in the Reggio Approach is both that individuals are not, as it were, isolated from the other, and that human sensibility is based on a sharing of minds and hearts in dialogue and interaction. – Jerome S. Bruner
We took out the illustrated instructions and set to work. At first, it was just one child and myself setting pegs and using the little star tool to screw in the shelves.
We were joined by another child who wandered in and inquired what we were doing. He sat down to help without hesitation and the first child offered him the tool and a screw so that he could experience what she had. She provided him instructions on which direction to turn the tool and encouraged him as the turning of the screw got more difficult as he went. There was such a superb dialogue between the two as they worked in unison to hold the pieces together and tighten them so they wouldn’t fall.
We needed to add more wooden pegs to join one of the cubby shelves to the frame so the children counted out the pegs. They consulted the instruction book (thank you IKEA for illustrating your instructions so that the children needed VERY MINIMAL guidance on this project) and placed the pegs in the holes that the picture pointed at. They had a bit of trouble pushing the shelf onto the pegs so they asked for help, which I was happy to provide.
The noise of the palm of my hand (I couldn’t find our rubber mallet) banging the shelf into place brought our 2 oldest students into the classroom to see what the noise was. The other children explained they were building shelves for our new classroom and they asked the older children if they’d like to help. They too where interested in helping build, so they were given a brief tutorial from the others, along with the tool and some screws. The young taught the old something new and the old willingly listened.
After the last screws were in and tightened, I stood up the cubby shelves so they could see their work. They were beyond excited to see what they had created! I glanced over my shoulder at the second box, containing the identical shelf system they had just built. Their eyes lit up as they tore into the box yet again…