Archive for the ‘reggio-inspired’ Category

creating spaces for playful inquiry: January 2016

Posted on: January 24th, 2016 by jnovakowski

Almost 60 teachers came together at Diefenbaker on the evening of January 14th for the second session of our three-part dinner series: Creating Space for Playful Inquiry. This is the second year of this series, with most of the participants having attended this series last spring. This series was inspired by a visit to the Opal School in Portland in January of 2015 by myself, Braunwyn Thompson, Hieu Pham-Fraser and Michelle Hikida.

As teachers came into the Diefenbaker they were presented with invitations to provoke their thinking about light and darkness.


IMG_1995 IMG_1996 IMG_1997 IMG_1998 IMG_1999


IMG_1988 IMG_1987 IMG_1986 IMG_1985


Three teachers from the series shared what they have been playing around with in their learning spaces – Amanda Chura, teacher-librarian at Diefenbaker, April Pikkarainen, primary teacher at Blair and Karen Choo, intermediate teacher at Blair. We were all so inspired by how they have been engaging in inquiry themselves and with their students.

IMG_2005 IMG_2006 IMG_2007

Before and after dinner, teachers chose from six interest groups facilitated by our inquiry mentors. Teachers shared ideas, collaborated, posed questions and discussed their area of interest with like-minded colleagues. During the after dinner session time, teachers considered what their plan was going to be for this term and how they might engage their students in playful inquiry in a particular curriculum area – with materials, ideas or language.

IMG_2008 IMG_2009 IMG_2010 IMG_2011

The discussions were rich, vibrant and inspiring. Many teachers commented that they felt “filled up” and inspired to move forward in new ways with their students. Teachers sharing their learning with each other is so important but I also think the community we are building is equally important in providing a support system for teachers to try  new things, take some risks, develop new pedagogical habits – we are truly better together.

An archive of blog posts about playful inquiry initiatives in our district can be found here:

Playful Inquiry in School District #38


growing our Reggio-Inspired Mathematics inquiry project

Posted on: October 29th, 2015 by jnovakowski

So the final session I presented at the Northwest Math Conference in Whistler was on the Reggio-Inspired Mathematics inquiry project that began in Richmond and has grown to include six Lower Mainland districts, thanks to the support of the BCAMT.

IMG_0846 IMG_0847

Along with our publications, articles and materials, I was happy to share our new blog that was created to archive resources to support educators as they consider teaching and learning mathematics through a Reggio-inspired lens. The blog can be found HERE. There’s a photo album of mathematical provocations, downloadable instructional resources as well as links to archived articles and presentations.

After the session, several teachers from around BC asked how they could be involved. Thanks goodness for an online community and technology that will allow us to connect virtually!


how materials inspire inquiry

Posted on: October 15th, 2015 by jnovakowski 2 Comments

Building on our Creating Spaces for Playful Inquiry series, there will be several professional learning opportunities in our district this year that focus on specific aspects of playful inquiry. On the professional development day on September 25, Marie Thom and I hosted an afternoon at Thompson Elementary focused on how materials inspire inquiry.

A variety of art materials were presented alongside natural materials found in our area to inspire attendees to think about the changing of the seasons, what stories live in fall and to consider a connection to place and the cycles that autumn brings.

IMG_0540 IMG_0541 IMG_0542 IMG_0543 IMG_0544 IMG_0545

Some of the teachers attending mentioned that they had never used charcoal pencils or watercolour pencils themselves and this was part of the intent of the session. We wanted teachers to consider the affordances of different materials and what they each offer so that they can make intentional decisions about which art materials they may provide to students. We emphasized the notion that students need to also learn how to use the materials, take care of them and to consider what materials might be more suitable for different projects. Just like with tech “apps”, we want students eventually to be able to have a repertoire of materials that they can choose from to use to help them think about an idea or to represent their thinking.


By looking closely and observing leaves, nuts, branches and other objects outside or brought into the classroom, inquiry naturally emerges and students wonder aloud, creating an opportunity for teachers to seize the moment and create ways for students to investigate their question, to look even more closely or test their ideas. Working with art materials may uncover new ways of thinking about the object or their questions.

IMG_0551 IMG_0550 IMG_0549 IMG_0548 IMG_0547

If this is an area of interest for you, two professional books we recommend are: The Language of Art by Ann Pelo and In the Spirit of the Studio: Learning from the Atelier of Reggio Emilia by Leila Gandini and Louise Cadwell.


creating spaces for playful inquiry – September 2015

Posted on: October 9th, 2015 by jnovakowski

Last spring we held a very well attended series called Creating Spaces for Playful Inquiry. This series was a result of a visit to the Opal School in Portland by Braunwyn Thompson, Michelle Hikida, Hieu Pham-Fraser and myself in January 2015. We reflected on our experiences and how they connected to what we were already doing in Richmond as well as to the changes in BC’s redesigned curriculum. The group of 50 teachers attending this series wanted to continue the conversation so we have scheduled a three-part series for this school year. We opened the series with an event that welcomed teachers new to this series as well as visiting educators from seven other school districts. With about 120 educators filling the gym at Blair Elementary, it was an inspiring evening thinking about playful inquiry with Susan MacKay and Matt Karlsen from the Opal School.

IMG_0520 IMG_0522


Teachers arrived to find a “buffet” of loose parts, most gathered locally. These materials were going to be used during the evening for educators to engage in playful inquiry themselves, to consider how materials might help them engage in inquiry, represent their thinking or consider metaphors.

The teachers also received a small bag of local natural materials to take back to their classrooms.


When some of our teachers hear “Opal” they immediately think of story workshop, which is one pedagogical structure that Opal educators use to enact playful inquiry in their classrooms. This evening though was focused on playful inquiry more broadly and is very closely aligned with the goals and principles of BC’s redesigned curriculum. Susan and Matt engaged the audience in rich professional thinking and learning beginning with the provocative quote by Carlina Rinaldi:

Screen Shot 2015-10-09 at 11.08.28 AM

Professional learning is not linear and neat but messy and takes time. What are we curious about? What are own own inquiry questions? Just as we want our students to engage in playful inquiry, we need to embrace a stance of inquiry ourselves and see ourselves as teacher-researchers.

Quoting Brene Brown:

“We have to be willing to not know, to figure out – because thats the find of play that brings joy.”

Susan and Matt asked: What new questions are alive within you?

What was emphasized through the evening was a pedagogy of listening – of the importance of listening to children so that we can be responsive and help to develop and sustain their capacities.

I hope that teachers were abel to consider the notion of playful inquiry and deconstruct and unpack what that means for them. What does playful really mean? In talking about “play” I remind parents and educators that play isn’t only about playing with “things” but that we can also play with ideas, concepts, language and story. Susan and Matt reminded the audience that play is not an “activity” but a disposition or a strategy.

How are you nurturing a playful stance in your learning environment?

IMG_0525 IMG_0526

Susan and Matt showed an excerpt from a DVD about a year-long inquiry from their school. The young students were curious about wild animals and spent months thinking about their relationship with wild animals. The clip that Susan and Matt showed revealed just the very final part of the inquiry, when the students visit the neighbouring zoo, wearing animal masks they had created. This short clip seemed likely out of context to me, for the teachers in attendance who did not have a sense of the whole inquiry. Having seen the whole video a few times, once presented by the teacher involved, I was very inspired by the inquiry as a whole and wonder what questions those in attendance had. What more do they want to know? What was the journey that took the students and teachers to this point? Both Marie Thom and I have the DVD “Inquiry into Wild Animals” – please contact us if you would like to borrow it so that you can see the whole story!

More information about the Opal School of the Portland’s Children Museum Centre for Learning can be found HERE.

Opal school’s blog can be found HERE.

IMG_0530 IMG_0529

Because the evening was scheduled on the same night as some of our school’s “meet the teacher” events, we had the session video-taped by media students at Hugh Boyd and we will be hosting some after school sessions for teachers to view and discuss the presentations by Matt and Susan.

Screen Shot 2015-10-09 at 11.08.58 AM


We are looking forward to continuing this conversation through the series and other professional learning events this year.


summer professional reading and opportunities

Posted on: June 24th, 2015 by jnovakowski 2 Comments

Thought I would share some of the professional books I have on my summer reading list and yes, of course I hope to dive in to some fiction as well!


Learning by Choice: 10 Ways Choice and Differentiation Create an Engaged Learning Experience for Every Student by A. J. Juliani

50 Things You Can Do With Google Classroom by Alice Keeler and Libbi Miller – I follow Alice Keeler on twitter and she always has great tips 

Let’s Find Out!: Building Content Knowledge with Young Children by Susan Kempton

Building Proportional Reasoning Across Grades and Math Strands, K-8, by Marian Small – I read anything by fellow Canadian Marian Small, always learn something new

Doing What Scientists Do: Children Learn to Investigate Their World by Ellen Doris

Making Number Talks Matter: Developing Mathematical Practices and Deepening Understanding, Grades 4-10, by Cathy Humphreys and Ruth Parker – Number Talks have taken off in our district and I’m looking forward to reading another perspective on this practice

Intentional Talk: How to Structure and Lead Productive Mathematical Discussions by Elham Kazemi and Allison Hintz – we bought a set of this book for teachers in the district to read over the summer and participate in a slow chat on twitter, using the hashtag #intenttalk

Creative Schools: The Grassroots Revolution That’s Transforming Education by Ken Robinson and Lou Aronica – it’s Sir Ken, enough said

Math is a Verb: Activities and Lessons from Cultures Around the World by Jim Barta, Ron Eglash and Cathy Barkley (NCTM)

Critical Maths for Innovative Societies: The Role of Metacognitive Pedagogies by Zemira Mevarech and Bracha Kramarski (OECD)

Creating Cultures of Thinking: The 8 Forces We Must Master to Truly Transform Our Schools by Ron Ritchart – a group of Richmond educators attended a series with Ron Richart this year and I am looking forward to reading his latest book that continues to focus on thinking.

Another new book that is not in the photograph is Creating Thinking Classrooms, published by the Critical Thinking Consortium here  in BC. I have a long history with TC2 and respect the work of Roland Case immensely. I’m looking forward to making connections to our redesigned curriculum with this book.


There are all sorts of professional learning opportunities over the summer. Check in the External Pro-D Opportunities conference on Richnet for more information. I have listed two that may be of interest below:

As part of the Festival of Forestry, there are two Forestry Tours this summer, one on Vancouver Island and one in the Lower Mainland. More info can be found HERE.

There is a K-3 Institute at the University of Victoria from Augsust 17-19. More information can be found HERE.

And for those of you that are thinking ahead to the Provincial PSA Day in October, you can check out the BCTF site HERE for more information.

Specifically, the BCAMT is hosting the Northwest Mathematics in Whistler – for more information and to register, go HERE.

The BCScTA is having their annual Catalyst conference in Richmond – more information and registration can be found HERE.

Have a restful and adventure-filled summer!


BCAMT Reggio-Inspired Mathematics Cross-District Inquiry Project

Posted on: June 16th, 2015 by jnovakowski

With growing interest in Reggio-inspired practices in BC schools, neighbouring school districts expressed an interest in collaborating with Richmond teachers as they explored mathematics through this lens. A grant proposal was submitted and accepted by the BCAMT. The grant supports cross-district inquiry by providing funds for dinner meetings and materials.

Structures we have used to collaborate and make our professional learning visible include a google doc, a Pinterest board, blogging and the use of twitter, using the hashtag #BCAMTreggio.

We hosted two dinner meetings, one in February at Annieville Elementary in Delta and the second in May at Thompson Elementary in Richmond. During the first meeting, Richmond teachers shared examples from their classrooms and reflections on their learning. Teachers were provided with planning time to consider who they would move this project forward in their districts.

Screen Shot 2015-06-13 at 4.08.29 PM

Screen Shot 2015-06-13 at 4.08.38 PM

Screen Shot 2015-06-13 at 4.08.17 PM

During our second meeting, we created some materials and reflected on our project with teachers from Surrey, Delta and West Vancouver sharing examples and reflections.

Screen Shot 2015-06-13 at 3.44.40 PM Screen Shot 2015-06-13 at 3.44.21 PM Screen Shot 2015-06-13 at 3.44.11 PM Screen Shot 2015-06-13 at 3.43.50 PM

We have been able to share our professional inquiry at the Richmond Elementary Math Focus Day, at the Surrey Teachers Convention and the Vancouver Primary Piazza.

Screen Shot 2015-06-13 at 3.48.33 PM Screen Shot 2015-06-13 at 3.49.19 PM

A group of teachers from Burnaby came together with Angela Meredith (Early Learning and Literacy Consultant for Burnaby), Ron Coleborn (BCAMT President) and I one day after school on Monday to discuss the project and how it would connect to their ongoing inquiry into Reggio-inspired practices. The Burnaby team is interested in looking at mathematical thinking in the Reggio-inspired classroom and how different teachers may take that up and have different entry points into the project.

IMG_9448 IMG_9449 IMG_9455

We have been able to do some cross-district visits as well. I have visited classrooms in Delta and West Vancouver and teachers from Richmond have visited in Delta and Surrey teachers have visited in Richmond classrooms. It is always rich and inspiring professional learning to be in another classroom environment and think about what you see and what that makes you think about in terms of your own practice.

Screen Shot 2015-06-03 at 8.56.42 PM

Two articles about this project have been submitted to the BCAMT journal Vector as another way to share our professional learning with others.

Big themes that we are continuing to look at are:

1) the affordances of materials, particularly loose parts, to support and represent mathematical thinking

2) the design of provocations to inspire mathematical thinking, inquiry and to uncover curriculum 

3) the tension between an emergent, inquiry-based approach and having a required curriculum

4) opportunities for cross-discipline, co-constructed inquiry

5) the conditions needed for the teaching and learning through these practices 

6) the pedagogical content knowledge needed by teachers to teach in this manner

7) assessment tools to support teaching and learning and that support students in showing what they know, can do and understand

With a second grant from the BCAMT, we are looking forward to a second year of collaborating with teachers from a growing number of districts.


playful inquiry dinner series

Posted on: June 14th, 2015 by jnovakowski 1 Comment

This spring we held a two-part dinner series, sharing our stories and experiences inspired by our visit to the Opal School in Portland in January. Braunwyn Thompson, Michelle Hikida, Hieu Pham-Fraser and I facilitated the series which involved us sharing what we noticed at Opal and what we took from our visit and investigated in our context.

The series was called Creating Spaces for Playful Inquiry in the Classroom: Teachers’ stories inspired by Portland’s Opal School and the sessions were held in the Diefenbaker library on April 18 and May 7. Over 50 educators attended the series including K-7 classroom teachers, teacher-librarians, learning resource teachers and administrators.

For the first session we prepared documentation panels of our experience at Opal focusing on learning environments, questions and mathematics. We prepared provocations for the educators to engage with as they came into the space. After each of us shared our stories about playful inquiry, we enjoyed dinner provided by The Healthy Chef and then we broke out into facilitated inquiry groups. Each group was mentored by a Richmond colleague who has visited Opal School. Areas that educators were interested in exploring were – morning meetings, intermediate provocations, including all learners (non-enrolling teachers), provocations in K and early primary, learning environments, inquiry questions with curriculum in mind and outdoor learning spaces.

IMG_8517 IMG_8516 IMG_8515 IMG_8514 IMG_8513


photo 2 copy 2

The educators left the first session with the goal of trying one thing with their students and bringing something back to share for the next session. We provided a small kit of loose parts and some acrylic frames to place questions in.

For the second session, after a short introduction, we broke out into our mentor groups to share what we had tried. All of the groups reported back to to the whole group and all were very inspired the richness of the inquiry experiences and provocations that had been provided. We are still trying to figure out how to compile and collate our ideas so that we can be inspired by each other!


Our provocations for this session focused on cross-curricular big ideas and provocations that Michelle, Braunwyn and I had provided to students.

IMG_8826 IMG_8825 IMG_8824 IMG_8823 IMG_8822 IMG_8821 IMG_8820

For both sessions, a range of resources were shared, many from the Opal School. Opal School publications can be ordered HERE.


We wil be continuing this series during the 2015-2016 school year and are excited to announce that Susan Harris MacKay will be a presenter at the launch of the dinner series on September 24, 2015. Registration will be available through Richnet in early September.

An article by Susan Harris MacKay on the principles of playful inquiry (click to link to pdf)

MacKay principlesofplayfulinquiry


loose parts and mathematics

Posted on: June 14th, 2015 by jnovakowski 1 Comment

Back in January, Michelle Hikida and I introduced the Reggio-inspired patterning kit to her grades 2 & 3 class at Diefenbaker and we considered the affordances of different materials to support mathematical thinking and inspire inquiry. A blog post about this experience can be found HERE.

Later in the term, Michelle approached the concept of fractions in the same way, laying out a variety of materials and asking students to show what they knew about fractions. What happened surprised her and caused some reflection. Instead of representing their understanding of fractions with the loose parts and math materials, they represented the symbolic notation of fractions. With discussion, Michelle realized this is what they knew about fractions, that they didn’t understand the concept but were familiar with the symbolic notation.

For example, students initially represented fractions this way:

photo 3 copy

photo 1 copy 2

This made Michelle think back to the experience when she introduced patterning. Students in grade 2 and 3 have previous school experiences with patterning and have a place to start when demonstrating their understanding. For fractions, although students may have had informal experiences at home, the concept of fractions is not formally introduced until grade 3 in our curriculum. Michelle spent some time working with loose parts and math materials to use an inquiry approach to develop understanding of fractions. By asking questions like “What is a half?” and “How could you show what 3/4 means?” the students were able to develop and represent a conceptual understanding of fractions using loose parts and math materials.

photo 2 copy (2)

photo 4 copy

I visited the class a few weeks later and students had already made big jumps in their conceptual understanding and were able to represent fractions both concretely and pictorially, connecting to the symbolic notation.

IMG_0183 IMG_0182 IMG_0181

Screen Shot 2015-06-13 at 4.07.51 PM

Another example of representing mathematical thinking with loose parts is from the grade 3 class at Quilchena. Although we had also looked at creating representations of what multiplication and division meant, for this class students were given loose parts to represent specific multiplication equations. The following example shows that the student understands that 5×2=10 by showing five groups of 2. If the student had used the loose parts to represent the equation by making a 5 and then a 2 and adding “symbols” made of other materials, it would not show evidence of conceptual understanding, just a representation of the equation.


I think this is where as educators, we need to be keen “noticers” when students are using materials and consider the following questions:

How are student using the materials?

What are the materials offering the students (or not)?

Do some materials have more affordances than others for specific concepts?

Are the materials supporting students’ thinking and understanding?

Are our questions or provocations supporting thinking and understanding?

What do students need in order to use loose parts successfully? What do we need to do as educators?

For me, this is a matter of responsiveness and awareness. To be responsive to what we notice in our students, we need to take time to observe, notice, and be curious about their learning but we also need to be aware and knowledgable about the mathematics that the students are investigating so that we can respond and provoke their thinking.


Vancouver Reggio Consortium Learning Journeys Grant

Posted on: June 13th, 2015 by jnovakowski

This year we have piloted four Reggio-Inspired Mathematics kits of materials that were made possible through a grant from the Vancouver Reggio Consortium Society. We applied for the grant in response to teachers that began a professional inquiry project during 2013-2014 and one of the emergent issues was the need for fresh materials to inspire mathematical provocations. The kits have been very well received and from our work with the materials and through our ongoing professional inquiry we have published a resource.


We were invited to share our district’s project at the VRCS’s Sharing Circle. It was an inspiring event with all the teams of educators who had received grants sharing their projects. All of the projects focused on collaboration – such an essential component to professional learning.

IMG_9010 IMG_9007

It was an honour to hear Susan Fraser speak at the event. She is the author of Authentic Childhood, a very inspiring book. Susan was on the first Canadian delegation to visit Reggio Emilia and the learning journeys grants are her legacy. She proudly declared at the end of the event that we have been inspired by the philosophy of Reggio Emilia and have made it “our own”.

The kits that were made possible from this project have been piloted in sixteen classrooms in our district and our now available for circulation through DRC.

Screen Shot 2015-06-11 at 3.24.28 PM



the mathematical affordances of materials: geoboards two ways

Posted on: June 9th, 2015 by jnovakowski

Being part of a professional inquiry project causes you to be curious, to wonder, to take the stance of teacher-researcher. For two years now, teachers in the Reggio-inspired mathematics inquiry project in our district have been thinking about, observing and investigating different aspects of Reggio-inspired practices. Two of those practices focus on the use of loose parts and other inspiring materials and the role of collaboration and co-construction of knowledge and experiences.

Always on the look out for materials that might inspire mathematical thinking, I was inspired by two images I found on Pinterest. Now, I know Pinterest can be a bit of a black hole and there is lots of not so good stuff posted on Pinterest but I look to Pinterest as an inspiration board and trust myself to weed out the not so good stuff. I had seen variations on geoboards and decided to create some materials to pilot in classrooms.

The first was a giant pegboard geobard. I bought a 4 foot by 2 boot pegboard panel at Rona for $6. I also purchased nuts and bolts to fit in the pegboard holes and bolts long enough to use with elastics. My helpful fifteen year old son screwed in the nuts and bolts on these two large pegboards for me but students could have easily done this as well.

The first board went to Michelle Hikida’s grades 2&3 class at Diefenbaker and it was only half geoboarded. The other half was empty and I gave Michelle a baggie of extra nuts and bolts. She had ideas of looking at line symmetry and congruency in shapes with this format. When I asked her a couple of days after I had dropped it off, she mentioned that the students had been using it to create marble runs. Great idea, but not the mathematical application I had anticipated.

The second full geoboard went to Louesa Byrne’s Kindergarten class at Thompson. As Louesa and I placed it down on a piece of felt on one of the tables, the students couldn’t help but come over and touch it and wonder what it was for. Fyi, the rubber band ball was found at Staples. I purposefully included some glass gems alongside the rubber bands, thinking that the students might use these to measure the area of their shapes or to mark the corners of vertices.


As the students began to investigate the large geoboard, I hung back and observed. The students began to get the feel for the rubber bands and how far they could extend them. I noticed the students made many squares and then added diagonal lines crossing them from corner to corner. Some students used the gems to create patterns along the rubber bands and others enjoyed “bouncing” them on the rubber bands.

Every once and I while I would ask a student what they were creating and a few said “designs” or “nothing, really”…they were exploring the materials. One group of children collaborated together on one side of the board and created their own story world with connected buildings and characters. When I tried to ask them about shapes, they looked at me with a little annoyance. I was imposing my hopes for these materials on the students. Some played along with me and named the shapes they had made or told me how two shapes they made were the same or different but for the most part, the students needed to play and figure out what these new materials could offer them.

IMG_9077 IMG_9089 IMG_9087 IMG_9086   IMG_9103 IMG_9102 IMG_9121

After much time creating different lines and shapes with the rubber bands, one student commented that what he had created made him think of the hands on a clock. He went over to where there were baskets of math materials in the classroom and brought back some numeral tiles to add to his “clock”.


I have to admit that I was a bit disappointed overall and then I had to check those feelings and think about why I was feeling that way. Although we know that students need to explore materials for themselves before “applying” mathematics to them, sometimes we think we can move through that process a little faster and we get caught. Caught in a tension between our own expectations or hopes for the materials and where the students are in figuring out the materials for themselves. The more I read about embodied mathematics the more I realize how important the touching, visualizing, moving, experiencing of creating is to the learning of mathematics.

Over time, Louesa said the students continued to create stories on the board and she noticed some patterning. Via email we went back and forth on some questions we could ask the students to consider using the giant geoboard. Now that they had explored the materials a few times, we thought we would try and forge some math-to-math connections and Louesa posed the question: How do shapes help you think about numbers?


During this visit to the class, and to this table, I noticed students more engaged with the geometrical thinking the board and materials inspired. There was more shape making and comparing happening, although there were still some students creating characters on the board, adding gems for eyes.

So although I see many mathematical possibilities for this giant geoboard – shape making, symmetry, patterning, angles, area, perimeter, graphing, measurement, counting, etc., the students may not see those affordances yet. The board will live with them and be a part of their classroom and with time, I am guessing it will be used for all sorts of mathematics, uncovered by the students.

The other project which I also enlisted some family help for was creating tree cookie geoboards. This time of year, I often see bundles of tree branch trimmings along the curbside in our neighbourhoods and I am also quick to hop out of my car, pick some up and throw them in the back of my car. After drying them out, either in our garage, shed or a low temp oven, they are ready to slice up. I have made lots of tree blocks this way and thought it would be interesting to create geoboards with them. I used grid paper to help line up the nails and also created some circular boards. I borrowed some leftover Rainbow Loom bands from some friends to test them out.


In Louesa’s class we presented the boards with a bowlful of colourful elastics and the students were taken with them. Students began by stretching the elastics and creating random, irregular shapes. They then added layers and layers of elastics on top of each other, sometimes random but sometimes repeating the same shape.


IMG_9101 IMG_9099



Two students began connecting their geoboards together, discussing the different shapes they were creating and the pathways they could use to link the boards together.

IMG_9106 IMG_9114 IMG_9124

A thoughtful teacher visiting from West Vancouver, Misty Paterson, asked me what I thought these little tree cookie geoboards offered that regular plastic geoboards didn’t – what were their particular affordances. After a bit of a pause to think about this, I suggested that both the size and the materials used connected the students to these geoboards in a way that the traditional plastic school geoboard doesn’t. I noticed that the students often picked up the little geoboards and fit them in the palm of their hands. The smaller distances between nails/pegs and the smaller elastic bands are just right for younger hands and allow for the students to examine their shapes by easily holding them up to eye level. And there is just something about the “mini” size of these that the students find appealing. Plastic geoboards are useful and uniform but I also think the recognizable, familiar material of the wood drew students to these geoboards. I could see the students appreciating the texture and smell of the geoboards as well as the uniqueness of each board. I think the idea that they could make something out of a natural material that they might find in their backyards or nearby woods is also inspiring.

We have added a set of six of these tree cookie geoboards to the Reggio-inspired mathematics geometry kit which will be available for three-week loans from the DRC.