At the end of last term we sent home ‘Treasure Bags’ with our children. A humble brown paper ready to fill with beautiful and interesting bits and bobs. We gave the families some ideas as to what they could put in the bags. The book, ‘Beautiful Stuff – Learning with Found Materials’ by Weisman Topal and Gandihi (1999), was our inspiration for this idea. It is full of great provocations and gives some lovely notions of ways that ‘stuff’ can be utilised to support children’s thinking, creativity and learning. The introduction to this book powerfully states that, “To a young child, the world is full of materials to touch, discover, and explore. To find, collect, sort, and use materials is to embark on a special kind of adventure. For adults, gathering materials means rediscovering the richness and beauty in natural, unexpected, and recyclable objects that are all around us, but not often noticed.”
After the term break we were all excited to see what was going to come back in the bags. The response from our children and their families was immense, filling up our benches and office shelves with many, many bags. The children were excited about opening their treasure bags, bursting at the seams to show their friends and teachers all the wonderful things that they had found for their individual bags.
Usually we would do a big grand opening at a group time, however this wasn’t able to happen for numerous reasons so over the past few weeks we have been opening the bags in small groups. The delight that was shared amongst the children as they got to up-turn their bags and tip out their treasures was just so lovely. They were given time to look at, play with and talk about what they had within their contents. The other children who were observing also had a chance to explore their friend’s treasures. It was all very exciting! There was lots of dialogue and debates around what objects were and where they may have come from.
“Oh, this is mine. Oh, this is so sparkly. I love the pink flowers. I think it is from the shop. It must be treasure.” (Mercia)
“Hey Zair. This mine, mine monies (bottle lids). Don’t touch. I love my green flower. It’s from my bag, my Mummy.” (Nethra)
My Nana is so cleaver isn’t she because she did this treasure. Look I have a boongy thing. It is like a snake.” (Kayla)
“I love all my treasure bag stuff. You know I have heaps of ribbon. And you know that the ribbon can be fun for cats. You could make a ribbon for your kitty. They love chasing ribbon.” (Sam)
“Oh look, this is so beautiful stuff. What are all these? Oh they are beads, I love the beads. This is pretty fabric, I think they will make such beautiful stuff.” (Tamsyn)
“My Mum got this here, I like my beads the best.” (Austin)
“It’s like a surprise egg. I don’t know what this is. I want to play with it though!” (Kalani)
“This is an old cushion – you can have it for some treasure!” (Oliver)
“These are for paper, if you don’t want paper to get wet you put it in here. I got some of this from my Nana and some from my house. This is the biggest treasure bag, mine is the biggest, biggest, biggest one. Everyone else is the littlest, littlest, littlest ones. It’s got stuff really like in it and I think we could make a lot with all the beautiful things. There is heaps you can do with stuff!” (Sienna)
“My favourite is the buttons in my bag. Umm we can do making spider webs with the wire. I don’t know where wire comes from by I know we have some at our house.” (Sadie)
“I like my Nana’s house stuff and my flies I brought. We can use all this paper it for cutting out pictures.” (Toby)
“I brought lots of heavy things, we could make so many things with the things. Maybe we could make presents for everyone!” (Ruby)
“You know my Nan gave me lots of treasure for my bag. There is so many lovely necklace’s. What do you think we can do with these? Maybe they can just make something beautiful for kindergarten. And I have been sorting this pile of ribbons. There are just so many, it’s a very big pile. This stuff would be great for glue gunning or even wrapping the tui’s for our turning five birthdays at kindergarten.” (Nyla)
“This shell is from the sea, I got them with my Mum.” (Willa)
“Look, it’s my magic beans! They are magic for kindy!” (Manaia)
"This is from my Granny's house and my house. I'm thinking I can make fishes and octopus's with these. This is going to be a surprise for you (wrapping some of the treasure in paper). Do you know what it might be?" (Aurelia)
"Sorting my stuff was quick, but I like sort my friends stuff. I don't know what some of it is, it is interesting to pick up and look at." (Amaya)
“Can I open treasure? We can play with the treasure and hammer them.” (Ahmad)
Next the children were asked to sort their treasures into groups. It was really interesting watching how some children group their objects; specifically, thoughtfully and methodically grouping things like lids, metal bits, ribbon, shells, paper, wire, buttons, beads, seed pods and so on.
There is something satisfying and enjoyable about sorting. It seems to be relaxing and filling for both children and adults alike. It is also an activity that supports different learning areas. Gordan (2001) acknowledges that, “Sorting objects or toys according to size or colour helps children develop their intellect. These experiences are not only fun, but are building blocks for later learning. Sorting, matching and classifying are a means to academic learning in math, reading and science.”
After sorting the materials and objects they were then transferred to our low table with containers and frames. This became a space were children were encouraged to use the found and recycled materials to create works of art in the frames. During this process the children used their senses to explore the materials. Looking closely at them, handling them, even smelling and mouthing the objects (though the mouthing of the objects was discouraged). The objects made beautiful pieces of art and the children who engaged in this activity did so with consideration and purpose.
“I’m making his face. What can I use for his eyes and what is this (holding a piece of ribbon)? Oh, I think I need this in my picture, it can go round and round here.” (Pippa L.)
Once a child had finished making a picture in the frame they were then encouraged to sort the objects back into the right containers so that others could come and enjoy the activity after them. This sorting of the materials was once again really enjoyed by the children.
“Children have a natural desire to make sense of their world, to create order in a world that seems largely out of their control. For that reason, sorting activities often attract children. In fact, many children will start sorting things without even being taught.” (peacefulparenting.com)
Other materials have been utilised on our glue gun table, with Madison instigating a revamp of one of our fairy houses. She wanted to use her treasure bags contents to do this and happily let other children join her on the mission.
Some of the children have been very much engaged through out this whole experience, while other children have enjoyed certain aspects of it. Some of the children were eager to share the stories behind the treasures they had brought in while other children were more captivated by the sorting and then creating works of art with all the interesting objects. All in all the process and experience has been very valuable and interactive.
In the book (mentioned above) that inspired this concept they use the found and recycled materials in rich and meaningful ways, using them to explore children’s thinking, represent their ideas and knowledge in very creative and flexible ways. This book is available at kindergarten if any of our families would like to have a look to gain a deeper understanding of the ideas behind the treasure bags.
We are so thankful to have all these wonderful treasure bags and really appreciate that we have some many wonderful families who jumped on board with the idea. All the contents of these bags will eventually go into our kindergarten resources and be enjoyed at many different activities. Open ended and interesting, the way that these objects and materials can be used is exciting and we can’t wait to see how they are utilised to support the children’s thinking and interests. I feel that we are still at the beginning stages of seeing the full potential that these treasures can bring to our children’s in terms of creating lots of joy and learning opportunities. I will finish this blog post with another lovely quote from Weisman Topal and Gandihi’s book about ways to think about stuff.
“A Way of Thinking- We think back to the beginning of this experience and realize that bringing materials into the classroom and discovering their potential for learning involves many of the same process skills used in math and science and interpreting literature. It’s a way of thinking about things. It helps both teachers and children become more aware of how they think. The experiences also refines our aesthetic sensibilities, and gives both adults and children a frame work for learning life skills.” (p. 98)
Till next time,