During the planning stage, the MacDonald Art House became our muse for creating provocations that would inspire play and wonder while honouring the artistic and cultural integrity of this glorious home and grounds. We researched the Group of Seven and made every effort to evoke connections to the collaborative, innovative style of this visionary group of Canadian artists. This meant choosing purposeful materials and making decisions that would minimize our impact on the environment.
The outdoor space was absolutely stunning – dappled sunlight, charming trees, birds chirping, cicadas singing, a light breeze rustling the leaves and carrying giggles – all working in harmony to bring our senses to life and invite curiosity, wonder, inquiry and discovery. Upon reflection, I see the relationship espoused by Reggio Emilia inspired educators – between the environment and “beautiful stuff”. Creating a space to play, learn, and connect with others is as important as selecting beautiful, purposeful materials for inquiry. When we treat our materials and surroundings with respect, we raise our expectations and enrich our experiences.
The magic of this heritage home and its “tangled garden" expanded our learning environment well beyond what we had planned. Although we began with a focus on emotional connections to colour, reflection, landscape, nature, and storytelling, the day intrigued us further with a fascinating snail inquiry, an exploration of wind and movement, and complex thinking about strings, knots, perspective, solids and liquids… and we hadn’t planned or anticipated any of these. On any given day we might walk past the leaves full of snails, or fail to notice the fleeting patch of afternoon sunlight on the wall. Other times our children will notice them but we rush them along, not taking the time to play, investigate, discover, and stretch our thinking. These everyday wonders blend into our surroundings and tend to go unnoticed. By setting the stage for creative learning our minds were open to sparking curiosity and to noticing more closely.
<< To pause the video loop, click once on the moving images. Video clip and several other images by Laurel Fynes and Helen Chapman
All afternoon we could feel creative energy spilling out through the upper rooms, down the stairs, and into the glorious yard. Each time we popped back into a space, a new creation or iteration awaited us. There was something truly magical about not knowing what we might encounter around the next doorway. In any other setting, the “not knowing” can be anxiety-provoking, but because we had set the stage for a creative learning community grounded in respect, trust, and care, there was a distinct sense of competence and confidence among children and adults alike.
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