“A hundred worlds to discover,
A hundred worlds to invent,
A hundred worlds to dream.”
- Loris Malaguzzi, The Hundred Languages of Children
Early years educators and families here in Toronto are being absolutely spoiled this year, as we are currently the host city for The Wonder of Learning Exhibit (presented by Reggio Children and NAREA hosted by the Ontario Reggio Association). The Wonder of Learning Exhibit (WOL) you say? You might be falling into one of these categories at this moment:
“I’ve heard about it but I don’t really know what it is…”
“I’ve never heard of it, what is it?”
“Yes! I have already visited/I can’t wait to visit!”
Regardless of which category you fall into, this post is for you. I have the amazing opportunity this summer to be an Ambassador for the WOL exhibit where I get a chance to be part of this beautiful experience.
A Little History
The WOL Exhibit has been on a very long journey. Since the 1980’s the exhibit, in various forms, (the original exhibit was called The Hundred Languages of Children and was revamped in 2008 and called The Wonder of Learning) has been travelling across Europe and North America to bring the Reggio Emilia approach to learning to thousands of educators and families. Over the next 10 years, the current form of the exhibit, The Wonder of Learning, will be visiting a new North American city every 6 months where an entire new audience can be inspired by the experiences. Having just traveled from Miami, Florida the exhibit is now here in the city of Toronto, Canada from June 23-November 13, 2016.
The exhibit is housed on the concourse level of the Fairmont Royal York Hotel in two separate rooms. When first entering the larger room from the busy hustle and bustle of the concourse level hallway, you are greeted by a brightly lit room, white walls and of course, the panels.
The room is purposefully empty (except for a few plants and benches) so that the work of the children featured in the panels is the main focus. The room has a special calming effect that allows visitors to be completely engaged with the panels. You can almost forget that you are just a few steps from the busy hallways outside. The exhibit is a self-guided tour that is free to be explored in any order. There is no starting point so visitors are free to engage with the panels in any order that interests them.
“Every place has a soul, an identity. Trying to discover that soul and relate to it means also learning to recognise our own soul.”
- James Hillman, L’anima dei luoghi (featured on the WOL panels)
The panels in the exhibit are bursting with life. They feature learning journeys and experiences from children in Reggio Emilia that have been separated into different sections,
- Dialogues with Places
- Dialogues with Materials
- The Enchantment of Writing
- Ray of Light
- Ideas and Projects
- The Pulsating Life
The exhibit is a feast for the senses. With the purposefully empty physical space around the panels, the materials and content has a chance to shine. There are videos that can be watched, real sound bites from children’s investigations of creating and documenting sounds, there are 3D structures to examine, real line drawings from children’s documentation of their thinking, and tactile sensory experiences to be had with different textured materials and lights.
My Experience at the WOL Exhibit
When I attended the training in preparation to be an Ambassador back in June, I had an opportunity to view the panels in the exhibit before it officially opened. This was a really special experience.
While I was reading some of the panels (it felt like I was investigating right along with the children I was reading about) Karyn Callaghan (the president of the Ontario Reggio Association) walked by and smiled as I pushed the buttons to listen to the sound bites.
I commented to her, “It is incredible to see the learning that takes place from something so simple like sounds in a stairwell. This is amazing.”
Karyn nodded and smiled again, saying, “Isn’t it? All we have to do is listen to the children and follow their interests.”
I don’t remember what I said next because I was just so in awe of how the children chose to represent the sounds that they were hearing. I must have said something to the effect of, “I can’t wait for this to be open…” or “I’m so glad that this is here…”
Even though I don’t remember what I said to elicit the following response, it has stuck with me since she said it.
Karyn said, “It is a chance for people to see Reggio Emilia without having to travel to Italy.”
I absolutely adore this statement because I, like many others, will likely never have an opportunity to travel to Reggio Emilia, Italy (a girl can dream though can’t she????) so the fact that this exhibit is here is incredibly important. The exhibit is a sneak peak into the fascinating and inspiring Reggio Emilia approach and I really am so glad that it is here.
Now for the Shameless Plug
Go visit the exhibit!
If you choose to visit the exhibit make sure you plan on coming back because I promise, you will want/need to make at least 2 visits. There is so much information and so many things to see and read (don’t forget about the resource section in the back were there are 10+ books about the exhibit and the Reggio Emilia approach to learning) that you need more than one visit to soak it all in.
For my first visit I just walked around with my eyes bugging out of my head but my second visit I was smarter… and more prepared. There is a no photo policy at the exhibit but you are encouraged to take lots of notes.
For my second visit, I was TECHNICALLY working so I only had a chance to collect a few thoughts. I will delve deeper at a later date so watch for most blog posts! (plug, plug, plug)
You can have a look at some of things that I found to be really inspiring or thought provoking. My lens was the concept that all children are competent, curious, communicators and collaborators. I chose to represent the swirl because it is a common image used in the exhibit and it represents how I was feeling at the time. All the images and ideas were swirling around in my brain… I was feeling very inspired.
If you are interested in learning more about the exhibit, you can find more information on the presenter’s and the host’s websites:
The Official Wonder of Learning Website
North American Reggio Emilia Alliance (NAREA)
Ontario Reggio Association
The exhibit is open Wednesdays and Fridays from 3pm – 7pm and Saturdays and Sundays from 10am – 4pm in the summer months. IT IS FREE FOR ALL WHO ATTEND.
For anyone who has attended the exhibit, what are your initial thoughts? What did you find inspiring or thought provoking? Has the exhibit changed your thinking in anyway about the Reggio Emilia approach?