Here is a tiny example:
On our daily walk into our building the children had formed a habit of, after picking grass with "pom poms" at the top (their term), and placing the stems of these pom-poms into holes in the cinder block walls on the way to the bathroom. Now, as any preschool teacher can tell you, if you need to walk in a line with fours, and you want them to go to the bathroom before lunch, you need to keep the line moving. No matter how much we admonished them to stop picking the grasses that were growing from the cracks in the sidewalk or along the brick wall outside the school, they stooped quickly and swiped their prizes. Once we entered the building they fondled the soft ends of these treasures...
They were kind of like this, only more scraggly!
And gradually, over days, they began to place them in the little holes along the cinder block walls leading to the bathroom. I realized that part of listening to children, a core Reggio value, was watching them and validating their interests. So during small group time I took them outside to pick grass! They were ecstatic! It was like watching a game show where a person is given the choice of a TV or a trip to Bermuda! Then we took our grasses inside to create what I called an art installation. Because it was! They loved calling it art. They told all of the other children not to touch their art! The next day we went into the classroom and found holes, which led to conversations and questions about what a hole was. If it was square, was it still a hole? Was the top of an empty butter tub a hole? And what made the holes?
Here are some of their ideas on what made holes in the cinder block:
"Someone could have been picking at the walls.""Maybe a people got sharp thing and stick it in the walls.""Because maybe they want to put a design in the walls, they get like a knife…""It could be there from like electricity wires.""There might be a nail inside and someone was trying to drill it and they kind of got it wrong.""Maybe they put a screw in the wall and then try again to put it in a different place.""Maybe some bad guys came in the school at night and drilled holes in the wall."
This wasn't the conclusion of this line of inquiry, but a tiny sample. I want to demonstrate that something teachers often (not always) see as a nuisance or distraction may be something important to a young child, and a portal to inquiry. If we don't pay attention to their interests, how can we ask them to pay attention to ours?