Monday, March 5, 2012



The world around us offers us so much to use to create learning opportunities with children. as my colleague Rachel so wonderfully points out in her article on creativity. So often as adults, we forget how much wonder and discovery exists in simple things.  We need to remind ourselves of all the ways to live like children.  As the founder of the F.A.M.E. Foundation I have the great pleasure of visiting hundreds of classrooms each year and working with thousands of teachers.  One of those classrooms is at an elementary school in the same neighborhood I grew up as a child. Below, you can see how children at this school used their hands, paint and some adult created questions to accomplish many things including:

  • An organic piece of Art.
  • A piece of Art that was made with teamwork.
  • A piece of Art that tells the important story of how similar we are, despite some small differences.


From shells, to rocks, to feathers and more.... using organic materials offers many advantages including:

  • they have shapes all their own that can connect to shapes we use throughout life
  • they connect children to nature
  • they produce curiosity, which in turns produces questions
  • by producing questions, critical thinking is engaged
  • low or even no cost

Below you can see a poster board of shapes made by children using dried bean pods and straw.  It's great to see that the teachers at this school are allowing the time for children to truly understand how to make the shapes themselves.  It's important to remind ourselves that children absorb a lot more and learn a great deal more when the learning they experience includes the journey of trial and error.  As a parent I can attest to the fact that it is so easy to give the answers away, instead of allowing for the time for deeply meaningful connections to be made by the child.


In this same preschool children are supported in their experience of numbers in the following ways:

  • Writing the number
  • Finding something in nature that represents that number
  • Writing the word that represents the number

Again, the journey of learning is embraced and oh what fun the children have!  Fun.... yes, FUN!!!  FUN IS NOT FLUFF as my fellow blogger Melissa points out in her fantastic article on creating rainbows with cars! Fun is simply where it's at, if we are interested in creating life long learners who embrace a life time of learning, playing and sharing.

Let's here it for the numbers 5, 6, and 7!  Below are three examples from 3, 4 and 5 year olds.


Ahhhh.... we all love to document, right?  Well, not all of us and that's alright, but we all know it's important and the same can be said for assessment.  While we live in a world which many times over does it in these areas and many times forgets to document and assess some really important things, we need to find creative ways to document and assess.  Using organic materials as you've seen in this article is one way to find out what the children know in a play-based way!

Yes, documentation and assessment can be fun and you already know how I feel about that :)!  Below is a document I really love, especially the page on the left.  Enjoy and share!


Below is a fantastic photo of the many kinds of materials which can be used, from wire, to cork, and much more.  It is so helpful to create stimulating environments to help us find the interests of children.  This also allows for multiple ways for children to represent what they are learning.  Again, we need to remember to:


I used to think of the word "Engineer" as a boring word, because I didn't see myself as an Engineer, but I was wrong and I admit it.  Over the past couple of years I have been finding organic and artistic ways to connect learning to engineering skills with preschool and kinder children.  This is what I have observed.

  • Engineers think!
  • Engineers create!
  • Engineers build!
  • Engineers can be inventive!
  • Engineers can be original!  
  • Engineering is empowering!

I AM an Engineer!  I'm an Engineer of people and of music and I bet you're an Engineer of something as well.

Below is a "in the moment" photo of a young 4 year old exploring, building, creating....yes, this child is Engineering! 

Let's remind ourselves to not let our own preferences color the opportunities we offer our children.  We want them to experience all life has to offer so they can make their own decisions as they move along the wonderful, marvelous and magical road we call life.


  1. I love this post! I have a blog award for you...come over and see it!

    Apples and ABC's

    1. Hi Michelle,
      Thanks so much! You should also check out my Facebook educational group "Living Like a Child" at I'll check out my award....thanks!

  2. Looks like you got 2awards in one night I also have an award for you over at my blog!! Go check it out:)

    1. Hi Tammy,
      Thanks so much! I'll check it out in a bit. I'm completely slammed right now with presentations, keynotes, classroom visits, etc. I really appreciate the pat on the back. You should also check out my Facebook educational group "Living Like a Child" at

  3. Wow! What beautiful examples of learning with organic materials! I pinned the shades of skin art project to my Multicultural Education Pinterest board at

  4. I have added this article to my blog as an extension to my Free-Form Design post below it. Really love this post.

  5. This is so informative and helpful!


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