The Truth About Open-Ended Materials

WHAT ARE OPEN-ENDED MATERIALS ?

Open-ended materials are objects that have no prescribed or predetermined use or function. They are loose parts—the raw materials to build or create something…and then be recombined to make something new. Open-ended materials can be big or small, round or square, rough or smooth, stiff or pliable, heavy or light,….and they can be stacked, combined, manipulated, collaged, measured, and arranged in infinite ways.

table of stuffBlocks are open-ended materials. Sand, gems, bottle caps, string and paper are open-ended materials. Almost anything can be a raw material to create something else!

Open-ended materials provide endless possibilities for learning and creativity.

 

WHY OPEN-ENDED MATERIALS ?

Open-ended materials empower children to make reality of the concepts they imagine. Children observe that the materials can be used for many different things and open themselves to possibilities…not just in the classroom but in their own lives as well.

venn2   DSC02438Open-ended materials provide decision making and problem solving opportunities. They challenge us to explore, observe, analyze, compare. As we play with the materials we discover the properties of each material and understand the benefits and drawbacks of each. We notice similarities, differences and patterns. Open-ended materials stimulate our senses and develop our large and fine motor skills.

 WHAT WILL CHILDREN DO WITH OPEN-ENDED MATERIALS ?

Children enjoy the opportunity to rearrange and transform materials. They become designers, engineers, architects, artists, innovators, collaborators and explorers, often using materials to represent other things.

couchChildren may not consciously think, “What can I make with these materials?”, but they will explore the materials’ sensory qualities that stimulate and inspire them. Children will build, collage, sort, pattern, make designs, and recreate objects and places from their lives. They will add things like signage, labels, and toys from home to further personalize and explain their creations. They will create objects that replicate and explain topics of interest to them.

Children will play with open-ended materials to understand them. “There is no correct way of understanding anything even though the world wants us to believe it, it’s not true.”* The open-ended materials will become a reflection of a child’s life—interests, dreams, culture, IMG_0018family, neighborhood, all of the things that make her feel significant. Open-ended materials allow a child to use whatever frame of reference is her own. Ask a child, “Tell me about your creation” …and you will learn a lot about that child!

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 *Keri Smith, author of Wreck This Journal and How To Become An Observer Of This World

 

 

 

reInterpret reInspired

On March 1st, reInterpret hosted a workshop for early child development teachers. As the workshop progressed, we quickly realized the teachers were well versed in open-ended materials…they basically just needed a little reInspiration! Take a look at how the teachers interacted with our activities:

We presented teachers with various materials to describe: a length of wire, a black plastic cap and a solid rectangle of wood. Teachers concluded that materials each have some unique attributes and may have some attribute in common. Recognizing differences and similarities help children with language development, pre-reading skills and pre-math skills.

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After interacting with our activity stations, our reflective participants made the following comments:

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Here are some of their creations:

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Here are some of the ideas for presenting materials to 2-6 year olds:

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The teachers reflected on what they learned about each other:

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Teachers made these resolutions:

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Thank you to all of the teachers of Rancho Bernardo Community Presbyterian Church Preschool!

Good Wood

reInterpret has wood in many shapes and sizes -squares, rectangles, sticks, triangles and random polygons.

WP_20131028_005Children love working with wood. It feels real, solid, permanent, sturdy. It lends itself nicely to building and experimenting with different types of structures.

-What type of house can you build? Who lives there? Children will naturally create a story with characters and, often, themselves at the center. Would the children like to write or retell a story based on their building creation? Can they use their creation to illustrate the story?

-Can you build to the ceiling? (Provide a ladder). Be prepared for many failed attempts that provide opportunities to learn about structures and stability. Lead children in reflecting about what could be done differently to get an improved result. Is it only WP_20131028_004the foundation the affects stability? What type of planning should take place? Children will discover the many effective ways to create stability and go “higher”.

Wood can be used to create a two-dimensional plan of any space or environment.

-Can you use the shapes two-dimensionally to map your neighborhood? Where does your neighborhood intersect with your classmate’s neighborhood? Inspire children to collaborate with classmates. They will work out solutions to spacial challenges and get excited about “connecting” to their friends’ neighborhood map.

WP_20131028_003How else can wood be used in your classroom? Does it fit in with math or science? What about art? How can the pieces be used over and over in multiple ways?

What ideas do the children have for using wood? Can they describe their ideas using drawings or text? How will the planning influence the outcome of the project?

After projects, allow time for children to participate in picking up and organizing the wood in the classroom. By doing so, they will view the wood pieces as valuable and meaningful materials.

Thank you SSP

The Santee Success Program (or SSP) in the Santee School District, created by Annelise Ryan, supports at-risk children at the middle school level. While getting each student WP_20130517_001“caught up” and ready academically for ninth grade, Annelise focuses on self-sufficiency and critical thinking, and uses reInterpret to support her curriculum. Annelise provides a rich art curriculum but prefers to use reInterpret resources for projects that bring to life physics and anatomy (for example). Earlier this year, students created marble roller coasters and, more recently, they planned to create a human skeleton using a snow board and several golf clubs.

SSP parents appreciate that they are not burdened with buying expensive materials for projects. SSP students benefit from the out-of-the-box thinking required to construct a project using non-traditional materials. Here’s what two students had to say about visiting the reInterpret studio (RR):

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 Thank you Annelise and SSP students!

Great Day in Sherman Heights

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This weekend reInterpret hosted an arts booth at the Sherman Heights Latin Music Festival. This vibrant community event was attended by many local neighbors eager for an afternoon of music, art and culture.

We welcomed the community into our booth for an open-ended arts experience with many engaging and colorful materials – encouraging kids and their families to create with us. It was amazing! People packed the booth for several hours until we ran out of materials.   It was beautiful to see parents working along side their kids.

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Many people stayed for hours making sculptures, instruments and functional art pieces with everything from cardboard tubes, boxes, metal pieces, bottle caps, corks, fabric pieces and swatches, rubber bands, assorted plastics, string and wire.

It was truly impressive and it makes us realize how much people need art experiences in their lives. And it was especially meaningful to offer this opportunity to the low-income families in the area, and at no cost.

In the kid zone, where our booth was located, people were choosing to do art instead of play carnival games.

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At one point someone came by asking us to pass out free candy. One kid said, “let’s take the candy out and use the box to make something.” Yes! This is the ultimate goal of reInterpret – to encourage others to imagine the possibilities with the resources we have. We hope to host another art booth soon at a summer festival near you!