I find it strange how one day you can discover something you never knew existed, then all of a sudden everywhere you look, this same ‘something’ appears. This happened to me last week, when I came across some pictures of the technique 'Hapa-Zome' – certainly this was a totally new concept for me – and since then I have been reading about it on the internet (several times) and have even overheard a visiting teacher discussing this same process.
Being a new concept for me, I immediately thought about sharing this technique with the children at Kindergarten. We began this early last week, and still the children are choosing to re-visit this art, now independently.
Before I share the experiences of our Hapa-Zome at Mairtown, I should perhaps enlighten you with what Hapa-Zome actually is. According to my research Hapa-Zome was named and developed by India Flint, and is the Japanese art of pounding leaves and flowers into cloth to extract the plants natural pigments. The literal translation is leaf-dyeing in Japanese (Philpot, 2009).
Before I began working with the children we chatted about what was likely to happen; the entire group had an opportunity to share their ideas and theories. When we started (our first attempts involved putting the petals on a wooden block with the cloth on top and then hammering through the fabric), there was amazement as we all watched the pigments soak into the fabric.
It was interesting to listen to the children’s thinking when I asked them the question, ‘Where is the colour coming from?’ Some of the answers were ‘from the rainbows in the sky’ (and yes there was a rainbow that day), ‘from the end of the hammer’, and ‘it’s hiding in the block of wood’.
The more we worked and experimented with different petals, leaves and grasses, the more the children were able to clarify their thoughts, hypothesize, experiment, observe, compare, identify and test theories and communicate their findings and results. This is clearly hands-on science.
Science for young children should involve asking questions, probing for answers, conducting investigations, and collecting data. Young children should learn science (and all other areas of study) through active involvement – that is, through first-hand, investigative experiences (Wilson, 2008).
Children should be encouraged to work together “in building theories, testing those theories, and then evaluating what worked, what didn’t, and why”
(Conezio & French, 2002, p. 13).
The final piece of collaborative work looks, as I’m sure you’ll all agree, quite stunning. This is one the aspects that I love so much about early childhood education; engaging in an idea with the children, that teaches us all (me included) so much, and as a consequence results in something so beautiful.
“Spontaneous sciencing occurs whenever a child (or a teacher) sees something of interest and wonders about it” (Kilmer & Hofman, 1995, p. 55). A constructivist teacher recognizes such moments and pauses to observe, reflect, and explore with the children… By stopping to observe and reflect, teachers give children the opportunity to grow in appreciation and understanding of the world around them.” (Wilson, 2008).