A friend of mine, Sonya Shoptaugh, introduced me to the Reggio Emilia Approach almost three years ago. At the time I had not known what a gift she had presented me with, nor the significance of her role in this field of education. Sonya, I found out through reading books on Reggio, worked in the first established school using the Reggio Approach that the educators from Reggio actually considered a true model of a Reggio Emilia school in the United States. As I said, this information came to me as I read numerous Reggio Emilia books, Sonya with her very modest ways did not mention this to me. Sonya regularly continues to inspire me with her personal documentation about the journey she and her daughter are taking on her website: Creative Childhood.
I bring Sonya up not just to show gratitude, but also it was at her home that I first saw what I call a "mirror tent." I fell in love with the one she has, and later, pictures of these "mirror tents" in Reggio schools, and at long last I am happy to say we now have one at Art and Soul.
Watching the children play in the mirror tent was a delight. I was given a large sheet of acrylic mirror from my teacher and dear friend that was 7'X4'. I brought it to a local glass shop and they cut it down for me. I still have to make a frame for it, but in the meantime, it is so light weight that I was able to Gorilla Tape it together for the children to play in.
It is a magical little space. The children can see their faces from every imaginable angle, and
the more time the children spent looking at all their images, the more absorbed they became, almost to the point of forgetting themselves. This was so clearly expressed by one of the children when she exclaimed, "Which one is the real me?!"
There really is a wonderful disorienting feeling to the mirror tent. While I was editing the pictures, many of them I had to look at for several minutes to see which way the picture should be positioned.
The picture above is neat because all of a sudden a little face pops out at you.
My assistant, Irina, is from Cuba and she joked saying that when a bunch of the kids were packed in the tent and the images multiplied beyond that, that it looked to her like a "Cuban Bus."
These three laid like this for some time just making faces at themselves in the mirror.
Later when it was "library time," several of the children brought their books into the tent to read creating a unique perspective.
The second day of our mirror tent adventure was with my 2 1/2-3 year olds.
They too loved the mirror tent, but had a little hesitation at first. Whereas my four year olds dove right into it, the little kiddos took their time approaching it. I can see why they hesitated at first, it is like crawling into an abyss, or like being inside a kaleidoscopic.
However, like the older kids, once they adjusted to it, they soon were magically transported into this multi-dimensional world that they did not want to leave.
The tent first entered the school last Thursday, so I am excited to see what the Monday crew will think about it tomorrow. More fun to come.