Pumpkins in the Garden? A Reggio Provocation

Why all the gourds in the garden this week?
The pumpkins, gourds, and harvest corn are part of a fall provocation. They are there for the children to roll, stack, arrange and rearrange, burry in the sand and uncover…
Ok, but what’s a Provocation?
The term Provocation is one you might hear a lot around Reggio Emilia-inspired schools – basically it means providing new materials for the children to explore in an open-ended way. The idea is to ‘provoke’ inquiry, exploration, and imaginative play. The materials used in a provocation should be inviting, are often natural, and are usually related to a concept about which the students have already been curious or exploring. Key to a provocation, though, is providing new materials without labeling them – to let the students decide the direction of inquiry and exploration. So far, the pumpkins in the garden have been used for cooking ‘muffins’ and ‘soups’, in restaurants, as building materials, in imagined gardens, as buried treasure, to decorate the cabin for fall, and as stacking blocks. All these ideas and uses came from the children, and they continue to come up with more.

This sounds like something I can do at home.
Yes, and you probably already use these same principles in activities you set up for your kids all the time. Is your little one curious about textures these days, crunching leaves and feeling soft sweaters? Maybe she would be interested in a display of pinecones, cotton, yarn, stones, and sandpaper when she wakes up from her nap. As long as you can resist the urge to say, ‘no, do it this way’ when she begins playing, then you’ve got a Reggio-style provocation. You’ll see the teachers use these same principles in the activities they set up for the children, with beautiful results.
How can I help?

Ideally, the provocation should be beautifully arranged for the children at the moment of first discovery to make it as inviting and interesting as possible. Our outdoor provocations, however, are visited by lots of children every day, and are meant to be arranged and rearranged by them. If you happen to be one of the last families on the play garden and get some inspiration for a pumpkin display that might be interesting for the children in the morning, feel free to get creative!


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