Messing About in Denver

By: Diane Kashin, Ed.D, RECE. On October 12th,  I was in Denver, Colorado at the Resource Area for Teachers (RAFT) and participated in a “Messing About” workshop that incorporated the exhibit, Cultivating the Scientist in Every Child: The Philosophy of Frances and David Hawkins. The day before, I had the opportunity to tour the Boulder Journey School, which for decades has been inspired by the theory of “Messing About”. Now only days later, my minds is so full of thoughts, ideas and reflections about the experience I probably have enough content for a dozen blog posts. I thought in anticipation of the unveiling of the Canadian edition of the exhibit on October 25th and my own version of a “Messing About” workshop on November 7th that I would begin trying to explain why my experiences in Colorado, and hopes for the exhibit in Canada has filled me with joyful anticipation for the possibilities to come.

Cultivate the Scientist in Every Child Opening Exhibit

Inspiring my thoughts are the ideas of others –specifically Loris Malaguzzi and David Hawkins. David Hawkins and Loris Malaguzzi were colleagues. As colleagues they shared time together. The exhibit depicts the historic meeting between the two in one of the panels.

Malaguzzi and Hawkins Panel

Malaguzzi and Hawkins, meeting of minds during a game of checkers.

Both were social constructivist in orientation as they supported learning by exploration within a social context. Their work can inspire us to think deeply about the environments that we provide for learning.

At the Boulder Journey School, the thoughtfulness and collaborative process regarding the environment was evident at every turn.

Boulder Journey School Outdoors

Invitations to Mess About with loose parts from nature are seen in an outdoor classroom at Boulder Journey School.

The walls, shelves, floors and ceilings were not spaces for decoration and display of “Reggio-like” natural and aesthetically pleasing items – they represented meaning making amongst children and their teachers. They are authentic representations of the inquiry process occurring – giving the interpreter a glimpse into the relationships and the learning. The environment made it visible and palpable.

The Environment


Environments should allow for time to “Mess About”. This phase of the process to “Mess About” described by Hawkins – is the time inspired by the words of the Water Rat from the Wind and the Willows by Kenneth Graheme (1908):

Water Rat from Wind in the Willows

Where do you like to mess about?  I love  beaches and beach combing. I also like to mess about with ideas and materials. I mess about with social media. The most significant messing about experiences however, are those I do with others. Social constructivism in practice, inspired by others, inspired by each other. “It is through others that we develop into ourselves (Vygotsky, 1981). I strive for all social interactions to be filled with “nothing but joy” but sometimes life gets into the way. I strive for utopia but I am not perfect. The journey is not without its bumps in the road – the challenges faced represent messing about with Reggio inspired practice.

Diane beach combing

Beach combing…


2 thoughts on “Messing About in Denver

  1. Pingback: Reggio-inspired Practice in Context: Seeking Multiple Perspectives | Technology Rich Inquiry Based Research

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