People love seeing children smile and hearing them laugh.
But what about listening to what they have to say?
The international exhibit The Wonder of Learning: The Hundred Languages of Children explores what happens when people—like educators and parents—really listen to, and not just hear, children.
The 7,500 square foot exhibit, a tri-campus effort brought to UM-Ann Arbor for the campus’ bicentennial, was created to inform the world about the work of the children and teachers of Reggio Emilia.
Reggio Emilia is the teaching method that UM-Dearborn’s Early Childhood Education Center (ECEC) was founded on and it is also used at U-M Ann Arbor’s North Campus Children’s Center and U-M Flint Early Child Development Center. Reggio Emilia, which began in Italy, is an approach that believes children are endowed with "a hundred languages"—like painting, sculpting, drama and more—through which they can express their ideas.
The exhibit has traveled to 31 countries, including 40 cities in the United States. In each location, the exhibit has the goal to increase understanding of the transformative power of early childhood education.
Education Professor Seong Hong said she remembers the impact the exhibit had on her when she saw it more than 25 years ago.
“It celebrates children’s innate curiosity and their potential. They have so much more potential than society gives them credit for. In a way, this exhibit instills a change in the image of the child,” said Hong, faculty director of the ECEC and project lead for the exhibit. “When I first saw it, I thought, ‘I want to bring this to where I work one day.’”
The Wonder of Learning is on display now through August 26 at North Campus’ James and Anne Duderstadt Center and Penny W. Stamps School of Art & Design. The hours are noon to 5 p.m., Wednesday, Friday and Saturday, and noon to 7 p.m., Thursday.
Hong said the exhibit provides valuable evidence about the difference a rich, child-centered early learning environment can make in the lives of children.
In addition to seeing multimedia—from video to photos to interactive displays of the exhibit—there is also a hands-on section, which is especially appealing to families.
Two accompanying ateliers, or studios, provide a creative space for youth—both the young and young at heart—to interact with concepts highlighted in the exhibit. The Ray of Light atelier will offer children and adults opportunities to explore the many dimensions of light and shadow, utilizing such elements as projectors, mirrors, light tables and more. The Natural Materials atelier lets adults and children explore and manipulate a variety of elements from nature.
“This exhibit will make an impression on you; it will impact the community. That’s what we want to do—to start a dialogue about what makes a quality education,” said Hong, who has actively worked on bringing it to campus for three years. “I was looking for the right time and I knew the bicentennial was it. We are celebrating 200 years of higher education, so let’s take the time to learn more about where the journey begins.”
The Wonder of Learning: The Hundred Languages of Children exhibit is cosponsored by the University of Michigan Children's Centers and the University of Michigan-Dearborn Early Childhood Education Center in partnership with the Penny W. Stamps School of Art & Design and the James and Anne Duderstadt Center. In addition to Hong, U-M’s Work-Life Programs Senior Director Jennie McAlpine was a project lead.
For more information and to register for paid events or schedule a group tour, go to wonderoflearning.umich.edu.
The Wonder of Learning special events
• The Wonder of Learning Exhibit group tours
June 20 to August 22
Private viewings of the exhibit can be scheduled for school groups every Tuesday. Free.
• The Voices of the Children Documentary Project: Screening and Conversation with John Nimmo
10 a.m. to noon June 29
View the short documentary film, “The Voices of the Children,” and engage in discussion with one of the film's creators, John Nimmo. $25. University of Michigan North Campus Research Center Complex, Building 18. 2800 Plymouth Road in Ann Arbor
• Intimate Encounters with the Exhibit
6:30 p.m. to 9 p.m. June 29
Enjoy a private viewing of the Wonder of Learning Exhibit and engage in facilitated, deep dialogue on the exhibit's connections to social justice and children's rights. $25. Penny W. Stamps School of Art & Design, 2000 Bonisteel Blvd. in Ann Arbor
• Wonder of Learning Family Day
1 p.m. to 4 p.m. July 8
A unique opportunity for families to engage with the exhibit and ateliers. Free. James and Anne Duderstadt Center Gallery and Penny W. Stamps School of Art & Design, 2281 and 2000 Bonisteel Blvd. in Ann Arbor
• Activities at the Arab American National Museum in Dearborn
Noon to 6 p.m. Aug. 5
UM-Flint Pop Up School will provide play activities at the Arab American National Museum in Dearborn. Free. 13624 Michigan Ave. in Dearborn
• Connecting Social Justice and Environmental Stewardship: Impacts and Implications for Young Children
9 a.m. to 1 p.m. Aug. 26
Hear two presentations from leaders in the field on their work relating to social justice, children's rights and its connection to environmental stewardship. $50.
University of Michigan North Campus Research Center Complex Research Auditorium, Building 10, 2800 Plymouth Road in Ann Arbor