By Jools Logan Evergreen Outdoor Education
July 17th 2016

Another ambiguous term perhaps.

Another buzz word flies around the education circuit and we are obliged to consider and evaluate its meaning before deciding on possible implications for our setting.

'Provocations' can often be associated with Reggio Emilia style learning, although outdoor settings, forest schools and Montessori settings weave a similar thread.

So what do we mean by the term 'to provocate'?  One dictionary tells us it is to call forth, provoke, arouse, incite etc. You get the picture, it just means  to prompt.

To my mind provocations are what good practitioners do instinctively or intentionally. Simply put, provocations are planned opportunities to entice children’s attention, extend their interest and evoke a happening which can move learning and understanding along.

There was a time when the 'in thing' was to have everything we owned stored in plastic multicolored labeled boxes, stacked neatly on homogeneous shelving systems where children would go to retrieve things.  (I like the word 'things' it covers a range of nouns I can't find.)

This approach was tidy, ordered and followed another 'in thing' or style of education, nothing wrong with it at all, my own nursery followed this trend for quite some time. At least all the little people knew their colours!

Alas provocations are not so easily managed from inside plastic boxes, the little people can’t see what's in them.  

Bring on the open baskets, light boxes and sturdy white tables, adorn them mindfully with beautiful things: photographs, shiny receptacles and mirrors, smelly malleable doughs or clays, natural things, herbs and plants, unusual objects, pebbles, things with moving manipulative parts. Hide one or two things inside quirky containers. That's it really, simples, don't forget to load one or two questions as they investigate.

All of these beautiful things form your provocations, each are golden opportunities to evoke a spirit of enquiry, extend curiosity and stimulate interest.

Enjoy this approach, it’s fun, it’s freeing, it’s interesting, just be careful to not end up with a classroom like a car boot sale ;)

Been there, done that too!


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