Driving by, you’d miss it completely. It looks like any other garage around Peterborough. But inside @Compass_ELC’s “materials initiative” facility, it’s an educational playground full of old parts — packed with things like buttons, corks, receipt rolls and toilet paper holders.
It’s headquarters for the child care group’s education initiative known as loose parts. Many parts are donated. They are cleaned, sorted and put into day cares and classrooms around the Peterborough area to spark creativity and imagination in kids and get them experimenting.
Angela Hoar runs the initiative. “When I see items, I don’t necessarily just see them for their single purpose. I really like to think ‘what else could this be used for.’” Since the space opened earlier this year, 100s of educators have visited to play with parts and get ideas.
Hoar says “absolutely anything” can be a loose part. “This is stuff that’s heading to the garbage … this is stuff that can be seen as very valuable when adults or children actually get the opportunity to work with it.”
Norma Curtis uses them in her classroom. “This is kind of like a research project. Just understanding each child’s individual connection to the material.” She says there are no rules and kids are able to play however they wish. The staff watch and make notes.
For Hoar, loose parts aren’t entertainment. Rather “they offer many many ways of playing.” “Their attributes signal to children ideas.” She says it’s a prime example of using inquiry-based learning and investigating.
Sadly I couldn’t take photos in the class for privacy reasons. But I did get to record. The kids were noisy and absolutely delightful. As I went to leave, one young kid said “thank you radio guy.” It was heartwarming. You can listen to it all here: https://www.cbc.ca/listen/live-radio/1-112-ontario-morning-from-cbc-radio/clip/15746105-loose-parts-using-scraps-to-help-kids-learn