av Kari Carlsen, 1. amanuensis ved Institutt for forming og formgiving ved Høgskolen i Telemark.

Forming (Arts and crafts) and children’s creative action with materials and tools are less in use in the kindergarten than before. Political focus on children’s early learning has led to shifts in kindergartens toward other specific disciplines, and requirements for individual testing also of the smallest children’s competencies within these. Kindergarten teachers, educators, researchers and participants in social debate have pointed out that there are epistemological contradictions in descriptions of kindergarten quality as well as between current kindergarten policy documents and requirements for the kindergartens’ staff. Meanwhile, the content and methods in many kindergartens are inspired by practice and philosophy in the municipal kindergartens in Reggio Emilia, Italy. Correlation between kindergartens’ formingprojects and experiences from Reggio Emilia is actualized in particular through the workshop and the studio’s role in children’s learning processes. One starting point for the thesis’ problem area is a documented need for more knowledge about kindergarten’s educational content. The overarching goal of the thesis is to develop new knowledge about how learning takes place in kindergarten through examining the field of forming in kindergartens inspired by Reggio Emilia’s atelier culture.

The thesis is theoretically anchored within pragmatism, and ties kindergarten’s aesthetic operations with materials and tools to socio-cultural perspective, social constructivism and post humanistic theory. The empirical material is obtained through a qualitative study with ethnography as methodological approach. The fieldwork is conducted in kindergarten, with two leading research questions: 1) How is atelierism perceived and unfolded in Norwegian Reggio Emilia-inspired kindergartens, and 2) how is forming perceived and unfolded in Norwegian Reggio Emilia-inspired kindergartens. A comprehensive and multifaceted material is analyzed, and the results are presented in the form of three themes: The physical environment, Relations and actions in interplay, and Expression forms and forms of expression. Each of these topics are supported by examples from kindergartens’ adult voices and the constructed empirical material. Insights into how learning takes place in the kindergarten subject of forming with inspiration from the Reggio Emilia atelier culture is discussed in the tension between educational philosophy, Nordic kindergarten tradition and neoliberal trends that kindergarten teachers must adhere to.

Learning potentials in children’s opportunities for action in forming in light of the atelier appears in the results of the empirical study. The educational context described is characterized by experimental and playful actions where children’s sensations, curiosity and resistance are interacting with the identity of materials and tools. The results imply aesthetic, ethical, democratic and ecological reflections, which are also valid on a practical action level. The thesis contributes to description and understanding of kindergarten’ content and young children’s learning, the importance of atelier culture as inspiration for the kindergarten, and the further development of methodology and documentation of knowledge expressions.