Interview with Montserrat Pedreira, creator and pedagogical head of Lab 0_6, by Andrea Zazurca
Lab 0_6 is defined as “An educational space that offers boys and girls up to 6 years in age projects that get them to start thinking about science”.
The goal of the project is to encourage independent action, decision making and child independence through fascinating activities related to science, dedicated to our babies and children up to 6 years of age. At Little Champions we foster and support this initiative which is so similar to our cause.
I went to Manresa where I interviewed Montserrat Pedreira, teacher, Doctorate in Education and Bachelor in Psychology, creator and pedagogical head of Lab 0_6.
1. What is Lab 0-6? How was the idea born?
Lab 0-6 is defined as “The center of discovery, research and documentation for the scientific education of youth”. And this title, which may sound a little high and mighty, just means that it is an educational space for children up to 6 years old which offers projects to get them thinking about science.
If you focus on the photo, it shows a diaphanous room that we’ve organized with different projects: a magnetic dartboard, a table with lights, mirrors, spinning tops, anticipating trajectory games, force of the wind games … These are offered to children to choose freely, which means that the children decide where they want to go, who they want to go with, and what to do with the objects and the amount of time they want to be in each area. We only give them a single restriction: they can not do anything that is dangerous for themselves, others, or the objects.
The classroom is open to school groups during the week and family visits on Sunday.
2. Why is it aimed at children from 0 to 6 years old?
It is aimed at them because that age group is where we are experienced. Lab 0-6 is a creation of the Master’s Degree in Early Childhood Education at Campus Manresa of the University of Vic – Central University of Catalonia. Our job is to provide a good education to the future teachers of children, that is, to the professionals who will educate children up to 6 years of age. And one of the issues that we address during the training is how to encourage some characteristics that children have since birth: curiosity, the search for meaning, actions oriented towards understanding how the world works, the construction of theories, etc.
3. Who is behind this project?
Well, a university. And we understand this is the feature which clearly distinguishes us from other programs away from the classroom that are offered for children.
On the one hand, universities are exceptional spaces for the creation and transfer of knowledge. The Lab is a practical expression of the knowledge about children science that has been generated in our school’s program over the years.
On the other hand, the university has the obligation to train future teachers and do research. The Lab is a basic tool that helps us with training and research while at the same time functioning as a key tool to help us improve the training we offer and the research we can do.
Children, training and research are three aspects that interrelate and mutually feed into each other which builds an atmosphere where everything is constantly evolving and improving. We are especially proud of being a university that trains teachers and that lives up to our words every day by using the orientation that we try to teach to our students with children. Think that more than 5000 children experience the Lab every year… It seems like an important contribution to us that our Degree avoids the excesses of academia and the fascination with theories that university education often withdraws into.
4. What are the objectives of Lab 0_6?
Broadly speaking, we can summarize them into three ideas. First, presenting science in a participatory and attractive way to children starting at the earliest ages by providing them with positive learning experiences. Second, contributing to promote changes in the educational approach to science in the participating schools by providing ideas and resources that are easy to incorporate. And finally, improving the relationship between citizenship and science education.
5. Why aren’t the activities guided?
They are not guided because we start with the concept that children are intelligent beings looking for ways to make sense of everything that surrounds them from the moment they are born and because we have the confidence that autonomous action in a stimulating space and in interaction with colleagues and adults helps them to achieve this. Autonomy, the ability to make decisions and self-esteem are important aspects that are not acquired with explanations but with coherent experiences.
6. How do children react to these non-guided activities? And the parents?
The freedom to choose and the possibility to make decisions are satisfactory for everyone. Children react with endless energy, testing and checking their actions ceaselessly on objects and materials.
We have very good evaluations from families, but they often ask us for a little more guidance on the meaning of each of the projects. It is an area which we are still assessing, but we are held back by the fear that if an adult reads what the intentionality of the proposal is on a piece of paper, they may “force” the child to do only what the directions say. And one of the values that we give to our projects is precisely that they are open and suitable to diverse initiatives for the children.
7. What has surprised you the most while observing children’s behavior in Lab 0-6?
The teachers are positively surprised and sometimes tell us that in the classroom some children, in homogeneous and academic tasks, have very disruptive behavior, but when faced with stimulating projects with free choice they are concentrated and interested and make interesting contributions for everyone. This suggests that maybe something needs to be changed in schools…
8. What are the next steps of Lab 0_6?
Very good question, we have so much work in the day to day that we do not stop to think in the long-term … If I start dreaming, in the medium term I’d like to see the Lab become a center of reference for scientific education for young children. And that means many different things in very different areas: that researchers and teachers from all over the world visit us, that the Lab is a neuralgic point for the training of future teachers, that it leads to the revitalization of scientific education in central Catalonia and in the entire country, that it helps to improve the relationship between science and citizenship and promotes scientific careers, especially among girls, that the experience can be repeated in other parts of the territory, that the offer can be expanded to new activities and for other ages …
I have to say that we are lucky to have a young and powerful team that ensures quality and stability moving into the future. I mean, maybe we should not be dreaming but simply moving forward!
And I do not want to say goodbye without inviting everyone to visit us and without thanking you for your interest. Entrepreneurial initiatives, like yours or ours, never start easily. But innovative initiatives focused on promoting the autonomy of children from different angles are very necessary. We are very excited to see expressions of enthusiasm for scientific knowledge with slogans like “I want to be a quantum physicist” or similar ideas that promote child autonomy in your collections.
You can read more about the Lab 0_6 on their official website: http://www.umanresa.cat/en/lab-06
Montserrat Pedreira Álvarez, born in Manresa in October 1962, is a teacher, holds a Bachelor in Psychology and a PhD in Education. She teaches in the degree of Early Childhood Education at the Faculty of Social Sciences of Manresa of UVic-UCC, and has specialized in the field of Science Didactics. She is the creator and pedagogical head of science spaces for children “Niu de Ciència” of the Museum of Natural Sciences of Barcelona and Lab 0_6, Center of discovery, research and documentation for the scientific education of youth as well as she is an author of more than 30 publications.
Andrea Zazurca. Motherhood led her to become involved in issues related to children self-reliance. Her own needs drove her to create a brand that helps kids to become more independent and adults freer. Today, this proud mother leads Little Champions with her business partner, Magda Davila.