Bennett Labs is on a mission to inspire young designers, creators, and makers everywhere, through principles of Reggio Emilia and Project-based Learning (PBL) while at home. This is why we created, Bennett Live – a new engaging and educational media program for children aged 3-12 (PreK to Grade 5) and their families. A program you can enjoy when and where you want to, with children as the makers, creators, and designers, and teacher-like-guides on the other side of the screen.
Learning from the Space of Joy
We created Bennett Live for children and families everywhere. We created it as we felt that our children need joy, and creativity in the every day, more than ever right now. They also need consistent learning experiences that don’t feel like school or school-work. They feel like fun, like exploring and like play!
We are in a period of unprecedented social change and a time of social trauma. Children need activities that are engaging and enjoyable, that challenge them as well as can be completed in small chunks of time. Activities which also serve to develop their executive functioning skills like problem-solving, tinkering, planning, as well as organization. These skills are competencies that will help them to develop their ideas, to foster empathy, as well as to complete tasks and projects. They will also help them in school and in life, and right now, during a pandemic.
To achieve this, we created Bennett Live — about 2 hours a day of scheduled programming, designed by a team of experienced educators, and inspired by the principles of Reggio Emilia and Project-based Learning. In each episode, children are guided by a teacher-friend on the other side of the screen, to explore, create, and build just about anything. It is a space for children, where they have permission to use their hands and minds together, in tangible-play activities, and with whatever supplies they may have around the house. The Bennett Live projects seeded during each episode are designed so that they will continue for hours afterward, off the screen, even though they may be inspired on-screen.
Home as a Space for Project-based Learning
We also created Bennett Live for our parents and families. For the guardians working at home and juggling time working with time needed for learning, Bennett Live provides project ideas for children to do on their own, with their siblings and peers, or with the adults at home together. It also provides permission for adults to imagine this time of home learning differently as a family, a group, or a class. Bennett Live’s design is grounded in honoring the multiple and creative languages of children, and sees them as the designers and tinkerers they are in the world and at home.
The daily guided Bennett Live experiences are delivered in collaboration with a new, teacher-like-friend, who shows up in a child’s home, via the screen, every day. This new teacher-like friend is someone who inspires creative play in their cozy-corner or making and building from their box-of-stuff. Someone who, with the children, likes exploring and making all kinds of fantastical things, providing both space and permission for our children to go off-script, to use their imagination, and to follow whatever design idea they see emerging in front of them. Ultimately, Bennett Live is their time to explore, to be creative, and to play.
The first two series of Bennett Live are Creative Play with Mrs. Cunningham (for ages 3-6) and Exploring Mr. Reynolds (for ages 7-12).
Learning is an entrepreneurial experience.
Learning is fundamentally a creative and entrepreneurial experience. One that is never the same for any two learners, and when we are at our most primed for learning, is collaborative and filled with joy and exploration. In the words of Loris Malaguzzi, founder of Reggio Emilia, an approach that inspires our Bennett Live programming, there is “Nothing without joy.” Joy and excitement are the lifeblood and a natural part of the learning process for child and adult-alike.
With this design of home-learning, inspired by a flexible structure of project-based learning and joy and creativity at the center, we honor the children as co-designers in the learning experience. Bennett Live empowers children and our adult-selves through the consistency of a daily project experience and also provides a Learning Guide for Parents and Educators to help them prepare for each episode.
Be it designing art with shapes and lines, building a boat that floats, exploring how stars and constellations are formed, or uncovering the math of map-making, designing for joy and creativity through project-based learning is especially important right now.
Every day, we go on a new project journey and we ask our children and families, our friends, and also some very special guests, to join us. In the first 4 weeks of programming, we have reached over 100k people through our episodes and been joined by some wonderful guests. We were joined on Bennett Live by Michelle Nichols, Astronomer and Director of Public Observing at the Alder Planetarium, who joined us for our exploration of stars and constellations. Matt Igleski, Education and Bird Specialist from Lincoln Park Zoo, also joined us and shared about the essential elements a bird may need to build their bird habitat. Every day, we are all learning, and there is joy in sharing our learning with each other.
We also invited some of our teacher friends, Mr. Kaegi and Ms. J from Canada, to join us on an episode in which we built famous landmarks from all across the world. From the Eiffel Tower, to the Chicago City Skyline to the Northern Lights, we first explored the design of these landmarks, and then each built one from different materials we each had at home.
No matter where our children live or go to school, Bennett Live inspires children everywhere to create, make, build, and tinker, plus to experience “home” as a space to be creative and to explore in.
Participating in Bennett Live
A Bennett Labs creation for children and families everywhere, Bennett Live is inspired by the experience of our teachers and students in the Bennett Day School classrooms and our Bennett friends and partners from across the world. Our team of educators, creatives, designers, and technologists are designing Bennett Live as creative and project-based learning experiences to enjoy while at home.
To watch, participate and learn, we invite you to join us for Bennett Live daily, Monday-Friday at 11 am and 2 pm (CST) via the Bennett Day School’s Facebook page or to watch past episodes, visit the Bennett Day School’s YouTube Channel.
To see past episodes, download the learning guide for each week, and to learn more visit: https://bennettday.org/bennettlive/