scintillae summer camp

conception, design, realization from the individual to the group

When: July, 8-12, 2019

Participants: Giulia (8 years old), Seryka (8 years old), Marlene (9 years old),  Anna (9 years old),  Mattia (10 years old), Ludovico (11 years old)

This documentation is centered on individual design processes,

in big and small groups.

this terminology is closely associated to the typical working methods of the Reggio Emilia approach in educational settings: for further information see “The Hundred Languages of Children : The Reggio Emilia Experience in Transformation”, edited by Carolyn Edwards, Lella Gandini. George Forman (2012) ABC-CLIO (Santa Barbara)

It was interesting to observe the fluidity of the children, individually or together, on a shared project, created together from the beginning and based on intense exchange, listening, collaboration and compromise during a week spent at scintillae.

The children began by reflecting on their individual design processes by developing their own methodologies in the design and subsequent creation of a hand puppet, alternating with collective moments dedicated to inventing a story and the settings. Their story was created for the children and adults who would use their puppets, which remained at scintillae,  in the future.

There were already a pair of hand puppets at scintillae: the stories they made up using them stimulated and suggested new ideas for making other characters.

The group of children applied their own creative processes related to the world of design and the Reggio Emilia Approach: starting from a group brainstorm to develop the story, they identified and agreed on what they had to do in order to realize their project, dividing the tasks between them. Each child kept the others informed on his/her progress; this promoted a shared group project.

Marlene (9), Seryka (8) and Giulia (8) started by drawing their characters to study the physiognomy. They needed to find a common language that would make their intentions clear to everyone.

The three girls were inspired by “real” animals. The definition of the characteristic elements of each animal was part of the creative design process.

At first it was essential to keep track of all the elements that would compose the work as a whole.

“Fox”, Marlene / “Cat”, Seryka / “Rabbit”, Giulia

Anna (9), Ludovico (11) and Mattia (10) started by observing the two existing hand puppets to understand their function and shape, in order to create new ones.

Anna used the wolf-shaped puppet as her model, because   she thought it was the right size.

She traced an outline of the shape of the puppet, which became the base to which she added other materials in order to create the identity of her character – a glittering unicorn.

Anna’s design process was based on a real model which she adapted according to her ideas and her personality.

The lack of a preliminary drawing was not a difficulty for Anna: she continued to work independently, with a clear idea about the identity of her puppet.

The different characters were the result of individual design processes that allowed the children to identify and apply personal approaches to the group project of designing and making puppets.

Once the puppets were completed, the children decided to present them to each other and they created a setting to do this.

They used the space, furniture and some fabric to create a “stage” for the characters. They also decided to create different light sequences to customize the presentation of each puppet, also using other materials available in the space.

During this group design phase, they took on different roles: Giulia, Ludovico and Mattia set up the stage, while Anna and Marlene, with the support of Mattia, designed the lights for each character together with each individual child.

After the presentation, the group work continued: they decided to invent a story together, actively exchanging ideas, thoughts and suggestions, featuring the newly created characters and their worlds.

The children felt the need to keep track of the richness of ideas that emerged. They decided it was necessary to write down the story and then create a short “trailer”, a narrative incipit for future visitors to be inspired by, to continue the story with the puppets, so as to…

“…finish the story”


Ludovico, 11

The trailer was made thanks to intense collaboration within the group, similar to what had happened during the presentation of the puppets described above.

 The children spontaneously split into pairs and began to think of and create the settings and some secondary characters in the story.

Anna (9), passionate about light design during the planning of the presentation, decided to continue to do the light design for the scenes for the trailer. In the space chosen as the setting for a cave, she placed some transparent and reflective materials to create light plays and special effects.

In programming the lights*, Anna worked with the other children, sharing her ideas on the sequences of colors: these quick and frequent exchanges made individual work into a group experience, creating a virtuous cycle of mutual exchange and enrichment.

* Anna was using a prototype called Light Play, a product that is not commercially available, which uses Scratch-like drag and drop blocks to code the sequences of lights.

Ludovico (11) was the “director” of the trailer: he recorded each puppet in its world with the support of the group. After each recording, Mattia and the creator of the puppet watched the video. If there were changes to be made, they recorded it again.

The group thus became a place for exchange, where the actions of each individual became material to be de-constructed and re-constructed, adding details and new ideas to improve and enrich their project.

Giulia (8) and Seryka (8) were in charge of the installation of the cave: an unusual collaboration, because Seryka, a Japanese girl, spoke neither Italian nor English.

Yet they worked together, communicating through gestures and glances, choosing which materials to use and how to arrange them.

This precious understanding gave rise to an equally precious and evocative environment. The design process became a way to communicate with others, using languages other than verbal ones.

After recording the videos, Ludovico spent some time working individually to edit the trailer. He created the sequence with the worlds of the various characters and calculated the time that elapsed between one world and another so that each video started in an orderly and logical way.

The transition from the group to the individual and vice versa was always very fluid: the awareness of being connected by working on a common project contributed to maintaining their concentration and attention, whether they were working on their own or together.

Mattia (10) and Marlene (9) shared a common interest in using the computer as a design tool and their desire to create other characters
through digital drawings.

Their design methodology started from a drawing of Ludovico’s dragon. Both of them digitally reworked the drawing using different colors, depending on the role it played in the story. Using a computer and a tablet, they created scenery for the story.

They shared the same design strategy: another child’s drawing become part of this phase of the project. Digital technology supported and amplified their collaboration, increasing the possibilities and results.

The final staging of the story featured each character in their respective worlds, which merged into a single, shared unicum: each part of the project worked on individually fit together perfectly in creating their trailer.  

The individual dimension was necessary, both to deepen personal research on form and materials as well as to contribute to the functioning of the group project, using each person’s previously acquired knowledge and combining it with that of others.

 The continuous, fluid passage between individual and group design processes led to the creation of a complete, rich, complex project: a story told with videos, puppets, unstructured materials, LEGO, light, shadow.

 A story was given to scintillae by these children for other children, who will be able to enrich it with other ideas and suggestions.

 This shared, open-ended design process did not end with the conclusion of scintillae summer camp, but it will continue and evolve, thanks to the ideas and thoughts of those who will come to scintillae in the future.