Buttons, bottle caps, and beads: How ‘Wemagination Resource Center’ helps kids learn

Community Reports

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M (KRQE) – When was the last time you sat down and played without game instructions or a planned design? A local resource center supports and encourages the kind of play that lets kids take things apart and put them back together.

“Really what they’re doing is becoming little scientists.” 

-Paige Abrams, Educational Specialist

The University of New Mexico Family Development Program’s Wemagination Resource Center is a warehouse full of donated bits and bobs like buttons, felt strips, bottle caps, and unwanted keys. 

Schools or specific teachers can buy a punch card which allows them to shop at the warehouse off Copper and Morningside by volume, filling up buckets and baskets with creative pieces to make their classroom a brighter space for kids to learn through play. Costs are kept low thanks to a subsidy from the New Mexico State Legislature, which allows teachers to incorporate new and exciting materials into their classrooms without breaking the bank.

The organization is inspired by a type of teaching founded in Reggio Emilia, Italy, a whole town devoted to improving early childhood education. 

“A Reggio classroom is full of beautiful things that you want to touch and move and ask questions about.”

-Paige Abrams, Education Specialist

A Reggio classroom’s curriculum stems from the interests of children, so topics are derived from talking with kids and their families, as well as from things that are already known as interesting to kids under the age of eight like volcanos and dinosaurs. Teachers compare observations in teams to decide which projects would be best suited to their students, what materials will be needed, and how they can encourage parents and the community to become involved.

Wemagination is where the theory and the practice meet in the Duke City. They re-use materials that are seen in everyday life to help kids learn by doing and by asking naturally occurring questions. 

The group also hosts free play workshops to provide professional development for teachers of young children and to help them conceptualize their ideas.

Wemagination is currently looking for corporate and individual volunteers to donate clean, safe, beautiful and quirky items to their collection. Gruet Winery for example, donates its unwanted wine corks. Wemagination is also seeking volunteers to teach active play workshops and simply to help manage and organize donated materials. 

Example list of recycled materials appropriate for donation

  • Paper bags
  • Barrel hoops
  • Bead
  • Bolts
  • Buttons
  • Chains
  • Coffee filters
  • Clock parts
  • Crystals
  • Door knobs
  • Felt
  • Disks
  • Funnels
  • Gears
  • Gourds
  • Hinges
  • Ice cube trays
  • Jugs
  • Keys
  • Lids
  • Sandpaper
  • Sponges
  • Tiles
  • Tubes
  • Wire
  • Yarn

For more information on how you can help, click here or contact paige@unm.edu.

Copyright 2020 Nexstar Broadcasting, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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