ReMida Materials Podcast – Working in the reuse way
Updated: Oct 13
This podcast, written by Angela Molloy Murphy and Will Parnell, uses the wonderful
collecting habits of a young boy to provoke our thoughts with everyday materials - filling them with intent and purpose for educational benefits and sustainability practices.
Readings from the work of the two authors are included below, after the transcript.
ReMida Materials Podcast – Working in the reuse way
When my son was 4 years old, I poked my head into his room one day to ask about something that had gone missing, let’s say, an egg-shaped saltshaker. He pointed nonchalantly to a drawer across the room. I opened the drawer, curious, and there was the egg-shaped saltshaker, carefully arranged amidst dozens of other found and salvaged items.
A shiny glass bead. Rainbow glitter in a tiny plastic sack. A blue velvet button. A smooth stick. A small tyre from a toy truck. I marvelled at this seemingly random gathering of objects, noting that the items were likely sourced from many places; grandma’s house, preschool, the backyard, our basement. “What is this?” I inquired, in awe. “The Keeping Drawer” he said softly.
Upon further questioning, he explained that when he sees something important or special, he puts it in his pocket, and when he gets home, he places it in the keeping drawer. I was honoured to be introduced to the keeping drawer and made a habit of revisiting it multiple times over the years to open it and photograph the contents, leaving the items undisturbed.
The series of photographs I have from this time tell a story, or many stories. They are not only stories from my son’s perspective, however, they are stories of the items, from the items, across their lifespan. Stories of raw materials living on Indigenous lands. How and when they were sourced, processed, and manufactured. Their intended use; their actual use. Some items, like a coin, might have been passed from packaging to hand to drawer to sidewalk countless times. Others, like bottlecaps, might have only served their intended purpose once. Their new lives of possibility began almost right away.
The contents of the Keeping Drawer changed over time, as new items became interesting or important, and others became less valuable for this purpose. Although the objects varied wildly, from beautiful marbles to items found on the sidewalk to literal garbage from a trash can, these items were never purchased from a store. They were never just manufactured toys. They were pre-owned treasures, now curated in this way. Many could be considered as Remida materials, like the offcasts in the Remida Reggio, or Inventing Remida Portland Project, or the 13 Remida creative recycling centres worldwide.
Importantly, even the name Remida itself is a term invented in Reggio Emilia which conjures up lots of meanings, such as King Midas (where everything he touched turned to gold), R.E. Mida or Reggio Emilia materials, or Reuse Education Materials. This notion of the name carrying many metaphors of meaning is useful to the reuse materials journey.
Such Remida centres are set up to salvage and curate unloved and “undesirable” materials to bring them back around into early childhood educational projects for creative expression, representational aims, and more. And all materials are vibrant matter; things of consequence. Each with a story of their own.
We have all known children or were children, who are aware of the vitality of matter…who keep a Pet Rock in their pocket or collect magic buttons from grandma’s sewing room.
What if, in the spirit of Remida, we were to recognize discarded materials as vibrant matter that participates in the identity and cultural life of a community?
Consider, if you will, the passage of a small object, in this case, a bottlecap, from its utilitarian life clinging to a bottle, to a new life as a Remida material, offered for creative reuse in an early childhood classroom.
Metal spikey bottle cap: I’m over here, on the ground. It is raining hard and the water is beginning to push me along a path. I’m afraid that I’m going to go down that large drain and then where will I end up? Can you come and pick me up please?
Human: Dear metal spiky bottle cap that used to keep my bubbly water and fizz safe inside of a lovely sea foam green bottle…I saw you on the ground next to my bicycle tire and picked you up. You were just about to float away to who-knows-where? Now, as you sit on the counter, I do wonder what your next life purpose will hold. What do you think?
Metal spikey bottle cap: I wondered when you might think to ask me. I have a lot of ideas but first, I want to tell you a small story. I hope it conjures up what we can do together next.
Human: Oh, what are you thinking? Feeling? Wondering about doing?
Metal spikey bottle cap: Well, since I was on my way out of town through the drain hole—that would have carried me to the river and out toward the ocean—I sort of knew that I would end up in a bird’s belly or scratching a fish or something. I didn’t really want to go out that way! I was thinking about the fish and the birds, our ecosystem where one thing touches another and another with potential for small or great harms. I wanted to be part of a story that could tell, maybe warn, about this fate. I know it may already be too late, but still I want to be a part of some sort of change-making no matter how small.
Human: I see! I hear you! I wish we could change the world, bottle cap! While I know that isn’t really possible for just us two, what can we do?
Metal spikey bottle cap: What if we teach—out loud and with care? What could that look like? Who would we become and be? What would we learn in the process?
Human: These are such important questions. Let’s spend some time together; you and me, while we ponder them. You can come along with me in my pocket…or in my keeping drawer, if you’d like. Until we come up with some creative and interesting ways for you to participate.
What stories do the materials in your classroom/setting tell?
Can materials be a catalyst to complexity?
How might you fill materials with intent?