Book: Beautiful stuff!: Learning with found materials

Beautiful Stuff!: Learning with Found Materials December 31, 1999
by Cathy Weisman Topal (Author), Lella Gandini (Author)

Encourage your kids to express their creativity as they discover, collect, sort, arrange, experiment, and think with found and recyclable “stuff.” The real-life experiences of teachers and children will inspire ideas that you can try at home: choose objects and turn them into a display, transform materials into a face, build and glue wood scraps to make constructions. Appropriate for children four years of age and older.



I look. I search. I hope to see
something that appeals to me.
Something unique – or maybe not,
Buttons, milk caps, straws – the lot.
A blue-green shape just caught my eye,
I don’t think I can pass it by.
Whatever it is it makes me glad.
And so, I’ll put it in my bag!

-Rita Harris, teacher


Chapter 1 – Collecting, Discovering and Organizing Materials / 3

Chapter 2 – Exploring Materials / 27

Chapter 3 – Connections / 49

Chapter 4 – Constructing with Wood Scraps / 67

Chapter 5 – Extending and Displaying Our Work / 89

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Main Research Source
What have we learnt?

Cathy Weisman Topal has been an art teacher for over 20 years. She teaches three- to eight-year-olds at the Smith College Campus School, and also teaches art education at Smith College. She is the author of Children, Clay, and Sculpture and Children and Painting.

Lella Gandini is an author, a correspondent for the Italian early childhood magazine Bambini, and adjunct professor in the School of Education at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst. She serves as Reggio Children Liason in the United States for Dissemination of the Reggio Emilia Approach.



This book charts the exploration of materials of a class of children over a year. I love the way the materials are collected by the families and introduced with anticipation – creating treasures straight away.

It reminded me of the child-led approach I’ve read about in Forest School learning where they are looking at natural materials and working outdoors.

I found the what we learned sections very useful. I keep coming back to this book.