Wednesday, 30 July 2014

Paint - whole body experience...

Today we took the paints outside and went crazy... and with their only being two children that turned up today, they had lots of time and space to fully explore the paints...

I filled to big plastic boxes with water so the children could use them to sinse themselves off at any time - these became very popular to climb in and out of and add an extra layer of wetness to the whole art experience...

We looked at the colours of summer.... and started off with green, blue, white and yellow (more colours would come later)...

A huge piece of paper was taped to the ground - the bottles of paint were put close by... and the children were given free reign to experience and create with the paint (a few encouragements here and there, to challenge and deepen the experience).

At first one of the children was not keen on getting messy and asked for a brush... but I kept to the plan of it being sensory and said no to see what would happen... and it did not take long for the child to watch the joyful sensory experience of the other child and give it a try himself... and enjoy it too.

The paint was experienced with the whole body, and I got to see (just about) a whole body print being made...

Just before lunch I took the art in, as I suspected it might rain... and just as well I did as the heavens open with a big thunder-storm. The children slept through it...

In the afternoon I mixed paint, washing liquid and a little water together in pots and got the children to blow bubbles.... the idea being the bubbles would create new patterns - and also be a work-out for their mouths and aid pronunciation. It was an experiment to do it directly on the paper.... usually I catch the bubbles on a paper from a above (and that I think is much more successful when it come to capturing the bubble patterns) - but today was a different experience... One of the pots got knocked over , so the pool could be blown on to make splashes and rivers... and at the end we threw the foam and last bits of paint onto the paper with our finger tips to make wonderful raindrop sounds... (I was filled with paint then so I didn't get any photos of that process... to much having fun with the children too)

So now I will let the photos do the talking...

squeezing out the paint... this was VERY fun

moving on to experience the paint with hands

and then feet

making footprints

lying down and swimming in the paint.... like a mermaid

the thick layer of paint was perfect for topping up the paint layer...

and when there was enough paint you could clearly see the joy of spreading the paint over the body, and then the arms too...

making body prints

and taking the time to check them out...

they were in and out of the water the whole time... this was very much a part of the sensory process

glorious painted tummies... then it was time to get in the warm shower and clean up

blwoing coloured bubbles

it was not so easy... a little practice of blowing tissue paper around the floor first to help the blwoing skills (and to avoid the sucking skills)

the painting so far... starting to get some ideas about where we could take it... but will check with the children first...

Tuesday, 29 July 2014

Shade

Ever since I wrote the post about outdoor play and sleep, and learned more about how shade and shadows are an important part of the play and learning experience for children... for people (you can read the post here) - I have been observing play spaces with new eyes...

While I was in Boulder, which is a very sunny place - and rather hot during summer, I was quite surprised by the lack of shade in the public play-spaces. Most of the time the play-ground equipment was in an area devoid of trees, and therefore devoid of a stimulating shadow play... also devoid of the shade that keeps you cool and protects from the sun.

The trees etc could be found in the public parks, usually round the edges, or away from the play area...

Trees do offer a brilliant source of shade, as the leaves etc not only give a variety of shade, but also there is movement... this continuously stimulates the brain...

The image above shows a variety of shade types - from the static shade of a roof (made more interesting by the fact it is not a solid roof, and also my adding free-flowing materials to add movement and colour) to the natural shade of trees and bushes, which you can clearly see comes in different shades of black and grey, also different shapes... there is also shade where it is mostly shade with just small patches of light, rather than being small patches of shadow - and of course in winter the shadows seem blue.

So why not go out into your outdoor play-space and check out what kind of varied shading there is to stimulate the eyes and brain and senses.

Even on a pretty wind still day in Boulder you can see that there is movement in the shadows. (Oh there was also a squirrel (not in this film)... and my children thought I was slightly bonkers taking photographs and films of tree shadows!!!)

Monday, 28 July 2014

Progettazione - thinking about projects...

In my e-mail this evening the latest post from Technology Rich Inquiry Based Research sparked a few thoughts off (as it usually does) - the quote from Rinaldi sparking my thinking today...


The educational action takes shape by means of progettazione, which is the process of planning and designing the teaching and learning activities, the environment, the opportunities for participation and the professional development of the personnel, and not by means of applying predefined curricula.
Progettazione is a strategy of thought and action that is respectful and supportive of the learning processes of the children and the adults; it accepts doubt, uncertainty and error as resources, and is capable of being modified in relation to the evolution of the contexts.
It is carried out by means of the processes of observation, documentation and interpretation in a recursive relationship, and through a close synergy between the organization of the work and the educational research. (Rinaldi, 2013)



Today was my first day back after my summer break - and I am really starting to think about what will we be doing this term... and I have been chatting with my colleagues at Filosofiska's sister preschool in Skarpnäck about projects and planning and how much planning is allowed, is it allowed, should it all come from the children and their free play... how much comes from the teacher?

I think quite often that there is so much focus on the image of the child that the image of the teacher is being quite forgotten... as Diane Kashin wrote - the principles of the Reggio Emilia Approach are...
1. the image of the child
2. the three subjects of education: children, parents and teachers
3. the image of the teacher
4. documentation: teachers and children as partners
5. environment as the third teacher
6. organization as fundamental
(Kashin, 2009)
There it is, amongst those principles... the image of the teacher being just as essential as the image of the child.... and children and teachers as partners... of course teachers have much more experience than children and the children have a natural curiosity and learn through play which can allow teachers to see things in a new light again, with fresh eyes... these are two perspectives that should be shared with equal value... yet I quite often feel that the image of the child is sometimes being elevated beyond the image of the teacher.... and yet we are partners... we should not be following them, but we should be on the journey together - sometimes they will know the route better and will guide with their play.... sometimes as teachers we will lead the way with our experience and knowledge of the world... together we will go places, experience play and learning on a much deeper level than if just one of us is doing all the guiding...

The project... if you look at how Rinaldi describes it in the above text is not the content of the learning, not the activities that we are doing... but the planning, the process of enabling the children in their play and learning to not only discover things they delight in, but to introduce new possibilities and also to challenge the children appropriately.... this takes skill to observe the children's interests - to dig deeper in the superficial interest of the dark or insects to discover they actually learning to deal with fear - that their interest in transport has little to do with travelling and more to do with spinning and the movement of the wheels... it takes time to see this, it takes time to ask questions, to document and to see patterns... a project then is not the work of the child, but the work of the teachers... the children learn and play - and teach us through their play about their interests, about their knowledge and about a different perspective on life...

Looking at Hawkins (The Informed Vision, 2002) he writes about "I, Thou, and It"

    "Respect for the young is not a passive, hands-off attitude. It invites our own offering
of resources, it moves us toward the furtherance of their lives and thus even, at times
 toward remonstrance or intervention"

RESPECT being a key word here, it does not mean belittling a child, but it does mean that certain behaviours are not acceptable... there needs to be a good relationship between I-THOU (teacher-child) where there is mutual "trust, respect and confidence" - but this relationship is not enough on its own the teacher and child need to share an "IT" -
"some third thing which is of interest to the child and to the adult, in which they can join in an outward projection. Only this creates a possible stable bond of communication, of shared concern."
Hawkins goes on "If you don't find something interesting, and try to feign an interest you don't have, the investment won't last. But if there is that common interest it may last and may evolve. You need to be capable of noticing what the child's eyes notice and capable of interpreting the words and acts by which he tries to communicate with you."

Of course if you just have the CHILD-IT relationship it is not going to be the same opportunity for learning either... it is the triangular relationship of I, THOU, and IT that supports deeper learning...

It is clear to me that our role as a teacher is an extremely important role and that maybe we should talk about the "image of the teacher" more... what is it? Have you ever discussed this like you have discussed "the image of a child"? I haven't, even though I have discussed the image of the child VERY many times... and who's image are we talking of... the image we have of ourselves, the image the children have of us, the image the parents have of us, the image the politicians have of us, the image society as a whole has of us? Are they one and the same... do they differ? And how do they differ?

So where is this all leading me?

Well back to projects and planning... to not be afraid to sometimes direct children in a Reggio Emilia Inspired setting... to be OK with making mistakes and admitting that and trying a new tactic... to be able to listen to the children, be perceptive and insightful and open to new possibilities - and also to realise that handing over the decisions and direction of a project to the children is a choice we as adult make and we need to be responsible for that choice too... not just for the decisions that we make on behalf of the child.


So now I have another perspective of a project... far removed from a "theme" which sometimes I think projects tend to be really, the content being labelled the project rather than the process and planning to create the environments, opportunities and learning activities for the children and teachers to explore an "It"....

So what about you... what is your image of the teacher.?.. and your image of a project?



Sunday, 27 July 2014

The Second International Fairy Tea Party

Welcome all children around the world to join in a day of play and imagination.

The International Fairy Tea Party

on

Friday 19th September 2014





Why the International Fairy Tea Party?
It is a day to share the learning power of play and imagination. Through play and imagination so much can be discovered, small details found that would be otherwise missed, collaborations made, problems solved to enable the play to develop etc etc.
This year the focus is on nature to get outside and discover where the fairies might be hiding, and also to learn more about the nature that surrounds us, regardless of where we are in the world... forest fairies, desert fairies, rock fairies, mountain fairies, sea fairies, rock pool fairies, meadow fairies, flower fairies, cactus fairies, mud fairies, garden fairies... the potential is endless.

The International Fairy Tea Party is held on the Friday closest to to the equinox - with the aim that all children around the world are united by the fact that they have the same number of daylight hours... even if they do not share the same cultures, language, resources etc - we will share the daylight and the imagination and the play.

The inspiration behind this fairy celebration of imagination is myself, Suzanne at Interaction Imagination - afterall the word imagination is even in the title of my blog! And also the gang at Fafu Play where play and imagination is at the root of everything they develop to enable children to learn their own way - you can check out their website here
Of course you are welcome to browse my blog too... to discover what we got up to last year when we did a project about fairies - or the many other things I get up to with preschoolers.

To join in the fun all you have to do is create your own Fairy Tea Party and hold it on Friday 19th September - and even better would be to share photos of your event on the facebook page... International Fairy Tea Party
You can even pop over there now to get loads of ideas - as we share activities, crafts, art ideas and food ideas there to inspire all Fairy Tea Party participants... we collect them from all over the world...

It would also be great if you let us know if you ARE going to join the  International Fairy Tea Party beforehand... as we will create a big map and add all locations... is there a better way for children to learn how connected they are with other children around the world in their play?

So please come and join us.






Friday, 25 July 2014

Inspiration from Boulder Journey School...

As Sam Hall kindly fixed the technological side of things for my presentation at Boulder Journey School I was free to have a quick look around the school after hours...

Preschools always have an eerie feel I think when they are totally quiet... it's as if they are supposed to be alive with the sound of children at play. So I almost tip-toed around in the quietness looking at how the preschool has evolved over the last year.

It was obvious that teachers change classrooms - as I saw that the birthday colours (see here to read that post) was now in a different room. I guess that it demands a lot of work to move a whole classroom from one location to another, but at the same time it does open a natural opportunity for the space to develop... not only does the space demand that he be treated differently (as wall fixtures/windows/outlets etc might not be the same) but also it creates the time and space to make the teacher think about the play/learning space... what NEEDS to be brought over, what areas should be enhanced/changed... does this group need the space to be almost the same for comfort or is a total change needed? These are questions that should be asked all the time, but sometimes life and work and play gets very busy and time is just never there to give all aspects of development justice... and the space (the third teacher) also needs time and consideration when it comes to its development.

I have worked in preschools where we follow the children from department to department (as we don't tend to call them classrooms until they are in school - as the room classroom these days tends to signal formal learning rather than learning through play - at least from where I am standing on Swedish soil)... there are postives and drawbacks with these big changes...
The postives I mentioned above - the negatives have been the huge amount of time that has been consumed making the move - of sorting out cupboards to work out what equipment is already there - of discovering that far too often groups have made orders of supplies without checking the cupboards first - and there are boxes and boxes of crayons or some other supply stuffed at the back - or that there have been cupboards filled with old curtains/material as the new teachers wanted a frsh look for the room. I feel it was such a waste of resources...
One place I worked at had ALL their materials in one big storage area that all departments could go to - so everyone knew what was available, and it was great to rotate materials too.

I think I preferred looking around Boulder Journey School this time, rather than at the Summer conference... it was much easier to see the children and not only the teacher's interpretation of the children. Adults have a much more organised way of showing children's play and learning... it is beautiful and awe-inspiring, but I find children more chaotic - and not in any negative form of the word - I think chaos can be a beautiful thing, I think there is more opportunity for creativity in their chaos than in the organised adult world where we tend to compartmentalise everything...

Enough babbling... to the images... it was rather dark (one of two rainy days I experienced in Boulder during my 4.5 weeks there) and the lights were off and all the chairs were up in preparation for being cleaned - so the images are not always very clear...

a mirror suspended above a lightbox sat on its side...

play... different areas to support different kinds of play... plenty on the floor and high up... This time I reacted more to the changing table in the "classrooms" after noticing them being in use in Canada... in Sweden we don't have changing areas where the children are playing/learning but in the same area as the toilets/potties. This is to value the intergrity of those who are still in nappies/daipers...

play on the floor, but slightly raised... clearly marked area for play and exploration... especially the ramps - how will things roll?

play being saved to continue with the next day... the construction on the raised surface behind the table, and the artwork on the table with the chairs carefully placed on top - shows that cleaning can go on at the same time as conserving the children's play/work

a large part of this room has been devoted to role play - in fact it was placed centrally and not up against the wall. Where do you place your role-play area? and why?

evidence of play. There is no need to fear the mess... it all sweeps up.

here is the birthday colours now. A similar set up ina  different room.

I liked the torch hanging down onto the disco balls - would be fun with those coloured finger-lights too.

soem structures were almost the same as last year, but being used in a slightly different way... this year this area was about the child's perspective - last year it was about the civic area in downtown Boulder. This has given me an idea to do when i get back to work... as we have made a few changes to the layout of the preschool (added walls, taken away walls) and I am interested in the children's perspective of the preschool - of the "third teacher" - but I will explain more of that in another post...

I loved doing this as a child... but found as a teacher of preschooler that many children have found it quite tricky to roll the newspapers hard enough to construct with... it takes practice...

the area behind the curtain is for sleeping... maybe they could do something similar for the nappy/daiper changing area? Where are your changing tables located in your setting? And why?

A sand table with a zen garden feel. it just needs some rakes and some stones. Yes, there was sand on the floor around it, but I imagine the play and learning far outweighs any issues with clean-up. (although I can share a photo of one of my rooms after a child "explored" the flight potential of the contents of the sensory table (rice and lentils everywhere, and I mean everywhere - but it didn't take that long to tidy up, and the child helped too, and has not explored in that same way again since)

light exploration - lightbox on the floor with block, light-table to draw on - and an overhead on the shelf...

this room was being used by the children who are about to start school. I just loved that it seems to show that the children were playing right up until the last minute - have left their play so they can resiúme the next day...




Friday, 18 July 2014

Reflections on a workshop...

The workshop I held here in Boulder was quite different from the one I held in Toronto - the time being very different… just 2 hours instead of 5 - and it being held in the evening instead of a morning and early afternoon.



For me this last workshop was less satisfying… I am going to be selfish here, I am going to say it as I see it, and as I would have wished it to be… because I am greedy, I want to learn more - and I need questions, lots and lots of questions for that to happen… and there were not many questions happening… could this have been due to the fact everyone was just so tired after working for a day…? or due to the fact the room was large and had a high ceiling which makes the acoustics a little more intimidating…? it could have been the fact that I was standing at the front and everyone else was seated…? but that was the case in Canada too, and that did not stop the interactiveness…

The lack of willingness to be interactive made it hard for me to work out what it was this audience wanted to hear, it created a workshop that was more monologue than I wished for, which meant it was much more surface information than digging deep and exploring what interested those participating.

I had cut down the images by a third… technically I had far too many images - but I went from one to the next gaging the interest, trying to activate my audience and finding little response. There was action, there were questions, but there were also those sitting there with their eyes closed… was this to enable them to think more clearly, or a sign that it had been a really long day?

Chatting with my hosts at Boulder Journey School afterwards it was mentioned that "Americans are not as comfortable questioning other people's ideas" as they found Europeans… I do not have enough experience to know if this is true or not… but for me questioning ideas is so essential to the Reggio process… it is also so essential to a philosophical approach…. and so essential to life… we cannot simply go around and just accept the way things are, we have to ask questions to understand… or to work collaboratively to make things better….

Philosophy is a learning community - supporting the children to learn TOGETHER… asking questions not only benefits the person asking the questions, but also the one answering and everyone else listening… a new perspective…

One of the questions I got was about the Elmer project to support listening skills rather than an art project…(you can read it here) as being controversial (although I did invite that) - not in the way it was in Canada where it looked too much like a template for comfort… but from the perspective of placing the children in a situation where they could be right or wrong. This has got me thinking about the project once again - was I doing that? And if i was, is that always a bad thing?
I look back and I see that the words were always supportive, constructive and reminders to help the children be more aware of their thinking processes… in the beginning I needed to do a lot of the guiding, but as the project evolved the children were able to help each other…

I also got thinking about puzzles, board games, team games etc where there is an obvious right and wrong element to the play… do we allow the children to place all the jigsaw puzzles in the wrong places? Do we allow children to play board games however they want… each child playing to their own set of rules at the same time - do we allow children to play team games where they all followed their own whim? No? Why, then, is a obvious right and wrong play a bad thing? Maybe it isn't all the time? Maybe there are situations where children learn to accept that working together is more fun - even if it means there is a winner or a loser sometimes - whether by luck, by skill, speed etc - maybe by following the rules in games is OK even if it does open up the opportunity of getting it wrong?

In the Elmer project no-one got it wrong, because we all worked as a team… we helped each other, reminded each other the whole time… there was no opportunity to get it wrong - only support to learn together.

It is so important to get the chance to reflect… and questions enable that - and questions from others, with different perspectives are the best…

I hope that everyone who came to the workshop found that bit of inspiration they were looking for… and did not feel my frustration of just skimming on the surface… I was waiting to dive deep into an area or two that inspired… but my skills at working out what those were might not have been as they should, and I might have missed them… something to work on…

Images from the workshop can be seen here  as promised (this is the one from Canada - so there will be a few extra images too). Hope the images offer a chance to reflect and to think deeper and connect my experiences with your own experiences and create a spark of inspiration...

Wednesday, 9 July 2014

A visit to Boulder Sunflower Preschool.

Yesterday I had the pleasure of visiting  Sunflower Preschool Boulder and being shown around by its director Debbie King Ellman (You can check out the preschool on FB by clicking here).

After two weeks in Boulder it is easy to understand the need for shade... it is HOT here in the sun, but I find the shade quite cool - so understandably the children and teachers follow the shade in their garden during the day. The garden is filled with shady spots, so its not too difficult to find a playful spot out of the hot sun.

Unlike the LONG winter that we get in Sweden (I don't think I will ever really get used to that) the winter's here are relatively short - which means the outdoor spaces can be fully utilised year round (I am not saying the don't in sweden, but there ARE limitations when the ground and sand freezes like cement for a large portion of the year, and when mittens and chunky winter clothing limits young children... especially during the younger years when SO much learning comes through the sense of touch through their hands etc - so I am VERY envious of the climate here - especially as they DO get snow and ice, it's just not for so long).... anyway back to Sunflower Preschool.

During the summer the indoor facilities are little used... the children are outside nearly all day... and the outdoor play/learning area has everything the indoors has and then some...

It is divided up in areas just as many preschool setting are inside... with role-play, art, construction, water-play, nature/science exploration - and then of course there are swings, climbing frames, lots of nature to explore, a huge sandbox... etc

I took a whole load of photos... and have chosen 10 to share with this post (OK, I cheated a little by creating 2 collages... but there was just so much I wanted to share...)

I have just sharing one image of the indoors, for now, as this post is all about the outdoors... that is the real energy I got from Debbie, her love for plants and sharing this with the children...


the decking immediately outside - today it was set up with water play

here is a view looking at the decking from the garden... many items have been gifts or donations from the families. Just under the window you can see the drinking fountain... I have found them in just about every playground I have visited so far. Keeping hydrated is important when its hot and dry.

the outdoor storage was designed so that it could also be a stage/storage for dress up. The balancing beam also doubles as seating for the audience...

looking from the decking onto the nature/science area and the table for arts and crafts - in the background you can see the berry bushes... many of the plants are edible, most of the plants can be used one way or another during the year to enable the children to develop an appreciation for nature and a desire to protect it.

The construction area - nicely shaded. Debbie likes how the outdoors allows children to leave their constructions for longer, allowing them to develop, and the need to pack things away to enabling cleaning is not needed as it is indoors. I totally agree... although I am quite sure that many preschools in Sweden, that share their yards with the public in the evenings and on weekends would have also experienced the frustration of constructions not surviving particularly long outdoors either...
Behind the construction area was another area for construction - with much bigger pieces of wood, timber, stones etc for the children to create - the messy area... at the moment the children had created what looked like a dry creek.

an area for role-play - lots of camping and hiking in the mountains play

Looking back onto the garden with the role-play area behind me - a small bridge takes the children over to the main garden and the enormous sandbox, including a system for collecting rainwater

Next to the role play area, on the lawn was a small pool, warming up in the sun

Throughout the outdoor space there was lots of plants... for eating and also to help nature - bees and butterflies - for instance milkweed was allowed to grow so that the monarch butterfly had stop-over places to feed and rest on their long migration. The garden continued in the front of the preschool too, where the children were able to visit and learn more about the plants and their uses.
Many thanks to Sunflower Preschool Boulder for allowing me to visit and spending time with me.
This is my first post... I am quite sure there will be more as i have more time to reflect on the experience...

Friday, 4 July 2014

Cultural Differences

I have now been in Boulder, Colorado for almost two weeks... my children and I have noticed a lot of differences between here and our home city of Stockholm - and not just the heat and sunshine but the BIG thing that stands out is the friendliness and the helpfulness of everyone around us. People have just been so thoughtful, and my children have been quick to notice that.

It is one of the things that I noticed when I first moved to Stockholm was how isolated it made me feel. I was used to greeting people on the street, at the bus stop in my home-city of York, UK - in Stockholm people would not greet me, in fact on one occasion (my last time of greeting someone on the street) - the person actually crossed the road to avoid me, or to avoid saying something, or considered me totally bonkers...
I remember in Swedish lessons how everyone else in the class (from a great many different countries from around the world) would all complain about the same things... that no-one ever said excuse me or sorry if the bumped into you, hardly anyone helped with doors, or people with limited mobility or with prams onto a bus... and of course the talking, the lack of small talk on buses, trains, bus stops etc etc etc

I have always put it down to the size of Stockholm - big cities are less friendly... but my time in Denver this last few days has shaken my theory... here is a town that is roughly the same size as Stockholm, and yet the people were friendly here too. On public transport the people who I see are avoided in Stockholm were spoken to with kindness and respect here in Denver (and Boulder).
Is it because Stockholm is a capital city? Well Denver is the capital of Colorado... and I mean the states here are HUGE they are like countries...

I can't make sense of it. Why is there such a difference? Is it because the state does such a good job of taking care of its citizens in Sweden that they don't need to take care of each other?

Is there a fundamental difference in our preschools? That we teach our children different priorities in life?

I am  by no means  saying one country is better than another... but more saying, what can we learn from each other? Having lived in Sweden for almost 20 years I have gone through the years of noticing the differences as negatives and now try to unite the benefits of both my cultures to create the best I can for the children i work with (and my own children at home). I think, even after almost 20 years,I am not feeling Swedish, but I am not feeling particularly British anymore either... I have become a citizen of the world. I have become much more open to everything being different and that it is perfectly fine. I hope that our 4 week stay in Boulder gives a similar opportunity for my children to learn about cultural differences.

Being a new mother, in 2001, and moving to Australia for 6 months with infants was a challenge... but it also allowed me to see the cultural differences in raising children... for the first six months I was in Sweden and I was reading parenting magazines from UK, Sweden and USA - those were what I could find... when I got to Australia I had access to magazines from Australia and New Zealand too... and each one had totally different advice... from what foods infants should have from what age etc etc - there were a few constants... but what it taught me was that by reading widely I could find the rhythm that that suited me and my children.

In a way, travelling is such an amazing way to learn. Not just new ideas, but about the journey you want to take yourself and the learning journey you want to take with others.

So where am I going with this post... I have absolutely no idea... only observations right now...

we walked to this park today so that Michael could look for salamanders - but the extreme limited access to the lake/pond made it virtually impossible. In Sweden we are used to a greater freedom with nature, with the water, than what we have here in Boulder where it seems so much more controlled ... the swimming pool was extremely controlled to the poisnt that the 4 life-guards in the small pool were blowing their whistles a lot!! If no-one is taking responsibility fort themselves - than what is going to happen in the long run?