Friday, 30 June 2017

Plasticine Labyrinth

Using the big metallic tray/serving dish from Jenin a labyrinth was made using plasticine.

it was an easy process to roll the plasticine into long strips, choosing a colour scheme was also important... it was supposed to be all green... but compromise was made when there was not enough green to complete the entire labyrinth... since blue and yellow make green, these seemed the next best colours... red and brown did not feel right apparently so black was used for the final bits.
This labyrinth was started from the inside out... I wonder if all children have this approach.

There was much thinking needed to make the gaps large enough for the ball to traverse through them, thinking about how to make it a little tricky and not too easy... blocking off routes, and then realising there was no way to get to the middle and having to make adjustments again.

The roundness of the tray influenced the labyrinth design... maybe on a square or rectangle tray the design would be different.

To navigate the ball around the maze we opted for magnets and a metal ball, but you could also think about just rocking the tray back and forth to make the ball move through the labyrinth... also if wanting to support children with pronunciation (mouth gymnastics) a lighter ball and a straw could be used... and the children could blow the ball around the labyrinth.

Alternatively the labyrinth could be made directly onto a table in a much bigger format and a ping-pong ball used to blow around.

Maybe the children could draw their labyrinth designs on paper, to record them, and maybe also work on how to make changes to the design to either make it easier or harder. Could colours be used as part of the design in a specific way... ir a challenge to create a design where the ball had to pass colours in s a specific order?

What about designing tunnels? and bridges? (of course bridges would mean a loss of magnetic contact if done magnetically... but this could be a part of the learning process of understanding how magnets work, and how to design labyrinths for different uses.).

There is a short film included under the photo.

Tuesday, 20 June 2017

Preschool Visit.... Överby Förskola (post 1 of 3)

This is just a brief post to share the fact that a larger and more detailed post is in the works...
but right now my brain is full of thoughts... I am sorting through photographs which has been making those thoughts spin a few more times... and eventually I will work out what sort of direction the blogpost should take...

but here, I want to share the value of visiting other preschools/settings and also the value of being visited. The opportunity to see inspiration, and also to see your own work through the eyes of others. The chance to exchange ideas and energy. To be able to make those pedagogical somersaults - even small ones... sometimes big ones... sometimes failed ones, as you realise the epiphany you are in the middle of is just too out there... but you learn from all of the somersaults... and sometimes those small ones can have a massive impact!

It is so important to take the time to look and listen, to feel and experience new things... to be open to possibilities and to ignite the passion that brought us into the ECE world in the first place... and to share this passion with others...

This photo is of their sensory lab that they applied for funding to create...

I will go more into details about this room, and the other rooms in a post coming later this week... maybe next week... as it's midsummer celebrations this week!

Tuesday, 13 June 2017

Th child and the city...

A friend of mine shared on facebook the following

Being a woman is kind of like being a cyclist in a city where all the cars represent men
You are supposed to be able to share the road equally with cars, but that's not how it works
The roads are built for cars and you spend a great deal of physical and mental energy being defensive and trying not to get hurt
Some of the cars WANT you to get hurt. They think you don't have any place on the road at all.

It got me thinking, not only from the perspective of human rights, equality for women and men... and those that are not included in this binary way of viewing life... where as adults we DO have a voice to be defensive and avoiding getting hurt... while children do not... they are seldom afforded a voice.
They experience being the cyclist as if in the dark and with no lights or reflectors... they are virtually invisible and the adult world seldom considers them as equals on the road. (Of course I don not include those adults who are working hard to listen to the voice of the child, that are advocating children's rights etc)

 For four years I went out with my group of preschoolers to hand out pepparkakor (gingerbread cookies) as a symbol of goodwill in December... and I was always incredibly ashamed of the behaviour of MOST of the adults. Yes, there were those that came up to the children and interacted, that saw the children, admired their baking skills and enjoyed the message of goodwill... mostly parents with their young children and retired people... the majority actively avoided eye contact with the children (ranging from 2-6 over the years) actively ignoring the children's wishes of goodwill and offerings of sweet things and sometimes even ensuring they walked as far from the children as they could... some even snapped at the children (of course I was always there offering support so the children did not get disheartened.)
the children were forgiving... when we talked about the adults that chose to ignore us they thought it might be because they were shy and did not dare to talk, or were in a hurry and did not have time...
for me I felt sad that we have lost a sense of community where we all participate and support each other and focus on this sense of goodwill.
I ended up taking hundred of photos to document who ignored the children and who interacted... men between the ages of 20 and 60 were those who did most of the active ignoring.

On Friday I will be listening to Tim Gill who writes "Rethinking Childhood" which brings me to the point of cities and child friendliness and space for children to play... and how cities are designed for cars and not for children... maybe even all people...

this in an area between buildings... not designed for children, but the children called it "hide and seek" pak because it was great for that, and they always started with that game before going into other sorts of play... jumping, chasing and building with the junk they found there.
Stockholm has some car free streets during summer... this summer with be the third in "Alive Stockholm" (Levande Stockholm) where several streets are free from cars and filled with people and activities instead... another street has been added to this list of Summer-pedestrian-streets, making it four streets/partial streets that are car free. Some will have pop-up parks. I will be checking them out and taking photos this summer to see just how child-friendly they are. Last year I just enjoyed some of them... this year I want to investigate them a little more.

the city hall is not designed for children, and yet the children found play possibilities here too

and on the 17th of September a part of the city will be completely car free for the day in order to bring up more dialogue about how cars affect the city and the potential of a city without cars...
image from Stockholm Stad
Bilfritt område = carfree area

Those of you who have explore this blog will have seen the page about Stockholm play-spaces... I have shared images of play-spaces here in Stockholm, and also some spaces that are public but I have felt allowed for children's play to be a part of the space too... really that is what we want... spaces where we can all belong with equality, young - old, men - women and everything in between... you know  EVERYONE!

What I see in these play-spaces is that, especially on weekends, there are more adults than children... or at least it feels that way as the big adult bodies take so much space... I watch and see how adults follow their children round the play-spaces. ONLY ONE play space had children playing without any adults in sight... this was in the south suburbs of Stockholm in an area with many immigrants... maybe a different play culture? I liked it, the space belonged to the children, the children were creative in their use of the play space... it reminded me of my own childhood when we went to the park on our own to play - the children in the play space were aged 5-15 - while in the ones dominated by adults the ages were 1-6 maybe a few 7 and 8 year olds too... of course older children will not want to play here, there is no space for them.

In 1998-99 I did a research on how children use museums looking at 6 museums in Stockholm and six museums in Yorkshire... interviewing parents, teachers and the museum workers. What I found was that museums in Sweden seemed to have more space for children on the side of the exhibitions... yes they had considered the children, but they had not made the exhibitions inclusive and attractive to all in the same way that museums in Yorkshire had... the UK museums had a greater focus on connecting their exhibitions to the school curriculum than in Stockholm (although Sweden is catching up on that it is still no way near what the UK museums offer in the sense of down-loadables etc... and that might not always be a good thing... I am just stating fact.)
But for me, this sectioning off feels like much of what happens with children all the time... they are institutionalised from the age of one (some start preschool later here in Sweden) where most of the play will be within the preschool perimeters - indoors and outdoors.... I have worked at MANY places that have said one and two year olds should not be taken on excursions because they are too young, or it is too dangerous etc etc... and I have worked at a place without their own outdoor space and saw that ALL ages can play all over the place... we just have to conquer those spaces... in the sense that yes, we ARE allowed to play here.
Together on the Square... the children designing how their dream square would look... it went through MANY design changes over the six months, as they learned more about the needs of others...

I spent 6 months on a project called "Together on the Square" where the children and I explored how the public square could be a place for everyone to meet, to learn about our community and to participate in it with others... The children played on the open square OFTEN, and by choice. There were no climbing frames or things specifically designed for children... but there was space to run and play... and in winter the snow was plowed into big piles here making fantastic places to play on unintentionally. By taking the time we allowed the children, and ourselves to see the play potential of this public space. This gave us all the strength to see play potential in other public spaces... my adult eyes got to see a new Stockholm! in the film below you get to see "our Stockholm" we really travelled all over the place and finding play everywhere... I am also fortunate not to have been constrained by a variety of policies that restrict how I go out - safety is important, but the teacher is deemed competent in knowing what is safe to do with the children... this group of children I had worked with for 3.5 years, I trusted them completely, as they trusted me... this meant we could go on adventures together... for some groups I have worked with where there is not the trust yet, or the ability to explore safely then I have asked parents to come too... In Sweden we have on average a 1:5 adult- child ratio.

I am looking forward to listening to Tim Gill and finding out more about children and cities... and making cities more people friendly.

Collecting information about space and children's play...

Please could you write in the comments here... or in the comments of the groups where I share this post, so that I can collate some information about how space affects children's play and learning outcomes and also, more importantly, how it affects your teaching.... if you cannot teach the way children learn, then it is going to have a HUGE impact...

How much does the curriculum, the space and the size of the group impact your ability to teach/educate? especially educate the way you understand children learn.

So please, could you take the time to answe these questions... it would be REALLy interesting to see if there is a geographical difference in how much space per child is dedicated to children's learning, and whether this is enough space for children to learn through play....
the focus will be on children 0-6 years of age.
1. location - town, country
2. size of space for one class/group (preferably in square metres)
3. number of rooms available to JUST this class/group
4. other rooms available, and how often during the day/week/month
5. number of children and age of children in group/class
6. number of teachers (teachers and assistants, would be interesting to write 1 teacher, 2 assistants or whatever, just to see if there are any big geographical differences there too)
7. size of overall setting/school - how many classes,
8. what curriculum do you follow, do you feel it limits you in any way? (this is YOUR personal feeling as a reaction to your teaching style) - does it empower you? you have a no running rule inside... ? Why? (and there can be good reasons for this, so be open and honest please)
thank you for all the information, if you manage to ... it would be so interesting to understand more about how we use our indoor space... and also if we as teachers are limited/empowered by this space too. I will put all of this into a future post and share with you of course...

if you have any other thoughts that you feel would be useful for finding out whether there is enough space for us to teach children the way they learn or not, then I would very much appreciate it... 

Many thanks for your time. 

Bubble Game developments

I have been intending to write this post for quite some time, but for some reason never quite got round to it... so today I am making a conscious effort to get it done... inspired by a dialogue in an online group about running indoors... where we discussed this post "Look out a T-Rex":Thoughts on 2walking feet". by David Cahn. it is a great post exploring children's needs to run, and our adult needs to let go of our need to control the running...
It did raise some dialogue that not all spaces are designed for running... so that the need to control the running is not coming from basic fears of running control but real fears of a small awkward shaped/designed space for many children is not optimal for children to run in safely especially as young children do not have a fully developed sense of spatial awareness (or physical control, or understanding consequences of their actions - my dad always said... the older you get the further you see).

One of my parts in the dialogue...
"I have always worked that we have spaces to run inside, spaces for quiet play inside... and spaces for play in between.
Not all children want to be surrounded by children running.
Some children get very frustrated with their constructions being knocked
 over by running children or their small play with others disturbed by children hurtling through...
so I create space for all kinds of play... 
In Sweden we seldom have one room for many forms of play as I have seen in UK and USA etc... but each group/class will have a series of rooms... this makes it much easier to have rooms for quiet and rooms for noise and running...
AND of course if I see a huge need for running then I take them outside where they REALLY can run..
Also in Sweden we do not wear shoes inside... so when they are running inside I encourage them to be barefoot so that they do not slip... running on our floors in socks CAN be dangerous and corners are not always taken so well... and I have nursed MANY bumps and bruises and also cuts to the head (and alos bruises to other parts of the body)...

I think not running is not just about adult control... I think we have to observe children's play and meet their needs, and that can be sometimes restricting the running - I am not afraid of noise and running... but ALL the time you also have to think about the sensory input for all of the children AND staff... there needs to be down time too, and places to feel quiet and still... and times to learn how to be quiet and still, because that is just as important as the freedom to run and shout...

I agree whole heartedly that we need to reflect more on the rules that we make for children... why they are there, do the children know about them and understand them... are they always needed... or maybe just in certain rooms or at certain times? Who are the rules really for? Who benefits from the rules and how do they benefit... what would happen if the rules were not there..."
 there is a need for us to design spaces from the very start to allow the children to learn and to incorporate all kinds of movement on an equal basis... that means running is given the same value as sitting quietly...
it is important to remember that most educators are fully aware of the need to run... but are given a curriculum and a space that does not give enough time, space or value to this part of the children's play and learning. Really we need to be addressing these point higher up in the educational hierarchy - so that the authorities are designing spaces and curriculums that are relevant and enable the educators to teach the way children learn....

Anyway back to the bubbles... it was a way for my children to not only work on their self regulation, but also to develop their spatial awareness...

Here is the link to the first post I wrote on this Bubble game  -  what I want to go into more detail is not the part where we sat in a circle but the part afterwards where the children are running more...

The part where they are lined up against the wall and they run forward to pop the bubbles and have to move back when the next name is called... and I say their names pretty fast... they have to be listening all the time for their name, or they will miss it, they have to be aware of running so they do not crash into anyone else, and they have to be aware of where the bubbles are and popping them. This stage is like a warm up... as there will only be two children at most in action at the same time.

THEN... all the children are active at the same time... I have done bubble popping with children many many times over the years... and nearly always there has been a crash, I would say it is GREAT fun until the crash happens, then it stops to comfort the children who are upset...
This play of popping all the bubbles has the challenge that the children are not allowed to touch each other... if they do then they have to sit out. the aim of the session is to work as a team and all children still be popping bubbles after 2 minutes has passed 8this proved to take two years of playing once a week before they managed a two minute session without touching another). BOTH children sat out, the one that did the touching and the one that was touched... the idea was that we take responsibility for others, our actions do not happen in isolation. At the end of two minutes (so it was never long to wait) we would talk about strategies... why were those children successful and still popping bubbles, what were their own theories, what were the theories of those observing? We then tried out the theories... the most fun one was when a child said "I am not sitting down because i kept to the edge where there were no others and did not pop the bubbles" - all the children thought this was a good idea... we tried it out and the whole group stood at the edge and watched the bubbles... the reflected and decided it was not the best way to play...

phot of me playing the bubble game taken by Opsis Magazine

The children got better at popping the bubbles and being aware of the other children around them, or predicting their movements and compensating appropriately to avoid contact - the children were learning spacial awareness. This also improved the tag/chasing games they played... they became better at ducking out of the way... but also better at tagging without that push or hit sort of action that used to happen when they did not have the same spatial awareness and the same physical control over their bodies...
They also learned a great deal about working together as a group and solving problems TOGETHER.

Friday, 9 June 2017

Progettazione, by Suzanne Axelsson & Debi Keyte-Hartland

by Suzanne Axelsson & Debi Keyte-Hartland 

We have been inspired by through a recent question about progettazione posed on the Facebook Page here Reggio Emilia Approach about progettazione, a group that Suzanne curates. We have decided to collaborate together on a piece that explores what for each of us progettazione means and looks like.

For Debi, progettazione is best described as a transdisciplinary, flexible and open approach to working with children’s hypothesises and thinking whereby their ideas are subject to moderation, elaboration and transformation as thinking develops as part of a learning group. (For more on Learning groups see here) It is a way of working that goes beyond the completion of a topic or theme set by the adult in which certain concepts are covered through teaching to one that is more akin to a research approach where the educator is a co-researcher alongside the children exploring how young children learn both individually and as part of a group.

For Suzanne, progettazione is an approach where children and teachers are learning, they are collaborators, researchers and teaching each other. The educators are observing the children at a level that is informing them about how they are learning as well as what fascinates them within the project. It is a complex multi-layered learning situation for all concerned where the educators document the children's knowledge about the project, as well as their own learning styles and development and analyse this information to improve themselves as educators. There is a mutual respect between children and educators and the project is driven by the teachers and children together.

For Debi, the children are not guided to cover a range of topics or themes but rather learning situations are created that generate a context for discussion, expression and the contesting of ideas in many modalities and ‘languages’ about the world. Children learn through being offered these generative contexts and provocations that enable children to discover learning for themselves. Progettazione therefore promotes educator development, the co-construction of knowledge as part of a learning group and should be in relationship with the children’s families. In this way, families are invited to learn about the group as the progettazione progresses and not just their individual child at the end. Another good descriptor about progettazione can be found here at And look here for more information on the general guiding principles of the Reggio Emilia schools. Sightlines Initiative

“If we believe that children possess their own theories, interpretations and questions, and that they are co-protagonists in their knowledge-building processes, then the most important verb in educational practice is no longer to talk, to explain, to transmit, but to listen.” 
Carlina Rinaldi (1998) 

Carlina Rinaldi in the quote featured above speaks about how our image of the child affects how we teach. If we see them as empty vessels then our practice is to fill them up with facts and knowledge of our own. However if we believe that children are capable of thinking, of making hypotheses and interpretation and posing questions of their own then rather than fill up the child or transmit knowledge to them, we instead listen to them and most importantly, act upon what they say, to make a choice about what happens next by considering the multiple perspectives shared in the group.

Suzanne also reminds us that we have to agree as team of educators working together what these tricky words such as progettazione, project, topic and theme mean to each other. “We have had many dialogues about themes and projects and what exactly these words mean for us, and how we can use them in a larger circle of educators around the world. After all this world of ours is shrinking in the sense that we can collaborate online... this means we need to have an understanding of each other. For example the word kindergarten means something quite different when I am in Jenin and Germany from when I have been in Canada and USA – so I find when starting with progettazione we also have to come to some kind of agreement on the language of the progettazione so that we have a common understanding, otherwise I think it is easy to walk away from a meeting thinking we are all in an agreement about where the project is starting from and what direction it will initially take... to discover that all the educators take completely different directions from each other.”

the children were exploring light, shadow and art... previously we had explored this from the perspective of fear... this time I was able to observe how the children interacted with each other, see how they used their empathy to support those who had been afraid of the dark the previous time. This was a part of the children's listening project... for Suzanne it was an exploration of relationships...

Progettazione therefore we could say in an approach that: 
• is co-lead by children and educators working together 
• is a flexible and open approach that is open to modification and multiple points of view 
• is a form of professional development for teachers (a research approach)
• happens as part of a learning group collaborating together 
• where observation is used to understand the learning processes of the children as well as well as the construction of knowledge within the learning group 
• involves family engagement during the process of the progettazione 
• involves many languages of expression, to discuss and hypothesise ideas and thoughts 
• requires agreement amongst teams of educators upon what the term means to them

For Suzanne, an example of progettazione was when she worked at a bilingual school that had at its heart a research question about language... since they were profiling in language, to understand how children acquired and used language(s) was very important. For example how much did the children know, how did they communicate, how were they learning language and how were non-verbal children communicating, which language was the strongest, how do children learn a second or third or fourth language? She had a ”project” with the children where each of the four groups were exploring different things that each group had shown an interest in... the group she worked most closely with at the time was exploring space, which turned into an exploration of colour and size. But it was through this space exploration that she observed the children's language and how they communicated their ideas. They also had regular meetings analysing their notes, films, photos etc where they not only discussed how the projects could move forward in the sense of what the children were interested in... but also what they were learning about the children's language and how this information could enable them to be better teachers.

For Debi, who works in the Reggio Emilia tradition of a pedagogista (but also with an arts background) an example of progettazione began with children making observations of the daytime sky. There was a certainty that the moon was in the sky at night and the sun was only in the sky during the day. One day, the moon appeared in the sky during the daytime which provided an occasion to challenge this certainty. What began as discussions about the description of the sun and the moon turned into a context for generating ideas about why this might happen. Following this event, the learning group (of about 11, 3-4 year olds) seemed to be talking more about the relationship between the sun and the moon, rather than as two separate and isolated phenomena. They talked about the power, that was held inside the sun and moon and power that emerged between the two. What appeared to be descriptors about power were maybe, as educators hypothesised using collected traces of documentation to analyse were the genesis of thinking about gravity and energy. It was during these year long explorations of the relationship between the sun and the moon that educators also researched how playful approaches to using digital media could be used in ways for children to co-construct and express ideas of their own thinking.

As part of a project about Leonardo Da Vinci - the children wanted to make a film... this was the last of 4 years with me (Suzanne) and I knew these children really well, but I was exploring how ready the children were for school in the sense of do I need to help them strengthen certain parts of their body to be able to hold a pencil, or help them become masters of their own emotions... I was learning more about so-called "school readiness" and trying to work out exactly what that means. As they drew images of Stockholm they were learning about their hometown, I was observing their pencil grip and how they dealt with drawing their building of choice... some children had a hard time not doing it perfect, what strategies did they use... what strategies did I need to use... and how could this information be used to support the relationship with the new teacher in school...

Progettazione we could then say is an approach to children’s learning, about educators learning about learning and about making that learning visible for analysis, for acting upon and deciding what to do next. A final stage is the publication of summative documentation that makes visible the co-research of the adults and the children. Progettazione cannot happen without what Carlina Rinaldi calls the “Pedagogy of Listening” and does not really occur when children are working in isolation of each other. It forms in the relationship and interaction of others; other children, other educators, other families and the community.

“Listening to children’s theories enhances the possibility of discovering how children think and how they both question and develop a relationship with reality. This possibility is magnified when it occurs within a group context that allows for the experience of others to be shared and debated.” 

Thank you for reading, 
Suzanne Axelsson & Debi Keyte-Hartland 

Suzanne Axelsson blogs at Interaction Imagination (that is this blog)
Debi Keyte-Hartland’s blog can be found at Debi Keyte-Hartland - this post has been shared on her blog at the same time. Our hope is that we can reach more people interested in Progettazione in this way.

Thursday, 8 June 2017

Following the child's lead...

I keep reading about a play-based curriculum and child-led learning that does not connect with how I have interpreted these concepts at all...

In fact I am not keen on the phrase child-led at all... just as I am not keen on the phrase adult-led... but I know that both of these are essential components for learning. I think when it comes down to it I am more of a "community of learners"-based curriculum sort of person... where I am one of the learners with the children... we are co-constructing knowledge as a group, we are collaborating to find the various processes to make sense of the questions we pose; we inspire each other, learn from each other, challenge each other... and the teaching happens the way we as a small community learns. And when it comes to young children that is mostly through play and exploration; but we don't shy away from other learning methods if that is what this learning community requires/desires.

If we are creating a democratic classroom I do not want to follow the child, but I do want to understand them so that I can offer learning that is appropriate. I don't want the child to simply follow or obey me, but I do want to challenge them appropriately so that they are given to chance to discover their potential; to expose them to new things they have never thought of or dreamed of; and to have expectations that they will treat others with respect, and me too. By demanding they treat me with respect (not respect through fear, but respect through trust) and that I treat them with respect... that I value them, they will learn how it feels to receive respect as well as be respectful. I feel it is essential that children are aware of how they want to be treated by others too.

A great deal of my "teaching" is scaffolding - enabling the children to decipher body language, teaching them how to anticipate expected responses (if a child does something to another then it is likely they will react by...) giving suggestions on what could be said and done in similar future situations etc...

But it there needs to be joy... and I need to be enjoying the process too. I need to be curious, value the small things in life, share moments as if for the first time; to see through the children's eyes without forgetting my own perspective. That together we will learn more than just child led, or adult led.

I have worked/visited in places where there is ONLY child-led play with virtually no adult intervention except for being like security guards watching. Yes, play happens, yes learning happens, but not all the children get to explore their full potential as they get locked into a play hierarchy, or a set role, or maybe never dares to play with the materials they really want because louder, stronger children have them all the time. There is no real democracy in this play. Young children, if not given the time and space, will become absorbed by the play and forget how it impacts others... and I feel learning to be generous and aware in play is essential for social relationships... as children and later in life. For me I am that voice to remind them, until it becomes their own inner voice able to be socially aware... to play democratically - with respect, valuing all and that all can participate (if they choose to).

Wednesday, 7 June 2017

Democracy as a relationship...

I have been spending today trying to put together an article for Modern Barndom (Swedish Reggio Emilia Magazine) about my experiences in the refugee camp of Jenin, Palestine. There is just so much I want to share, and too few words to share them in, that I have written a first draught with a focus on listening... and now feel I have to write a couple more with different perspectives and then try to make a choice as to which one I should send...

It is like the pedagogical documentation film I shared last week where I mentioned that it is impossible to share all the learning, all the observations and understandings you as a teacher have made together with the children - that the publication part has to be selective, you have to make a choice about what perspective of the learning you want to share with others... what am I going to shine the light on?

Also when it comes to this process of publishing thoughts it creates a frame for sorting. I have lots of reflections, I have learned so much about Jenin, about some of the people there, about myself and what I am capable of and my own learning. I am learning about history, politics and a culture that is different from my own, and yet the humanity of it has the exact same threads...

This year I have been focussing on democracy within preschools, trying to grapple with what it means for me and how can I share that with others... and how can I personally be democratic...

Democracy as a relationship... it is about our relationship with others... how we respect and value others, how we listen to others and how we collaborate and cooperate with others - participation. It is also our relationship with the room and with the materials - are we listening to the room... is the room listening to the children and the educators, does the room allow participation for all those that enter the room? Maybe it is even the relationship between materials - are some given higher status than others? Why? How?

As I have stated in previous posts about democracy we do not have to agree in order to value or respect another person, we do need to take the time to listen to understand. To take the time to reflect on differences and what these mean... the relationship of opinions.

"As we know, Malaguzzi never saw the developing child as an ideally autonomous learner, but rather saw education as a necessarily communal activity and symphony of subjectivities involving children and adults. He saw long-term and meaningful relationships between and among children, teachers, and parents as the necessary precondition for the flowering of communication, co-action, and reciprocity. Assuming the benefits of the prevailing Italian practice of keeping together teachers and children for a three-year cycle, he rationalized this practice by saying it makes possible the greatest density, richness, and complexity of communications, negotiations, and collaborative problem-solving. The three years spent together allow the group to construct a history of relationship and a sharing of culture that creates the sense of community and guarantees the quality of life and well-being for children as part of families."

Democratic Participation in a Community of Learners: Loris Malaguzzi's Philosophy of Education as Relationship  by Carolyn P. Edwards

Twice I have been given the opportunity to work with children for more than a year... once for two years with the same group of children, and once for 3.5 years. Both times I have been keenly aware of the advantages of having that longer length of time with the children. I was able to establish relationships with all of the children that allowed us to trust each other so that we could then focus our attention on our relationships with play and learning.
I had a real understanding of the children... and they had an understanding of me. This meant we could get on with trying to make sense of the world. When given a new class/group of children so much energy is consumed getting to know each other, learning to trust each other that there is not so much left for play and learning... even if getting to know each other is done through play and learning. The great part of continuing after summer with the same children is that we continued from where we were, making adjustments for the individual and group developments during the summer, which would be done through our observations, dialogues with the parents and dialogues with the children... we did not have to start from scratch building up our relationship. It also meant that I had a better success rate that projects I launched would be ones the children would be drawn to... because they came from my understanding of them.

This trust means that the children were open in their dialogues... they trusted me to create a safe place for all their ideas... they trusted that their peers knew that this was a safe place and were open to all ideas. This meant there was more participation, the children valued each other and respected each other - the words I am using to define democracy. Not by voting on things, but by listening to each other adults and children alike.