Tuesday 29 August 2017

New Perspectives...

It has been an interesting two weeks...

8 educators from Jenin, Palestine have been with me (that work on the refugee camp there) and we have visited various preschools, schools, and the teacher training college on a quest to learn more... I have held a full day play workshop and a two day outdoor learning workshop as well... with a BIG focus on imagination and creativity.

The aim has been to give them a new perspective... ideas and inspiration to take back with them and to adjust to fit in with their own context. Of course this time I have spent with them (starting in January with a 3 week visit to the camp, and then April for 2 weeks in the camp) has been an opportunity for me to see education from a new perspective... to appreciate the spaces available for children  here in Stockholm, the money invested by the state into preschool and education and the fact that there is not the fear of my home being invaded by soldiers, or the sound of weapons EVERY DAY AND NIGHT that disturb sleep and make learning and concentration even harder.

There are many areas of life that need improvement in Stockholm... there are still far too many prejudices that are limiting far too many people's potential... and also forcing them to live without the feeling of safety and belonging that is the right of all people. There needs to be equality... for all... no matter where we originally come from, or what religion we believe in, what our gender is or what our sexual preferences are etc... we ALL have the right to reach our full potential, we have the right to be respected and to be valued. Sweden is a country that is not under occupation, it is a country not terrorised by nightly outbursts of weapons that wake whole neighbourhoods... we have the chance to really address these issues and create a country of equal opportunities.... and yet during my visits it is quite clear that this is not the case, there is still so much left to do so that ALL  preschools in all areas are provided with the resources to give children the best start... and its not just academics but also the social interactions, integration, the feeling of really belonging.

Investing in all the people that work in preschools is essential... making each and everyone feel valued, and giving them all the training, the inspiration and the time to practice in order to give children that best start.. that the scaffolding is meaningful, reflective and joyful.

Adults need time to play. To find joy. To use their imagination and to train that creativity muscle that enables them to better connect with children, enables them to be a more inventive teacher - and also gives them the strength to dare... to try new things, to dare to make mistakes as part of the learning process.

and for these educators... being in a boat was all about joy... about awaking their inner child and laughing out loud. To forget their reality for a while to experience a bit of magic... and once filled with magic it becomes easier to create magic for others... to take magic back home to Palestine with them.

In the coming weeks I will be writing more about this last two weeks together with the educators from Palestine, my role in The Freedom Theatre's preschool teacher training programme... and what I have learned in this journey.

Sunday 20 August 2017

The Magic of Play

Yesterday I held a play workshop for the educators from Jenin, Palestine and some of the educators of Filosofiska preschools. it was an opportunity for experiences to be shared and to learn from each other... and to explore play...

The day started with a dialogue... exploring what "PLAY" means to each person... and then what "MAGIC" is...

After this they were given the challenge to explore materials and to discover magic... and not to play as children, but to play as themselves...

Here is some of the dialogue from the morning session... Names are not used... as it this post is only about sharing ideas...


Play is with a message and with a goal, but not always... for example in this training we have learned that if we want to teach math we can teach through play and not just writing. This age (preschool) is for playing not just learning...

Playing for children is like freedom for adults, freedom without limits, the child can become more and more by playing... allows the child to develop... Play is the the same for children as freedom is for adults...

The kids invite to play... give them space to try and things, as a parent and as teacher... there is difference between younger and older - there is a difference in their needs... But we should not just let them be, but observe from a distance.

Playing should not be limited, even if it is dangerous, the kids they love to try the things, play comes from within... (talking about risky play)

Playing is a fun activity - happiness... in the end it has a goal for these children, adults situate the things for the kids..

Play is the first job in the kids in the world, it is a kind of power... the kids that do not play will not develop enough..

Fun. to discover the world, I can teach myself through play.

Play is exploring, taking new perspectives, being able to change perspective in an instant, I think both finding and exploring your inner self what you are interested and like and what others are interested and like. Cooperating about a fantasy world.

Play is exploring and but also a state of mind... a joyous state of mind... play requires a possibility mindset... to see possibilities... and what came before

Play is the most fun that exists... but also the most serious and most important thing we have

Play is important for the child, from play we can discover many new things, sensory is important... yesterday we went to the preschool we discovered something new in the room, through play we could discover many new things... we need space for this kind of play.

Playing is life

Play is to explore the different sides of your personality; and play helps to get to know yourself and others on a deeper level. When you understand yourself and others then you can function better. We are all children actually.

Magic is something difficult... it is fantasy she has wishes something like fairies and it is like wishes... I wish to be a king...

When I think magic I think of moments, there are often moments of magic that happens in meeting with objects, humans, or realisation... play is magic... magic is play.

Also think play is magic... if they have the play and magic they also have the power... it is in the play and magic that the children have their world outside of the grown up world... so they can be free...

Its like wishes, its always happening in he night when people are sleeping, then magic becomes real... Everything is possible... (I can do everything)

Magic is a gate opener  (door opener...)

The magic that the children in their mind all the time... they love to use their imagination... the fairy for the girls, she plays with the fairies and has a conversation with them, it is part of the world with the kids...

I can talk a lot about magic but will just say... for example if you look really close at things like the house of a snail or a leaf... your perspective changes... life itself is magic, you just have to have the right eyeglasses on to be able to see... do not take life for granted.

Magic is to give children to to live reality as they want to... adults say no a lot - this give children freedom...

The magic is the surprised face for the kids for example when you ask them to go and see bats in a cave... to then go to the cave... and instead they "find" gold... here they give kids power and life through magic... the most important is that magic gives children happiness..

The kids live in imagination and the magic they use... they need this imagination in everything. It is like wishes... they need it to become a truth. (wishes to become real)

The magic in my world is to let the children think and feel without us as adults – that we take the time to be with the children in their world and be with them and not outside and to be in communication with the children... interaction, to allow them to be who they are, to allow them to experience their own world is magical...

Magic is something that is impossible that becomes possible. (there are a few giggles at this time as I point to my t-shirt with the word IMPOSSIBLE written on it but the first two letters are crossed out)

I agree with what I said before... but that play and magic is important for adults too.. and that it is power for us too... if we are imprisoned in a small room and without freedom then we can be free in our imaginations

The educators then were asked to look  for the magic not the learning in the activities set out for them.  Below are some photos and films from the interactive hands on part of the workshop... and then there is some text from the afternoon session...

making prints... also magic

bubbles landing on the art and not popping straight away

being inspired to build upwards... to crate buildings

dialogue... taking time to explore our thoughts...

During lunch I had a dialogue with one of the Swedish teachers about the fact that I did not want to give my opinion about play or magic during the dialogue... my reason being that I was there to learn from them so that I could be a better teacher for them... that my opinion might sway how they think they should feel and at this point I felt it more important that they learn from each other, explore and then continue the dialogue. I said that this is also how I work with children during dialogues... that my opinion is put on the sidelines so that I can learn from the children to better equip myself to meet their learning needs. For this educator this was a powerful statement ... we went on from there to explore the word interfere... and I think a whole blogpost will come at a later date from this...


Sharing magical moments from this morning...

 It was magical to see smiles spreading on faces through interaction... dialogue and conversation started from being together and doing together.

it was a nice moment when talking to each other... got ideas from what she has made and discovered an idea to build a mosque

Painting on the floor and spraying... it created circles... I was so surprised as I did not know it was going to happen... what i thought was going to happen turned out different and I like to be surprised... that was magical... and that we participated in the same painting together... so we do not know the result... it is always changing... that is magical. Its also like losing control, normally when you are grownup you have to have control of everything and here we did not have to, it and it was liberating.

The light table the plastic usually to pop, but here to paint... at first I only used top of my finger, and then by the end using the whole hand with (2 other educators)... that was a magic moment... the interaction between us as adults and talked about many things, we talked about play for children and how parents are in Sweden and Palestine.

The magic started at this table and started the dialogue and feel like the kids... the challenges this is for me and for you, to imagine the train went to the moon (at the tape and paper table)... bringing the story into the play

the magic for her was the atmosphere, how there was harmony moving from activity to
the magic was you Suzanne when you threw up the flowers...

Inside when painting with my hands and used the colour  and also when Suzanne asked about what I created and I imagined myself as a child and how the child thinks... making a bridge and going to the moon... and this idea of being on the moon, to be honest I have never in my whole life thought I could imagine such things (there was then a dialogue about the importance of imagination and how many children in Palestine are restricted in their play as their imagination tends to be so reality bound)
The magic is to me was was playing with bubbles and mixing the colours together, so we sat and tried...

And how did you mix them?
(she shows with her fingers)

the story room... I forgot to check out the books, and I discovered many ideas for magic there after I had played...

I started with the books so that she could get more ideas

ME: would you start with the same thing? Or books next time?

start with the stories...

ME: is it better to start with your own inspiration or that from a book...?

to start with the story and then she have inspiration from the stories to apply her idea...

in that moment … it depends...

a mix of both of them... start with own ideas... then read stories then you will have many ideas, you can build it on your own ideas and then have new ideas... so both of them working...

that is magic to have a man here. (there was a male educator taking part, and this was of great importance and interest to the educators from Palestine where preschool educators are exclusively female)

I think I was a bit nervous and I sat at the table... and I needed to play by myself and the magic happened when you asked about the question... the question war play. I often think conversations between grown ups are like our version of play... (not just running around etc) we have this interaction between speech and listening.

even if we did this part of playing in Palestine they will only imagine their reality... the guns the occupation... Swedish children can imagine more freely

(talk about Palestine and the need for imagination... to escape the reality...)

when imagining are they butterflies or stylised flowers all looking the same or tanks... but they all look the same (templates) it is very much Disney style and sponge bob in Palestine... that is why I am afraid of this kind of materials... it is stylised fantasy... they are locked images... 

and not relevant to Palestine...

how can I use paintings and other images of a flower to open up the space for creativity and imagination. Instead of looking at standard red/yellow flower... go explore flowers in nature... to experience... flowers though new perspectives... (not many flowers in the camp... mostly rubbish)

the scent in the paint... nice addative... did not think of it myself...
also the scent is connected with emotions and can bring that to the learning/experience

ME: science says that scent is the biggest memory trigger... smells with positive memories can enhance learning while smells with negative memories make it harder to concentrate...

in our system at work in Jenin, in our reality there is no man working in kindergarten...

ME: what good do you think will happen from having men in preschool in Jenin?

There was then a long dialogue about men working in preschools, about gender differences and about making changes in Palestinian education and society... these topics I will take in another post as they are worth exploring on a deeper level.

But from the comments I have shared (this is of course not the entire dialogue) you can see that imagination and magic are important elements of play, and important for learning and important for change.
As I reflected over the day I realised that imagination needs space... place and time... it also needs safety... as it became clear that if adult educators could not imagine they would talk about flying trains and going to the moon then the reality of occupation and fear has been so overwhelming that there has not been space for imagination. 
So how do we create this space for the children in Jenin right now... these educators are an important part of this... as are all educators and people who work and come in contact with children... to create space where children feel safe enough to imagine...
and by exploring imagination there is the hope that creative thinkers emerge...
and creative thinkers can become problem solvers, and maybe even conflict resolvers.
Imagination and play are essential for peace.

This brings me back to PLAY FOR PEACE.

Monday 14 August 2017

Reflections. 2

The second post to just inspire reflection...

How do you ask questions?
Questions beginning with "why" often leads to a surprising answer or a refusal to answer the question at all. Whereas a question that starts with "tell me about" can lead to detailed observations from a child.

How often do take the time to reflect on how you ask questions?
Get creative with your questions... try something new and see what happens

in this case... creativity involves breaking out of established patterns in order to question things (or to dialogue with the children) in a different way.

Tuesday 8 August 2017

The Pedagogical Wall, Stockholm...

Stockholms Pedagogiska Vägg (Stockholm's Pedagogical Wall) is designed for children to get creative in the public space... a space for children to leave their mark, their ideas, their imagination - not for a long time but for a while, as the wall is painted over and over very much like the Together Paintings I have described before ( you can read about them here).

It is a wall that is forever evolving. A place to come as an individual, or a family or together with a preschool or school or fritids (after school activity centre).

The wall is available for free expression or as part of a workshop together with an art facilitator that will inspire and challenge thinking about art, creative expression, and children's rights in public space.

I met up with Rikard Olsen who started the project with backing from Stockholm city with the aim to promote children's rights to take more place in public spaces. This project has had a steady trickle of visitors over the summer, as well as schools and preschools visiting too to do workshops where art and movement are combined.

The aim is for the wall to continue after the summer - with workshops for schools and preschools to continue and also at weekends.

I think the wall is important for several reasons...

  • Children need to be a part of the public space... not only so they can see themselves as active participants of the society and not just beings that adults create spaces for... but also so that adults can see the competence of children. That their ideas are given space to be aired, that their talents can be shown off... and this wall is open for ALL children of ALL ages and even during the short time that I was there I saw a huge range of ages and Rikard had a natural instant good rapport with them all.
  • children benefit from doing art outside, where there is an opportunity to experiment with paints and materials in a way that indoor art seldom allows you
  • the wall is massive... if allows children to think big, no small paper here, there is space to really go wild, to paint with the whole body - to stretch high and bend low and paint big.
  • there is the chance for risky-play. I love the fact there are step-ladders, over the years I have taken step-ladders into the atelier (and other spaces) for the children to climb and experiment with taking risks - in the sense of how high do you dare to climb. Each child will find that step that they dare use, some will challenge themselves, others will watch until they find the courage themselves... parents and teachers get the chance to see that children are capable of using step ladders... even preschool children!!
  • we often talk of making children's learning visible... and this is a space that also does that. the children are learning about techniques, they will learn about the difference between brush and roller (and other materials used) - they can learn about mixing colours, they can learn about how other children express themselves and be inspired, on the wall this time were various languages... so we were learning that this is a space of diversity where all are welcome.
  • it is a place to interact. Not just with the wall and the materials... it can also be a space to interact with others. A meeting place.
If I was to sit here longer I would probably come up with more reasons for why this wall is important... these are the ones that have just rolled off the top of my head.

If you are in Stockholm then I recommend that you head to T-bana Medborgarplatsen and check out the wall, take along children and let them get creative.
if you work at a school or preschool why not get in contact with them and see if you can book a session/workshop (the link to the page and a way of contact is at the top of this blogpost)

I really hope this wall goes from strength to strength and encourages others to take action and ensure that children are a part of public spaces.

If you are interested in children's rights and children and public spaces, then please check out the facebook group Children and Public Spaces

Reflections... 1.

As the new academic year is about to kick off here in Sweden I thought I would start a new series of posts... well mini posts...

basically just a question, or a thought or a reflection that I have come across as I read, or observe or just reflecting... and instead of waiting for these reflections and thoughts to manifest into a whole post of some sort... i just write it down and share...

So here comes the first one...

Why are children perceived and written about in a certain way? And what concepts and from which pedagogical practices does this image of the child come from?