Saturday 30 June 2018

The Benefits of BIG play

I have regular contact with the educators from Jenin, Palestine - sometimes to ask about things, sometimes to share what they have been doing, and sometimes just to say hello, how are you doing?

Yesterday I received a series of photos of children playing on old tires and the comment that she (the educator) had been preparing the setting as the children arrived, but the children came and took over... and the surprise to see them playing, learning and enjoying themselves despite her concern.
We have talked a lot about risky play and the benefits this has for children's ability to do their own risk assessments, rather than being dependant on an adult to judge what is safe - of course we do not want to expose them to danger, only to situations that allow them to learn - a small scratch or bruise will not hurt much or for long but can provide an enormous lesson for the child about what is safe and what is not... and how much their own body is capable of.

I also got to watch some films of the play sessions.. which I will not show here, and although I am not particularly good at Arabic (its words rather than full sentences) I was able to pick out the "careful" was being said many times.

BIG play like this is a test for the adults just as much as the children. What are WE capable of allowing the children to experiment with themselves before we come and wrap them in cotton wool. I think it is a human instinct to want to protect our children... but sometimes too much protection can mean we send them out into the world unprepared. We have to learn balance.

In the photos below we can see some of the learning that is going on (I am of course privvy to more photos and films, the teachers there were able to see even more of the action, play and learning)

The learning that I can see is that the children are learning how to interact together... the films in particular showed how stacking the tires was hard for one person to do, they needed to collaborate, together they are stronger. They learned about physics - how the wheels moved, which directions and movements made it easier to move them around, which directions were harder, they learned about gravity and stability. Maths comes into it... how many tires can they manage to stack, how many is possible before it becomes unstable, if they are making stacks of three then they can start thinking about their three times table... multiplication - three towers of three are nine tires... all of this is happening naturally in their play. Since the tires are painted they can think of patterns and design.

Then there is the physical learning - the children strengthen their hands and arms... to be able to hold a pen to write children need to to have the muscle strength... BIG play allows the WHOLE body to be strengthened - because reading and writing (what many traditionally see as "learning" ) requires a child to be able to sit at a desk and hold their pen and concentrate... this big play is giving them the training they need to be able to do that... and even when in school this kind of BIG play is still needed to maintain muscle and concentration - we all know that if we stop training or stop speaking a language that we become less good at it, or weaker... it is the same with learning... too much focus on academic learning means that the whole child's needs are not being met... PLAY is essential for all ages to ensure there is the physical and mental well-being to learn - and also as you have just read above, learning is also happening in play.
Far too often there is an intense focus on forcing the child to sit, be quiet, and learn certain things in a certain way - learning is much more complex than that.
There is a phrase/word in Swedish called "studiero" which translates to study peace... ie there is peace in the classroom to be able to learn.
The thing is that this is being interpreted as being quiet... that children need to sit in silence or use hushed voices to be able to learn. And I seriously question this... is learning always quiet?
my experience is that it can be all sort of things... sometimes it is total silence as the children are fully engaged/mesmerised - other times it is extremely noisy as the children explore, discover and are excited about the learning. Sometimes learning happens individually and requires a muted space while other times it is in groups and is a lively dialogue, or even at times a heated one... As teachers/educators we need to be aware that we are creating learning spaces - this is not the same as "learning peace". We need to be aware that children not only learn in different ways from each other... they also need, on an individual basis, a varied learning diet. Sitting at a desk learning by listening only to the teacher and repeating what the teacher says is like eating only boiled rice and beans every day... yes, you can survive on it, it gives you energy and nutrients - but after a while you become disinterested in it, especially when you can see all around you other options. We need to give children a varied learning diet... and this means generous servings of play... the WHOLE child. My posts on Original Learning will describe in more detail how learning and play are woven together and should not be separated.

What do we want for our children?
What IS it we want them to learn... to achieve? What does the future hold for them? And how is school actually preparing them for that? By giving them the same skills we got last century? or by giving them the skills they need to look forward, imagine and solve the potential problems of tomorrow?
As Einstein said -

"Imagination is more important than knowledge. For knowledge is limited to all we now know and understand, while imagination embraces the entire world, and all there ever will be to know and understand." Schools trades in knowledge... what is already known... and yes this is useful, but it is only part of the story. Children need imagination... and that is best supported by play...

I have been reading Alison Gopnik over the last few days about how the very youngest children learn - the importance of play, the importance of interaction and the importance of the adult actually understanding how children learn rather than just filling them with information and sticking to what has always been done.

BIG play allows the whole child to learn... their entire body becomes involved. Mixed ages in this big lay allows the children to learn about taking care of each other, it also allows the youngest children who maybe do not have the muscle strength yet to participate in all of the play, the chance to observe and develop strategies - by watching they can see the interactions of others, they access social learning, they also get to observe the materials - science, technology, maths all of these can be observed. By interacting with each other the children are developing the language skills, by constructing together they are learning how to communicate spatial awareness, make predictions with each other and test them out... these are science experiments - what works what does not work.

BIG play also lets the child to enjoy themselves... and in this joy it is easier to feel safer, to connect with others and also to learn. As Malaguzzi said "Nothing without joy". We do not have to make learning fun... what we need to do is awaken the joy within each child to learn. Play is a fabulous way to awaken that joy... play is exploring, experimenting, testing, discovering, repeating, developing etc etc...

The adult needs to take a step back and allow uninterrupted play. Observe. Is there anything the children need to develop their play further... can this be provided in a story read later, or by offering small blacks to build with, or by asking some questions, or maybe showing  a small film to stimulate their construction.
The teacher invites the child to try something new, or provokes the group into thinking deeper... and then gives the children the space to test out the new and the deeper thoughts.

My time working with 8-13 year olds allowed my to understand that children appreciate learning from each other... they appreciate being trusted as competent... they appreciate being supported by educators who provide them with information, ways to find information and activities that allow them to discover learning so much more than sitting in a room having to just accept what a teacher says.
They want to learn with, talk with the teacher... not be talked at.

useful links
Peter Gray - Risky Play... Freedom to learn
The importance of outdoor play
Original Learning - my blog
Play spaces and play - giving children the freedom to play (my blog)
redefining play and education - we need to look at what the words mean
Malaguzzis three children - what kind of teacher are YOU... how do YOU view the child?
Together play - learning together by playing together
Purposeful play
Climbing Trees- to do not not to do - risky play

This is not an exhaustive list of links... there is much to read about the benefits of play, or risky play and outdoor play.
Also the above does not list everything that can be learned through play...

 with thanks to Suzan for the permission to use the photographs
you can find out more about her preschool "Best Of" early years center, Jenin, Palestine  by checking out their facebook page (click the link, which is the name above) - they are a setting that is striving to create  a place for children to learn through play, which is not a common feature of the local area where learning is very much seen as academic and rote.
So a huge applause I sen to them for their efforts to create the best learning environment for children, so that the children are ready with mind and body to face whatever the future holds for them. They do this despite not all understand the importance of play and put pressure on them to teach the way it has always been done.
Its not easy to do what is right... we have to be BRAVE.

Wednesday 27 June 2018

The story of Intolerance

In America at the moment it is Pride month...
It will be Pride month here in Sweden in August...

Pride did not start as a big party... it started as a protest against the abuse, the prejudice and the hate - it was an event to stand up and say "here we are... we are human..."

There are many around the world that choose not to accept people in the HBTQ community (in Sweden it is H and not LG - and I really prefer that we do not have to divide it into genders... H is more inclusive) - because they have been raised to believe it is wrong and a sin. And that sits in their core.

In the last two days in the Facebook Group "The Reggio Emilia Approach" several dialogues have had to be shut down due to the fact that a few people shared their opinions that they felt HBTQ was wrongful, that it should not be included in any way in preschool/school (especially preschool) and despite loving all people felt it was inappropriate to share this love with some communities or about them.
There is an unawareness that this is prejudice... that this is conditional love (I will only show it if you behave in a certain way)...

Then there are those who fight passionately for the HBTq community - or are a part of the community and carry so much pain and hurt from how others have treated them or loved ones. This can make it hard to share with others the information that they might be needing... the wrong information, in the wrong way is supplied and the leap is too great to make... instead defences are put up to explain why the leap is not being taken.

Then there are those who mean well, but just do not know enough about it, or are misinformed - and are maybe over zealous when approaching this topic with young children... then these situations are brought up as to why we should not "teach" about HBTq because of  a few mistakes...

Learning is about mistakes... we ALL have to make mistakes to be able to learn... but if we are all made to feel that we have to hide mistakes then we lose these opportunities to learn and improve and make our world a better place.
School is very much a place of right and wrong answers... it takes time to detox from that approach too.

My time in Palestine made me realise the importance of listening...
I have written about this before, and I have spoken to several about it too, as it had such a HUGE impact on me, not only as an educator but as a human.
The group of educators hit the children as a correctional tool - as just about every other educator (and parent does) - this was enormously hard for me to deal with, but I also knew that if I came in with a so called higher moral pathway that it would reduce my chances of being able to reach out to them. I had to back down from everything I thought I knew, to be open to how they understood the world, learning, children and play... and to work from that

In the exact same way I work with children according to the Reggio Emilia Approach - the pedagogy of listening.

After knowing the women for four months (two trips and almost daily contact online) the time came to be able to talk about what I wanted to from the start... stop hitting children...
They asked ME - how can we stop the children hitting each other... I answered "I don't think it helps that you hit the children"
They answered, "But we don't hurt them, it is just so they learn" and I answered "yes, I see the children using that strategy too... trying to "teach" their friends and that they see if adults can do it, then why not children"
My daughter was with me at the time and they turned to her and asked her if I had ever hit her. She looked shocked and said no. All the women where mothers and all thought my daughter was polite, respectful, intelligent etc and they were surprised that she could be like that without being hit.
They had never seen an alternative.
Afterwards I went out with one of the women and her daughter into town. Her daughter has issues with white matter on her brain which means that it has affected her development and learning. She suddenly swayed out into the road, the mother lifted her arm to hit her to correct her, looked at me, put her arm down and then saw how her daughter self corrected. The mother was amazed... that her daughter could self correct like that was something she had never seen, because she had always been controlled.
It was a powerful moment for her, and myself.

But it also proved to me that we cannot force feed ideas and opinions on others - we need to be aware of how to present ideas and when to present them so that they will be accepted. Because really what we want is to create a more accepting world. We cannot force feed opinions no matter how healthy or important they are. This is not the same as accepting hate speech. We all need to say no to what is hurting others and to make them aware that what you say is hurting... but it has to be done in a meaningful way, so that they can see the impact...
Saying that "your words make me feel scared" in a dialogue on facebook when all parties do not know each other and live far away from each other is not concrete enough. It does not enable the person to comprehend how their words impact another.
Facebook is great for many things but some dialogues are just hard online. And its not always a place to build trust, and the kind of trust we need to change core values is huge. And sometimes I think people who are fighting for HBTq rights don't always fully appreciate that... and it feels like they are expecting a person to jump from one core value to another due to a few sentences pitched at them, in often a offensive way (because they are fighting for rights) which then puts the person into a defensive position.
And once in a defensive position they either will stop listening and only repeat what they know, or retreat and not listen. Neither is good. If we want to make change and make our world more inclusive for all, make it safer for everyone then we need to be communicating with everyone...
why are some people core values excluding others... what will happen to them if they change their core value. Why do they feel keeping their core value is important? Why are they not open to other opinions? Why do they not see how their opinion impacts others? How can we help them see that?

This is not overnight fixes. This is an approach that requires time and space, trust and love.
Most people tend to hang out with like-minded people... so within our social groups it can be hard to find the people that can help us broaden our perspectives.

I am happy to say that by far the largest majority of my friends are people who accept diversity - and proud to say that there are many that actively make a stand for minorities and groups that experience the negative backlash of bias and prejudice. REALLY PROUD that I have people like this at my side around the world.

I have raised my children to be accepting. I wanted them to be open and I wanted to normalise things that were outside the norm. This meant that at the age of 12-13 my daughters were shocked at a school lesson on sex education to hear the prejudice, that bad words that many in their class were using when HBTq issues were raised. They had never even considered that this was different, just simply a part of the great diversity of life.

I also see this prejudice against children with autism, ADHD,  etc etc ... where they do not fit the norm, and there seems an unwillingness to allow them to be a part of an expanded norm - its always special rights or special needs... which irritates me... we need to make an inclusive space where all can be... but that is a whole other dialogue.

But I raised it because we need to think that we can't try to normalise one group without normalising the others... we are all human. We all need to be treated humanely and we can't exclude people just because they are not approved by a religion or culture. And I am not talking about people who harm other people, I am only talking about people who live their lives respectfully alongside others but just differently from the norm...

The member of the group that was upset with the idea of teaching about Pride in preschools left the group with a final post...
this post saddened me... as in the post was this person who was not understanding what the others were talking about, her core values were strong in the belief that HBTq community was wrong... but there was also a desire to love all people. She was not connecting the dots - and the responses she got put her into a defensive position instead of a position where she could connect the dots from her core values to love for all.
Yes, It was inappropriate to leave the group with such a post and not deal with it... but maybe that was a good thing because I feel quite ashamed of many of the comments - they were not there to support a person in their learning journey, only there to point out she was wrong. This is not helpful.
And that SO many kept on doing it, even after some people were commenting on the fact that maybe that was not the way to go - especially when you could see that the person  was no longer a member and was no longer addressing the situation, so why the continuation of personal attacks?

I am going to take down the threads, BUT in the thread connected with THIS post I would like resources for reading that can support diversity of ALL manners. That support educators in understanding anti-bias, that support educators to look at our social norms and how to make them more inclusive for everyone...
No dialogue - I will delete all dialogue... ONLY links.
If you wish to comment on this post... please do that in this blog, write a comment here instead.

Below are a series of quotes that speak to me in this context... I hope they can speak and inspire you as you reflect on this topic. We need to learn from each other. We need to be open. We also need to understand how our own words and opinions impact others.

me, yesterday, just before I left home to stand outside the American Embassy here in Stockholm to protest against the humanity of how children and families are being treated at USA borders. I would like to point out there are many children suffering in the world... far too many.

this is why I believe it is important that we create open and inclusive environments with even the youngest children... so that we expand the norm, rather than perpetuate it

maybe one of the hardest things to do

sometimes things are going to be said that you don't agree with, and you can feel frustrated... but once you start talking from anger then the chance for learning is reduced.

this has been my motto for the last 6 years... it has helped me SO much.

listening is so important

yes, we will offend each other at times, but hopefully not intentionally, but if we are always scared of offending people because we have different opinions then we are not free. This is not a free card to be rude... it is the fact some people are offended by different opinions.

this is my new year message... but I felt it suited being here today.

equality brings more freedom

if we are being competitive then of course part of the process will be making other lesser than yourself... But if we are creating community of learners then we can create better learning environments and more acceptance
standard testing and the competitive nature of schools is not healthy

there in not name attached to this quote... because it is a quote by me.
Please comment here about this post if you feel the need to...
please share resources, articles and book suggestions etc in "The Reggio Emilia Approach" facebook group.

Monday 18 June 2018

Art and Creativity... The Future of Preschools (part 4) Konst och kreativitet... Framtidens Förskola (del4)

This post is in Swedish after the image, and links can be found at the very end of this post to further explore the topic.

For me art and creativity have always been a central part of learning, and there are lots of posts here on my blog that you can read to explore (I will list 5 of them at the end). I have frequently said that just about the whole of the preschool curriculum could occur in the art studio/atelier.

Like philosophy, for me, art is not an event, it is an integral part of learning, and very much an essential part of "original learning". The children and I learn things through art, not just artistic techniques, but also science, social and emotional development, history, engineering etc etc...

More importantly art is a creative expression of what a person is feeling, exploring, wondering - as well as an immersive way to experience the world.

Art can be a place to experience aeon.
Plato used the word aeon to denote the eternal world of ideas, which he conceived was "behind" the perceived world, as demonstrated in his famous allegory of a cave. But it is also referred to as "an age", eternity, time. Or as Walter Kohan described it ...different types of Greek time (aion, kairos, khronos): where aion is childhood, that time where time is not felt - like when you are totally absorbed by art (or another activity) and are unaware of how time rolls by. Khronos is time in the sense of chronology - a start and a finish, schedules etc, and kairos is time that is now, this moment, and each moment is different.
We need all these elements of time to learn and evolve, but school tends to be fixated on khronos - with its time tables, testing and outcomes, while children, especially the young, experience life through aeon.

In a holistic way we need all these time "approaches" - to slow down and appreciate the now, the moment, scheduled time to feel the safety of routines, to be able to see life and knowledge as well as time to be free to explore ideas... where aeon, according to Kohan is Khronos is more closely connected to knowledge and science while aeon is more connected to play and ideas.

True artistic/creative expression is in this sense aeon... not doing crafts or following a template which is khronos (you follow a chronological step of instructions). It is not wrong to follow templates, but we, as educators must be aware that we are not providing space and time for the child to explore imagination, ideas, emotions, themselves and the world around them - but only the set of instructions and related motor skills. If following instructions and the said motor skill is the aim of the lesson then this is not a problem, but if the aim is to allow the children to experience aeon, to play, to be themselves as they create then we have not been successful.

Of course art can be a mix of all three of these time approaches aeon does not have to exclude khronos and kairos.

Below are images where art an creativity take a holistic approach... the WHOLE child, the WHOLE time (ie all three times) and the WHOLE curriculum (transdisciplinary)

This is an image from Eva Tuhav Gullberg (the link takes you to her instagram and allows you to see a film of this image) The clay here has been connected to "makey-makey" so that it makes music. As a project this can involve the whole child, the feel and smell of the clay, the forming of the shape allowing the whole child to engage, the child can experience aeon through the design and shaping of the clay, the choosing of embellishment and also through creating music afterwards. The whole curriculum can be experienced - art, design, engineering, music, technology/science, math, language - and if this is done in a social context we can bring in social emotional learning.
The children could work individually to create their own clay "keys" to make notes... do they make random shapes, or do they make shapes that connect to the pitch? Will this be shape, size, or metaphorical - can they create a creature or object that would make this sound that it is connected to? If working in a group does each child make a "key" each, do they decide together on the theme, or do they leave it to chance, how do they make these decisions?
if the children have made individual sets of musical "keys" can they find any similarities between their keys, have they been inspired by each other, what differences are there, why do the children think they have made different shapes/forms for the same sound?
or of one child started and another had to continue on the same keys, how would the children respond? is it easy to allow another to finish of what you have started, is it easy to continue what someone else has started?

that the whole child means not just touch and sight - but all the senses... for instance in this image I had added food flavouring to the paint so that it would smell. Engaging the child in their painting in a new way - lemon, mint, orange blossom and rose.
Sound is also an interesting way to experience art - putting on music to dance to as we paint, or to simply paint to, or as one child I observed she copied others by the sound they made with their pens... in other words she did not copy by drawing a similar shape, but by making a similar sound, which quote often created similar images (but not always). It was fascinating to watch.
with this art experience there was most definitely a sense of chronology... the children first drew round their own photographs on perspex, then put this drawing on the overhead to project onto a wall covered in paper, and they followed the outline, they then used black paint to define the outlines. Then they designed a shade of colour that felt most them to be their background and finally mixed colours to create their shade of skin, hair, eyes etc... it was a process that took many weeks... and each session the children experienced aeon and kairos - both losing themselves to time and the enjoyment of the process as well as being aware of the moment they were in, as I as an educator would ask questions, or they stepped back to look at what they were doing.
They definitely used their whole bodies to create this, no sitting down all the time... from the table, to the wall, to the floor.
And the learning was transdisciplinary - they learned about themselves, about mixing paint, gained knowledge about artists (those that painted portraits we looked at, Klein was talked about in our process of creating our own colour) which meant history and geography was seeping into this art experience not as must have facts to learn but as interesting information that was meaningful to our art experience. The children learned that to make skin colour we all used the same colours mixed together but in different amounts, no matter what our skin colour... that we were more alike than different. They also discovered in the process that they are a series of individuals that create a group... in the beginning they were so focussed on their individual portrait that it had not occurred to them that we were painting a group . They learned how to ask for help as well as offer help.

then there is JOY... that pure moment when everyone disappears and the child is experiencing he paint (material). Of course in these moments the child is unaware of how the colours mix, that other people exist, they are totally in their own bubble of aeon...
I have also done full body art in larger groups where the group is aware of each other, but also seem to be quite unaware that the rest of the world exists... it is just them, it is HIGH energy, laughter, boundaries (who wants to get messy, who does not, how long can some participate, who will allow others to touch them with paint covered hands - in a group there is so much social learning happening - and while all my experiences with this art have been positive I have also been keenly aware of how on the edge it is - so much joy and excitement is so easy to be nudged over into tears)
I have done this inside, outside, and even directly on the floor, so that the children could clean the floor cinderella style (that was their wish to start with, the transient art process was a means to an end)
It is in these moments of creative chaos that the children are exposed to so much social learning. Many times I do not take photographs at all, because it consumes all my energy - to ensure the risk level does not escalate to danger (slippery floors) and also to be totally in tune with the children's emotions so that I can scaffold them in their processes and help them avoid falling from extreme joy into that chasm of extreme sadness... being upset is OK, being irritated is OK etc, as long as they manage their emotions, but these full body paintings tend to be extreme joy, so its a long way to fall and you need a parachute for that.
For the children to have this creative freedom means that we as adults have created a very ordered routine - who is helping those get washed afterwards, where clothes are kept, where the children have finished will be when they have had their fill of paint, and how to deal with clean up. Its is extremely structured so that the children have freedom. When I asked my group what they wanted to do on their last art session with me before the school holidays... full-body art was what they wanted - all of them. In a way this is pure freedom.

sometimes the art is not about being creative but about exploring something else... for instance in this session the children were exploring fear... and one of their fears was height... so each child got to pour out paint from the height they dared to climb up... this was a lot of fun - we talked about risk, and how we could minimise risk, we talked about gravity, we talked about turn taking (as they could not all be on the step ladder at the same time)
At the end the sensory need of the group kicked in and they wanted to mix the paint splodges with their hands and fingers. This was a group that had a huge sensory need, just as young children have, and as we were a new preschool, I assumed that they had not got this need met at the previous preschools they were at. So I made sure that I met this need, through art and other activities... and the more sensory activities they were exposed to the calmer the social atmosphere became... but this can also be due to all the other things we were doing too, but it is certainly an important part to the whole child learning.

I want to go on sharing images and thinking about how they connect to the whole child, But I realise that this post will get too long, there are previous posts about art and learning that you can refer to, and I hope to get back to this topic again.
Art and creativity are an essential part of learning... it is not just a separate subject to be learned, but a way of exploring ideas and subjects children are learning about. A tool for learning. A way to engage the whole child and not just their Khronos approach to learning.

we need to break free from this chronological way of learning... we need to embrace the whole child.

Nu på svenska (and afterwards links to blogposts and articles connected to this)

För mig har konst och kreativitet alltid varit en central del av lärandet, och det finns många inlägg här på min blogg som du kan läsa för att utforska (jag kommer att lista 5 av dem i slutet). Jag har ofta sagt att nästan hela förskolans läroplan skulle kunna förekomma i ateljén. Precis som filosofi är konst för mig inte en händelse/event, det är en integrerad del av lärandet, och väldigt mycket en viktig del av "originalinlärning". Barnen och jag lär sig saker genom konst, inte bara konstnärliga tekniker, men också vetenskap, social och emotionell utveckling, historia, teknik etc etc ... Ännu viktigare är att konst är ett kreativt uttryck för vad en person känner, utforskar, undrar - liksom ett fördjupande sätt att uppleva världen. Konst kan vara en plats att uppleva aeon. Platon använde ordet aeon för att beteckna den eviga världen av idéer, som han tänkte var "bakom" den upplevda världen, vilket framgår av hans berömda allegori av en grotta (grott-teori). Men det kallas också "en ålder", evighet, tid. Eller som Walter Kohan beskriver det ... det finns olika typer av grekisk tid (aion, kairos, khronos): där aion är barndom, den tid där tiden inte känns - som om du helt absorberas av konst (eller annan aktivitet) och är omedveten om hur tiden rullar förbi. Khronos är tid i betydelsen av kronologi - en start och en avslutning, scheman etc, och kairos är tiden som är nu, just nu, och varje ögonblick är annorlunda. Vi behöver alla dessa tidselement för att lära och utveckla, men skolan tenderar att fixeras på khronos - med tidtabeller, test och resultat, medan barn, särskilt de yngre, upplever livet genom aeon. På ett holistiskt sätt behöver vi alla dessa tiders "tillvägagångssätt" - att sakta ner och uppskatta nuet, planerad tid att känna rutinernas trygghet, för att kunna se liv och kunskap - samt tid att vara fri att utforska idéer ... aeon. Enligt Kohan, är Khronos närmare kopplat till kunskap och vetenskap medan aeon är mer kopplad till lek och idéer. Äkta konstnärligt/kreativt uttryck är i den meningen aeon ... inte att följa en mall som är khronos (du följer ett kronologiskt steg med instruktioner). Det är inte fel att följa mallar, men vi, som lärare måste vara medvetna om att vi på det här viset inte ger utrymme och tid för barnet att utforska fantasi, idéer, känslor, sig själva och världen runt dem - endast uppsatta instruktioner och relaterade motoriska färdigheter. Om instruktioner och motorisk färdighet är syftet med lektionen är det här inte något problem, men om syftet är att låta barnen uppleva aeon, lek, vara sig själva och skapa så har vi inte lyckats. Naturligtvis kan konst vara en blandning av alla tre av dessa tidsansträngningar. Aeon behöver inte utesluta khronos och kairos. Ovanför finns bilder där konst en kreativitet tar en helhetssyn ... hela barnet, hela tiden (dvs alla tre) och hela läroplanen (tvärvetenskaplig). Texten där finns på engelska.

Jag vill fortsätta att dela bilder och tankar på hur de ansluter till hela barnet, men jag inser att det här inlägget kommer att bli för långt, det finns tidigare inlägg om konst och lärande som du kan hänvisa till, och jag vill komma tillbaka till detta ämne igen.
Konst och kreativitet är en viktig del av lärandet ... det är inte bara ett separat ämne att lära sig, men ett sätt att utforska idéer och ämnen som barn lär sig om. Ett verktyg för lärande. Ett sätt att engagera hela barnet och inte bara deras Khronos inställning till lärande.

The art of learning part one
The art of learning part 2
does boredom give birth to creativity
Creativity and the artist
What is Creativity

and from Diane Kashin... The Importance of Art in the Development of the Whole Child (this is not the first time that Diane and I have been writing similar posts at the same time - this post has been in the works for the last few weeks as part of my series on the future of preschools, so it was so happy to see that she also shared a post on the importance of art for the whole child)

Future of preschools/Framtidens förskolor 1
Future of preschools/Framtidens förskolor 2
Future of preschools/Framtidens förskolor 3

Thursday 14 June 2018

Children's Rights - Barnens Rättigheter (The future of preschools, part 3)

(på svenska efter bilden)

It seems like quite a coincidence that as I write this series of posts about the future of preschool, with a focus on democratic learning and  the whole child, that Sweden has just made the decision that the articles agreed upon in the convention of children's rights is to become Swedish law from 1st January 2020.

So what does this mean for the future of preschools in Sweden... that are already obliged to follow the articles from the children's convention...

I am a very strong believer in the rights of children... well in the rights of all people... but the problem with making this law is that the implications can be rather drastic... or at best might mean little change at all.

I have been reading various articles this morning... and far from all are positive about this decision... not because they do not believe in the rights of children, but because they do... and they feel that this is a shallow move done to please the popular masses, rather than a genuine move to ensure the rights of children. The reason given is that the articles are too vague and leave to much to be interpreted, and therefore the children are at the mercy of adults and their ability to interpret the text. And when I see the massive variety in how the Swedish preschool curriculum is interpreted today that is actually a terrifying thing... there are preschools that do amazing work with children, but there are those that have interpreted the curriculum in a different manner and the quality is far from desirable...
The critics wish that children's rights are protected by more relevant laws, laws that support children in a Swedish context based on knowledge gained from experiences here in Sweden (and elsewhere).

So how will it impact the preschool and the school of the future... this new law?

Well article two is about that children should not be discriminated against and article three is about ensuring the best for each child...
Just in these two articles many preschools (and even more so schools) are going to struggle upholding the law - as a mother of autistic children I can see the difference between a child that receives  what is best and one that is not for the best... one of my children has received the support she needs cognitively (she did not get adequate support in her previous school socially - as there was a great deal of homophobic slurs penetrating the school atmosphere... as well as sexism racism etc... and despite the school trying to intervene, these were more events than genuine work with the social climate) - my other child with autism is forced to go to a school that is ill-equipped to meet his needs - the law in Sweden makes it compulsary for a child to attend school regardless if it is "the best interests of the child" or not... My son is bullied by class-mates, teachers and the system that fails to provide an education that he can access... so does this mean that in 2020 the school is breaking the law? technically they should be following the child convention now - and yet it has little impact on my child and thousands of other children (I am a member of several Swedish support groups for parents of autistic and ADHD children - and most seem to have the same story... and the tragic part is listening to the stories of these parents in international groups... this is a worldwide failing to meet the needs of children..)
I have worked and visited preschools over the years that have also failed to meet the needs of these children... and this idea of equal value is such a surface thing that I sometimes want to scream. it is nearly always about making the "different" child understand and adapt to the norm, and far too seldom about supporting the whole group to understand and adapt to each other... to expand the norm and to create a real inclusive environment where all are really equally valued.

Don't get me wrong.
There is so much good with the Swedish preschool. There are many many amazing educators working with children - to support the children in the learning, development and being a part of our shared world.
but we also need to recognize the fact that preschool and school is an institution, this I have written in my last two posts about the future of preschool (all links at the bottom of the page). Preschool is primarily an institution to provide a service for the parents... and within the walls their are educators fighting and working tirelessly for the rights of children... their right to be seen, to be valued, to play, to learn, to their identity etc
But if we want to create a place of democratic learning we need to accept the fact that far from all children choose to attend preschool or school. We can attempt to make it as democratic as possible within the walls - we can even try to knock down those walls somewhat - but for it to be truly democratic the children would have chosen to be there.
This does not mean that children do not enjoy their time in preschool, by far the great majority that I have ever worked with have enjoyed coming to preschool (maybe not always for the long hours some have had)
When the educators from the teacher training course I held in Jenin, Palestine, came to Stockholm last year they kept repeating, with heads shaking, that it was child abuse to have children in preschools for such long days.
When I did my peer-reviewed reading about quality in preschool (for my masters) I read frequently about the length of time children should have access to early years settings... as it was clear that access was beneficial... but just about all research I read stated that three hours was enough, more than that did not have more benefit and that over 6-8 hours it could be detrimental.
Swedish preschools are open for 12 hours a day... this is to meet the needs of the working parents - not the children.
Most of Sweden allows children who have parents at home with a younger sibling 3 hours a day at preschool... except Stockholm, which used to have 6 hours a day, but now offers 12 hours a day. If research says 3 hours is enough to stimulate a child, then why the extra hours.
Sure, if a child is at risk at home then preschool is in the child's best interest... but should we treat every child as if they are at risk.

In my twenty-five years of working in Swedish preschools I have seen a shift from parents seeing preschool (or daycare before 1998) as a support to their family life to now seeing preschool as a must do and asking permission to have their children at home. For me the children should have the right to be with their parents as their primary caregiver... but for some children with long hours preschool has become their primary caregiver.
Only ten years ago the fashion in Swedish preschools was to take away keyworkers... all children were all educators responsibility... we were encouraged not to create those special relationships that research informs us are so essential in children's neurological development. I referred to Jools Page yesterday and "Professional Love" - but we can also refer to Mine Conkbayir, Alison Gopnik etc etc about the need for genuine relationships for children to feel safe and to enable learning and development.
If we are talking about in the best interest of children - then we need to be investing more in preschools and schools so that the educators get the right training, that the group sizes are adequate for the needs of the children...
for instance my son thrived in his first year of preschool, as it was him, an amazing educator who developed a loving and respectful atmosphere for him and the two other children (three children in the last 3 months of the year)... then he started in a larger group - now there were 20 children and four teachers... still brilliant ratios for children aged 2-6 - and the preschool was ONLY open between 8:30 and 16:30 (it was a parent co-operative and we made the decision that the children came first, not our work) - and while my daughters thrived my son struggled. It was too many people, to many transitions (which had been more of a flow when only 3 children - but are more structured when there are more) - there was too much stimulus. 

I think I cried most mornings as I left him there (being brave at the hand over stage - but breaking down half way to work - where I then started working with other children his age... at the time it made no sense... the state gave me money to put my child into preschool so that I could work in a preschool... it would have been nice to have had that money to stay at home and give him the same care and stimulation I was giving other people's children)...

Yesterday I wrote about how philosophy with children created a learning environment that was democratic and respectful, and that the whole week had to meet the needs of the whole child... in other words the philosophy sessions I did with them was not just about verbal communication - it was about communicating with the whole child. But it also taught the educator how to become a facilitator rather than a teacher... that it goes from teacher-centred to child-centred.
The word "undervisning" (teaching) will be introduced into the  Swedish curriculum, where only teachers will be able to hold these "lessons" - in a time when it is difficult to find preschool teachers, and some settings will be in the position of having too few teachers to be able to uphold the quality expected of them.

Other breaking news recently is that there is going to be reshuffling/changes in the school authority and school inspection (they cover preschools as well) - how will a new system be able to support the preschool in transition? Especially as already today, there are far to many setting that are not providing the quality they should be, for a variety of reasons (and mostly I feel it is poor leadership, lack of resources and not possessing the right competence for the situation they find themselves in - and too many people in preschools that have no childcare/teacher training at all - which means that those that do have need to support co-workers as well as the children and parents they work with)

Children's rights are so important. They are something that I strive for in my work... to enable them to see, know, understand and use their rights - and to be able to use their rights wisely and as part of a community, not in a bubble to make themselves feel good at the cost of others. Again this is why philosophy with children is so great... as it is about expressing personal opinions at the same time as learning about the opinions of others and how we are stronger together.

To be honest I am somewhat surprised by this post... I thought it was going to be a big celebration post of children's rights... and in a way it is... I am so happy that children's rights are being valued...
but I want this to be real, to be genuine and that these rights are truly valued and are not simply window dressing.

Det verkar som ett tillfällighet att när jag skriver denna serie av inlägg om förskolans framtid, med fokus på demokratiskt lärande och hela barnet, har Sverige just fattat beslutet att barnkonventionen ska bli svensk lag från 1 januari 2020. Så vad betyder detta för framtidens förskolor i Sverige ... som redan är skyldiga att följa artiklarna från barnkonventionen ... Jag tror starkt på barns rättigheter ... alla människors rättigheter ... men problemet med att göra denna lag är att konsekvenserna kan vara ganska drastiska ... eller kan betyda liten förändring alls. Jag har läst olika artiklar i morse ... och långt ifrån alla är positiva till det här beslutet ... inte för att dom inte tror på barns rättigheter, utan för att dom gör det ... och dom tycker att det här är ett ytligt beslut gjort för att behaga massorna, snarare än ett äkta drag för att säkerställa barnens rättigheter. Anledningen till detta är att artiklarna är för vaga och lämnar för mycket för att tolkas, och därför är barnen beroende på vuxna och deras förmåga att tolka texten. Och när jag ser den stora variationen i hur den svenska förskoleplanen tolkas idag är det verkligen en skrämmande sak ... det finns förskolor som gör fantastiskt arbete med barn, men det finns de som har tolkat läroplanen på ett annat sätt och kvaliteten är långt ifrån önskvärt ... Kritikerna önskar att barns rättigheter skyddas av mer relevanta lagar, lagar som stöder barn i ett svenskt sammanhang baserat på kunskaper från erfarenheter här i Sverige (och på andra ställen). Så hur kommer det att påverka förskolan och framtida skolan ... den här nya lagen? Artikel 2 handlar om att barn inte ska diskrimineras och artikel tre handlar om att säkerställa det bästa för varje barn ... Bara i dessa två artiklar kommer många förskolor (och ännu mer skolor) att kämpa för att upprätthålla lagen - som en mor till autistiska barn kan jag se skillnaden mellan ett barn som får det bästa och det som inte får det bästa. .. en av mina barn har fått det stöd hon behöver kognitivt (hon fick inte tillräckligt med stöd socialt i sin grundskola - eftersom det fanns en hel del homofobisk fulord som trängde in i skolatmosfären ... liksom sexism och rasism osv. och trots att skolan försökte ingripa, var det mer som händelser än äkta arbete med det sociala klimatet). - Mitt andra barn med autism tvingas gå till en skola som är dålig utrustad för att möta hans behov - lagen i Sverige tvingar barn att gå i skolan oavsett om det är "i barnets bästa" eller inte ... Min son är mobbad av klasskompisar, lärare och systemet som misslyckas med att ge en utbildning som han kan komma åt ... det innebär också att skolan år 2020 bryta lagen? tekniskt borde de följa barnkonventionen nu - och ändå har det liten inverkan på mitt barn och tusentals andra barn (jag är medlem i flera svenska stödgrupper för föräldrar till autistiska och ADHD-barn - och de flesta verkar ha samma upplevelse av förskolan och särskilt skolan ... och den tragiska delen är när man lyssnar på historierna från föräldrar i internationella grupper ... man inser att det här är en världsomfattande misslyckande att tillgodose behoven hos alla barn ..) Jag har jobbat och besökt förskolor genom åren som också har misslyckats med att möta dessa barns behov ... och den här idén om lika värde är alldeles för ofta så ytlig att jag ibland vill skrika. Det handlar nästan alltid om att det "annorlunda" barnet måste förstå och anpassa sig till normen och alltför sällan om att stödja hela gruppen för att förstå och anpassa sig till varandra ... för att utöka normen och skapa en verklig inkluderande miljö där alla är verkligen lika värda. Misstolka mig inte. Det finns så mycket bra med den svenska förskolan. Det finns många många fantastiska lärare som arbetar med barn - för att stödja barnen i lärandet, utvecklingen och att vara en del av vår gemensamma värld. men vi måste också erkänna det faktum att förskola och skola är en institution, det här har jag skrivit i mina sista två inlägg om framtiden för förskola (alla länkar längst ner på sidan). Förskola är främst en institution för att tillhandahålla en tjänst för föräldrarna ... och inom sina väggar finns pedagoger som kämpar och arbetar outtröttligt för barns rättigheter ... deras rätt att ses, värderas, leka, lära, rätt till deras identitet osv Men om vi vill skapa en plats för demokratiskt lärande måste vi acceptera det faktum att långt ifrån alla barn väljer att gå i förskola eller på skolan. Vi kan försöka göra det så demokratiskt som möjligt inom väggarna - vi kan till och med försöka slå ner dessa väggar på något vis - men för att det ska vara verkligen demokratiskt skulle barnen ha valt att vara där.
Det betyder inte att barn inte tycker om sin tid i förskolan, den överlägset stora majoriteten som jag någonsin har jobbat med har gillat att komma till förskolan (kanske inte alltid de långa timmarna som vissa har haft) När pedagogerna från lärarutbildningen i Jenin, Palestina, kom till Stockholm förra året, sade dom ofta, att det var barnmisshandel att ha barn i förskolor under så långa dagar. När jag gjorde min peer-reviewed läsning om kvalitet i förskolan (för mina masters) läste jag ofta om hur lång tid barnen borde ha tillgång till förskolan... det var tydligt att tillgång var fördelaktig ... men all forskning som jag läste uppgav att tre timmar var tillräckligt, mer än det hade inte mer nytta och att över 6-8 timmar kan det vara skadligt. Svenska förskolor är öppna i 12 timmar om dagen ... detta är för att möta de arbetande föräldrars behov - inte barnens. De flesta kommuner av Sverige tillåter barn som har föräldrar hemma med en yngre syskon 3 timmar om dagen på förskolan ... förutom Stockholm, som brukade ha 6 timmar om dagen, men erbjuder nu 12 timmar om dagen. Om forskning säger att 3 timmar är tillräckligt för att stimulera ett barn, varför de extra timmarna? Visst, om ett barn är vid risk hemma, är förskola i barnets bästa intresse ... men ska vi behandla alla barn som om de är i fara? Under min tjugofem år inom svenska förskolor har jag sett hur det har skiftat från föräldrar som ser förskola (eller daghem före 1998) som ett stöd för deras familjeliv för att nu se förskolan som ett måste och begära tillåtelse att sina barn få vara lediga. För mig borde barnen ha rätt att vara med sina föräldrar som sin främsta vårdgivare ... men för vissa barn med långa timmar har förskolan blivit sin primära vårdgivare. För bara tio år sedan var det "mode" i svenska förskolor att ta bort "key workers" ... alla barn var alla lärares ansvar ... vi uppmanades att inte skapa de speciella relationer som forskningen informerar oss om är så viktigt för barns neurologiska utveckling. Jag hänvisade till Jools Page igår och "Professional Love" - ​​men vill också referera till Mine Conkbayir, Alison Gopnik etc etc om behovet av äkta relationer för barn att känna sig trygga och för att möjliggöra lärande och utveckling. Om vi ​​pratar om "i barnets bästa intresse" - då behöver vi investera mer i förskolor och skolor så att lärarna får rätt utbildning, att gruppens storlek är tillräckligt för barnens behov ... (det är också tolkningbar) till exempel min son blomstrade i sitt första år av förskola, det var bara honom, en fantastisk lärare som utvecklade en kärleksfull och respektfull atmosfär för honom och de två andra barnen (tre barn under de senaste tre månaderna) ... men när han började i en större grupp vis 2 år - fanns det 20 barn och fyra lärare ... fortfarande fantastisk förhållanden för barn i åldrarna 2-6 - och förskolan var endast öppen mellan kl. 8.30 och 16.30 (det var en förälderskooperativ och vi fattade beslutet att barnen kom först, inte vårt arbete) - och medan mina döttrar trivdes min son kämpade. Det var för många människor, för många övergångar (som hade varit mer av ett flöde när endast 3 barn fanns - men är mer strukturerad när det finns fler) - det var för mycket stimulans. Jag tror att jag grät de flesta morgon när jag lämnade honom där (att vara modig vid överlämningen - men bröt ner halvvägs till jobbet - där jag började arbeta med andra barn i hans ålder ... det kändes så meningslös .. staten gav mig pengar för att mitt barn fick gå till förskola så att jag kunde arbeta i förskolan ... det skulle ha varit trevligt att ha fått pengarna att stanna hemma och ge honom samma omsorg och stimulans som jag gav andra människors barn - det skulle har varit i mitt barns bäste intresse istället för vara på ett ställe som vill inte ha honom - jag fick höra från andra föräldrar hur deras barn berättade att en visst lärare inte gillade min son)...

Igår skrev jag om hur filosofi med barn skapade en läromiljö som var demokratisk och respektfull, och att hela veckan var tvungen att tillgodose behoven hos hela barnet ... med andra ord de filosofiska samtal handlade inte bara om verbala kommunikation - det handlade om att kommunicera med hela barnet. Men det lärde också pedagogen hur man blir en facilitator snarare än en lärare ... att den går från lärarcentrerad till barncentrerad. Ordet "undervisning" kommer att introduceras i den svenska läroplanen, där endast lärare kan hålla dessa "lektioner" - i en tid då det är svårt att hitta förskollärare, vissa förskolor kommer att ha det svårt att få lärare för att kunna upprätthålla den kvalitet som förväntas av dom. Andra nyheter som nyligen har skett är att det kommer att bli förändringar i skolmyndigheten och skolinspektion - hur kommer ett nytt system att kunna stödja förskolan i övergång? Särskilt som redan idag finns det långt för många förskolor som inte ger den kvalitet de borde av olika skäl (och för det mesta anser jag att det är dåligt ledarskap, brist på resurser samt brist av rätt kompetens för situationen - och för många personer i förskolor som inte har någon barn/lärarutbildning alls - vilket innebär att de som har behöver stödja medarbetare samt barn och föräldrar som de arbetar med) Barnens rättigheter är så viktiga. Dom är något jag strävar efter i mitt arbete ... för att barnen ska kunna se, känna, förstå och använda sina rättigheter - och kunna använda sina rättigheter klokt och som en del av ett samhälle, inte i en bubbla för att må bra själv på bekostnad av andra. Återigen är det därför som filosofi med barn är så bra ... det handlar om att uttrycka personliga åsikter samtidigt som man lär sig om andras åsikter och hur vi är starkare tillsammans. För att vara ärlig blir jag lite förvånad över det här inlägget ... Jag trodde att det skulle bli en stor festpost för barns rättigheter ... och på ett sätt är det ... Jag är så glad att barnens rättigheter värderas. .. men jag vill att detta ska vara verkligt, att vara äkta och att dessa rättigheter verkligen värderas och inte bara en skyltfönster.

länkar/links children's rights... the articles
Barnens rättigheter
Dagens Samhälle - barnkonvention till lag... skadar Sverige
Bris... äntligen lag
The future of preschools... part 1 - includes images from my visit to Backa Friskola
The future of preschools part 2 - focus on philosophy with children, questioning standardisation and links to Jools Page and Professional Love.

I also recommend looking at my posts about Original Learning... as all this thinking connects to this approach to education... let knock down the walls of current stifled education institutions and replace them with places for Original Learning.

Monday 11 June 2018

The future of preschools (1)... förskolans framtid (del 1)

In the last few weeks I have had the pleasure to visit and meet a variety of educators and talk about early childhood education - from a Slovenian perspective, a preschool inspired by Reggio Emilia in Haninge and a holistic preschool near Karlstad... each with a foot in the now, the past and looking to the future...

My time in Värmland included long talks about child empowerment and democratic learning together with Emma and her partner Torbjörn... this has really made me think more deeply about the future of education, and especially preschool.

During the evening we listened to Pink Floyd's "Another Brick in the Wall" - it seemed appropriate for what we were talking about... and I remember it vividly from my own childhood as the music video scared the socks of me...

But this wall... this brick wall ... it seems to be saying stop to change because it has been built so high... and there are those who fear what might be on the other side, and those that don't have the strength or energy to climb over.

Schools and preschools are institutions. We need to be jumping and seeing what is on the other side of that wall - we need to be thinking about tearing it down. Maybe the boundaries of education should not be so fixed?

This coming week I will be exploring how holistic education, philosophy with children, democratic classrooms, and Original Learning should be essential components of preschool... and that preschool should be influencing school.

I still have my apprehensions about bringing in "school" terminology into the preschool when everyone seems to be wanting to define it in a different way from how it is used in schools... shouldn't the Swedish early years sector decided to use their own words, define the process rather than schoolifying it?
As a person who thinks that the school system needs reforming to meet then needs of the digital age students where knowledge and media is easily accessed... I feel that using words from this out-dated system is not the way forward, but a feeble attempt to try and raise the status of preschool through using words that society is familiar with in a school context...
but I will talk about this more during the week...

(på svenska efter bilderna)

Under dom senaste veckorna har jag haft nöjet att besöka och träffa en mängd olika lärare och prata om förskolan - från ett slovenska perspektiv, en förskola inspirerad av Reggio Emilia i Haninge och en holistisk förskola/skola nära Karlstad ... var och en med ena foten i nuet, den andra i det förflutna samt blicka på framtiden.
Min tid i Värmland omfattade långa samtal om barn "makt" (empowerment) och demokratisk inlärning tillsammans med Emma och hennes partner Torbjörn ... det här har verkligen gjort mig att tänka djupare på framtidens utbildning, och särskilt förskolan. Under kvällen lyssnade vi på Pink Floyds "Another Brick in the Wall" - det verkade lämpligt för vad vi pratade om ... och jag minns det från min egen barndom när musikvideon skrämde ihjäl mig ... Men den här väggen/mur ... tegelstenen ... det verkar säga att sluta förändras eftersom den har byggts så högt ... och det finns dom som fruktar vad som kan vara på andra sidan, och de som inte ha varken styrkan eller energin att klättra över.
Skolor och förskolor är institutioner. Vi måste hoppa och se vad som finns på den andra sidan av den där väggen/mur - vi måste tänka på att riva ner den. Kanske bör gränserna för utbildningen inte vara så stadig? Under kommande veckan kommer jag att undersöka hur holistisk utbildning, filosofi med barn, demokratiska klassrum och "Original Learning" borde vara viktiga komponenter i förskolan ... och att förskolan ska påverka skolan. Jag är fortfarande lite orolig om att använda "skol" terminologi till förskolan när alla tycks vilja definiera det på ett annat sätt än hur det används i skolan ... borde inte den svenska förskolan bestämma sig för att använda deras egna ord, definiera processen istället för att skolifiera det? dvs ordet "undervisning"
Som en person som tycker att skolsystemet behöver reformera för att möta behov av dom digitala-ålders elever - där kunskap och media är lättillgängliga ... Jag anser att det är inte vägen framåt med att använda ord från det här föråldrade systemet utan ett svagt försök att öka förskolans status genom att använda ord som samhället är bekant med i ett skolförhållande ...
Jag tror på förskolan. Jag tycker att förskolan ska ha drivkrafter att ändra skolan - och på det viset skapa bättre lärande förutsättningar för alla barn.
men jag kommer att dela mera av mina funderingar i framtida inlägg...

för att läsa om mitt besök på den holistiska förskolan (Backa Friskola) - följa denna länk
för att läsa om Andens förskolan i Haninge - läsa här