teaching to learn, means learning to teach

Posts tagged ‘environment’

A spot of Luck

Just yesterday, I considered getting stressed out as the children continued to climb up on tables, balancing and climbing down again. They happily spouted out “Look, I’ m on the stairs!” Which is when I *knew* I had to create a more challenging and varied climbing structure outside. I figure if I can give them the more semi-permanent areas they need, whilst making them safe and meeting all the National Quality Standards, then the children will know it’s there and hopefully stop using furniture to meet this need. The only trouble was, how could I incorporate this in our yard, without having to worry too much about the elements – as we’ve had some crazy hot days, big rains and now cool breezes, all in the space of a fortnight!

Then this morning, as I was taking my own children to school, I came across a house that had recently cut down one of their trees, into an assortment of logs! Oh Yay 🙂 Fitting as many into my bus as I felt safe carrying, I drove on to work with a smile on my face. There were many options for where these could go, how I could change them up in future to be more of a ‘table and chairs’ sort of play area, or use them for surrounding our planter boxes, but to start with, they needed to be ‘stairs’. Finding a space that I hate looking at (all cement and corrugated iron fencing) I moved the planter pots around and laid out stumps in alternating heights, with the larger ones supporting the smaller-thinner ones.

Getting my colleagues up to try out the balance and feel of it was easy. In fact Rae was up and walking along before I even asked 🙂 I took this as a good sign, if she couldn’t resist it, then the kids wouldn’t either! The first thing I realised was that this was a great opportunity to explain a little more about looking after our plants. Encouraging them to hold the trunks of our ‘trees’ and not the leaves.

 

On our first few runs, I knew the kids would All want to be on it, and took measures to ensure they had a path to follow, minimising the risk of pushing and falling through exuberant entries. Turned out to be a good thing too, as some of our balancers were speed demons, practically leaping from one log to the next, quickly finding their feet and trying out the various smaller, higher  steps. Whilst others took their time, supporting their steps with hand holds and careful motor planning.

Some children opted to take their shoes off, gaining a greater feedback from their footfalls and increasing balance. Others extended their leaps off the end (on to a mat) and over to the low platform. Effectively turning it into a stage where they could call out “TaDa” and take pride in their achievements, before starting all over again!

 As play time wore on, the numbers of kids dwindled. I am really excited to see where this leads us. Will we build Ob courses from the end of our stumps? Will the children use them for sitting and talking? What about spontaneous counting and size recognition? Kally has already suggested that we paint them…which is a definite possibility too 🙂 Let’s just hope that whatever they choose to do with it, the prescence of this roving stairwell means we’ll see less climbing on furniture! A girl can has to have hope you know 😛

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Assessing your Environment

Recently, I have had the great pleasure to work with a lady from the Quality Inclusion Support Program. If you have multiple children with additional needs, look them up 🙂

At the end of her time with us, she held an amazing seminar that inspired me so much that I have been unable to write about it, for fear of not doing it justice! So today I will give you an example of how she helped clarify our thinking. She got us all to break up into our ‘room groups’ and draw up a plan of our room. We added the play areas, routine areas, shelving/dividers and anything else that was part of our rooms. Once done, we were asked to add identifiers for which part of the room encouraged the following goals.

I) Identity – family, life, culture

H) Home – parents can feel relaxed and respected

R) Relationships – sharing enjoyment between adults/children

SD) Sensory Discoveries – textures, colours, smells and sounds

LM) Large Muscle – crawling, pushing, pulling, sliding, bouncing, hiding, throwing, going up/down, up/over, in/out etc

SM) Small Muscle – developing grasping, banging, poking, stacking, shaking, squeezing, patting, pouring, fitting together, taking apart etc

C) Cozy – area where children can get away and relax or watch

P) Powerful – children can feel independent, important and competent

A) Adults – can relax, enjoy, share their lives with children

S) Systems – communication and record keeping among adults

At first we tentatively marked the ‘obvious’ areas, as we gained confidence we began to see how so many of the areas crossed over. The art hanging on our walls elicits a powerful response from the kids, but also acts as a form of communication between adults and encourages visual sensory opportunities.

By the end of it, we had a large paper filled with little letters. Areas that didn’t gather a collection of identifying letters, were looked at again so we could either see the values we had missed or assess the areas to work better for the children, the families and us! Immediately after doing this exercise, I recognised that our book area was far from the relaxed spot we’d planned on – instead it was often used for rough and tumble play. So we moved it. We opened it up to more activity so that those who wanted to read could, whilst those who wanted to be active could use the puzzles, the zipper boards and the tactile activities.

Since then we’ve expanded further and turned our room around to accommodate our growing class numbers and changing needs. And you know what? It feels more like a kindy, there are more engaged learners and definitely less conflicts between kids! This is an exercise I recommend everyone does, I know for sure I will be doing it a few times a year to make sure I keep a fresh view of my room!

Now I want to share a resource with you that also has helped me for years! I can’t link you directly to it, because it is a downloadable document (which I suggest you save, print and keep!) if you google

Pre-K Spaces: Design for a Quality Classroom

you should go there 🙂 It’s totally worth the trip!

And stories to tell…

 

If I told you this month we were doing an accelerated literacy program that involves the children creating a forest,

Working with coloured glue and paint to make some very special trees,

decorating a house with lollipops and assorted junk foods,


planning, drawing and following maps,

Would you have guessed we were reading, retelling and acting out the story of Hansel and Gretel?

So much fun to be had when we break away from literacy = ABC!


Awsome Assistants need bigger and better Job descriptions!

 

I’m thinking my Tegan needs to be called ‘Super Awesome Girl’ or maybe ‘The Wonder Wizard’, ok so they need some work, but I just want to share this with you.

Today, I started halfway through the day so that I could have time for morning appointments and such. I thought I started at 12:30, but I was meant to be there at 12. Not feeling fantastic after I realised this, I entered my room a sorry mess. However, my team let me know it wasnt’ a stress and then shared a little secret with me.

They’d declared today ‘Cleaning Day!’ and all the kids got involved in washing, sweeping and cleaning our outdoor area!

Mind you, some washed as they swept!

Others polished their favourite toys,

while some avoided the water altogether!

Awesome, productive, eco-friendly ‘water play’ on a sunny but cool day!

Don’t you wish your team mates were Awesome like Mine 🙂

Balancing the load

One of the great things about working in childcare is that you are constantly reviewing your own bias’. We get opinions of experts, we hear from our peers and we share ideals, but when it comes down to it, it’s your own Bias’ that are most important to understand and learn to be flexible with.

Each and every childcare environment should be inclusive of sex, race, belief and ability. We are taught (and learn that it’s best) to leave our play spaces open – if boys want to dress up in fantastic fabrics and role play with dolls, we’re cool with that. If the girls want to get muddy in the sandpit as they dig with trucks or role play with dinosaurs, we’re cool with that. Often more so than the parents.

But children really do have their own agendas, their own favourite places to play. And that’s OK. If a girl is intent on carrying a baby doll with her everywhere, I’m happy with her doing so, exploring and working with her baby alongside. If a boy needs the physical feedback he gets from riding bikes, moving fast, kicking balls, let him have it!

The kids will express to you how they need the environment to change. Through increasingly diverse behaviours we’ll find ourselves wondering “What am I missing?” When in fact it’s the environment that is missing something. The challenges we need to take on are recognising the kids needs, interests and strengths so that we can include these in our daily environment and scaffold their learning with new opportunities.

There are so many educators and journalists have opinions on how to do this, but once again, it’s up to you. Challenge your bias’ on what is appropriate play and see how you can get the boys into the art areas. Rolling cars and big trucks through paint, using Ben 10 colouring in to scaffold pencil grips and skills, using house painting brushes to water paint on the walls and cement, just the tip of the iceberg. Adding materials,dolls, furniture or animals to the block area so the girls can create and learn about spatial awareness and balance.

I know this sounds kind of obvious, but this week I had an epiphany over one of my little men. My classroom has been female dominant for so long that his needs were not fully being met in our indoor environment. How did I not notice this? His behaviours were a form of communication, a connection, reaching out to me to tell me that he needed something more. Now my challenge is to change-up what I’m doing and see how he reacts to it. To watch how he uses the resources to see how I can better suit our environment to his needs.

It’s not going to be quick or easy. in fact, I think I’m going to be getting it wrong a few times first! But that is far better than doing the same things over and over again, yet expecting different results. It doesn’t take Einstein to figure out I’d quickly go insane like that, but he did phrase it well 🙂

Furry and cute, but not a dog!

Lately the caterpillars have started to come out. As much as they remind me of the ‘itchy bugs’ of my youth, I welcome them now as one of the few interactions we get with animals. I’ve seen children search for them, create homes for them, gentle rotate their hands so the bugs have ‘steps’ to climb. But most of all, there is a lot of watching and discussing going on.

When this one was found it was climbing the wall, we watched as it wiggled its way upwards, marvelling at how it stuck there. Children reminded each other to be careful with it and not to squash it or hurt it, reminding each other of earlier misadventures.

One of the children grabbed a cup and gently scooped it up to be placed on the floor for more viewing.

By now, the poor caterpillar was scared and rolled up in a ball. This gave us opportunity to talk about what would make it feel more comfy, what it needed to survive and how it could stop being scared of us.

A new ‘home’ was quickly found by the kids, with exploration for leaves and food. Once our little caterpillar was moving again, I helped release him into the wild, after all it’s not fair to take a creature from its home.

But to keep a bit of a memory of our ‘pet’ we grabbed some paint pens and created images that represented our ideas and experiences with our furry little friend 🙂

Now it’s time to say goodbye…

Our little chickens have been through quite a lot this year. Surviving a night without their heat lamp on, one ‘prematurely hatched’ by a curious toddler and all the manhandling that comes about from growing up with 80 kids around you! Last time you heard about them, they looked like this.

We each took joy in watching them ‘peep’ and finally hatch. Interestingly, each chick I saw erupted into the world in their own way. Gently tapping their way out, quick exits and entries, slow and deliberate movements and the one I missed but loved hearing the story recounted about – the one who cracked their egg completely around the middle and pushed both sides out like a superhero escaping an avalanche!

I did however catch this little one confusedly making it’s way out, spine first.

Last year we had 8 yellow chicks and 2 black ones. This year we have 6 black chicks and 3 yellow (although if you count our premature hatchling, that could have made 4)

AS the chicks have gotten bigger and braver, so have the kids. The more they handle them, the more they learn to accept the skittish movements or flutters of wings whilst balancing.

We’ve even let them start to explore our bodies as we’ve learnt to sit still and quiet.

Some of the chicks have gained a bit of wing strength and can hop/fly as they travel along our bodies!

Some of us have even been gifted with the chicken making to the top of our heads! But most of us are just happy to get up close and say hello!

I’d really love to keep a couple at school for a bit longer, as the kids really enjoyed the visit from last years chickens.