teaching to learn, means learning to teach

Posts tagged ‘outdoor’

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 😛

Re-creating the freedom of my youth

Remember when we were kids and there would be random piles of bark, soil and rocks that were on the edges of building sites and we’d run up and over them. The feel of danger and achievement as the ground slipped away and you ascended higher. To reach the top and take a running leap or slide, just to start all over again.

So I recreated that feeling, albeit on a smaller scale, with tyres piled on top of each other, covered in sand, that was dug from a moat around our mountain.

The first child to find it was excited and pointing and yelling ‘Look! Look! A mountain!’

The brave ran and jumped up the mountain, finding their feet as they went,

often travelling so fast it was hard to catch a picture of their movements!

Others had to work harder to climb up, using their whole bodies to stabilise and move,

enjoying the challenge and ownership of the climb.

Before too long, the numbers grew and the children sorted themselves into a semblance of a line. This was their doing, you can see our ringleader at work, organising the masses into order so that everyone gets a turn 🙂

With every challenge there is more than one solution. Watching the children develop their risk taking skills and being part of a large group activity that focused on their abilities was wonderful. I loved that my presence there was just as a pace keeper. Which allowed them time to climb and celebrate before another child jumped in on their play. For the very essence of discovery is in repetition and development of concepts, of practice and persistence and that’s what makes me happy 🙂

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 🙂

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 🙂

Awash in a sea of colour

I love it when the sun shines but doesn’t make us sweat. I love seeing ideas shared between workers. I love seeing smiles on kids faces as they see us valuing their product.

Years ago the centre I was at was going through accreditation and one of the complaints she had, was that we weren’t “respecting the children’s art” enough. Her case in point was that one wall had all the children’s art mounted on different sized pieces of paper and put up in a wobbly line. As opposed to mounted identically and presented straight. Just to be clear. This is not what I am talking about. I’m thinking about how often the children will ask me to take a photo of them, their artwork, their building or a favourite toy. How this new generation recognises that photos are a keepsake, often more so than the art they take home.

I know I try to get the art we do for displays to go up straight away, to show the kids it’s theirs and it’s fantastic and it’s here. If it’s artwork to go home, I want it in their bags as soon as possible to show their families. But it’s not often we get to create the display as the children create the art. Which is why I love fence painting 🙂

I still fully believe in the value of the process, the learning that comes from exploration and repeated use of new or familiar mediums. The up-scaling of skills as kids begin to form pictures or differentiate between colours, spaces and techniques.

These lovely large papers are free from any architects office, it’s printed on one side with building plans (fun for colouring in or map making) can completely blank on the other. We are lucky enough to get rolls and rolls of it from a family at the centre, but I have been known to approach nearby architects to rummage through their paper waste 🙂

As the paintings are declared ‘done’ they are left on the wall to dry and be admired, owned and attached to. They create a gallery of communication in a sea of colour. They make us aware of our own abilities and open us up to ideas from our peers.

In fact, it prompted the idea that we should do this activity in the days leading up to our end of year party so that the parents have something to focus on and our children have something to show off and we have something to ‘prove our worth’ – plus it just looks really pretty 🙂

Shhh, don’t tell! But sometimes, working in Childcare is REALLY fun!

 

One of the things that every good boss should tell you, is that you really need to look after yourself. Some days at work can be stressful and demanding, but when they’re not, ENJOY them! Stepping back and letting yourself play in the now is as rewarding for the kids as it is for us.

I could see the kids in the sandpit were starting a game of burying their toes in the sandpit. Unfortunately, the recent rains had made the sand cold and it was closing in on the end of the afternoon – so I took the bullet for them 🙂

I offered myself up as the one to be buried, so that they could keep their shoes on and their bodies warmer. It took no time at all for them to grasp the game 🙂

You can see one die-hard fan of being buried on the left. There was no way that she wasn’t going to enjoy the sensation, so I let her. Together we became mermaids. Quite cold mermaids, packed in sand but happy none-the-less. You’ll also notice my toes poking out at the end. That’s because my friend in the stripy jumper wanted to be able to tickle my toes:) It was only when she offered to take off my hat and bury my hair that I had to start getting worried!

Although the insistence that I have large and perky ‘boobs’ had me worried that Disney may just be infiltrating our images too much! Then I remembered that just about every mermaid I’ve ever seen has been drawn in this buxom manner. Are there any older, wiser and saggier female mermaids out there? In The Little Mermaid 2 there  was an older mermaid. THey covered up her entire torso in a corset-like number and gave her perky boobs.


Between body image and some of the gyrating hips I see when we dance, I think it’s time to bring back in classics like the ‘shopping trolley’ and the ‘sprinkler’, cause heaven knows that my non-animated chest isn’t up for jumping about like Stephanie from Lazy Town!

Trash to treasure :)

Sometimes the simplest things can seem like genius! I’d picked up two large blackboard easels from the local cheap shop. I love them because they go right to the ground, so that even the littlest of kids will have a large drawing space.

I’m not so fond of them, because they don’t have locking sides and are prone to falling over as the kids lean on them.I had a quick look around and found that the tyres were too large and the buckets too small. The milk crate styled boxes not tapered enough and the pot planters didn’t offer enough surface area to stop the sliding. I’d almost given up when I looked at the old school chairs we use at our outdoor tables. Bingo!

Screws quickly removed and our easels are supported with no more incidents!

As much as this made the group of four kids drawing happy, it enticed a larger group of kids over who wanted a turn at using the screwdriver, dismantling the chairs and seeing what they looked like! In fact, the very first ‘legless chair’ was run into the sandpit and sat on, before I could think what to do with it!

Of course, this meant that taking apart two chairs was no longer enough! SO we continued removing screws and separating chairs until their were enough for all the kids who showed interest.

*we have heaps of these chairs from an old school sale*

The kids lined them up in front of the edge of our sandpit, facing out to the swings. Then repositioned them to sit on the edge, looking in. Finally they moved them into the sandpit so we could dig and build ‘without our bums getting wet!’ 🙂

But now I am left with extra bases from our chairs. We managed to use one for low level climbing (loving that they stand under 50 cms!)

But the more I think about it, the more I’m being led to try some table top pendulum painting!