teaching to learn, means learning to teach

Posts tagged ‘wish list’

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.

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Magnifing Times

At one point I’d bought a little bug inspection kit. A container with three tubs on top with magnifying lids, tweezers and a small magnifying glass. My kids explored it and then passed it over. As my kids know, anything that is not looked after or left lying around quickly makes it into a bag destined for the op shops or school! Anything that can be reused or refashioned will get an overhaul, but we are not hoarding toys and knick knacks that are uncared for!

So these magnifying lenses had made it as far as my handbag….intending to go to school, but just hanging out invisibly on the bottom of my bag 🙂

As I was about to leave work the other night, a few of the remaining kids noticed ants coming out of the skirting board. Now whether these are regular ants or termites, I don’t know, but the opportunity was there to extend the kids interest as well as get the lenses out of my bag!

At first the boys tried to catch the ants under the lens to see it. But after a bit of practice they could zoom in and out to change their view 🙂 Once they got it, the only limitation was the space. Three boys just couldn’t’ squeeze in tight enough! But that’s OK, because the room had lots more to explore through these ‘new eyes’!

Personally, I love lenses. Magnifying glasses, reading glasses, binoculars or a kaleidoscope! I remember being at a seminar on learning environments and hearing a woman talk about how she had placed binoculars by the windows for the kids to look out and see what was in the park next door to them. I thought it sounded fantastic, but my classroom had frosted windows to reduce the Queensland summers heat. Now I have clear windows again and a view of trucks, buses and cars going past….but that’s not going to stop me from sourcing out some binoculars for my windows! I figure a hook to hang them off will entice the kids to keep them there and have them always accessible. Yet another item for my wish list, but it’s a worthy one!

I love it when a plan comes together!

The classroom environment is a huge part of the children’s learning. We often think of spaces for quiet, soft, noisier, building, small group, large group, individual play and off course art work. WE make beautiful displays of the children’s art work, we theme walls to role play areas, we look at passage ways between areas to try to minimize running lines and maximise children’s ability to concentrate on tasks.

Sometimes we see going outside as a bit of a relief, a place for the kids to run off their energy and for us to chill a little as the messes are meant to be there, the areas are laid out for them and the running rules cease to exist.

Since moving into the Kindy room, my outdoor area has kinda stumped me. It’s a long yard of cement and astro turf. We added the \’jungle\’ but the yard seems more bare because of it! I keep looking and trying new things, tweaking bits, but I’ve come to the decision that I’m going to have to do a bit of an overhaul on it. Some things just won’t sit well with me until I do. I want it to be more of an outdoor classroom than just a yard. I’d love a workbench, with hammers and nails and glue and goodies to work with. I’d love to create a swirly walkway path that is covered in Arches of plants, with large rocks and small pebbles. I’d love the path to end at our dividing fence to the Koala yard and have little tubes of pipe for us to ‘post’ toys back and forth, use as telescopes and as foghorns. I’d love my jungle to be filled with real living plants and not just off cuts. I want a wall off herbs and flowers that we can care for and eat. Most of all I want the yard to be an area that excites and entices exploring and play. I want the thought that goes into the inside program and design to go into my outdoor area. But I also know that I have to start small.

I’d like to see areas for role play, gross motor, music, science and environments all work together in an easy and relaxed setting. So I’ve started small, on things I can change.

After a few days trying out different ways to make this work, I finally pulled it together from op shop and cheap shop buys! A pulley system!

With wooden ‘coins’ cut from some of the larger branches I acquired for our ‘jungle’ to use as weights. They really aren’t heavy at all, which makes me feel better about the safety of the area if someone tips the bucket on their own head!

My co-workers loved it – as did the kids! they started cheeky games with each other to pull the buckets out of reach, they held onto them to create more weight, they raced each other to fill them up. All fantastic learning opportunities for maths and science skills without me saying a word!

You know,  a few kids even clocked themselves on the head with the bucket or tipped wood coins on their toes, but not a sound of complaint was hears! Instead it was giggles and surprised looks. They’re learning resilience and testing hypotheses without even knowing what the words mean! I’m looking forward to this becoming less of a ‘new thing’ and more of an experience that the children drive and create themselves 🙂

Here’s another thing that I’d picked up a long time ago. Xylophone pieces that were mounted individually. I believe someone was throwing them out because there is not a complete set. I’ve had them at home, not knowing what it was I wanted to do with them, watching my kids play with them and ignore them. When I started thinking of permanent musical structures in my outdoor area, these quickly came to mind (along with some other things I’ve been sitting on, but I’m yet to figure out how to make them work successfully) A few cable ties later, borrowing sticks from our indoor musical kit, and voilà! A beautiful sounding musical pole!

I thought I’d add this pic in, because I found it so amusing when I figured out what he’d done…. can you see the stick is actually being held in the hand of one of our action figures (no, I’m not sure what happened to the rest of him either!) And E is using the action figures hand to make the music! So impressed with his spatial awareness to figure out that the stick would fit in, guess everyone needs a helping hand every now and again!

Putting a little Nature into our Nurture

Yesterday I posted about how I wanted to create an Oasis in my Kindy Yard. Well today was simply AMAZING. Really, truly awesome 🙂

As I drove to work, I drove down a side street to avoid traffic and came across two large trees trimmed with branches ready for disposal. How could I pass up the opportunity to start on collecting logs?! I didn’t 🙂 Once I’d started though, I realised how pretty the branches were and how much they reminded me of the Christmas trees we’d have growing up. Trimmed branches and that fresh smell permeating the lounge. I filled the van with as many long, leafy branches as I could – including one which had a birds nest in it! (It was empty, scattered with soft seed pods)

Then as I turned the corner, I saw a plain pallet sitting on someone’s front nature strip, which is usually a sign of a give away in Adelaide. I knocked on the door, got permission to grab it and drove on to work with the biggest smile on my face!

This fantastic good luck meant that my daily plan went out the window! I filled in my co-workers – who all smiled that smile you save for crazy talkers – and prepared for a super exciting day. Ooooops, did I forget that today was the day that we were having our first visit from the “Quality Inclusion Support Program”? Yep I did! So this ex-Director, ex-Accreditor rocked up into  my classroom to see how my team and I are coping with the high level of refugees and additional needs children, to offer ideas to help us run a smooth classroom. We got glowing reviews at the end of the day, but she’ll be around 3 times a week for 6 weeks to help out in the other rooms if we need her! But I digress.

We started the day by discussing what was going to happen, how excited I was, but also how important it was to have a plan so that we all knew what we were aiming for. Once we drew it up, we headed to the sandpit and began filling planters with sand, working lino circles into the bottom so that it didn’t escape.

While the kids got busy with this, I drove the ‘bus’ around into the yard and prepared for the kids to safely unload it! The excitement at seeing a ‘forest’ in their bus was huge! The energy they were putting into carrying the large lengths of tree or the shorter, but far heavier stumps was enviable.

Before we’d finished moving all the pieces into our yard, a number of children had climbed into the bus to explore it too. About half of them are familiar with it, from their daily trips to state Kindy, so they were able to show the others how to do up seatbelts and help out. Although at least one also wanted to jump into the driver seat and try out the steering!  With all this interest in the bus, how could I not follow up with a quick trip around the block! It took two trips, but soon we were all back in our yard, ready to start building our new “Forest”

Digging into the pots, making our ‘trees’ stand up tall, patting the sand in to make it sturdy and testing out our newly carpeted ‘stage’.

Fantastic for exploring, hiding, imagining and socialising.

For testing out smells and textures, sounds and echoes.

Although some of us preferred to sit amongst it and watch the magic happen!

Knowing that the high levels of adrenaline we’d been sunnign with would soon cause this engaged bunch of learners into a crazed mass of wild animals, a quick discussion saw us setting up an impronptu art gallery along the fence. Aprons on, paper up, brown and green paint in tubs on a communal table and off we went.

We got some great impressions of our new ‘forest’ – I tried to go for ‘Oasis’, but the majority of kids recognising the collection of trees as a ‘forest’ won me over 🙂

Some were painstakingly etched out for details, time taken to plan, outline and colour their work.

And, of course, a painting of Ben 10’s Humongosaur appeared 🙂

The day continued, the play evolved and a range of animals appeared in our jungle.

Some of the children even took to calling the sand filled pots ‘deserts’!

While others explored every possible space for their animals to enjoy!

And so it is, that for No Money and No Program we had a brilliant day of interaction, hands on learning, exploration and rewards that will keep on giving us inspiration and creating play opportunities, just by being there for us. Just like all the best teachers!

P.S see the log at the front right? That one log was what changed all my plans today! When I was a kid, we’d play in the neighbours mulberry tree and a few metres up off the ground was a branch shaped like this that my brothers, sister and I would use as a motorbike. When all those memories came flooding back to me, I knew I wanted to share a tree climbing adventure as best as I could!

Mud, mush and miniatures!

Originally I was hired to work in the “Koala” room, an age group of 2-3 and a half year olds, but as time and staff have moved along I now find myself in the Kindy room. I’ve gotten to the point that I’m really happy with the program and Observation system I helped redesign after the introduction of the Early Years Learning Framework. I’m happy with the girls I work with, I’m happy with how the room is shaping up and I’m happy with our routine. What is playing on my mind though, is our outdoor area.                                                                                                                “Look! A bug!”

My current age group has a long yard that is half astro turf and half cement. All the natural elements fall into the Koala yard – which we share in the mornings and afternoons but are separated from during the day. I simply adore looking at other educators blogs as they show off a water feature, a rocky outcropping or a muddy hole to dig in. Then I have to stop and think if I’m crazy to try and bring dirt back into fashion!

When I was working with the Koalas, I added a rockery and logs to the area near our sandpit. It’s no bushland wonder, but it is a nice little oasis. I have loved watching how the kids and staff have used and moved the pieces to create current learning areas that reflect the children’s interests in play.

Now I’m looking at water walls, (I’m so sorry, but I’ve forgotten where I got this from, if you know, link me in!) which could be used with sand in the cooler months and still offer the experimentation and skills of this lively little one.

I’m also remembering miniature play.

Years ago I went to conference that invited us to think of the children who like to play alone or in small groups, who need to block out the running, the noise and the levels of sensory input being delivered by the average child care centre.  We looked an arrangement of small tables set up to invite play. We talked about how to create the boundaries for these areas and how to make them age appropriate.

(thanks to  http://www.playbasedlearning.com.au/2011/02/miniature-playscape-fences/ for reference pictures and re-igniting my imagination)

We set up some on tables against the wall, others on velour mats on the floor and even more on a table surrounded by a hanging mozzie net. The response was Amazing! We had children engaged in different areas, all wanting to be part of these quiet zones! We had to bring in a timed system at first so that the pressure could be taken off the areas and all the children could experience them, then as the original novelty drew off the children began to really play. Creating stories and using the props in their own way, whilst still keeping these miniature play zones to their areas and maintaining the quiet area rules.

What I want to create in our yard is actually an outdoor classroom. One that teaches us more about being outside than gross motor skills and ‘outside voices’. My aim is to find more of those logs for use as chairs around some sort of raised bench or box with an added edge to keep a little rock garden/fairy garden/zen garden/dinosaur environment in. I’d love this to be surrounded by (potted) palms and trees so that even the temperature and lighting tell the story of a special place. I will figure out a way to create a pouring/water wall, from PVC pipes to bottomless jugs, I’ll connect it to one of the old outdoor banners if I have to!  I want a discovery area for weighing and balancing, rolling and stacking and I’d love this to be done with large wooden discs cut from locally trimmed branches. I want MUD people! I want rivers and causeways. I want worms and bridges. I want to create a place where our generation of Screen Time kids will want to go, to be inspired and play out all those things they’ve seen but not yet experienced!