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Tuesday, 4 April 2017

Parent Perspectives

On our 10 year journey into the world of emergent / responsive / Reggio-inspired curriculum with the guidance of our colleagues at Hilltop Children's Centre, London Bridge Children's Centres and Ann Pelo we have have changed so many things, learned new ways of working alongside the children and facilitating their investigations and explorations. 

One of the things we had really not yet mastered was inviting parents into those investigations to understand what their children were doing at the centre and what their thinking is about that and how they might help us with new insights and participate in a meaningful way in the investigation and help us deepen the curriculum for the children.

We worried parents wouldn't want to take the time to dive into this work with us.  We wanted to honour their perspectives and have them participate in a meaningful way but we know how busy they are. 

So we didn't do it. 

But in 2017 Jennifer and I decided that we needed to be bold  - we really wanted to build stronger relationships with parents and build the SRCC Community. 

So we challenged all our programs to hold a Family Meeting before the end of summer 2017.

Two programs were ready and to go very quickly and last night both the West Cambie Infant and Cranberry Spies work group families came into the programs and learned what their children have been working on, gave us their perspectives and thinking,  and left something for the children and program before they left. 

Cranberry Spies
A group of children at Cranberry have been playing "Spies" for a while.  Educator Dominique paid close attention to the play and what was driving it.  Why is being a spy so exciting?  What can spies get up to that regular children cannot?  What tools do spies need? 

She shared her observations and documentations with the parents of the spies and they told us it helped them make sense of what the children were playing at home.  After a lively sharing of documentation and conversation the parents were invited to make some spy gadgets to leave in the classroom to surprise the spies.  As the gadgets took shape there was more conversation and the topic of a future discussion emerged.  It was a powerful night of collaboration and thinking and discussion and fun.  







West Cambie Infants
As the babies language is emerging the staff have been exploring a range of language and literacy experiences with the infants using a variety of materials.  They invited parents into this story and explained their intentions around their work and  what they had discovered about the children in this group and about language development.  They then offered parents the opportunity to write a story to their child using the photos they had been requested to bring in.  The stories were up in the room this morning when the children arrived this morning and they were so intrigued and delighted!  A great night of mutual understanding and relationship building with and among parents.






We hope the parents who participated found the experience valuable and we hope that when other parents are invited to participate you will do so with curiosity and enthusiasm as we work together to "Change the world by honouring childhood".

Monday, 25 July 2016

An ordinary moment unpacked

The following photos with a short write-up were sent to me for a Facebook post today but I was immediately struck by a couple of things that bear a little closer look.

On the face of this it was a very ordinary moment.  

Moments like these are replicated across the SRCC many many times a day. 

Let's unpack it a bit to see what is really going on here:

1.  Jolanta was thinking about the week ahead - knowing it was going to be hot.  She decided making popsicles today meant they could be enjoyed later in the week.  This is a thinking/planning Educator.  She could have made the popsicles in 5 minutes and popped them in the freezer. 

2. However Jolanta has a very high "image of the child" - she sees them as capable so she asked the children if they would like to help her with her task.  They readily agreed as they too could see there would be real benefits from this work.


3.  Jolanta gave them the tools and then allowed them to do the work.  The work of measuring, estimating, careful eye-hand coordination, social sharing of tasks and taking on new vocabulary.  In this moment the children are unknowingly laying the foundation of literacy, math and science concepts.  Their brains are working hard and storing up this new experience for when the things learned from it will be recalled.  They know to pour slowly, to full things up to the top, to share their ideas and the work.


4.  At this point the popsicles could have been popped into the freezer and all would be done.  But, understanding how much learning was going on here, Jolanta asked - "What do we do now?".  The children paused.  They have a notion that these popsicles need to cool and get hard but they don't yet have all the the knowledge they need. Jolanta encouraged them to discuss their theories and make a decision together about where the popsicles should go.


5.  The children made a consensus driven choice to put them in the fridge.  You and I know, given our years of knowledge building, that this is not the correct place for popsicles but in this moment Jolanta just offered the children an opportunity to concretely discover the properties of water and temperature and their effect on one another.


6. When the popsicles don't set the children will revisit their theories and make another choice.  They are smart and they will likely deduce they need to be colder and they will ask them to be moved to the freezer.  There will be no shame in this - it will be a natural part of the process of solving the problem of how popsicles freeze.  And how great will be the learning - their learning, from their actions, and their thinking.  They will not soon forget that in order for a liquid to freeze it needs to be in a freezer. 

7.  After work there is clean up.  Jolanta continues to demonstrate her belief in children's capacity to learn when she offers them an opportunity to clean up the table after their work.  She helps them see that taking care of the place and space you work in is part of doing good, important work.


And so in this brief, morning moment, so much learning has taken place.  It takes a skilled Educator to see the opportunity and facilitate it.  

We call this "learning through play" and we mean it - the children learn so much each and every day as we facilitate their exploration of their interests and thinking.  

THIS is our work.  Thanks to Jolanta and Jennifer for the insight. 

Tuesday, 21 June 2016

YOU are invited


 Well not YOU exactly ... but your child is invited.....daily.

Each day when Educators arrive and set up the room for your arrival, they thoughtfully set up invitations in the space - either indoors and/or outdoors.


There is a vast difference between opening a storage closet and grabbing some puzzles and putting them on the table versus thoughtfully and purposefully gathering specific materials to set up an invitation for children to engage with.


It's not that puzzles or other toys are "wrong" - it's that the invitation to the children is rote or vague and not necessarily consistent with their current interests or investigations.


A thoughtful invitation is put together by Educators working collaboratively to offer the children an opportunity to either think more deeply about something they have been expressing interest in, to offer them a new perspective on something or to help them experience a different aspect of the topic.  



Invitations are also used to catch children's attention to encourage their use of new materials or areas of the room that they may usually ignore or avoid. 


Children have a great appreciation of aesthetics and they, like us, are drawn to beauty so beautiful invitations to do art or create with loose parts encourage them to discover new skills and make new connections.


We invite YOU to observe the invitations set up in your program and to begin a dialogue with the Educators about their intention behind what they offer to the children.  Your insight and perspective on what your children are interested in and curious about can inform the programming we offer the children.

My thanks to West Cambie Preschool for all these lovely set-ups I sneak in and photograph after they leave for the day....I am often tempted to stay and play! 

Friday, 11 March 2016

In weather news today....

There are a few pet peeves I have about Early Childhood Education.

Anyone I teach in the ECE Program or any of my colleagues could probably write the list of my peeves without much difficulty (turning on listening ears, running feet, squishing baby bumble bees...etc...GRRR)

But today I want to talk about the weather. 


It's been a wild weather week here in BC.

That weather has sparked many discussions with and by the children. 

As it usually does.

Because children live in the world with all their senses and they truly do notice the weather.  

They know when they walk outside what the temperature is and they can usually determine what clothing they might need.

The don't generally reach for their gloves in the middle of a heat wave.

They know if it's raining they will get wet, there will be puddles.  

They know when it's foggy or windy or sunny or hot or snowing and they learn how to manage themselves in the weather.

They notice when the landscape and weather changes to herald a new season, they easily discuss the changes, notice the leaves falling, the spring blossoms, frost.

They will notice the the time change - the change in when the dawn breaks and when the sun sets.

And IF we don't influence them with our own thoughts they make very little judgement about the weather and accept it for what it is.  

And they very often embrace the weather and it's side effects.  

You've seen the magnetism of a puddle right?  
The joy in watching a kite fly up into the sky?
The feeling of a warm rock to rest on?
The wind in your hair?

And all of these experiences happen outside.  

Where the weather actually is.  

Which is why you will not see us using weather charts and wasting circle time asking children what they think the weather is doing day after day...

We just open the door and go outside.


Monday, 28 September 2015

Call us Corny

Sure - Go ahead and call us Corny because, as it turns out, we are gourmet and creatively corny people!

The day before the last big grocery shop I decided to offer each team a "Mystery Ingredient" to spice up their snack time.  

I chose local corn and sent each program 3 ears of corn.

Of course I made it a competition.

And as usual the teams did an incredible job of creatively using corn.  From soup to pizza to cornbread and corn muffins and even corn flowers and aquariums.... and a rhyming story!! I kid you not!  

Below you'll see the creativity of some of the finest, and corniest, Early Childhood Educators in the land...How to pick a winner?

Entry 1
BGR Toddlers

Our Toddler educators discovered after playing outside, many of the children’s hands were cold.  After a discussion with the children about how we can warm up, we decided to make corn soup together.

All of the children tried to help!


We added homemade garlic flavored croutons and parsley from the centre’s garden.
Ta da!

We enjoyed this fancy Gourmet Corn Soup

ENTRY 2
West Cambie Preschool ( a program with no stove!)



Entry 3
West Cambie 3-5




Entry 4
Terra Nova Children's Centre




Entry 5
Bowling Green 3-5's


If You Give BGR Children Some Corn...

If you give BGR children some corn,
...they will observe it,
...they will smell it,
...they will tell you it smells like a peach, pizza, dirt, mango, brownie, a veggie or corn!

They will give you snack ideas such as cheerios with corn, animal crackers with corn and muffins with corn!
We went with muffins with corn, well, actually, fresh corn bread muffins!

If you let the children know they can help with making fresh corn bread muffins,
...they will wash their hands,
...they will rush to the kitchen,
...they will get ready to make fresh corn bread muffins!

If you put the corn in front of the children,
...they will rip up the husks,
...they will smell the corn again,
...they will tell you stories of popcorn, corn soup and other delicious corn recipes!
If you cut up the corn and bring out a blender, the children will,
...touch the corn kernels,
...smell it again,
...puree the corn in the magic bullet machine...the “grinding machine”.

If you give the children some ingredients, a big bowl, a big spoon and a big whisk,
...they will take turns,
...they will mix, mix, mix,
...they will lick their lips in wonder and anticipation!
If you give the children muffin cups,
...they will put them in the muffin tin,
...they will continue to lick their lips,
...they will wait patiently for the muffins to be baked.

If you give the children the fresh corn muffins,
...they will eat them at snack,
...they will say it is yummy,
...they will say “can we have some more”!

Entry 6
West Cambie Toddlers


For those of ya’ll who don’t yet know, I’m a southern belle, born and raised in Atlanta, Ga. I trained as a chef at the Art Institute of Atlanta, many years ago, graduating in 2001, before I even thought of going back to school to become an Early Childhood Educator. So, when I found out about this mystery ingredient challenge, and that our ingredient was corn, my thoughts immediately turned to the quintessential southern food: cornbread! We take cornbread very seriously in my family, from the properly seasoned cast iron cook ware we bake it in, to the hot, melted honey butter we serve it with.
Choosing to make cornbread with the children in the West Cambie Toddler Program was not a difficult decision to make. The children already love baking day, and they are very used to making bread (we make our own loaves of white bread monthly.) I also know that any time we serve a bread for snack, it is always gobbled up!

          To begin, I did what we call mis en place, which basically means to get out all of your ingredients and tools before you start. I then gathered a small group of Toddlers to help with the mixing and measuring. The children were excited to help me count and measure the different ingredients, and they especially enjoyed cracking the eggs. We creamed the corn by hand, and added it to make our cornbread moist. After it was done baking, we had a most enjoyable snack! 



 Entry 7
Cranberry Children's Centre Infant/Toddler Program






I'm sure you wish you were having snack with us! 

Well done to all who played along with the Mystery Ingredient Challenge!

Thursday, 16 July 2015

Relationships

We hold the value of "Relationship" very tenderly but very firmly in the SRCC.  We believe that everything happens in relationship and we do a disservice to our work if we do not pay special and careful attention to the relationships in our centres.

This is no small task but its very complexity is what leads to the deep enrichment it brings when we do it.  When we invest in building authentic relationships we enrich ourselves and one another.  Most importantly we honour the children and model for them the meaning of belonging, of community.
That is not to say we get this right all the time or with everyone.  

This is to say this commitment to building relationships permeates all we do.
  • From our relationships with the people and organisations we do business with.  Adding value there, taking a moment to help them understand our work, the impact we can have on one another...that builds community and collaboration.
  • From the time we first meet families we seek to understand and connect as  the basis for a relationship that is critical for the wellbeing of the children we all care about. We choose to disclose what we can about ourselves as you choose to trust us with this time in your families life.  We walk together with you through these years and we want to know you and mutually add value to each others lives. 
  • From the relationships between families that often become a support network, where deep friendships often develop.  We want to offer you ways to build and strengthen these relationships (like having Family Fun Day!)
  • From the time our Educators spend building relationships in their teams, wrestling with big ideas, with how to support challenging behaviour, how to extend children's thinking, how to communicate effectively and 1001 other things they need to dialogue about.
  • From the relationship between Educators and the children as we seek to really know each child.  To know who needs a hug and who needs to run and who needs art and who needs the bathroom......to build trust and camaraderie and compassion in the classroom to facilitate the relationships.
  • From the relationships we support between children.  Those foundational social skills of listening and hearing and compromising and challenging we nurture and grow them in relationship. 

All these things came to mind this week when our Program Director Jennifer sent me a photo of siblings at Terra Nova Children's Centre that she caught in a moment of tenderness, of love.

It is not always easy for us to foster sibling relationships.  The artificial age groupings separate siblings.  There are constraints.

But when a value is held, is central to our work, like relationships are, then we do not settle in to the constraints and shrug our shoulders and say "Oh well", or "it would be nice BUT".... we work towards the value.

In all our multi-age sites we offer as many opportunities as we can for siblings to build their relationships.  We have the big brothers and sisters visit one another in program or we find a common space and invite just those sibling groups to engage in a stretch of time to play together.  When a brother or sister (or even a cousin, as we have lots of those!) is having a hard day or a sad day or a celebration day we offer them time to be with their brother or sister( or cousin), to draw some comfort from their familial togetherness.

At this time of year we sometimes have the rare privilege of having a Kindergarten bound sibling still with us in the summer as their younger sibling, just 3, joins the program and they have the summer together.... this is the case for this sibling group.  We trust their time together will strengthen their bond and that they will have fond memories of their time together.

I am thankful to these two (and to Jennifer) for the reminder that we are all connected.  We belong to a community and we are all the richer for the belonging.