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Thursday, 31 July 2014

An ECE in her element

I spotted this emergent/responsive Educator in her natural element the other day.

She didn't notice me at first.

She was intently listening to the children playing with the bubbles in the outdoor water table.

She was writing what they were saying, their observations about the bubbles.

She was taking photos.

She remained close by, engaging in conversation, asking a few questions about the play she was observing.

All the while she was scanning the playground to make sure everyone was busy and happy and safe.  She called out a couple of reminders to children going too fast on bikes.  She communicated with a colleague about a child who needed to go to the bathroom. She exclaimed with joy when a child showed her he had caught a bubble.  She asked him "where did that bubble come from?" "What will you do with it now that you have caught it".

They had a conversation.

This Educator is deeply curious about the fascination children have with bubbles.  She wants to know what it is about blowing bubbles that children fund so joyful and satisfying.  She wants to know how she and her team can offer children ways to think more about bubbles, to have more bubble experiences.... She wants to share in the joy and deepen the moment.

This is her work.

She does this same work with various children on various topics all day, everyday.

She shares her notes, her thinking, with her team. They decide on next steps in engaging with the children.  At some point they write it up so parents can connect with what the children are thinking and learning.  They show the children their process, their work.  They show them they are important and their thinking matters.

For this is our work.

To be deeply curious with children.  To listen to their theories about the world.  To offer them ways to test their theories or think more deeply about what interests them.

And as we do this children expand their minds, add to their knowledge, deepen social connections.

This is true learning, from the context of what the child is interested in already, building on their latent knowledge step by step.

We do this with authentic enthusiasm and personal joy.

We stand together in awe of what children offer us each day - their thinking, their perspectives, their unconstrained conversation, their unhindered theories, their genuine curiosity and joy in discovery.

Friday, 18 July 2014

Cranberry Art Fence

Art is something we hold as a value in all our SRCC centres.
We have tried to create art studios in all our programs.
We believe children can express their thinking and feelings in multiple different art mediums.

It was, therefore,  a natural fit when the City decided to include public art at our West Cambie and Cranberry locations.

The City puts out a call for artists for the site and a community panel goes through the submissions and makes a decision.  I have been privileged to be on the art panels for the child care facilities.  A fascinating and humbling process.  Amazing to see such a diversity of creative ideas and then to work through to consensus with a group of other stakeholders and community members.

At our new centre Cranberry Children's Centre, space for public art was limited.

In the end I was delighted the panel chose THIS whimsical option for the fence.

Once the artists understood the centre had been named "Cranberry Children's Centre" they adapted the colour palette to tie in with the name and the trim of the building.

It has been exciting to watch it (2.5 tons of steel!) come together.
Our first glimpse

I met one of the artists the other day and we had a great conversation. I told him of my excitement that the shadows of the birds and animals would fall on to the  playground at certain times of the day and that I was curious about how the children would interact with them.

I expressed my regret that children were not involved in the process, their voices and opinions not sought and that if I was ever on another public art panel I would push hard for us to consider input from the children.  He was fascinated by this notion of the children's voice.

So we have invited the artists to come for a visit once we have lived in the space for a while and to dialogue with the children about the fence.


Saturday, 12 July 2014

A fine balance

Designing a child care centre is a fine balance..... or rather requires a specific fine balance to achieve a wonderful result.

The balance between:
form and function
natural light and artificial light
durability and beauty
safety and risk
cosy and spacious
colourful and neutral
noisy and quiet
sight lines and hidden places
communal spaces and solitary spaces

I  don't think I quite have the formula yet and even if I did I am not sure I would have the budget to build it.

Most often the Architects, contractors, mill workers, painters, electricians etc..... don't understand the space they are building, the peculiarities that a child care facility demands.  They are patient with my requests for dimmer switches, lowered counters, big windows, sound barriers but not visual barriers.... but they tire of my requests for seemingly insignificant details like the specific location of outlets and switches, colours, door latches and storage.  We compromise on finishes and appliances and much, much more.

At Cranberry Children's Centre, our new baby, they put the kitchen and bathroom on motion censored lights..... as soon as there is 20 minutes of inactivity the lights go off.  "Energy saving" they told me.  Not understanding that 20 minutes of no one in the building moving would be cause for great alarm, is high unlikely and therefore a switch so we can eliminate or dim the lights when desired (like nap time) is preferable.

At this late stage in the build my request, as reasonable as it seems to me, is a real pain in the neck to everyone else. Or so it seems.

I pick my battles.  They pick theirs. The budget often trumps both.

We hold onto our vision of beautiful spaces for children and Educators.

These are spaces they live in for many hours a day, a week, a year.....

They must be functional and safe but that is the least they should be.

We can dream for more, work for more, build the spaces that childhood deserves.

So we have moved from "dwelling in the possibilities" as Emily Dickinson quipped to "living in the reality".

From design to ...... done.

We have done much right here at Cranberry.
Learned from other experiences.
Pushed a little harder for our dreams.
Found allies to help us advance our cause.
Let our voices be heard.

Represented the children who will enliven and enrich this space with their brilliance.
For that is the real reason we do any of this at all.