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Wednesday, 20 May 2015

Not just any "play"

I am often asked what children "learn" when at our centres.  And too often we Early Childhood Educators answer with "children learn through play".  This statement we make is not untrue.....we know that through play children learn many things.  

But it's not just any play.

The kind of play that facilitates curiosity and discovery and adds knowledge to a child's world is play that is intentional and engaging.

To get this type of play requires two things 
1) Educators who bring their knowledge of child development, their keen observations skills and their ability to facilitate conversation with children to deepen their thinking.
2) An environment that fosters curiosity, that has open ended materials that can be used in multiple ways, that allows for independent, autonomous functioning of the children as well as social competence.

This all seems like a lot of ECE speak..... let me illustrate this with an example.  

This example took place in 5-10 minutes, mid-morning at Terra Nova Children's Centre.

To set the scene:  An Educator had set the table with a variety of plastic and real insects (dead real ones), some magnifying glasses, paper, markers and pencils.  We call this a provocation.  This Educator had observed the children had a keen interest in insects and was offering them an opportunity to study them more closely and then challenging them to draw what they were observing. 

This is what R did with this opportunity

1. First she studied the caterpillar.  She put it on her paper and very carefully began to draw

2.First the body

3.Then the head and antennae and the "back antennae" which we both agreed were very interesting.

4.Then "all those legs"....we did some counting of "all those legs"

5. Finally all the legs were drawn

6. R looked carefully, using her scientific tool, to see if her caterpillar was accurate

7.  R then began to write letters across the top of her paper, carefully making a line and then writing on top of the line.  When asked she said she was writing "notes" about the caterpillar.

8.  She switched to a pencil to make some letters from her name.

And then took her drawing and put it in her cubby.  
Just one more thing to take home.  
And yet so extraordinary!

I hope you can see how much learning was in this brief time with one child in one centre..... literacy, numeracy, math, science, art, fine-motor practice, pre-reading skills... R showed us she is a careful observer and is skilled at translating what she sees on to paper and making sense of it, an important cognitive milestone.  R is also showing her curiosity about letters and writing...all of this done from R's own initiative, on her schedule and fueled by her own curiosity..... thanks to the opportunity offered by the Educator.

A play-full few minutes but so rich in learning.

Imagine this moment, or one like it,  happening hundreds of times a day across all our centres...THIS is learning through play.

Do you have other questions we could try to answer?  

What more do you want to know about our work with your children? 

PS  please excuse R's green hands - she had just been over in the art studio playing with goop....

Sunday, 10 May 2015

SRCC Mom's

Dear SRCC Moms

Happy Mother's Day

We wanted to say something to you today.

We see you.

We see you coming in juggling one or two or three children, lunches, bedding, extra clothes.

We see you kissing those little cheeks, calling out goodbye, drawing a picture on the window

We see you regretfully leaving after a cross word

We see your worry, sadness at tears

We see you coming back after your day, weary but eager to see you little one

We see your frustration when things haven't gone well at the centre that day

We see your joy in art handed to you, arms flung around you.

We see you connecting with us and other parents, building community

We see you mothering every day

You are amazing!

And we want to thank you for the trust you place in us everyday.

For sharing this part of your life, of your child's life with us. 

We know that is no small thing and we hold that trust carefully and tenderly.

We wish you all much joy in your mothering this Mother's Day.

Friday, 1 May 2015

What matters most!

I have been on the phone with lots of families over the last few days offering spaces in our re-opening Cook Road Children's Centre. (almost full!!)

Not unsurprisingly many ask me what the centre looks like?  Is is new? Is there new equipment? Many make the comparison to our newer centres hoping it will look similar (a tall order for a 17 year old space!).

I totally understand concerns about the environment parents are placing their children in and this is in no way meant to minimize those important questions.

For me, the space is just a container in which we do the important work of nurturing curiosity and honouring childhood.

A beautiful container is .... well.....a beautiful thing!  

We believe children, and the adults who care for them, deserve to spend their time in spaces built for them, that function for their needs, that soothe and inspire, that offer possibilities for discovery and creativity.  

I love this part of my work, designing these spaces and I keep the children and Educators at the forefront when choosing colours and finishes and cubbies and toilets!  We consider traffic flow, light, space to store things, space to build, beautiful outdoor spaces and SO much more....right down to draw pulls and the colour of grout!

But here is THE thing.....a container is just a container, no matter how lovely, it can only offer so much value.  

What matters the most, by many miles, is the Educators in the space. 

Educators who are lively, joyful, observant, attentive, engaged and curious.  Who are well trained and hopefully bring some experience of working with children and families.  Who daily offer children ways to think deeply, explore ideas, take on new knowledge, learn how to be good citizens.....and how to clean up and wash their hands!  

It is my daily privilege to see such Educators at work.  

I hear their voices, see them come alongside to comfort or guide or celebrate with children.  Always building the trust in relationship that is necessary for the days we spend together to be joyful and productive and engaging.

I see them add things to the space every day to spark the children's interest, to provoke a new thought or line of discussion, to try a new art form.  

I hear laughter and cheers and singing....I smell baking (and the necessary evil of bleach - for make no mistake there are many many chores that have to be done to keep the space healthy and functional), I see them walking outside hand in hand a child, an Educator, in conversation...... living life together in all its joy and messiness in as authentic a way as we can manage. 

The space matters.  

The Educators matter much much more!