Tuesday, 7 August 2012

"I'm watching the birds"

I observed a usually energetic and exploratory child Daniel sitting on a chair outside, staring at the hills.  I approached and sat down next to him, "Are you taking a break Daniel?" I asked. "I'm watching the birds" he replied and soon after he excitedly pointed "woah, did you see that?" as a cockatoo flew over the playground. We sat for a few moments watching and hearing the noises of kookaburras, cockatoos, eastern rosella's and magpies.

Several other children came over to see what we were doing.  I noticed all of their necks craning as they followed the birds and asked if they would like to lay down on a blanket and pillows to watch the birds.
Detailed discussions began when the children started asking where the birds live, why they are different colours, how they fly and how they lay eggs.  I  added bird books to the area and we looked at the pictures and discussed some of the theories / science in the books.  The children enjoyed reading the indigenous dream time story 'How the birds got their colours"

Jacob showed a real interest in a scientific picture book about birds and discussed with me how the birds use their wings to fly before standing up and demonstrating

Throughout this experience Daniel, Jacob and Sam shared knowledge of their local community and the native animals that live in it, they hypothesised and strategised while gaining knowledge from books and stories.

Thursday, 26 July 2012

Elliot and the beanstalk

"Creativity is an important human characteristic.  It is perhaps best thought of as a process, requiring a mixture of ingredients, including personality traits, abilities and skills.  Early years staff can help young children to develop their creativity by providing a creative environment, helping children to build up their skills through play, behaving creatively themselves and praising children's creative efforts"  Developing young children's creativity: What we can learn from research. C.Sharp.

Today Elliot took me on a creative adventure that began quite innocently while he was digging in the sandpit.   Elliot had unearthed a gemstone and proudly ran up to me "Look Dani, it's a magic seed, if we plant it, it, it, could grow into a HUGE, ginormous beanstalk"
"What will we do with the beanstalk?" I asked
"Well, if we let it grow, then the next day we can climb to the top just to see what is there" Elliot said.
 Elliot and I continued our conversation about the stone, deciding we should plant it somewhere safe.

"We have to plant it in dirt so it can grow really, really big"  Elliot said as he began filling the container with soil.  He placed the gem in and covered the 'seed' with more soil.  "Where should we put the container Elliot?" I asked.  "Somewhere where the other kids don't knock it over, and somewhere that the possums can't get it" He replied.

 Elliot walked around the yard with his container trialing different spots to put it.  "How about on our 'safe shelf'?" I asked, pointing to the shelf under the veranda. 

"Nah, cause if we put it there and the beanstalk goes BANG and explodes growing really really fast it would punch a HUGE hole in the roof and then the rain would get in"  Elliot announced animatedly.

After several more minutes Elliot decided on the edge of the water tank "cause the beanstalk will need heaps of water to grow so big and fast"

"We need to water it so it starts to grow"  Elliot noted and quickly returned with a bucket of water.  Children began asking Elliot what he was doing, and I noted as he explained it to them his body language began to change.  He was quite proud of his creation but wanted to protect it.  " Elliot what could we do so the children know they can look at your beanstalk but you would prefer them not to touch it?"  I asked.

After several moments of thought Elliot said "we need to put a sign up. It should tell them not to climb it when they see it grow cause it would be dangerous for them." He stated, very serious about ensuring their safety. 

I suggested Elliot gather same paper and pencils and make a sign.  When he finished creating we stuck the sign up near his beanstalk.


There are a variety of avenues I plan to explore to further develop this interest of Elliot's including planting beans and creating his own beanstalk story.

Throughout the experience Elliot is demonstrating a great deal of curiosity and creativity, adapting several pieces of learnt information to his experience: His knowledge of the story Jack and the Beanstalk, planting seeds in soil, watering plants etc.

Elliot is also demonstrating several outcomes from the Early Years Learning Framework:  Outcome 2: Children are connected with and contribute to their world - children become socially responsible and show respect for the environment, Outcome 3: Children have a strong sense of wellbeing - Children become strong in their social and emotional wellbeing. Outcome 4: Children are confident and involved learners - children develop dispositions for learning such as curiosity, cooperation, confidence, creativity, commitment...... and outcome 5 Children are effective communicators

Saturday, 21 July 2012

How do you make orange?

There has been alot of talk about colours within the room lately.  We often hear children talking about their favourite colour, the colours in the rainbow, the colours they are wearing and what colour certain animals are.  I decided to explore this further with the children and do a little intentional teaching.

Using food dye, eye droppers and paint pallets we set the scene using primary colours.
The children had not used droppers before so after demonstrating how to manipulate the end to suck up liquid they set to work exploring.  I explained that red, yellow and blue are primary colours, these are colours that all of the colours are made from. "But how do you make orange?" Ollie asked

"What do you think?" I replied, "I don't know" Ollie said.  I suggested that we might be able to find out by mixing some of the colours together.

Initially Jacob and Ollie began transferring individual colours, I could see I was going to have to be a little more specific, so I posed the question " I wonder what would happen if you mixed a little red into the yellow?"  Jacob was quick to answer "Nah I wanna mix the blue in the yellow"  and he began dropping "Hey check this out Ollie, look its gone a greener!" Jacob announced excitedly.  Ollie began smiling and dropped red into his yellow "Jacob this one makes orange see" he said.
 They continued mixing, experimenting and hypothesising together for some time.

Later in the session I observed Ollie at the paint table mixing two colours together on the paper.  He looked up "It just wont make orange Dani" he said.

We discussed what Ollie had observed in the dropper activity and Ollie noted there was no red or yellow paint out. I asked if he would like me to add some  more paint " Yes, but I want to mix it please" he answered.

I had some empty pump soap packs and filled these with paint and a little water to make it easier to pump out. I then added these with trays and brushes to Ollie's experience.

Ollie quickly set to mixing the colours.

He experimented with shade, mixing darker and lighter colours

Many other children experimented with colour and shade following Ollie's lead.  We will continue to offer both experiences on the program and will look at other options to engage children who prefer not to paint, such as the light table.

Throughout this experience the children have shown dispositions for learning, strategising and hypothesising while also adapting and taking learnt knowledge from one play area to another.  They have also shown strength in their communication skills with adults and peers

Wednesday, 27 June 2012

Mud, glorious mud!

"Childhood for me was basically a backyard, a spade and a bucket of mud with someone to look after you." Dirk Bogarde.

Today we celebrated the second annual Nature Action Collaborative for Children - International Mud Day.  And WOW what a day...  

Our mud pit is a part of our everyday play and is frequented by the children as you will have noticed from previous posts.  What I love about International Mud Day is the conversations that it initiates.  When the posters were placed around our service a week ago advertising the event, many parents, Certificate III and Diploma of Children's Services students began reflecting on the types of play they experienced as a child - building forts, making mud pies, using imagination and creativity daily in play.  When having these conversations, links were quickly made to the types of play children have today - over scheduled, structured, computer based, predictable.  It's amazing to see that "light bulb moment" when parents and students realise what they truly LOVED and remember most about their childhood - that they are not allowing their children to experience.

So following is an example of what the children experienced and my interpretation of their learning in our program today.  
The invitation to play was set and the children eagerly began play in the mud pit in a small group - working on a treasure hunt project and individually - making wombat stew. 
My favorite image of the day "help I'm stuck" the group worked together creating and hypothesising how they could get Josh out of the mud (without his gumboots remaining in the slosh)

Our Mud Pie cooking invitation - this was the 'oven' the children created a few weeks ago.

Pre-mathematical and science principles - sinking and floating patty pans
 Collaboration - lifting the heavy pot onto the stove

 Josh shared his family culture explaining to the children how to make pasta "Nonna mixes it all like this in the bowl and you pat it flat then you mix it some more for yummy pasta"
Collaboration - digging each other out of the mud bog
Science and connection to nature - discovering worms and snails and creating a new home in the garden for them
 Mud paint on the fence Perspex - what better than a muddy hand print to finish the painting?
"Come and buy at my shop" Isabella encouraged children to purchase her mud cup cakes, mud medicine and mud chicken nuggets.

The group easily experienced all 5 learning outcomes from the Early Years Learning Framework today. 
While many children enjoyed and frequented the mud play, a few did choose to watch from the edge or play away from the mess, indoors or in our outdoor home corner.

Thursday, 7 June 2012

Prepare for international mud day

Our mud pit has always been popular with the children, but last week was the busiest I have seen it since we celebrated International Mud Day last June.  

Bella got the ball rolling - continuing play from the previous week, pretending to be stuck in the mud.   Shortly after play began a quick slip and Bella was on her bottom in a puddle of mud.  "I'm Peppa Pig taking a mud bath", she roared with laughter and began rubbing large handfuls of mud into her clothes.  Several children came over to watch and Bella asked them to get some more water for her bath.

Children asked to make mud pies, so scoops, containers, pots, pans and an oven made from a plank of wood and two buckets were added.

I noticed that some children were watching, turning down invitations to join the play so seating was added. 

Sunday, 13 May 2012

"There's a rhino in our sandpit"

This was one of those joyous conversations with 3 year olds that make you love what you do.  

While we were outside investigating I heard Adoh calling from the sand pit "Hey, Hey Dani come ear (sic), Hey Dani, come ear (sic) and look at this, WOW it's amazing, look, look there is a rhino in our sandpit"  As any educator would do, I raced to the sandpit, along with 4 or 5 other children eager to discover this rhinoceros.  

When we got there Adoh was looking very dramatic, hands on hips, head slumped. "Oh Dani you took too long it has disappeared.  All that is here is the rhino's footprints" Adoh points to shovel marks in the sandpit.

Eager to keep this spark of imagination going I asked how the rhino came to be in our sandpit " It bashed it's way through the cage and came running to play with us"  Adoh confidently announced.  One of the other children said "but they are HUGENESS (sic) they couldn't just fit in here they would squash us flat"  Elliot chimed in " Nah, they don't squash us cause I magicked (sic) it away." I asked "Wow Elliot where did you send the rhino with your magic?"  "It's in the shed, careful he might play with all of our toys and break them", Elliot enthusiastically replied.  Another child very rationally said "Rhinos are to big for the shed, they need lots of grass and they don't play with toys, they make biiiig noises and biiiig poopies" Elliot quickly responded "not magicked (sic) rhinos, they are magic so they like to play with our toys"  Adoh quickly interjected "Elliot you couldn't have magicked (sic) it into the shed because it went CHCHCHCAAAARGING through the fence, see the big hole" Adoh pointed to fictional hole.  Elliot - "oh yeah, then I magicked (sic) the fence so that the kids couldn't escape and then magicked the rhino back to the zoo" Adoh returned hands to hips "phew Elliot, lucky you could magic it cause it was a hairy, scary rhino"

The banter between Adoh and Elliot continued for a few moments before Adoh went running inside to the other educator appearing to be almost in tears "Lisa, Lisa I don't want the rhino to come back"  Lisa looked puzzled but played along "How did we get a rhino at kinder?"  Adoh discussed the whole story with Lisa in depth expressing to Lisa verbally and through dramatised facial expressions and body language just how frightened he was to return outside in case the rhino came back.  Elliot had joined Adoh inside and reminded him that the rhino was "magicked back at the zoo". Elliot told Adoh that he cast a special spell so it could never escape again.

As you can see from the above story the children are very creative, expressive, confident communicators with active imaginations.  Although Adoh had the initial concept and a sense of agency* he was happy for others to share their ideas and knowledge, adapting and evolving the play, scaffolding on his thoughts.  Adoh has a high level of understanding the link between verbal and non verbal communication and is using both forms to tell his story to educators.

The children are also demonstrating their ability and eagerness to be confident and involved learners, resourcing their own learning and engaging in various learning relationships, they are testing their problem solving skills, supporting each other emotionally and creatively.

*Agency - Victorian Early Years Learning & Development Framework - "being able to make choices and decisions, to influence events and to have an impact on one's world" p51.