Welcome to my blog about my experiences working in early childhood. I have called it Nurturing Forests because I believe that raising children is not a isolated activity but takes a whole community.

As early childhood professionals, we are actively involved in this process but we also need to work closely with the children, parents, community as a whole and other allied professionals.

I hope you enjoy my site. I also have a facebook site of the same name where I provide links to useful sites for teachers, parents and others interested in the early childhood: www.facebook.com/nurturingforests

Saturday, July 9, 2011

Update and Apologies

I just wanted to do a short post apologising for my distinct lack of posting in the last month.

I do have lots to share including:
- Some great information about cultural competence and other social justice issues that were raised at the Social Justice in Early Childhood conference at the start of June
- Lots of brilliant information from the Margey Whalley visit a few weeks ago
- and finally a few lovely things I have been working on with the children.

So hopefully soon I will recover to a basic sense of normal (my current cold is so bad it hurts to move) and will have more time (another ECT is starting at our centre next week) and then you will have something to read :)

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Update from NIFTeY meeting

I attended the NSW National Investment in the Early Years meeting this morning and thought I would provide an update of what's happening in Early Childhood Education and Care Sector.

Tonia Godhard reported on yesterday's meeting of key stakeholders with the new minister Adrian Piccoli.
The key points were:
- the sector now falls under the Department of Education
- the department will not be using the term 'child care' but rather Early Childhood Education and Care in recognition of this move.
- there will be a clear separation from child protection
- there will be no pushdown curriculum from the schools
- the separate Directorate for Children's Services will be headed by John Mason (who reports to Lesley Loble, Deputy Director-General Strategic Planning and Regulation).
-Department of Education preschools will remain under the Education Directorate
- the Minister is committed to the National Quality Framework but is concerned about the current reliability and validity of the tools.
- He also is committed to the 1 to 4 babies ratio and the introduction of 1 to 5 for 2-3 year olds as scheduled in NQS
- for preschools, he is aware of problems with RAM funding model and affordability and will establish a departmental review. He advised preschools to enroll for 2012 as they normally would as changes will not occur til 2013
- the teacher contribution scheme will commence in July but may not be ongoing.
- he is aware the sectors concern regarding the lack of consultation and is committed to improving this.

Other matters raised:

Children's Week
- will soon have a website up and running (will provide link when have it)
- as the trademark is now registered, it will now be necessary to register your event if you want to use logo and title
- there will be promotional posters available on the website

Working with children checks
- we discussed the need to move to a national streamlined system.

The NIFTeY conference is coming in July - it has a great line up if you are able to make it. The link is http://www.nifteyconference.com/

The grandparent carer initiatives from the government
- there will be an introduction of peer support networks
- grandparent advisors in some centrelink offices
- high density of grandparent carers on coast
- grandparent care provision for children during the day is underrecognised
- I will provide links to a number of reports when distributed if anyone is interested in reading further.

National Commissioner for Children and Young People
- senate enquiry underway. Report due August

Cultural competence issues:
- Reconciliation week is this week
- NAIDOC week early July
- important to engage local aboriginal organisations and actively engage with the issues and the community
- there is also Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Children's day
- I will provide links to relevant websites when provided.

That the bulk of it and I will forward around the details for reports, websites and so on as soon as I have them.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Fighting for recognition

I have been spending the last few days in Perth with my partner who is a senior official of the Transport Workers Union. We are over here for the federal meetings.

As a result, I have been having lots of interesting conversations about politics and workers' rights (my previous life in HR sometimes helps and sometimes hinders these conversations).

The discussion of worker conditions in the early childhood field has come up a number of times. But the main theme has been that the wages and conditions for the industry are, to put it politely, abysmal.

One of the officials revealed to me that he was thinking of retraining and working in the field but he worked out as he was single and had rent and child maintenance to pay the income would not to be enough.

There has been a lot of talk recently about the workers in early childhood needing to stop being 'nice' (see the work of Sandra Cheeseman) and be honest about what we need in terms of a livable wage and a realistic measure of the work we do (so we are not doing everything at home on our own time).

One of the possible directions for my phd studies is a comparative study between what the nurses have achieved (and where they are going) and what we need to do to achieve a similar recognition of our skills. The Nurses have run a strong campaign to increase society's awareness of their skills, training and role within hospitals which has led to measurable improvements in wages and conditions and overall respect for the profession.

A key part of this is making the industry attractive and viable as a career choice for males (and single females) as well as the 'secondary' breadwinner.

Early Childhood Teachers study for 4 years at university only to come out and be paid very low wages. We need stand up and say this is not fair and our role is very important in society and should be recognized as such.

Posted by Wendy

"the ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in moments of comfort and convenience, but where he stands at times of challenge and controversy" -Martin Luther King

Thursday, May 12, 2011

Wrestling with the budget....

Is it just me or does every 'educational' catalogue seem to charge completely unreasonable prices for basic resources?

I am trying to work out my priorities for my may budget (which has just had a hundred shaved off it to pay for the cleaners) my wish list has been rapidly culled.

I started off with an aim to focus spending on maths and science resources this month. But as most of those cost more than my budget. I have reprioritised to spreading the spending over a few curriculum areas and hope that in the mean time - buttons, milk caps and other odds and bobs will work.

So I thought I would mine the wonderful resource that is my readers and see if anyone can point me in the right direction for the following resources ( I am aiming for quality sustainable resources that can withstand two year olds but still challenge preschoolers)

- a scale
- mobilo instructions -is there a website?

Is there some fantastic ( read here cheap) place where I can get the following:
- more mobilo
- geoboards ( I do remember blogs about making your own but I'm not that keen yet)
- unifix cubes

Or are there any great maths and science resources that you would recommend?

Posted by Wendy

"the ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in moments of comfort and convenience, but where he stands at times of challenge and controversy" -Martin Luther King

Sunday, May 8, 2011

Social Inclusion: The role of early childhood education and care

The recent Australian Institute of Family studies - Communities and families clearinghouse Australia (CAFCA) - practice sheet raises the important issue of social inclusion ( and its counter social exclusion) and asks child and family services to think about their role. The full practice sheet can be accessed here: http://www.aifs.gov.au/cafca/pubs/sheets/ps/ps7.html (while you are there have a look around it is a useful site).

The article raises the four domains of social inclusion, the opportunity to:
1) participate in society through employment and access to services;
2) connect with family, friends and the local community;
3) deal with personal crises; and
4) be heard.

Traditionally, long day care and preschools have been closely intertwined with the community and providing a supportive role to their families and the surrounding community. It is a role most of us try to supply on a daily basis.

The article suggests we have a key role by:
- providing space for parents and children to meet one another and develop friendships and informal support networks
- providing opportunities for parents to take up leadership roles within the program,
- encouraging parents and children to contribute to decision making processes in the local community

You may note the link with the Early Years Learning Framework concept of 'belonging' and the article specifically uses the word.

The practice sheet also discusses the importance of giving children the chance to 'be heard' and their rights as a citizen now (not just a future citizen).

Practices that are family centered, partnership based and strengthens based are designed to enable family and children's voices to be heard. Working with families is not just about providing advice but about:
"hearing the whole story, seeing the full picture, knowing the main worries, learning their strengths, and taking all these into account in enabling them to find ways of managing the problems that confront them and their children" (p.11).

The importance and value of including and ALL families in our daily practice cannot be underestimated and is a vital part of our role that while challenging can be very rewarding for all.

Some suggestions for your practice include:
- is it viable for your centre to offer voluntary or paid employment opportunities to parents using your centre?
- can you provide parents with easily accessible information to increase their sense of inclusion? ( think about ways of reaching families who may feel marginalized e.g. Single parents, young mothers, parents with mental illness)
- can you provide parents with a leadership role within the centre (e.g. Committee?)
- what opportunities are you providing for parents to socialize with one another? Is there a dedicated space? Do you organize regular social activities for your families ( and at a variety of times?)
- do your families realize the importance of social interactions and friendships for their children?
- what opportunities are provided to parents and children to provide feedback on the program? Are these taken up? Do you know why or why not? How can they be encouraged?

What do you do at your centre?
For my parent readers, how does your centre help you feel socially included in your local community?

Posted by Wendy

"the ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in moments of comfort and convenience, but where he stands at times of challenge and controversy" -Martin Luther King

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Documentation part 2: Observing and interpreting

With the latest Early Years Learning Framework newsletter out - here if you are interested: http://www.earlychildhoodaustralia.org.au/eylfplp/newsletters/EYLFPLP_E-Newsletter_No10.pdf

It is reassuring to see that there is a return to a recognition that all forms of observations can lead to fulfilling the expectations. There did seem to a bit of confusion that only Learning Stories should be used.

However, there are lots of ways to record what is happening with the children in your care and ensure you are adequately reflecting their learning and thinking.

These are a few of my favourites:
-Jottings: if you are anything like me, jottings is one of the main ways you record what is happening on a day-to-day basis. I quickly pop down on a notepad, post it or even a scrap piece of paper whatever is being said and done and add it to my pile. The intention is then to turn this into something more meaningful when I have a chance to have programming time.
- Photos: I am of the personal belief that you cannot take too many photos. Especially if you take a number in quick succession you can often later interpret much of the children's thinking and their social skills.
- I also believe there is still a role for the many templates that were in use for the NSW curriculum framework. I would add an additional page or bit that talks about what it means in terms of the outcomes.
- Art samples - I collect as many as the children will let me keep (and take photocopies if they desperately want to take them home). As part of this I try to record what the child has talked about while making the picture and how they explain it at the end. I also love when art is displayed with the children's comments next to it.
- Word samples are very developmental psychology (and I know some people think this is a bad thing, but it's not) but they provide a important insight into the child's language development
- another useful psychological tool are interaction maps. Both the ones that track movement around the room and ones that track who the child talks and plays with.
- learning stories are fabulous but do take time and commitment (which many of us simply don't have in the world of long day care where we are lucky to have adequate staffing let alone time off the floor or a computer)
- finally, being a Macquarie graduate, there is the concept of pedagogical documentation (which will be a whole other post and something I am very much learning still)

The above is barely scratching the surface of techniques that can be used.

Finally, it is important to remember that all the observations in the whole world have little or no meaning if you don't take the time to interpret them and use them for planning and assessment (so my pile on my desk at work is rapidly becoming useless if I don't dedicate some time to them).

What forms of observation to you find to be most effective?
If you are a parent, if you see observations in a portfolio which ones do you enjoy the most?
How do we bring families into the documenting process?
Do you send home observations that you are working on?
Or put posters around showing the children's thinking and understanding?

I would love to hear your thoughts, ideas and suggestions.

Posted by Wendy

Wednesday, April 20, 2011


After underplaying it all week, I graduated with my Masters of Teaching (birth to five years) today and it did feel really good.

I was very proud to see girls ( or should I say women) that I have met over the years in both undergraduate and postgraduate studies walk down to get their pieces of paper.

The speeches were lovely and short but still inspirational and meaningful.

I agree with the Chancellor that we now have a responsibility to go forth and apply our knowledge and benefit our community.

I also agreed with our guest speaker, Professor Kevin Wheldall, AM, that we have a obligation to the children we teach to teach them using methods proven by research and scientific study.

I look forward to watching us all work in and influence the very important field of early childhood.

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPhone

Location:Macquarie university, Sydney, Australia

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Teach/Learn Carnival: Easter!

Lots of lovely links to Easter ideas today. It seems like most people are on holidays, so here are lots of things to read and do with kids.
Now you have more than enough to do leading up to Easter, have a great holiday!

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Patterns: The building blocks for mathematical thinking

Recent early childhood research has found that the ability to make and understand patterns is a critical skill for future mathematical understandings. Studies have found that an understanding of patterning can lead to the development of analogical reasoning and the ability to identify, extend, and generalise patterns is important to inductive reasoning. The studies have found that a child can learn these skills at a very young age.

Papic and Mulligan (2007) found that teaching the "unit of repeat" is the key concept. The unit of repeat is the element that constantly reoccurs. For example, in a pattern that goes: Blue, Yellow, Blue, Yellow, Blue Yellow. The unit of repeat is "Blue, Yellow". If the pattern was changed to : Blue, Yellow, Red, Blue, Yellow, Red. The unit of repeat would be blue, yellow, red. It can also be any other representation e.g. square, circle; rectangle, circle, triangle.

Joanne Mulligan when she lectured us about the findings was so particular about the finding to the point that if the unit of repeat was not completed e.g. red, blue, red, blue, red. We should not label it a pattern at all as it doesn't demonstrate a understanding of the unit of repeat. However, the child can be scaffolded and asked "what needs to be done to finish the pattern?" and if they are able to suggest the addition of "blue" then they are on the way to understanding mathematical patterning. A sound understanding of the "unit of repeat" concept was the key to future mathematical development.

Those of you who are familiar with mathematics will see that this "unit of repeat" concept is identical to the algebra concepts. E.g. a+cd. This is why the study also recommended a focus on the 'structural features' of the pattern rather than the colours - as a focus on the colours of led to a over simplification of the pattern that was occurring.

Overall, the study has opened a new direction in mathematical practices and understanding in the early years. So when you next look at a child's building or construction ask yourself:

  •  Is there are unit of repeat happening here?
  • How can I draw attention to it?
  • What scaffolding do I need to provide to build on this child's understanding?
  • How can I discuss the concept but in a different way? e.g. drawing it, building it etc
  • How can I model (or demonstrate) the unit of repeat in everyday practice? For example, setting the table has a unit of repeat, everyone has a pair of shoes and so on.
What are your thoughts??

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Encouraging your child to write

There is much pressure on preschoolers to be able to read and write before they enter school.

However, it is important to remember that your child is taught these skills AT school so there is no need to force and drill your child into reading and writing.

Instead, what you can do is encourage a understanding of language and its uses.

Initially, this can be a simple as ensuring your children see you using writing as a tool. For example, involve them when making a shopping or to do list.

Secondly, encourage them to attempt to write - it doesn't matter if it looks nothing like their name or words, with practice it soon will. You should encourage your child to write in as many contexts as possible. For example, making lists, sending letters and even typing on the computer.

One skill they do need for school is the ability to recognize their name. So draw attention to their name in print whenever you can.

Finally, a key indicator for a child's literacy and language skills is how much they are read to. The more the better and there is significant research supporting the continual reading of the same book is very beneficial as it gives the child time to comprehend all aspects of the story. Thebookchook.com is a lovely place to start for story ideas.

If you are looking for more practical literacy tips the blog childhood101.con does weekly literacy spots that are excellent.

In my next literacy post, I will discuss some of the initiatives we are doing at my work.

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPhone

Saturday, April 9, 2011

Documentation part 1: Using the daily diary as a tool for reaching your families

There was a lot of feedback asking for a post on documentation. As documentation is a rich and varied area, I thought I would start with the trusty daily diary.

I know a lot of preschools don't use a daily diary but it is a lovely way of filling families in on their child's day. Also, it can be used as a way of demonstrating to children that their contribution to the day is valued and if you are organized and detailed enough you can use it for your observations.

At our centre, we do the diary in a number of ways:
- we have pictures of the children and what they have been interested in and add text explaining what is happening and if possible a quote from the children
- secondly, we cover any group activities undertaken
- we also list the art experiences
-And finally, the books we have read

The diary is in constant evolution and half of above were added as a result of parent feedback.

In the past week, I have endeavoured to add a few more dimensions as a result of the conference:
- a couple of highlighted boxes explaining the value of a particular type of play especially maths and dramatic play.
- I have changed our generic "parent feedback/ comments" line to a " for our families: what you can do a home?". Here, I have tried to provide suggestions to families on how they can extend a interest of their child e.g visit a museum to see fossils, dinosaurs; talk to your child about the weather e.g. Is it cold, hot, wet, dry? How can you tell?
- I have also added a paragraph about our latest project

The diary is at the same level as our children's sign in sheet which makes it very accessible for the children and they will often check the photos and ask to be read what it says. I have also started putting a copy into a plastic sleeve book so the children can easily read the diary and look back over time.

And next week.... I am going to add some stronger links to the early years learning framework using the five overarching outcomes. I'll let you know how that goes.

How do you use your daily diary?
Do you use one? If not, how do you let the families know about their child's day?
Do your parents read your daily diary?
How do you reach families from non-English speaking backgrounds?
Do you use technology e.g. Email or blogs to reach your families?

If you're a parent who uses long day care, what do you think of the daily diary? Do you read it? What would you like included?

Posted by Wendy

"the ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in moments of comfort and convenience, but where he stands at times of challenge and controversy" -Martin Luther King

Preventing sudden unexpected infant death (SUDI)

I realise this isn't part of the upcoming post list but this is such an important issue I had to make it a priority.

On Thursday morning I attended the National Investment For The Early Years (NIFTeY) NSW branch meeting. This meeting is attended by key stakeholders in early childhood including government, Gowrie NSW, SDN, and others. I attend as a independent member as I asked pretty please if I could join as I am very interested/passionate about the work they do.

Anyway, on Thursday, we were honored to have a presentation made to us by Professor Heather Jeffery. Heather led and co-author the recent NSW Child Death Review - 'a preliminary investigation of neonatal SUDI In NSW 1996-2008: opportunities for prevention '.

For access to the full report click here: http://kids.nsw.gov.au/uploads/documents/FinalSUDIneonates.pdf

The key findings were:
The three key risk factors for sudden unexpected death of an infant are:
- co-sleeping. Therefore never sleep in the same bed as your child, they can be in the same room but not the bed. Cultures that do co-sleep, eg China and Japan, have a separate safe place for the child to be moved to when asleep.
- safe sleeping i.e. The child should always be put to sleep on their back, NEVER on their tummy
- smoking

If these three risk factors are removed, most deaths will be preventable.

This is a link to the SIDS and KIDS brochure about safe sleeping: http://www.sidsandkids.org/wp-content/uploads/SidsSafeSleeping14ppa1.pdf

The SIDS and kids website is : www.sidsandkids.org

I know this is a sensitive issue and there is a lot of misinformation about what is best for your child. However, this is the very latest research and it may prevent your healthy child from dying.

As a result of this presentation, there will be a substantial government campaign implemented to raise awareness to the findings.

If you have any questions just let me know and and I will endeavor to point to in the right direction

Posted by Wendy

"we are the change we have been waiting for" - Barack Obama

Monday, April 4, 2011

Maths Links: Early mathematical thinking

Thank you for all your feedback and positive comments about yesterday's post. Hopefully I can live up to everyone's expectations now :)

I think off the top of my head the winner was documentation as a place to start which I will try and do a post about over the next few days. If you are keen to look at template/ ideas Carly over at Early Childhood Resources did a post today about observations, the format she recommended is similar to one of the tools I use (probably the influence of the same uni at very similar times).

But as today is Monday it's time for Joyful Learner's maths links... Head over and check it out for some great maths ideas www.joyfullearner.blogspot.com

The main thing I wanted to share with you was some quick places that will quickly get you up to speed on the latest maths research if you haven't studied recently.

One of the best places to start is the Australian Association of Mathematics Teachers position statement on early childhood maths which you can find here: http://www.aamt.edu.au/content/download/721/19509/file/earlymaths_a3.pdf

A article about common misconceptions about maths education in the early years: http://www.earlychildhoodaustralia.org.au/australian_journal_of_early_childhood/ajec_index_abstracts/early_childhood_teachers_misconceptions_about_mathematics_education_for_young_children_in_the_united_states.html

Dr Jenni Way highly recommends the following book for excellent practical and up to date advice on applying maths in the early years:
Dr Kate Tucker,2010, Mathematics Through Play in the Early years (2nd ed.) Sage books. This is the book depository link for you: http://www.bookdepository.co.uk/book/9781848608849/Mathematics-Through-Play-in-the-Early-Years.
To paraphrase Jenni "I have been waiting for years to find one I could recommend and this one is it". It's only $33 and free worldwide delivery! And tax deductible if you work in the industry. Have just ordered it myself.

So there's some reading to whet your appetite... Next Monday I will write about the vital importance of developing patterning skills in the early years.

Posted by Wendy

"we are the change we have been waiting for" - Barack Obama

Sunday, April 3, 2011

A post about upcoming posts

Yesterday, I had the privilege of attending a Sydney University conference about the Early Years Learning Framework and the National Quality standards.

As a result, I have lots of excellent material that I plan on sharing with you over the next few weeks/months.

A broad summary of what I intend to write about for you...
- documentation within the context of the eylf so portfolios, observations, assessment and daily diaries
- ensuring that families are integrated into your practice
- language and literacy in the early years
- using popular characters e.g. Superheroes, barbie and Thomas in your practice - what the research is saying
- maths in the early years. This particular presentation was so fantastic I have enough for the whole year
- working together as a team to achieve the eylf outcomes
- how to use the reflect respect relate document
- how to demonstrate continuous quality improvement ( for this, I will also draw on my previous experience in hr)
- more about advocacy

Posted by Wendy

"we are the change we have been waiting for" - Barack Obama

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Celebrating Easter - Do I do it?

I wanted to do a post on the celebration of Easter in a Long Day Care setting because it seems to be an issue that a lot of people are concerned about.

There has been a extreme trend (and often the only version seen in the papers) to ban all celebrations in the understanding that that is how you recognise diversity and difference within the centre.

However, recognition of diversity and difference is not about pretending things don't exist - it is acknowledging that other people may hold different views to you and each other and talking about that at the same time.

This including providing families with a choice and ability to ask their child not to be involved in a certain celebration.

I, personally, do not hold any strong religious beliefs - I do strongly recognise with the principles of Buddhism and try to implement them but often fail - but my boss and my Diploma staff member are both strong Christians and as I explained to them - it is OK to celebrate something at work that they believe in.

Part of being a good teacher and role model is having conviction of your beliefs but not to the exclusion of others.

What do you do for Easter? Do you celebrate it at your centre?

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Maths Links: Integrating the concept of time into the curriculum

This is part of Joyful Learner's Math Links... come over and check it out at http://www.joyfullearner.blogspot.com/

A critical maths skill that all children need to learn is the ability to read a clock and both types of clocks, not just a digital clock.

Many people argue that telling the time is too complicated a skill for young children but I know many 2 year olds (and even some babies) who are able to understand the basics. The main skill is an understanding of the numbers and the idea that they represent a concept (time). Most children have been exposed to time as a concept from a very young age - for example, being asked to wait for something.

Like many complicated concepts, such as reading and writing, it is all about modelling and demonstrating how the skill is used in every day life.

For example, for many children I like to introduce the concept of  time (and a clock) when they are arguing over a toy. For example, Joe can have the toy til the big hand gets on the 2. For a very popular toy this can even involve the making of a waiting list then writing the numbers and drawing what the hands will look like.

It is also useful for when morning tea, lunch and afternoon tea are coming as well as when their families will be here. It can also be used in a pictorial communication system to enable children to plan their day.

I also like to supplement this with clock puzzles that show times etc. At the expense of coming across as a Melissa and Doug Sales repersentative (I promise I'm not) this clock is incredible and suitable for all ages.

What do you do to help your children understand the concept of time?

We Play: Making a train

This is part of Childhood 101's we play link up... come over and play http://www.childhood101.com/

The theme for this week is what  - Have you and your child/ren made your own play things lately? What did you make?

Our children (well, most of them and yes, mostly the boys) have been obsessed with trucks, trains and cars of late. We have had an extensive collection of materials out linking to this interest including a wooden train set, a wide range of different types of trucks (plastic and wooden, large and small), garages, and even a very fancy circle ramp thing that you have to set the traffic light to go.

But the most beautiful thing I have observed all week is the use of a simple hoop to create a train and go around the yard. It started off with the two children and then the middle one asked to join and was happily included into play. It was pure joy (and genius) in action!

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Books lovely books part 2

I have had a few lovely books arrive recently so I thought I share some with you

For children:

1) Fearless by Colin Thompson

A beautiful book about a dog struggling to live up to the expectations of his name. As I have two dogs with pretentious names - Josephine (a cavoodle) and Napoleon(a west highland terrier) - and who are a lot like this dog I nearly cried with laughter.

2) Never Smile at a Crocodile (incl. Cd)

You know the song.... Beautiful picture book and supplemented by a cd of the song for when the children ask you to read it for the fourth time in a row

Both are through ABC books shop.abc.net.au - I got them on a warehouse sale which often has books really cheap - let me know if you want the link. Amazon don't seem to stock it but you can be put on www.thebookdepository.co.uk wait list and they have free worldwide delivery.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Maths links- the joy of an abacus

This is part of Joyful Learner's Maths Links come over and have a look www.joyfulllearner.blogspot.com

I have recently had the good fortune to acquire a beautiful Melissa and Doug wooden abacus.

When I studied maths at university there was a lot of talk about buying hundreds boards for the children - which seem to be ridiculously expensive for what they are - and subsequently it was on my wish list of things for my new centre.

But having watched the children play with this abacus, I think a quality beautiful abacus achieves the same ten by ten purpose but in a much more open ended beautiful way.

I have observed all of the ages in my centre from two year olds to just under six relish the counting and maths play that this abacus provides - ranging from simple moving of the pieces to counting all the way to 100 while moving the pieces (one to one correspondence at it's best)

If you don't have a abacus... I personally recommend one very highly and if you don't want to buy one you can simply make one via threading ten sets of ten... Even more maths plus fine motor!

We play: hanging washing and raking leaves

This is part of the We play link up over at Childhood 101

As I have mostly involved in establishing systems and routines at my new centre. I feel like I have been missing out on my favorite part of being a early childhood teacher - play.

But on reflection and in a attempt to join in the great fun that is we play- I realized that there has been lots of meaningful play surrounding me of late.... And one of my favorite kinds house play.

While I have been hanging the washing out - the children have mimicked this behavior on the washing line that my wonderful colleague Danielle had put out with the babies and their clothes.

While I have been raking and sweeping the grounds - the children have been helping with their rakes and brooms and sometimes the adult size ones.

When I tidy up around me - the children, especially the two years olds, mimic this behavior in their play and immediately become more respectful of the toys and making sure they go back in their homes.

Integrating household chores and activities into the curriculum is a significant component of the Waldorf/Steiner philosophy including knitting and cooking. This has increasingly been integrated into most mainstream practices and is a major theme in the new early years learning framework. Part of this is building relationships with families and gaining an understanding of what they do at home with their children and bringing their skills and knowledge into the centre where possible

How do you bring a sense of home into your practice?

Friday, March 11, 2011

Montessori schools

Sorry for the delay in posting, I have been flat out at my new centre setting up programming documents and primary carergroups etc

I just quickly wanted to draw attention to the inner Sydney Montessori school's open day tomorrow this is their website: www.isms.nsw.edu.au.

Having studied at Macquarie we tend to focus on Reggio more than other philosophies so it was fascinating this week to have a quick visit to their school and see how similar a lot of the concepts are.

I know I will be dropping over for a extended visit.

I also recommend checking out their website. In particular, How they have explained the link between the Early Years Learning Framework and their practices.

As a teaser, I'm hoping to write a post about controlled crying (why not to do it) and integrating household tasks into the curriculum aka waldorf Steiner

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Caring for (and paying) staff is just as important

I personally believe that you can not provide quality care if you do not provide a working environment where the staff are financially secure, recognised for their skills professionally, challenged intellectually and empowered.

Part of this is recognition that a vital part of convincing parents what is good about your centre is the fact that you look after your staff and provide working conditions that minimise their stress and enables recognition of their responsibilities which includes providing the staff with time (at work and paid for) to complete everything they need to get done.

Fortunately my new workplace is pretty much on board with this philosophy - so it is a vast improvement!

I think we are completely underestimating parents if we think they cant understand that we too need decent wages and conditions to work and be happy in our jobs (and the subsequent impact it has on their children and the care we can provide)  - as such I hope you all planning intensely on how you are going to participate in the IEU Teachers are Teachers Blue Day.

I know it will be much easier (hopefully) for those of you who work at council, community and not for profit centres because of higher union density and higher acceptance of workers right to organise so if you have any inspiration for our fellow teachers in the private sector I would love to hear your stories.

For those of us in private sectors, all we are asking for is a recognition of our education and skills its not unreasonable and all research points that early childhood teachers in long day care centres make a very significant impact on the quality of care for their children - and without adequate pay we will not remain in the sector leading to a continuation of the incredibly high turnover of staff which is unsettling for their children and everyone.

Don't be scared get up and fight for what you are entitled for!! its the only way change happens.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Settling in to my new centre

In case any of you were worried about how my new workplace is going - It's going great!!

The staff are wonderful, the owner has a great vision for the centre and what she wants to achieve, the children are warm and welcoming and very settled (even the ones that started this week)....

I am beginning to scope out what needs to be done from here and while the list is long I am reasonably calm about it all and know that between us all we will get there.

Firstly, I have to clean out the store room so I know what's there ;)

Then quality art materials is second on the list as rapidly setting up my atelier

This will be following by a large focus on the home corner/dramatic play.

In between, I will be working on planning and programming with the staff to make sure all of the staffs' wonderful work with the children is documented and recognised

As you can see busy busy.. will start sharing photos soon.

Though hard readjusting to a full time working week (i will have flexibility to roll back in future) and so glad I have my art class this morning as a break (and a catch up with Jacqui and Vicki tonight!).

Sunday, February 27, 2011

Belonging Y Chart

Please please please don't tell me this exist somewhere easy .... and I apologise for re-creating/stealing the idea and acknowledge the original source http://www.earlychildhoodaustralia.org.au/eylfplp/newsletters/EYLFPLP_E-Newsletter_No5.pdf and highly recommend the whole document.

I just spent the last hour-ish whipping up a user friendly version of the Belonging Y Chart that is talked about (and pictured) in the latest EYLF newsletter.... you can access it here  https://docs.google.com/viewer?a=v&pid=explorer&chrome=true&srcid=0B2yK5eVRe-QwOGJhYWZhYmEtMzNlOS00OTgzLWJkNDQtYjE4ODNlZGIzODhh&hl=en&authkey=CP7XqdsL

I am going to take this in tomorrow and use it as a conversation starter... the aim is to have staff and families contribute - still trying to work out if I'm going to have two - one in staff room and one next to diary - would love only one but am aware how some people (from both families and carers) find it intimidating and the aim is to start the conversation not squish it.

If you find it useful... would love to hear your input/stories

Searching for bargains

One aspect of me that seems to work very well in my new career is my constant search for quality materials at low prices especially as constant budget constraints are often a issue in the industry. There are a number of ways I look for bargains.

Michael and I have long held a love of the Rozelle 2nd Hand Market in Sydney ever since I dragged him into the Inner West (which much convincing) in 2005 (I'd lived in the area for years before.) I am now ashamed to admit that he realised its potential well before I did - he rarely buys his clothes anywhere else.

You will often find us at the markets both days (there are different stall holders) on nearly every weekend (unless we are in Newcastle) - we have also worked hard to convert my 10yr old step daughter to the cause... its working - she knows that if she buys stuff there she will get heaps more and really individual things - the other day she got a incredible huge pink flower ring (with diamantes) for 3 bucks! from London.

For example, today I bought...
- 3 second hand books - Atonement; A Oliver Sacks book on Music and the mind; & The unbearable lightness of being ($15) - I have a extensive library that I have been building for years - nearly all secondhand.
- 3 wooden trucks - one farm truck (incl 3 wooden animals), one fire truck and one digger (for a complete bargain of $12)
- Two fantastic Australian art books (for $8)
- and lots of plants - succulents, tarragon, jasmine, and curry leaf plant.(for about $20)

As you can tell was unsupervised by Michael today (he was at a work conference) so lots of cool things - otherwise would have had to buy him shirts and Lizzy dresses - like yesterday). I also find it great for real materials relating to a interest of a child.

In addition to the markets, I also subscribe to lots of sale sites, I LIVE on etsy.com (if you haven't been there go now....), and have signed up to I think nearly every loyalty card/email list in the known universe - Michael doesn't get it.

I love resource recycling centres such as Reverse garbage in Sydney http://www.reversegarbage.org.au/ and the recent gem from Sherry and Donna - Resource Rescue Craft Supplies .... http://www.facebook.com/home.php#!/resourcerescuecraftsupplies

The Internet is fantastic for finding the best deals. I must admit my sister in law is even better than me at this....she is a fantastic bargain hunter who even on sale sites will check out the prices all over the Internet before buying - she is also a great bargain traveller.

I am also trying to learn how to do things myself e.g. knit, felt, sew and so on. One of my goals is making knitted toys by the end of the year and the Knitters Guild are wonderful and provide free learn to knit lessons each month

I also hoard and borrow from family... simple things like used wrapping paper, scarves, buttons and so on all have a role ....

What do you do to snare a bargain?

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Moving on - Leaving my chickens behind

I'm about to embark on a new adventure and start a new job on Monday.

However, sadly, this means that I will be leaving my lovely children, parents and colleagues.

In my old career I use to do a lot of contracting so I'm reasonably used to moving onto new pastures (luckily, facebook helps me keep in contact).

But this is the first time I have been with these children and families for over 8 months. I have built a wonderfully close relationship with the children and their parents it will be a shame to leave them. I know what their (many) faces mean, I can predict their behaviour and I know what they love and what makes them laugh - I love turning up to work and hearing "hello Wendy" echo around the hall from the toddler room and my room.

Unfortunately, my particular working conditions meant I had to move on.

I have written all of my children a little card and been giving them out throughout the week to let them know I will miss them and that I love them. I tried to include something about their personalities in the card to make it unique for them

However, it is tricky territory - at all times I need to ensure that I am not telling parents or the children to come to my new centre.

In HR, we call it restraint of trade - basically if you move on you can't poach your clients (usually for 6mths but if you are in a very senior position it can be for years). There doesn't seem to be anything like this in the industry but out of respect for my boss I have self imposed it.

How do you manage moving on to a new job?

Lemonade Making

One of the most exciting play moments that has happened to me this year has been the making of lemonade with the children.

We made the lemonade because we were all outside playing in the sandpit making pretend drinks (including lemonade) and I suggested why don't we make it for real!  Starting a month long love affair with lemonade (that is still continuing for some of the children).

I found a no cook lemonade recipe online (from american profile) brought in the ingredients and went from there.

First, we wrote the recipe out on the white board. I started and then the children wrote a line each (these were mostly the older children) 

We then all worked together. First, the children were given a lemon and we talked about how we were going to get the juice out - lots of suggestions!

Then I cut the lemons up and gave each child a half. I asked them to not taste the lemon until they had juiced their half (some couldnt resist so luckily we had spares).

The children juiced their half each and added it to the large measuring jug.

Then when that was done we moved onto the sugar. Each child added a spoon each.
Then we all had a turn stirring (counting to ten as we went). Then we added the water and then we drunk it!!

It was very exciting and surprisingly delicious.

The children and I proceeded to make lemonade over and over with same and different children over the next few weeks. At one stage we even added limes to the recipe (I had some at home which were looking a bit worse for wear).

I supported this learning experience by a poster talking and showing about the process including the recipe which you can see below and pictures of each step. I placed lemons, the juicer and the measuring cups on this seat (didnt have a spare table). Here the children are pretending they are at a lemonade stand.

I also provided opportunity for further exploration through dramatic play.--providing the materials with wooden fruit. Below this child is making lemonade.

And he is sharing it with his friend. You can just see in the blue cup is just wooden lemon

Here is a different day and different children also exploring making the lemonade in dramatic play.

The children got so good at making the lemonade I didn't even have to tell them what to do - just give them the materials!!

Come over and play at the Childhood 101 "We Play" link-up.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Posting comments

Hi Everyone

There seems to be a bit of trouble with posting comments.

If your comment doesn't process properly - choose placing your comment up as anonymous.

Hopefully it will be fixed soon

Cheers, Wendy

Monday, February 21, 2011

Interpreting Children's Art

I read a comment this morning next to a child's artwork - that the child's artwork was too abstract and involved no thought and that she needed to learn more "realistic" art. Have located a photo of the creation of the art work in question (above)

Please tell me you see the problem with the above comments by the carer. Especially when I tell you that the carer had not been with the child when she made the piece (which was beautiful and involved a lot of complex colour mixing of different hues - and lines).

Research and practice surrounding children's art has evolved a lot in the past decade. Educators should now be aware that children do not just "scribble" it has meaning and thought just like any art work a adult completes.

I agree that children should be taught the skills to draw and paint. For example I recently did an observation commenting that a child is starting to draw people so we should give her some models.

I highly recommend the above book as a good place to start if you are interested in this topic.

Worksheets - why not to use them

I have often seen worksheets used as way of "ensuring" the child's learning is measured and as a way of observing.

I was taught at university that there are a million ways you can achieve this goal without reverting to worksheets. Or being university, we were told you can use them if you want but you have to show that there is research supporting the use of them in children's learning if you wanted to get any marks for it (i personally have never come across any research that has recommended worksheets).

It is important to think of ways you can integrate the learning you are interested in observing into the children's play. E.g. if you want to check their ability to use scissors - put out collage and boxes with scissors, you will quickly find the skill levels. If you are with a younger group, put non-cutting scissors out with play dough.

Similarly, with writing their name, get the child to write their own name on their art work, get them to sign in (next to the official sign in), provide constant and varied writing opportunities for the children. You will rapidly see the children's writing evolve (and very neatly you will have a log of dates as well). Encourage the children - if they say they can't say that's not true and they need to try.

So next time you go to use a worksheet - ask yourself how else can you achieve what you are looking for. I highly recommend using some of the brilliant blogs on the Internet for inspiration if you are stumped for ideas.... e.g. Teacher Tom, Irresistible Ideas for Play Based Learning, Childhood 101

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Girls and Trucks - Genderised Play

Gender bias is something we covered frequently, and in detail, at university so I was ashamed to realise I was subject to it this weekend.

I have brought home from my old job a number of trucks (that I had paid for - don't ask) - a digger, cement truck and a garbage truck. I simply assumed my ten year old step daughter would not be interested in them. So stashed them in her book shelf without any thought.

However, yesterday she came out to me - overjoyed that she now had "really cool" trucks to play with and how she required sand to play with them properly.

After getting her some play sand this morning (put it in the water shell that we bought for the dogs but they refuse to use) - she spent all morning playing with the trucks!!

Just thought I would share it with you - just in case you see a really cool truck and think your daughter wont be interested!

Using local resources: Australian Museum, Sydney

We went to the Australian Museum on Saturday and I highly recommend it for anyone (whether with children or not).

It was amazing and very hands-on. I especially loved the interactive computer in the animal section - and the children around me spent ages enjoying it as well. How can you go wrong with a table that interacts to your touch and has crocodiles and sharks appear from nowhere to attack you!? Interestingly, I saw the exact same sort of table on the Bond movie Quantum of Solace last night

I am aware of centres that regularly take their preschool ages to the museum and the museum has a very strong educational bent these days. Many have early childhood teachers on their staff (isn't that a great career path if you are interested).

I have attached the link to the education services they provide. If you cant make it to the museum I highly recommend checking out the museum in a box link - as they will send things out to you. http://australianmuseum.net.au/education-services

If you haven't been recently put it on your must do list....

Thursday, February 17, 2011

White on Black: Art Inspiration

Just a quick post today as I feel like I have been a little remiss...

I thought I would tell you about the wonderful art class I had yesterday.

The focus of the lesson was line. So our teacher got us to use black paper and white gouache (you could substitute this with - acrylic, white chalk, oil pastels, basically anything along those lines - though gouache is a wonderful medium so would love to try it with the children soon).

As inspiration, she provided us with a number of black and white prints (for some she used pictures that were not actually black and white but came out that way when photocopied). You are looking for pictures with a black background and that you have to explore the concept of negative space - i.e. you are applying the light not the dark which you typically do.

Note that she provided us with inspiration/art works to learn the skill from - this is something that i believe really strongly in  - A child (or adult) cannot learn art skills out of thin air they have to see examples of the work you are aim for and you have to help them see and learn the skills that are necessary to master the art.

Initially, I thought this exercise would be reasonably easy but when you settle into the task you quickly begin to realise the thought that the artist has put into the composition and line in the drawing. One piece in particular that I spent most of the class working out was fitted together like a beautiful jigsaw puzzle of gymnasts... I will try and find a link to for you (just had a quick look then and got nowhere - he is an Australian artist who did a whole series of gymnast paintings before moving on to dance scenes - if you know it let me know).

I highly recommend it as a something to try out yourself and with your children.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Books lovely books....

One of my favourite past-times is reading so I thought I might share today some of my current top 3 favourite picture books and grown up books.

First the picture books:

1) Rabbit's Year: http://www.bdb.com.au/books/rabbits_year

Beautiful simple prose, great story. I was lucky enough to have a small brown knitted rabbit that I recently found at the Rozelle Markets - so I acted the story out with my preschoolers. In short- it rocked!

2) The Wonky Donkey - hilarious, great use of rhyme

3) The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane: Michael has been in love with this author for a while now. So he read it out loud to us on our beach holiday. It is about 200 pages but is so beautifully written I believe you could even do it with 3-5 year olds over a few days. It is a beautiful story about a porcelain rabbit who learns to love. Must admitted the first few chapters about his arrogance and self obsession had me crying with laughter.

Now for the grown ups:

1) Wolf Hall : Now when I first was reading this it felt a bit heavy but it has stayed with me and resparked a interest in the time of Henry the VIII and his life. Plus it links beautifully with the Tudors which is currently on ABC2 on Friday nights.

2) The Slap: Follows the story of a gathering who are all impacted by a child being slapped by an adult (not their
parent) for misbehaviour. An excellent exploration of this taboo area of what to do when a child is being badly behaved. Plus it is currently being made into a tele-movie and will be on our screens soon with some of Australia's best actors.

3)  The Children's Book: Again you might need a chick lit book to read in between every now and then as this is a thick book but it is incredible rewarding. It explores the turn of the century into the 1900s and parents relationships with the children, plus art at the time and children's literature.

Finally, A fun one (well, if you can knit - I can't and I bought it anyway. It does have a westie on the front (well the Australia version in the shops called 'best in show' does) and I do intend to learn!) Knit Your Own Dog: Easy-to-Follow Patterns for 25 Pedigree Pooches

Enjoy! Would love to hear your feedback if you have read them and see picys of the knitted dogs ;)

Monday, February 14, 2011

Warm Responsive Care

Not sure if it has happened to you but frequently on prac placements and now at work I face the issue of being disapproved of by the other carers for providing what I call 'warm responsive care' to the children

For example
- I will cuddle a child if they are crying
- I will let the children make choices
- I work hard at making toileting and nappy changing a fun interactive experience
- even sometimes following the interests of the child

At its most extreme I have been criticised for:
- picking up a crying baby
- cuddling a unsettled child with downs syndrome because it is "spoiling" him
- being over-supportive of a new child because "they need to learn to play with the children not the adults that's not what we are here for". This particular discussion also included being told that the only reason you would spend time with the children is because it is a ego boost (go figure - who thought that's why you talk to children in care!)
- looking after a child who had decided he had 'lost' all of his friends because they were going on to primary school and he wasn't
- i could go on and on..... but won't - it'll get boring and it will turn the post into another rant.

Louise Porter has a excellent book that talks about guidance and how to provide quality responsive care to children. I can't recommend it enough see link to the left.

I also recommend any thing about the Reggio Emilia method and the Curtis and Carter books (see the bottom of this blog for links).

As part of this is the issue of controlled crying, personally I think this is such a big issue that I will reserve it for another post where I can provide you with the most up-to -date research - in summary - do not do it!

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Documentation & the Project Approach

One of the things I am still experimenting with is documentation. I know this was what my practicums were meant to help with but those documents were VERY labour intensive and don't quite suit my current situation (though i can see myself possibly using them anyway for awhile and then trimming them down).

I have just been searching through what i was using for my prac and found a clever little document that one of the uni girls was using - I would love to share it but need her permission first.

But to give you a rough idea  - it is a wheel where the idea/interest/project is in the middle and then the areas from the NSW Curriculum Framework - social child, thinking child etc etc. Its a way of thinking about the curriculum and trying to plan for the 'whole child'.

However, a lot of the literature talks not taking this approach and the fact that often we are artificially separating and segmenting how learning occurs by taking this approach. Often if a project is well planned and provisioned for by following the direction of the children (but note here not doing nothing - but providing provocations and leading the learning by showing the children where to access the information and scaffolding experiences) it will meet all of these componentss of the children.

A site I have found very reassuring and inspiring is Early Childhood Research and Practice. It is a completely online (and free) journal -http://ecrp.uiuc.edu/index.html. It was founded by Lilian Katz (and some others) from The Project Approach books. You will notice in each issue is an example of a project that has been done in practice e.g. the latest issue follows the journey of 3-5 year olds exploring and investigating car a wash.

I think I will be spending tonight collating a group of documentation approaches including pedagogical documentation (which I still have a long way to go with), learning stories, anecdotes, mix murals of pictures taken over the last month, jottings categorised by outcomes (I might do one template for the NSW Curriculum Framework as that's what my colleagues are familiar with and one for the EYLF) and maybe some things from the Curtis and Carter books.... OK maybe I wont be able to achieve all of that tonight but hopefully over the next few weeks. For a number of reasons - to challenge myself, to enable my colleagues to challenge their perceptions of the children and to ensure I am truly seeing the child.

One other gem I wanted to share from my ECA meeting on Friday. Melissa reminded me that with the EYLF don't use the outcomes and forget the rest of the document. Instead look at what you are doing in your practice and ask yourself why? The examples of the educator's behaviours will naturally lead to the outcomes.....

So when you go to work tomorrow and set up the room
 - ask yourself why did i put that there?
- why is that book in the book case?
- how is what I'm doing for group integrated into what the children are doing?
- how is the way we behave at transitions and meals reflect our beliefs about the child and our philosophy of learning?
- how is our documentation showing the diversity of learning in our centre?

Friday, February 11, 2011

Getting our voices heard: Advocacy in Early Childhood

I attended the NSW Branch meeting for Early Childhood Australia this morning. It was a lovely 'yarn' (we decided after we managed to get off track a thousand times) with some great people with some fabulous ideas. Here's their website if you don't know them... http://www.earlychildhoodaustralia.org.au/

In particular, Melissa Smith worked us through some complex and challenging questions about developing a reconciliation action plan for the organisation. Melissa works both for CSU and DET and is very inspiring  http://www.csu.edu.au/faculty/educat/teached/dubbo/staff/melissa_smith.html

But as I sat there talking to these women, I wondered to myself why are there only 7 of us here? Isn't Early Childhood Australia our peak professional body? How can we expect to drive change in the industry if none of us are actually willing to get involved?

Our industry still has a long way to - terms and conditions, recognition of training (or even the need for it), quality care plus a thousand other things and the only way this will change is through advocacy....

I know not everyone can commit time (or the money for memberships - but ECA and IEU memberships are a very good idea and you can claim it on tax) but there are other things we can all do.....
- get on board with 'teachers are teachers' campaign that is being run by the IEU - http://www.teachersareteachers.org.au/
- participate in online forums like the EYLF PLP
- talk to staff and families about the importance of quality education and care (and what that actually is)
- join other groups such as Social Justice for EC (its free and they do a great job). Here's their website http://www.socialjusticeinearlychildhood.org/ 
- sign up to blogs, emails, twitter feeds, and facebook pages about early childhood and get involved in the conversations that are happening - there are some great blogs out there have a look at my blog profile for some ideas if you don't know where to start

So that's my rant for the day and I'll try and paste another practical post tomorrow to balance it - sorry if you're not that kind of person but as my fellow uni grads know - I am the kind of person that likes to talk up and kick up a fuss ;) and find it so much fun you might enjoy it too!

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Adjusting to my new career

This morning as I was filling the outdoor toilet paper I thought to myself that the best training for my current position was the 7 years I spent as a casual at Hungry Jacks from when I was just under 15 to when i was 21.

This job taught me how to clean, follow through, lead small teams (drive thru), taking responsibility for tasks, the complex mix of independence and reliance that is created in a workplace.

Don't get me wrong my Arts(Psych) degree helps with understanding human behaviour but it was very theoretical. From memory only 1 or 2 of the subjects that I chose to complete were practical. However, I was, by the end, very good at highly complicated psychological statistics

My Commerce (human resources + industrial relations) was again spectacularly impractical for a so called 'business degree' - something that i quickly learnt when i commence work as a HR graduate.

Finally, my recent Masters of Teaching (Birth to 5) is one of the most hands on courses I have studied but it doesn't prepare you for nappy changing (often because of prac restrictions), cleaning toilets, serving food, balancing a large boisterous group of mix ages at the end of the day after a LOOOONNNGGG day, not to mention the Pandora's box of children's illnesses. I sometimes wish that a couple of my prac supervisors would return on a regular basis so I can debrief with them.

I also find the limited grown up interaction sometimes difficult esp. coming from human resources .... to resolve this I can see myself (and am already) following up professional memberships and returning to university either to complete my PhD or maybe a Masters of Educational Leadership ... but not right away I need a few years to enjoy no assignments and I want to go to Europe next year....

What have you found to be challenging?

Monday, February 7, 2011

Allowing Time for Mastery

On my facebook page recently I added a link that showed a day in the life of a Waldorf/Steiner preschool. One of the things they talked about is allowing time for children to understand and master a story.

This carries a strong resonance with me - particularly with art projects.

Firstly, I believe it is vital to provide the children with artist quality materials. If you provide the children with cheap materials you will find the children tend not to respect the materials, they will not be able to create high quality artworks and often you don't save money as the materials do not last.

Secondly, I believe that the children need to be provide the same (or similar) art experiences on a regular basis. Through this the children develop skills and knowledge of the materials - leading to more complex and insightful work. This does not necessarily mean every day - though i think a writing /drawing table should be out every day.

I have been putting this believe in practice over the last month at my centre - and the beautiful artworks that the children creating are a great reassurance in this philosophy (i will post some tonight when i download my photos).

In addition, on the curriculum front, one of my prac supervisors once told me that the creation of beautiful artworks by a child (especially one where they invest a lot of time in creating it) is a incredible example of the spiritual child and their understanding of beauty in the world

Friday, February 4, 2011

Nurturing a forest (community)

I realised that after spending ages thinking of the title of this blog I haven't actually made any attempt to explain it.

I decided on nurturing forests because it reflects my philosophy that through early childhood practices we can influence the community (and the community should be integrated as well). I started with growing forests but then realised this didn't reflect the roles of the families and communities and what impact they have on their children. The forest concepts represents the entire complex ecological system that is necessary to raise a happy, healthy, confident child (and a inclusive community for that matter).

A very strong interest of mine that has been heightened significantly since retraining into the early childhood field is the concept of community and building a sense of community with those around you. This can be as simple as saying hello to your neighbour (a big step in Sydney ) - we even mow our neighbours nature strip as she is away travelling a lot, smiling and wishing good morning to those on a walk to the other end of the scale where you are involved in volunteering for local community causes.

Other things I think are important are supporting people in need. For example, despite my salary being significantly reduced since retraining I still support the Red Cross by donating for natural disaster relief internationally, I have chipped in for the Queensland flood appeal and I always buy my big issue.....

I recently was annoyed at my parents for not chipping in to the flood appeal (and have told them off). But I realised today my dad has been volunteering for the bush fire brigades for approximately 30 years so he has made a substantial to the community in a cause he is very passionate about (He can't go to a house without assessing it for fire hazards and he is the only person I know who's idea of a good time is fighting huge fires in 40 degree heat). My dad has always done this work and it was major part of my childhood. However the reason it came home today was that today a man was killed by a tree when fighting fires with my dad - suddenly the dangerousness of it all hit home.

How do you contribute to your community? What practices at your centre reflect the impact and influence of child's entire ecological system?

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Printmaking with Scratchfoam

Having been inspired by a recent Teacher Tom post http://teachertomsblog.blogspot.com/2011/01/real-printmakers.html - I recently gave scratchfoam a go in my classroom.

If you don't know Scratchfoam - it works like lino printing but you don't need all of the really sharp tools. The children can make a imprint on the foam with a pencil or anything else with a point. Teacher Tom very nicely provided a Amazon link but as Amazon doesn't ship those kind of things to Australia (however you can use a site like hop shop go ) I found a Australian supplier Cavalier Art Supplies - who are wonderful and very affordable.... www.cavalierart.com.au

I also purchased some small rollers (about 2inch wide) and a nice paint palette (just from my local art supply shops).

I gave the children red, yellow, blue and black. I learnt quickly to allocate a roller to each colour and I gave the children a cloth to clean there scratchfoam between each print. Each child was given a small rectangle of foam.....

Any way it worked out lovely...... I love the way this child even has the print the same way up in every tile

Throwing Cameras - high expectations dashed

I learnt the hard way yesterday that having high expectations of the children does not always work out.

For the last month, for at least a few hours during the day the children have successfully borrowed and used my camera. This has led to some absolutely beautiful shots and it is incredible to watch a 2 year old successfully aim and take a photo.

Primarily it has been my preschoolers that have had the camera.

Unfortunately in a moment of exuberance yesterday my camera got broken - I didn't see exactly what happened but the reports from the children was that it got thrown across the room!. This is from the same children who have been incredibly careful with my camera for all of January.

But it wasn't so much the shock that the child had thrown my camera but her reaction that worried me the most -  she poked her tongue out at me! I did get a sorry but only after I suggested that that might be a good place to start.

Some of the children offered to buy me a new camera for my birthday - but as i pointed out to them i don't think they have access to that much money.

Luckily for the child my camera was already starting to die after surviving all my practicals so I was (relatively) calm. Unfortunately, it did have the impact of re-affirming with the other carers that I was being too cavalier by letting 'children' use my camera....

I have really enjoyed watching and using the shots of the children - does anyone have any suggestions  on how i can continue this without an attrition rate of a camera a month?