Tuesday, 16 August 2016

The Stick

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In my workshops on Tinkering we look at the five most popular toys of all time.  According to an article on Teacher Tom's blog the stick is number 1. As this video shows the stick is so diverse in it's uses.  Gever Tulley started the Tinkering School after hearing comments about sticks.   These words were his inspiration to think about creating opportunities for children to tinker with their own ideas.  We may have heard these words or even used them ourselves:
"Is that a stick. You know the rules about playing with sticks" said a parent to a child.
Sticks create many possibilities for using your imagination and to create wonderful conversations.  I discussed this in another post on the ELP Blog about my grandchildren and their use of and questions about sticks.  To view follow this link:
Sticks are loose parts at their very best.
This is a wonderful rap to the power of the stick - to its ability to open up imaginative play, create problems in building and encourage meaningful and engaging learning.
I was asked by a teacher, " I am looking for help in what the relationship  is between loose parts/open-ended materials and creativity?"
My short reply was, the link between loose parts and creativity is the ability to use the loose parts in many ways unlike closed resources that have only one way of being able to be used.  It is divergent thinking that is being nurtured through loose part play."
Here is a link to an excerpt from Contemporary Perspective on Play in Early Childhood Education Olivia Saracho and Bernard Spodek https://drive.google.com/file/d/0B4LUb60TQL9seGY3YXJ0SUxzNWs/view?usp=sharing

Nathan Mikaere-Wallis also talks about divergent thinking in this excerpt from a radio interview he had on Radio NZ Talkback.  To hear the whole interview go to: http://www.radionz.co.nz/national/programmes/ninetonoon/audio/2595176/what-3-to-7-year-olds-need-to-learn-nathan-mikaere-wallis
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Nathan said, "Intelligence is really problems solving at its heart and problem solving is hugely enhanced by creativity."
So that brings me back to the stick.  The stick is a divergent rather than convergent (only has one purpose) resource.  The humble stick allows children to dream and be creative and by doing this opens up the possibilities for children to tinker with their own ideas.

Wednesday, 25 May 2016

The planning dance.....

Below is an excerpt from the book Insights written by Fleet, Patterson & Roberston.  Many writers have contributed to the book and this excerpt is written by Jill McLachlan who is a Sydney teacher working in a school that cater for children from three to eight years old.  I think she writes so well about the internal struggle teachers have as they consider how to share the power while building a curriculum around children’s passions, play/inquiry and questions.  

Our view of the children certainly impacts on the way we think about teaching and learning. If we view the child the way that Rinaldi has described below it is easy to think of children leading their own learning through play and inquiry.  When I think of play it is not a narrow view of play but it is about giving children the opportunity to play with their own ideas, problems, creations and of course free play.

To ensure that children are leading their learning it will mean that we cannot have planned out days, weeks or months as this potential will highjack the learning.  We need to be able to move in response to children, like a dance.  A dance is such a wonderful metaphor for planning.  Imagine the waltz with the child as the leader.  There are guidelines and boundaries for the dance, but, well the direction is up to the child.  As the child leads you get a glimpse of where you have been as you peer over their shoulder.  This is retrospective planning - looking back to see where you have been.   A great waltz, so I am told - this is not my strengthen, requires a partnership and a deep trust from both partners in the dance.

“Following the interests of children is not a predicable process, no matter what the context.  Children see differently, walk differently, care differently and talk differently from adults and from each other.  Walking beside children, rather than leading them, requires constant and committed reflection with every step.  It means getting down low, adjusting your pace regularly, and following through to completion.  It requires negotiation, questioning and risk, recognising and respecting the difference that exist among a group of thinkers.
Engaging with children’s real concerns and thoughts requires careful and intentional decision-making on the part of a teacher.  When the question asked or the situation that has occurred touches on issues we don’t have clear answers to, we begin to ask ourselves may questions:
Is the discussion worthwhile?
It is okay for me to share my opinion?
When do I challenge the group?
When do I choose to stay silent?
How can I relate within the group without exerting control over the process?
How can I create space for the children to have a voice?
How can I protect all of the children if I can’t control the direction of the responses?

In other words, this list might be simply put: ‘How do I facilitate meaningful learning in this moment?’……

I am reminded of Italy and the schools of Reggio Emila.  They seem to touch the ‘untouchable’.  I admire and respect them for the risks that I so often fear to take.  How have they come to navigate so confidently through such unexplored territory?  Why are they open to risk, adventure, questioning and open-ended experiences in a way that I have only dreamt about?  There is such power in the way they ‘see’ and therefore relate to children.  They seem to carry with them an almost mystical faith in children; faith in the sense that they pursue the unseen, confident of a goal that can only be described in retrospect.  It seems to me that their faith in the children themselves is what frees them to share their power.
They see a child who is:
Rich in resources, strong, and competent.. unique individuals with rights rather than simply needs. They have potential, plasticity, openness,     the desire to grow, curiosity, a sense of wonder, and the desire to relate to other people and to communicate….children are also very open to exchanges and reciprocity as deeds and acts of love that they not only want to receive but also want to offer. (Rinaldi, 1998, p.114)

Who wouldn’t take this child’s lead?  So the journey towards shared power and control has begun for me.  Children are powerful; I am learning  to give some of my power away.”

Monday, 28 March 2016

Aspirations without fears.


Follow this the link to an article  that is great to reflect on when considering gathering parents aspirations for their children. Lego children learn through play


These conversations with whānau need to really be kanohi ki te kanohi rather than a form to fill in. Through meaningful conversations parents are asked to consider their hopes and dreams for the children.   As the article says there is so much unnecessary pressure for parents regarding their aspirations.
2014-07-21 12.43.31Imagine the moment that the father or mother gazes upon their child for the first time, what would be going through their minds. I could imagine, “I want the world for you, for you to be happy, healthy, loved …….” without the pressured thoughts of getting ready for school, life, a job, or being left behind as the article talks about.
Ka Hikitia Accelerating Success 2013-2017 states,
A productive partnership in education means a two-way relationship leading to and generating shared action, outcomes and solutions. Productive partnerships are based on mutual respect, understanding and shared aspirations. They are formed by acknowledging, understanding and celebrating similarities and differences.
For Ka Hikitia – Accelerating Success 2013– 2017 to be successful, stakeholders must form productive partnerships where there is an ongoing exchange of knowledge and information, and where everybody contributes to achieving the goals.
A productive partnership starts with the understanding that Māori children and students are connected to whānau and should not be viewed or treated as separate, isolated or disconnected. Parents and whānau must be involved in conversations about their children and their learning. They need accessible, evidence-based information on how to support their children’s learning and success.
Reflective question:  How do we incorporate parents/whānau voice, aspirations, knowledge, passions and past experiences into the day to day curriculum, our annual planning and strategic plans?

Tuesday, 8 March 2016

I am really enjoying Peter Gray's book, Free to Learn.  It is so thought provoking and inspiring.  I have typed out a small excerpt from the book in response to some wonderful conversations that I have been having with teachers about giving children not only the time to play but the the time to play without adult intervention.

“In our culture today, parents and other adults overprotect children from possible dangers in play.  We seriously underestimate children’s ability to take care of themselves and make good judgements.  In this respect, we differ not just from hunter-gatherer cultures, but from all traditional cultures in which children played freely.  Our underestimation becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy - by depriving children of freedom, we deprive them of the opportunities they need to learn how to take control of their own behaviour and emotions.”

Gray then talks about the rise in narcissism and the decline in empathy and the findings of a study carried out on a group of college students.  From this point he concludes:

“From all I have said in this chapter, it should be no mystery why a decline in play would be accompanied by a rise in emotional and social disorders.  Play is nature’s way of teaching children how to solve their own problems, control their impulses, modulate their emotions, see from others’ perspectives, negotiate differences, and get along with others as equals.  There is no substitute for play as a means of learning these skills.  They can’t be taught in school.  For life in the real world, these lessons of personal responsibility, self-control, and sociability are far more important than any lessons that can be taught in school.” (Free to Learn, Pg.174-175)

While I am inspired by Peter Gray, Sir Ken Robinson, Nathan Mikaere-Wallis and many others I have recently re-looked at Te Whāriki.  This too is such an inspirational and forward thinking curriculum that is talking about much of what current research is now saying.
Within the principles of Te Whāriki there is a lot of the current discourse that we have now about children leading their own learning.  
For instance:
"The early childhood curriculum builds on the child's own experiences, knowledge, skills, attitudes, needs, interests, and views of the world within each particular setting.  Children will have the opportunity to create and act on their own ideas, to develop knowledge and skills in areas that interest them, and to make an increasing number of their own decisions and judgements." (Pg. 40)

"Adults provide encouragement, warmth, and acceptance.  They also provide challenges for creative and complex learning and thinking, helping children to extend their ideas and actions.... (Pg.43)

I will certainly be looking more closely at the links between Te Whāriki, the New Zealand Curriculum, current research and the importance of inquiry / play based learning. 

Note to self:  Maybe I should just call inquiry/play based learning - tinkering.  Tinkering with your own ideas, thoughts, passions, environments, resources, words, relationships, the list goes on.  Yes tinkering it is,  because it gives me and others the freedom to consider many possibilities and this will lead to limitless thinking and learning.


Tuesday, 2 February 2016

The past revisited

This look at a 1950's new entrants classroom is delightful.  There is a strong acknowledgement of the importance of play based learning.  This could be a conversation that we have today in early childhood settings and new entrants classes. In the video they are discussing how "young children's minds must be kept lively, eager and full of wonder."  I have written about this in a previous post - the importance of keeping alive a sense of wonderment and awe within ourselves as well the children we teach.

Another wonderful comment: "a child grows and learns by their own effort" and "it is not what we do to children but what we enable them to do themselves."  Allowing children to create their own learning by ensuring that our environments are richly resourced with open ended resources that offer experiences and opportunities to play with their own ideas will support children to learn through their own effort.  Remembering David Perkins words:

 “It involves open ended or ill- structured problems and novel,
puzzling situations.
It is never just problem solving it involves problem finding.
It’s not just about right answers. It involves explanation and justification.
It’s not emotionally flat.
It involves curiosity, discovery, creativity and camaraderie."



Saturday, 2 January 2016

Educational Leadership Project Blog: Let the children play.

Educational Leadership Project Blog: Let the children play.: I was at a centre recently and we were discussing Learning Stories.  My question to this group of teachers was - what are your long term ...