Can ‘rainbows’ really be an emergent curriculum inquiry? Why should we make space for imagination in early years education?

What is the place of imagination in education? Do we allow for it? Do we view it as an important element?

“Each one of us needs to be able to play with the things that are coming out of the world of children.”

Loris Malaguzzi

I have spent enough time over the years in the presence of young children to have become aware that, for large parts of their day, they live in their imaginations. Their movement between the real and imagined is fluid. They are creating their understanding of the world around them though the imagined narratives that unfold in their pretend play. As adults, we are sometimes fortunate enough to be invited into these imaginative worlds as participants. Sometimes, we are welcome to these imaginary scenarios only as observers. But it is only if we are willing to take the time to listen to and observe the play and self conversation closely, and with an open mind and heart, that will we be aware of the depth of thinking and learning that is occurring.

Imagination “…is important because it: fosters the healthy, creative and emotional growth of a child; forms the best foundation for later intellectual growth; provides a way in which children get to know the world and creates possibilities for different ways of responding to it; fosters empathy and wonder.” 

Rachel Carson

What learning can come from honouring these places of imagination as starting places for curriculum in an early years program?

Continue reading “Can ‘rainbows’ really be an emergent curriculum inquiry? Why should we make space for imagination in early years education?”

Why should we tell our stories, be powerful in resisting larger class sizes and stand up for the well-being of our youngest learners?

Like many Kindergarten educators across the province of Ontario, I have spent time in a classroom that exceeds the number of young children that should rightfully be together in one space cared for by two adults, trying, along with my RECE partner and all of our heart and soul, coupled with decades of experience between us, to create a sense of calm and safety for our youngest learners.

Class size is once again back at the forefront of the education debate in Ontario, with the current provincial government opening up the possibilities of removing cap sizes. (See the Globe and Mail article). This move does not support the well-being of young children.

Small children have large needs. This is not rocket science and you do not need to be an early years educator or a parent to envision an environment of 30 small children who are still learning to do so many, many things for themselves, Continue reading “Why should we tell our stories, be powerful in resisting larger class sizes and stand up for the well-being of our youngest learners?”

How can we build on the unstructured play that happens outdoors to create questions and contexts for learning? From zip lines to coding

We need to continue to build our understanding of play.  Specifically, how does the spontaneous play that happens when we allow for choice and provide time and materials lead to rich learning in our programs? How do we notice, support and extend this learning?

We know that outdoor play is essential for children. It is promoted in the Ontario Kindergarten curriculum as being an important part of the program.

In the Kindergarten program, learning in the outdoors is included as part of the instructional day, and the educators play an active role, engaging with children in an inquiry stance as they play, explore, and learn together outside the classroom.

Ontario Kindergarten Program, p. 33

An understanding of the importance of unstructured, free play outdoors is supported by research. A study from the University of Colorado shows that children who experienced more undirected free play showed signs of stronger executive function, a strong predictor of success in school.

But how do we move forward with this and build on what happens naturally? We do not need to come up with constantly revolving, beautifully arranged provocations. What we do need to do, and what Reggio educators support us in thinking about, is to be keen observers of children’s play, to wonder about the thinking behind it, to be curious as teacher researchers about the learning and to reflect on our documentation to consider how to extend the it.

During the 2018 Canadian Study Tour to Reggio Emilia, I had the incredible opportunity to visit the Diana School. During our debrief, the atelierista spoke of ‘relaunching of the learning’ through the creation of ‘learning contexts’. It is not about creating activities. It is about creating thoughtful opportunities for learning based on children’s thinking. Continue reading “How can we build on the unstructured play that happens outdoors to create questions and contexts for learning? From zip lines to coding”

Can We Be Mindful of Dominant Discourses as We Plan Each Day for Children?

What do we choose to do within our programs on a daily basis? How are we guided in our choices of planning, our interactions with children? What influences our decisions?

Many of us are guided by curriculum, whether it is a school curriculum, a childcare program, a framework, a guideline. We are also, however, guided by the current philosophies and dominant discourses. How do these discourses influence our thinking and impact our practice? Are we mindfully aware of them? On the Canadian Study tour to Reggio Emilia 2018, Karyn Callaghan encouraged us to view the study tour as an act of resistance to the dominant discourses in education. Awareness is important.

Before adopting practices into our everyday interactions and choices we make for children, we need to ask ourself what assumptions underlie our decisions and why we are making the choices that we are making. Continue reading “Can We Be Mindful of Dominant Discourses as We Plan Each Day for Children?”

How do we allow for the joy of ‘dizzy play’ in our programs and why should we?

Those of us who spend our days in the company of young children need not search far for understanding of this term. Whether you laugh along with it or whether it makes you leave the room for a break, we all know it. There is nothing quite as joyful as the silly, laughing, tumbling energy of young children and, as with anywhere else, in a classroom, it spreads. One child begins and before long the entire group is rolling around, tumbling or even doing cartwheels, all in full laughter and trying to get them back attentive and calm is a task only befitting the bravest of souls.

The early learning frameworks of two provinces in Canada that I was reading recently qualify this type of play with a name: Dizzy Play.

“Children’s play sometimes erupts suddenly in loud, boisterous, physical bursts. This kind of play is exhilarating and infectious, creating communities through shared laughter. Children love to twirl until they are too dizzy to stand up, laugh with others over nothing in particular, babble nonsense words in a riotous conversation, put their pants on their head or their jacket on their legs and perform for their friends. They revel in their power to turn the world upside down, playfully confident that they can restore it.”

Early Learning and Child Care: English Curriculum Framework for New Brunswick, 2007, p.29 .

Continue reading “How do we allow for the joy of ‘dizzy play’ in our programs and why should we?”