Monday, 10 March 2014

What's happening at pre-school?

The realisation that we have reached week six of the new term was quite a surprise. The beginning of this year has been a time for developing our sense of belonging as a new group. Some friends have returned to find their way as the older children at pre-school. Other friends are with us for the first time.
I see that the dynamics of each day are different, each day having its own energy. Different groups of children engage in different play experiences. Projects and experiences that are unique to certain days have evolved and continue to develop.
The intentional teaching strategies of our educators are providing an excellent platform for the development of the children's thinking, problem solving, investigating, trialling and hypothesising skills.
We are continuing to honor our commitment to reuse-reuse-recycle and also to the provision of natural and hand-made resources.
Here are some examples from today's program...
Numbers, counting and numerals are emerging as an interest at pre-school. We have a table of natural items together with framed numerals and numeral outlines.

There is an  invitation to create. As the collage of natural materials is formed we are able to talk about the lines and curves of the numerals and the materials. The numbers of circles added to the numeral outlines encourage some friends to use their 1:1 corresponding skills while others incorporate these into a design.

We have shared a reading and telling of the Dreamtime stories Tidlalik and the Magic Colours. Using wooden and plastic animals, hand-made felt play mats, rocks, pebbles and artificial grass we have recreated the stories through play.

The return of Twinkle, our spiny leaf stick insect, has reignited interest in our friend. We added pencils and crayons with a sketch book in front of Twinkle's home to encourage sketching form observation.

Photographs of our town are added to our construction area. These provide a sense of community to our play. They spark conversation and the sharing of experiences.

The joy of early education is that we never know where our program will move from one week to the next, indeed even from one day to the next. Guided by our vision for a dynamic, holistic and deeply investigative curriculum we are frequently amazed by the power that comes from children and adults learning together.

Tuesday, 11 February 2014

New Year, New Beginings

Happy (belated) new year!
It has been a very positive and progressive start to 2014. In some ways it is like we've never been away and in others it all feels very new.

We decided to make some changes to the physical environment inside our pre-school to start the year.

This has included creating a new gathering space where the lounge, the comfy chair and our pet spiny leaf insect, Twinkle, are placed. This seems to be working well as it is now in a far corner of the room and allows for peaceful reading and puzzle-doing throughout the day and a nice out-of-the-way space to come together as a group. The abundance of light in this space now, being under a wall of windows, creates a much more inviting space for the children.

We moved our dramatic play area to create a larger space that is away from the carpet. To create softness and to lower the sound levels we transferred our large mats here. This change in space and position has possibly been the most effective of all changes and we have seen the play here being very engaged from the first day we returned. We have questioned whether it is the new setting or perhaps the more open space? This is something that we will continue to observe as the dynamics of space and engagement are both fascinating and also critical to a successful program. We have noticed here also that the play seems to be more social across age groups. This may be because we had such a large presence of older and more dominant children by the end of last year and now we have a younger group of friends.

Our dedicated creative space is another aspect that we are really pleased with. We have all of our resources together and visible in an aesthetic way.We are able to have two tables and the easel operating close together. I hope, as the children become more comfortable and ready to express themselves, that we see the  integrating of creativeness and children's individual interests and that the space becomes more of a creative hub, as opposed to a set of experiences.

The use of the wall space is something that we discuss frequently and I'm sure that this is the same in services across the world! We would like informative and engaging displays that share with families the wonderfulness that occurs in pre-school. We want to ensure that children feel represented and that they see themselves reflected in the environment. One of the goals that we have set for this year is to raise the image of the children as unique and capable people through increased visual display and pedagogical documentation. Our use of the vertical space will be a large part of achieving this goal across the year.

Reflecting on and questioning the physical environment of pre-school is something that is vital if we are to maintain a space where children feel welcome and secure; are both content and challenged; where families see themselves and their children reflected; where educators feel valued and capable and...maybe most importantly (for this educator, anyway), the joy, magic, wonder and amazingness of childhood is found in every space.

Tuesday, 3 December 2013

The Sustainable Holidays Update

Since making a commitment to being more mindful about my preparations I have really enjoyed the lead up Christmas so much more this year. It is very easy, though,  to slip back into busy-buy mode as I have found...

As December got closer my son mentioned the Lego advent calender that he had for Christmas 2012. I had a moment of quick panic. I HAD to buy it!  My first thought was to jump on line and order one with quick freight. But after this thought came the more mindful this something I need to do? Is it really necessary to spend quite a lot of money to simply have this thing? Is it worth adding something else to the credit card through online purchasing? Is it worth adding to the bulk of transportation that is filling the air and roads?

I love the anticipation of an advent calender and so I thought that I could make one that was more personally suited to Ryan and was sourced as locally or sustainably as possible. Finding brown bags in my craft cupboard I then cut cardboard numbers, in his favourite colours, from 1-24 and attached these with glue to each bag.

Filling the bags was the fun part! A few precious stones from the markets, some tree decorations in his favourite colour from a fair trade store, a set of decorated pencils made in Australia, a yo-yo and a wrist band. Little things. Personal things. The most wonderful part of all? My son told me that his favourite part of his advent calender was "that you made it just for me!"

The finished product!

Tuesday, 15 October 2013

Sustainable Holidays

One of the best things about having our pre-school educators attend professional development courses is that we return full of enthusiasm. Sometimes we have new ideas to implement, sometimes we bring back new ways to look at what we are already doing within our program.
Today Lynda returned from a very informative and inspiring course titled Creating Sustainable Environments. We will be able to spend time as a team with Lynda  hearing the many details of the course however one brief comment that Lynda made about sustainability and Christmas really stuck with me.
We spend much of our time at pre-school looking for ways to reduce, reuse and recycle. We work to create a cycle within our ecosystem where food scraps are provided to the worms for sustenance and to reduce waste and this in turn provides us with garden fertiliser. We discuss and implement water saving techniques. We utilise natural materials within most aspects of our learning centres... but what happens at Christmas time?
If your home is anything like mine then you will have a very full wheelie bin at the end of Boxing Day. Of course the recycling bin becomes full also, but how much packaging cannot be recycled?
How many children's toys are safety packaged, plastic wrapped and also tied into the box? How many items are given and recieved that are not mindfully chosen and simply become part of the clutter of everyday life?
Another thing that is often on my mind is how many large corporations have I invested money into as I buy gifts from major stores and, often, shop in a rush and purchase items that perhaps are excessive or unnecessary? How much transportation is needed to move items around the country, and in fact, the world?
Now, I am not advocating that we abandon gift giving. Quite the opposite! I love to select and wrap gifts. I love the look on my son's face when he receives something special that he has been hoping for.
What I am challenging myself to do is to be more thoughtful in my holiday preparations; to consider what I buy and where it comes from; to think about what I can make myself or purchase from small, local sellers and crafters.
By starting early I believe that I can maintain my passion for a sustainable life and not put it on pause for the sake of Christmas frenzy!
Ideas for gifting can come from many sources. A visit to the local markets is a great place to begin. Often here you can talk with the person who has made a particular item, connect with that person and know that you are supporting someone real. Small independent shops are a wonderful source of inspiration. By purchasing from a local person you are not only supporting them but reducing your carbon footprint through reducing the amount of vehicle travel needed for items.
If you would like to make gifts, or have your children make gifts, then you can look in a range of places. One of my favourite sources of inspiration in a website called Pinterest. On here I have created a board titled Gifts to Make You may find that this gives you some ideas to begin with.
I will still purchase from stores but by making informed choices I believe that I can make this Christmas a more sustainable holiday.
Ideas that I have for my own more sustainably thoughtful Christmas:
  • Making a list of who I would like to give a gift to.
  • Writing down what I know about their interests and hobbies.
  • Think about what I am able to make myself. Look at my own supplies before purchasing more.
  • Consider the independent businesses in my area and how I might link their wares to the people on my list.
  • Create a Christmas card list.
  • Look at the supplies I have to make cards before purchasing more.
  • Look to local market artists for cards or choose to purchase cards that support charities and are made from recycled product.
  • Look to inspirational magazines and websites for innovative gift ideas that I could make..
  • Research new and interesting ways to wrap or package gifts so that I am not using rolls of glossy printed papers.
By making the commitment to myself I feel much more confident to share this with pre-school.
I'll keep you up to date with my challenge!