Reflecting on the Hundred Ways of Thinking Conference

Inspired by the Reggio Emilia Approach, Suzanne Axelsson, from Sweden, shared her ways of approaching early learning with a group of 250 Early Childhood Educators from various parts of British Columbia. The conference organizer, Marayam Nadaaf, was passionate about finding ways to allow people to travel to the conference and thanks to the travel bursary, I was able to attend as were many others who came from outside of Vancouver.

Suzanne explored the idea of weaving dialogue and technology with young children. She showed us her journal of questions, and in the same spirit, I’d like to share some of the questions that came up for me including some questions posed by Suzanne.

Conference Room at Croation Cultural Centre in Vancouver, B.C.

What does it mean to wonder? How can we encourage a sense of wonder in children?

How to we develop curiosity in children? Is curiosity different from wonder?

Suzanne argued that if we set up just the right challenge for children; find the sweet spot between too easy and too difficult, then children will become curious and engaged.

In our play experience with the marbles and clothes pins I became that curious learner as we attempted to create a marble run that would last exactly 5 seconds. Participating in the experience was like being a child when all sense of time falls away and your parents call you for dinner and you think it couldn’t possibly be dinner time already but it is.

I believe it is helpful for us as teachers to put ourselves in the shoes of the children from time to time as we did here at the conference. It gives us a greater understanding of what we ask of them when the play session ends and it is time to move to something new.

More questions that came up…

What does it mean to slow down and focus on children? What more can we learn by slowing down? How can we find opportunities for joy? How can we allow children to explore all of their emotions in a safe environment?

In what ways might children use these loose parts? How might we challenge children with these materials?

What if instead of talking to parents about risky play we talked about play with uncertain outcomes? How can we find ways for children to do their own assessment of outcomes? What kind of social or emotional challenges can be set up with uncertain outcomes? Where is the sweet spot for learning?

What would happen if we try new ways of offering paint? Can we offer 1 color for each child (but not the same color)? What other new strategies or ways of offering materials can we come up with? How will those limitations or different ways of offering support finding the sweet spot for learning?

How do children come to know things? What forms of knowledge might we pursue with children?

“Play is needed to convert facts into knowledge.” – S.A.

What are some of the ways children can use imagination? How might we bring more opportunities for imagination?

“If knowledge is an island, imagination is the coastline.” – S. A.

It flows from this that helping children gain knowledge can assist with their developing imaginations. I think of a child I currently work with who loves animals. She recently told me she was pretending to be “a horse on the Savannah.” To me this illustrates the example as her understanding and knowledge of what it means to be a horse is extended by her understanding of the habitat of the Savannah.

I recognize that my post is full of questions but that is what being a reflective educator is all about. I hope these questions helped bring new insight into your thinking about young children and how they learn, particularly for people who wished to attend the conference but were unable to be there.

Oh, and in case you were wondering. I still have my cold; I think I just need a few more days and it will be gone.

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