Ten Great Places to Take Your Kids on the Saanich Peninsula

For the families in the Victoria area who read my blog, here’s a great list of places to go with your children all on the Saanich Peninsula. There’s no shortage of things to do and places to explore. Here are ten spots that won’t disappoint!

Due to the Coronavirus, some of these places will be closed but MANY are out in nature and still available to you during this time of social distancing.

Island View Beach, Victoria, B.C.
  1. B.C. Aviation Museum The museum restores aircraft, displays engines and aircraft models. You will learn about the history of aviation in British Columbia.
  2. Shaw Centre for the Salish Sea Experience marine life and learn about the Salish Sea Bioregion. Take a walk down to nearby Glass Beach afterwards.
  3. Tulista Park offers a fenced playground and a sheltered picnic area. You can take a walk along the seawall or nearby beach.
  4. Victoria Butterfly Gardens provides a tropical experience with more than just butterflies. Frogs, flamingos, tortoises, large iguanas and free flying birds inhabit the gardens.
  5. Butchart Gardens includes walking pathways into the sunken garden, the Italian garden and the Japanese garden. There is a carousel for children and plenty of space to roam.
  6. Victoria Airport is a great place to go and watch the planes take off and land. There is an upstairs viewing area just for this purpose. Or bring your bikes and ride around the airport bike path.
  7. Coles Bay includes a winding nature trail and a protected bay where there are opportunities to explore the seashore, picnic and bird watch.
  8. Island View Beach is a long sandy beach, great for picnics, exploring, and finding driftwood.
  9. Panorama Recreation Centre provides opportunities for skating, swimming and a host of recreation programs for the family.
  10. The Roost Farm Bakery provides tours where you can learn about their bee program, visit chickens and sheep, see a giant pumpkin carriage, and eat bakery treats on a converted bus.

A few extra outdoor spots to try: Todd Inlet, Reay Creek, Shoal Harbour Migratory Bird Sanctuary, Dominion Brook Park, Horth Hill, Bear Mountain, Elk Lake, Galloping Goose Trail, and Mt. Work. We are so incredibly lucky to have all these beautiful trails and outdoor spaces. Enjoy the ones near to your home.

What are your favourite places to take your children in your home town? Share in the comments!

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Spreading Joy Through Music

There’s one big reason I teach music for preschoolers. It’s the joy. Music has always brought me joy and I love to share that with young children.

My Saturday mornings are a pleasure as we gather with a small group of 4-6 preschoolers for our music sessions. We sing, we drum, we dance, we play xylophones, we listen, we play games, and we experience the joy of making music together. We use ribbons and scarves and each class ends with an opportunity to try the piano!

Children love our ocean themed music room!

My own children loved the Orff Music at the Brentwood School of Music, in beautiful Brentwood Bay, B.C. with Kathy Criddle when they were preschool age. Now it’s my turn to carry on the tradition as teacher of the program. My son went on to later become an advanced guitar player and my daughter continued with piano lessons for several years afterwards.

Do you think your child would like to join us? Registration is done through Panorama Recreation or contact the Brentwood School of Music. The next set of sessions begins April 4th. Look for “Little Shakers” on Saturday mornings at 9 am.

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Reflecting on the Hundred Ways of Thinking Conference: Philosophy with Children

Imagine a community of learners where children are teaching each other in collaboration. Imagine the idea of supporting individuals AND the group.

How do we bring children to be able to collaborate with one another?

A starting point is to begin to understand that what I see/feel is not the same as what you see/feel. For example, if a big dog runs up to you, do you jump up and down with excitement or hide behind the nearest tree? If you were about to get on a roller coaster would you feel excited? or frightened?

Metacognition is thinking about your thinking:

Play with loose parts.

How do we teach metacognition? Suzanne Axelsson uses questions to encourage children to think more abstractly. She gave the example: “What colour is Christmas? Why did you choose that colour? The ‘why’ is the important part. Suzanne tells us she has noticed that as children mature, their reasons for choosing the colour change.

Suzanne Axelsson tells us she records what children say, reads back what they say, and checks in with them and to see if it is accurate, then she adjusts accordingly. She mentioned that she sends the questions home a day in advance to families with children who may have trouble coming up with answers or are a bit shy to speak in the group so that they can practice at home first.

How do we teach listening, recognizing that 40 percent of communication is listening?

“We listen with eyes, ears, mind and heart.” S.A.

Suzanne brought up an important point about children who require extra support. Rather than just the adults sorting out how to support the child who needs it, what about asking the child’s classmates? What if we shifted the mindset from each child’s individual learning to learning while being supported by peers. How could we as educators encourage children to support one another in areas where they need help?

Loose parts provide endless possibilities and a springboard for communication.

My reflections:

Communication skills are the foundation of collaboration. So teaching these skills are key to working together as a group towards both individual and group success. When you think about the whole picture of communication skills, we are talking about reading, writing, speaking and listening. In my mind, greater value needs to be placed on speaking and listening. Early childhood educators have opportunities to encourage children to express themselves in full sentences and to listen to one another with the intent to fully understand. The process of asking questions and recording children’s answers and then going back to check the correctness of the written record is a really useful tool in the support of developing early literacy. During the process, the children get practice with speaking and listening skills AND they see reading and writing skills demonstrated for them. The model of writing and reading is the first step in learning these skills in the same way we model speaking and listening.

What will my next question be? I want to ask the children about their parents. If your Mom/Dad was an animal, what animal would they be? Why did you choose that animal? I’m looking forward to the discussion and cannot wait to hear their answers, especially to hear the reasons for their choice.

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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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Have a wonderful day!

Be Gone, Dreadful Cold!

If you’ve been paying attention to my past posts, you know I have been looking forward to the Hundred Ways of Thinking Conference in Vancouver, B.C. that happens Thursday, Friday and Saturday. https://authorcynthiamackey.com/2020/02/17/counting-down-to-hundred-ways-of-thinking/

And of course, as timing would have it, I’ve come down with a nasty cold just days before the event. Sigh.

Green Tea with honey to soothe the throat

So now to make the cold go away as fast as possible…

I have done the following:

  • – 3 vitamin C boost drinks with 1,000 mg of vitamin C in each one
  • -warm salt water gargle twice
  • -breathing steam in the mornings
  • -eating oranges
  • -spoonfuls herbal cough syrup ( I had run out so I bought some today)
  • -drinking tons of tea

And I’m out of days to get better as tomorrow I get to take the ferry! Living on an island means lots of ferry travel. Here’s hoping for a restful sleep tonight.

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Counting Down to Hundred Ways of Thinking!

Okay, how many more sleeps until the Hundred Ways of Thinking Conference? I am so excited! Woot! Woot! And spring is almost here…

Spring is coming to Victoria!

Join Suzanne Axelsson from Sweden at our 2020 Conference for two days of playing, learning and reflecting! 

As luck would have it, I seem to be developing some mild flu symptoms just days before this wonderful conference. Ugh! Though I feel lucky for the family day weekend and the extra day to rest. I am filling up my body with vitamin C and hoping for the best! I did get the flu shot so fingers crossed.

Here’s the weather forecast for Vancouver. I know there’s been some snow so I am grateful for the slightly warmer temperatures. Looks like we will see Vancouver in it’s typical rainy fashion on Friday and Saturday.

Looks like we won’t see much sun over the weekend.

These conference organizers are amazing! Just look at what they sent out to everyone. They are so thoughtful. Which Vancouver restaurants should we try?

From the Frog Hollow Neighbourhood House organizers!

Four more sleeps and I get to go and visit my hometown! Yay! Though sadly, I won’t make it to North Vancouver, which is my absolute favourite place to visit. Not enough time. Sigh.

Stay tuned for more conference updates on the way!

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Sidney, B.C. Two Hundred Boxes!

About 5 years ago, when I first began working at Sidney Preschool, I introduced a new and special day to our program. I called it our Cardboard Box Extravaganza! We had our parents collect and bring in boxes and the children were give some simple materials to work with as well as an opportunity to use their creativity to go wherever their imaginations may take them with the collection of boxes. This was a huge hit! And each year proved to be a little different as new children and parents brought their own unique ideas to the event.

Small boxes can be great for creative minds as well.

And that is why it does my heart such good to see this event taking place in Sidney. Two Hundred Boxes is an event for the whole family and takes place February 16th from 10 am to 4 pm at the ArtSea Gallery in Tulista Park. I have no idea how this event came to be but what a wonderful opportunity for family and community engagement. Castles, towers, tunnels, neighbourhoods, forts, planes or trains could all be part of your experience as you work with the boxes. This event is totally free of charge. Kudos to the Community Arts Council for organizing!

And because I am a huge supporter of children’s literature, let me add a couple of great picture books that encourage creativity with cardboard boxes. Not a Box by Antoinette Portis and What To Do With a Box by Jane Yolen. Do you know some other great books on the same subject? Have you and your children created something amazing and wonderful with a cardboard box? Share in the comments.

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A Hundred Ways of Thinking: Weaving Dialogue and Technology Into Learning Spaces

I am so incredibly pumped for this conference! Thankfully, I was able to get a reduced rate on the ticket AND bursary money for hotel and transportation so … yes! I get the opportunity to be there.

And Suzanne Axelsson will travel here from Stockholm University so it literally could be a once in a lifetime opportunity. She focuses on the relevance of the Reggio Emilia Approach in education today. Suzanne is the individual behind Interaction Imagination. She has a blog about working with young children and the Reggio Emilia Approach.

STEM materials for tinkering

Friday will be about pedagogical documentation and the pedagogy of listening and Saturday will be about the role of technology in pedagogical spaces. The pedagogy of listening requires mindfulness and listening beyond simply hearing the sounds but with the intent to truly understand. And if that makes me sound like an early childhood education nerd… well, I guess that could be true.

And, I should have some time for a bit of fun too, since we end each day at 3 pm. Maybe I will get the chance to try out a cool Vancouver restaurant or two. My posts will probably be filled with conference updates, so be prepared. How many more sleeps until February 20th?