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!

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?

Play Grows Brains.

When you hear that play helps with brain development, what kind of play do you imagine?

I would define play as self-directed, freely chosen, and intrinsically motivated activities.

Makers of electronic toys would have us believe that we need these educational toys to ‘teach’ our children something. And yet the research has shown that the most simple toys that do not actually ‘do’ anything (non-electronic) are the best for play. It turns out that the electronic toys do not encourage parent-child interaction, whereas the simpler toys do allow for more interaction. It is those interactions (often compared to the serve and return) that facilitate neural development.

Glitter bottles
Sensory bottles are simple to make and are wonderful playthings.
Creative play with basic materials is so valuable!

Simon Nicholson’s Theory of Loose Parts has been a force in early childhood education and shows how play with basic materials above promotes creativity and discovery.

Do you imagine play in organized programs like gymnastics, soccer, swim lessons, piano lessons, karate, t-ball, and others? Yes, these programs may have a playful element; however, are they self-directed? Are children intrinsically motivated to participate? Maybe. And maybe not. In my opinion, organized sports are best saved for children ages 8 and up.

Read this Harvard Research Brief, The Science of Early Childhood Development to learn more.

Aside from educational benefits, there is another less obvious reason to promote children’s self-directed, freely chosen, intrinsically motivated play, one that is biological. In a review in the American Journal of Play (yes, there really is a scholarly journal on play), evidence is provided from controlled studies in rats and some primates. These studies show that when young animals are encouraged to play they develop improved social competencecognition, and emotional regulation later in life. Play experience also makes them more adaptable to unexpected situations.

Do children need commercially produced toys to improve their development?

No. That is all just toy company marketing.

It turns out the ‘toys’ that are going to benefit children’s development are for the most part free and easy to collect. And this is very good news for young families who are on a budget.

Reference:

Suggested citation: Center on the Developing Child (2007). The Science of Early Childhood Development (InBrief). Retrieved from www.developingchild.harvard.edu.

Back to School Blog Giveaway! Coming Soon!

Greetings and welcome to my blog!  I wanted to let you all know I’m in the planning stages for my next blog/facebook giveaway.  It has been too long since the last one 🙂

I’m working on the prizes right now and what they ought to be.  You can expect a picture book or two in the package, that’s for sure.  But what else?  Hmm… an Amazon gift card might be a pretty good prize.

Do you have ideas for prizes? Ha! Silly question.  I’m sorry, I am unable to give you a trip for two to Paris.  C’est impossible!  I’ll think on it some more…

Hey, here’s a thought…any teachers of preschool/kindergarten looking for some amazing activity ideas based on some amazing picture books? How about a set of story stretchers to go with my amazing picture book giveaways.  Now that would be awesome for back to school!

Books by Cynthia

 

Glitter Bottles

“Katie loved building things, she loved collecting things but most of all she loved pancakes.”

Katie Shaeffer Pancake Maker

Here’s an idea for those empty water bottles you may be collecting!

You will need:

clear plastic bottles

hot water

lily white corn syrup (if you use the darker corn syrup, you won’t really see the glitter inside)

food colouring

glitter shapes or tiny beads

(do not use fine glitter)

IMG_1490

Fill the bottles with 2/3 hot water and 1/3 lily white corn syrup. I measured and whisked this in a large measuring cup with a pouring spout and added a little food colouring before pouring the mixture into the bottles. Then I added some glittery shapes and tiny beads. Finally I glued the lids on tightly. It is a little bit like making your own snow globe. You can turn it or shake the bottle and watch the shapes and beads swirl around. Very peaceful.

If you place them in the sunlight and allow light to shine through, you will see a little extra sparkle.  Try it out!

Katie Shaeffer, Pancake Maker will be my first self-published picture book.  My goal is to have it released this December, 2016. Coming soon to an online book store near you!

Thanks for reading!

-Cynthia

 

Glitter Bottles

“Katie loved building things, she loved collecting things but most of all she loved pancakes.”

Katie Shaeffer Pancake Maker

Here’s an idea for those empty water bottles you may be collecting!

You will need:

clear plastic bottles

hot water

lily white corn syrup (if you use the darker corn syrup, you won’t really see the glitter inside)

food colouring

glitter shapes or tiny beads

(do not use fine glitter)

IMG_1490

Fill the bottles with 2/3 hot water and 1/3 lily white corn syrup. I measured and whisked this in a large measuring cup with a pouring spout and added a little food colouring before pouring the mixture into the bottles. Then I added some glittery shapes and tiny beads. Finally I glued the lids on tightly. It is a little bit like making your own snow globe. You can turn it or shake the bottle and watch the shapes and beads swirl around. Very peaceful.

If you place them in the sunlight and allow light to shine through, you will see a little extra sparkle.  Try it out!

Katie Shaeffer, Pancake Maker will be my first self-published picture book.  My goal is to have it released this November, 2016. Coming soon to an online book store near you!

Thanks for reading!

-Cynthia