Stones, leaves, & chalk pastels

By Rita Huang

This morning, our pedagogist Antje arrived in front of our classroom to visit with us. The two of us walked down the road to a stone area, which is located at the end of a parking lot in our neighboring daycare program. The parking lot belongs to the train company and is a shared space in this community. There is a little wooden box with children’s books. Anyone is welcome to grab books from this little box and sit down on rocks or benches.

We spent time in this rock area
To see what we could do or create
We took a few minutes to stand under the rain
It brought energy and calmed us down
Time passed fast, leaves fell down from trees
We are almost at the end of the fall

I said, “ If we are only looking at the rocks, we won’t feel time changing, even thousands and thousands of years. However, when we see leaves as they lay down on the rocks, we know time is changing.” We illustrated this idea in this way with the stones and leaves:

This library area is open to their neighbourhood. Antje shared an idea from one of my classmates: “I wonder what would happen if we put the BC Early Learning Framework here?” I was inspired by this idea. Perhaps we could offer a blog or a memory notebook beside the library, and share one of the Principles from Early Learning Framework, which uses the environment as the third teacher. People from this community and neighbourhood are welcome to sit down and spend time to share their thoughts on the blog or note book.

We decided to bring rocks from the stone pile to the centre, along with fallen leaves that we found on our way back. We moved the stones and leaves to the centre’s backyard. Children dressed for the rain and came with muddy bodies. We invited the children to sit around a table and told stories about this project to the children. We were going to play with chalk pastels, rocks, and leaves on a large sheet of paper. I was curious, ‘ What might the children create and how might they build a relationship with those fresh materials?’ We wouldn’t know at the beginning. I noticed some children saw the chalk pastels as a gift and chose their favourite colours and had fun on paper.

Thanks for reading!

References:
Government of BC. (2019) British Columbia early learning framework. Victoria, BC: Queen’s Printer.

Imaginary tour with my stone

By Kozue Rathe

On a rainy Saturday morning my colleagues and I gathered at Nanaimo Innovation Academy (NIA) for an event called “strengthening our learning community through art as inquiry”. We started the day with the visit to the rock art exhibition in the NIA parking lot. Our artist in residence, Michael invited us to pick a stone to bring back as we were going back inside. I picked a small white stone with many black dots on it. I chose it for its small size and for the one shiny black spot that I noticed after I picked it up. As we got inside, I kept an eye on the stone while I tried to find a comfortable seating position. Michael who was leading the experience told us to lay down or get comfortable, then close our eyes in preparation for our imaginary tour around NIA and our neighborhood.

I sat with my eyes closed listening to the voice of Michael. The little stone was in my hands. The imaginary walk started at NIA and took us in three directions: to a cliff, a nearby park, and a large rock. We were encouraged to feel the stone and talk to it at times. Whenever we paused for a moment, I asked the stone if it wanted to keep going. The answer was always “Yes” as it was a young stone with many pointy edges. I, on the other hand, am old (not that old) and smooth from going over the bumps of life. Throughout this imaginary tour, the rock stayed in my hand. I sometimes moved it around in my hands feeling the bumpy surface of it, or sometimes it just rested on my hand. By the time I opened my eyes as the imaginary tour came to an end, I had formed a relationship with the stone. It even looked like it had two dotted eyes and a small pointy nose.

While I was going through the tour, I thought of the children who were in my infant and toddler class. They come through the gate to our yard with one or more stones in their small hands tightly gripped almost every morning. There is also a child who comes with a piece of gummy which he never eats. While infants and toddlers often like to have things such as stones, toys, nuts, bugs, flowers, and food in their hands, they do not like to let them go. Although a piece of gummy from the breakfast could be too dirty to be eaten after one hour of outside play, it is still difficult for the child to let it go. I never thought of the fact the tight grip on a cereal, gummy or a rock was a sign of the relationship. The child has formed a relationship with the object in its hand and it makes it hard to open the hand to part with it. It could be because the cereal came from home where the child longs to go back, or the child feels the connection with his family or parents who he loves. A stone at the parking lot might have caught the child’s eye with a noticeable shine. Also, the roughness of the stone may give just the right amount of sensory stimulation on the soft palm.

In any case, any object can form a relationship with a child if a grownup who has not visited any imaginary world for a long time can have a relationship with a stone.

The experience with the stone gave me the opportunity to vision the world of imaginary play of children as well as the relationship between objects and children.

As I wrote this, my 6-year-old son wanted me to read the story I was working on. I read him the first two paragraphs, and he asked me if it was a true story. I said,” yes.” Then he wanted to see the stone I was writing about, because he wanted to see the spots that was shiny. He did not question about the fact that I was talking to the stone or the relationship between the stone and I. I felt as though I was allowed in a special place where it was filled with children and only chosen adults.

Collaborative Dialogue: Of Stones and Community-in-the-Making

Dear all,

With much delight we are sharing some traces from our Collaborative Dialogue event from December 1st, 2021. We look forward to continuing this series in the New Year and welcome your ideas for future events. In the meantime, to continue thinking with each other, we invite you to share your reflections as a response to this post.

Thank you for attending the Collaborative Dialogue #3- Thinking Education through Art(s). Using the music of the stones and the symbols of candles, an environment was created in which we, as educators could reflect, investigate and be provoked to deepen our understandings of others, of materials and of our world. We are grateful for the opportunity of having artist R. Michael Fisher join us last night and to open the conversation on how we can be curious to think with, question with and trust with, the arts / artists / pedagogists / children / educators / mentors / the non –  human world and materials. You can view Michael’s online exhibition here: https://galleries.lakeheadu.ca/r-michael-fisher.html

Kozue shared of her relationship with the stone she picked and wondered about when the children come to us, holding a stone, a gummie candy, a toy, and their genuine relationship to this object. She reminded us to take notice of how a stone feels in hands, what it looks like, to think of our connection to the stone.  

Rita shared her observations of what can happen when we ask the question of “what relationship will the children build, what will they create, when they can investigate and experiment with materials in a way that are meaningful the them?” She reminded us to consider how materials are presented. How do this invite experimentation and curiosity? To notice the contrast of colour between stones and leaves, the contrast of time. 

Jennifer shared stories of neighborhood walks that take the children past the stone pile in their community. She brought in the voice of a child who excitedly shares on these walks: “That’s my neighborhood!”

In one break out room the discussion was on the inter-relationship of humans and natural environments. How can I encourage children to recognize that humans and the natural world are connected and mutually dependent on one another? (to read further questions, see page 90 of ELF). Only through ongoing inquiry of our connections to nature, to objects, can we engage with the children in their journey of “recognizing that humans and the natural world are connected and mutually dependent on each other”. (ELF pg.84)

Best and thanks to you all,
Cheryl & Antje & Juliet

Consider this inquiry into the stones. How did the protagonists engage in the process of pedagogical narration?

Conversation with Bryndís Gunnarsdóttir from Iceland

In this podcast we welcome our guest Bryndis Gunnarsdóttir who speaks about the Icelandic National Curriculum and the Icelandic context for playschool teachers. With passion, Bryndis also shares her research which examines friendship relations and social interactions in the toddler peer group in an early childhood education and care setting in Iceland using conversation analysis (CA). Throughout the conversation, we weave perspectives of early childhood educators/ playschool teachers, instructors, and students.

We welcome your thoughts and comments,
Antje, Selena, Patricia, and Bryndis

Warm and Welcoming ECEC Community

By Samantha Bremner

What an amazing feeling it is to meet so many of my professors and classmates in the ECEC program for the first time in person after being colleagues and friends online for over a year. The feeling of being in a real life classroom with all these wonderful people is unreal. Being in the same space has enabled me to feel the energy of the group during discussions, and be moved by others. 

When I got accepted to the ECEC program back in the beginning of 2020 I was so excited to meet new friends who had similar interests as me! When I found out that the program was going to be online due to Covid 19 I was very upset and worried as I had never done any online schooling before. Throughout the year I was convinced that I would probably never get to meet all the beautiful faces that I’ve come to know as rectangles on my computer. This year proved me wrong and let me tell you I’ve never been happier to be proved wrong! 

Everyone in our ECEC cohort is amazing. We are supportive, kind, friendly and helpful. Something I have also noticed is I find it much easier speaking out loud and sharing my thoughts in a classroom, because I have grown to know and trust everyone in the program. We are creating a place to be vulnerable, knowing we won’t be judged. 

Being in a class with all these amazing people gives my mood and energy such a boost, unlike zoom where I unfortunately leave the class feeling a bit drained most of the time. Yesterday a few of us decided to stay on campus after our 270 class and get some lunch before our next class! We all went and got Subway and came back to the ECEC classroom to eat it. Afterwards the six of us joined the next zoom class as a group. It was a lot of fun hanging out and getting to know each other outside of class.I am nourished by interactions. 

 We are also a lot taller than I thought.

Car Wash

By Jill Adshead

Play is the highest form of research.

Albert Einstein

A pile of sawed off tree branches that were recently cut from a tree in the backyard.

Untouched, neatly stacked against the metal fence. The children walked by them but yet, no one showed interest.

I called over to J. “J, please come here. I have something to show you.” J ran over and looked at me standing directly in front of the logs.

“Want to build something out of these logs?” I asked. In a high-pitched voice, J excitedly said, ”Yeah!”

I asked him where we could put them. He scanned the area and focused on the tires. “There,” he pointed.

J, “I need you to help me build a track.” “Sounds like a great idea!” I answered. J’s friend R was nearby. I suggested to J that he include R in this build. J did so and they both eagerly took charge while I slipped into the background.

J, “We need them to go like that.” J and R began to line up the logs in a straight line. I found this interesting as I assumed the children would build a campfire because of the size of the logs.

J, “We need them to jump over these.” J points from from one end of the logs to the other while holding a matchbox car in the other.

R, “I want a tunnel.”

J, “Look! There’s two jumps!”

The boys continue with their build.

J, “I have an idea.” He doesn’t finish his thought but with a long sigh, “It won’t work though.”

J and R don’t conversate but are focused on their own project within their project.

R, “There’s an ant on it.” J goes to R, “Oh yeah, I see it.” R tries to catch it. J, “It’s black. The red ones are bad.”

I questioned, “What do red ants do?” J, “They bite you.”

J continues to build and R leaves the space. J does not ask him where he was going.

J, “This is going to be a carwash. It’s going to go fast, jump, jump and over to the other side.”

J asks if I could fill a watering can for him and I do.

J, “Thanks.”

J slowly pours the water over the car. He proceeds to get the car dirty in the dirt and washes it off with water. This is action is repeated.

J stands up, leaving his car and water on the ground. With his left hand on his chin, “This is what I do when I am thinking.” He walks in circles. J, “I’m thinking. This is what I do when I think.” With his left hand he taps his chin.

He walks back to his car and watering can. “Wash, rinse, rinse, dry.”

He continues, “How do we dry it off?”

At this point in time, I could have given a multitude of answers, but I wait. I say, “Great question! How do we dry it off?”

J stands up again with his left hand on his chin and walks in circles. “In the sun!” he exclaims.

He walks over and leaves the car on a wooden table to dry out in the sun.

J, “40 minutes to dry out in the sun. It will be done drying when we are done the track.”

Lingering questions

  • How do I engage with children? When might I step in and when might I step back?
  • “What kinds of questions do I ask about children’s engagements? How does my language reflect children as creators of theories? How do my questions reflect children as constructors of knowledge?” (ELF, p. 76)
  • How could this play be extended? “What materials invite experimentation, problem solving, or intrigue?” (ELF, p. 77)
  • What are the complexities of being an educator and researcher? What am I listening to? What matters to me? And what do I make visible in documentation?
  • How are children involved in the process of working with documentation? What are some ways children can give permission to share the stories? Where do the stories live?

Reference:
Government of British Columbia. (2019). British Columbia early learning framework (2nd ed.). Victoria: Ministry of Education, Ministry of Health, Ministry of Children and Family Development, & British Columbia Early Learning Advisory Group. https://www2.gov.bc.ca/gov/content/education-training/early-learning/teach/early-learning-framework 

Inspiring Pedagogical Narrations

By Heather Wilson

In the reading ‘The Educator I Once Was’ by Shannon McDaniel in the Early Learning Framework (Government of BC, 2019, p. 91-96), I wonder how much time and reflection took place before she felt able…

“… to be more spontaneous in the woods.”

I wonder about her initial anxiety and how she perceives that experience as her practice continues. Does she always think back to this memory and see the positivity in how far she has come? Or is she thankful for her apprehension, as it guides her more than it stunts her growth as an educator?

When she models her own curiosity by putting her barefoot in the mud, the educator and child experience, learn and grow together, and she captured it beautifully in her Pedagogical Narration.

McDaniel’s story connects me back to Ted Aoki’s (2004) article, ‘Teaching as In-Dwelling between Two Curriculum Worlds’, where he mentions, “… there is a forgetfulness that teaching is fundamentally a mode of being” (p.160). To me McDaniel’s role as an educator has gone far beyond a simple statement of, ‘taking toddlers into the forest’ but she lived her experiences with the children and with her colleagues.

The children saw her vulnerable on both occasions mentioned above. First, with her anxiety of her capabilities and the children’s’ in the woods, but by asking for help (from her colleagues) she models to the children what they might do if they are afraid. I wonder if she presented her fears to the children. What kind of outcome or solution would they present? Her second engagement with the toddlers, forest and mud was another moment of vulnerability. The educator is trying a new thing, pushing her comforts and exploring her senses and environment – just what we as educators are trying to give the children.

Exploring the Beach

She presented an amazing example of modeling by just being true to herself. That cannot be taught in one lesson, it is taught in experiences, places and relationships.

References: 

Aoki, T. T. (2004, 2011). Curriculum in a new key: The collected works of Ted T. Aoki (W. F. Pinar & R. L. Irwin, Eds.). Lawrence Erlbaum, Routledge.

Government of British Columbia. (2019). British Columbia early learning framework (2nd ed.). Victoria: Ministry of Education, Ministry of Health, Ministry of Children and Family Development, & British Columbia Early Learning Advisory Group. https://www2.gov.bc.ca/gov/content/education-training/early-learning/teach/early-learning-framework 

Conversations Through the Fence

By Amanda Gillmore and Jade Felty

Amanda Gillmore and Jade Felty are second year Early Childhood Education and Care Diploma students at Vancouver Island University. In April 2021 they both started their final Infant & Toddler practicum at two different locations in Central Vancouver Island and ended up being next door neighbours. All that was dividing them was a chain link fence.​

​Within the first few days of Practicum Jade had noticed Amanda and called out to her and waved through the fence. Before this practicum Amanda and Jade had never met in-person, but due to the Pandemic they met in 2020 through the transition of online courses with Vancouver Island University.

“Over the past 5 weeks I have had the opportunity to meet with Amanda through the fence at Practicum. It has been wonderful being able to make contact and connect with another student in my cohort during the isolating times of the Covid-19 pandemic. We exchanged thoughts and feelings about community, connection, our pedagogical narrations, and our lives. On our last visit Amanda and I exchanged letters.” Jade

“I fondly remember the first time that I met Jade in-person. I was outside at my new Practicum Centre, and I heard my name being called, but I didn’t recognize the voice or where it was coming from. I looked up and there waving and smiling through the fence was Jade- my VIU ECEC colleague. Jade and I had only ever met online through our ECEC classes through Zoom. We briefly had a conversation and with agreeance from our Practicum Instructor we decided to meet regularly outside of each of our centre’s sitting along the fence. I had one request that our conversations be organic and focus on each other, self-compassion and heart focused on what each of us needed on that day we would meet. Each week we would check in with one another, normally twice a week, ranging from 30 minutes to 1 hour. It was exactly what both of us needed and we maintained this weekly having our conversations through the fence.” Amanda

Reimagining Practicum Seminar

By Antje Bitterberg, Patricia McClelland, Rupinder Rajwan, and Charlene Roulston 

We are a team of four instructors – Antje, Charlene, Patricia, and Rupi – and have found much joy and meaning in working collaboratively as instructors. In preparing for the Spring 2021 semester, we noticed that each of us was assigned a group of practicum students enrolled in either an infant/toddler or diverse abilities practicum. We connected and wondered, ‘What might happen if we combined our 2nd year students in one collective practicum seminar?’  

We each bring curiosity and courage to the process of reimagining practicum seminar. It would have been easy to continue our work in isolation. Each of us would have worked with our own group of students, and students would have completed their practicum. However, by embracing the Early Learning Framework [ELF] and the image of teachers as “researchers and collaborators” (Government of BC, 2019, p. 15) we were called to move beyond the walls of our own classes to create opportunities for collaboration and inquiry, for students and instructors alike! The ELF states, “Learning is not an individual act but happens in relationship with people, materials, and place” (p. 65). This statement is foundational to our teaching and our shared vision for our team-taught seminar.  

Over the course of the semester, we found a rhythm that allowed us to create both a collaborative space for students and  their four practicum instructors, and an intimate space for each group of students and their respective practicum instructor. Each week we alternated between gathering as one large group, and then gathering with our small groups. Throughout the semester, the four of us also met frequently to discuss emerging questions and which threads to make visible in our next team-taught collective seminar. 

Students in these 2nd year practicum courses are learning how to generate curriculum. They are asked to listen closely to the interests of children in their practicum settings and to begin creating and sustaining a curriculum inquiry with the children and colleagues within their unique contexts. Similarly, in our seminar, we have taken on an inquiry nourished by emerging interests of the group. We started by exploring a pedagogy of listening as described in the ELF, then moved into, and stayed with, the complexities of working with pedagogical narration. As our course comes to an end, we have unearthed more questions than answers about the process working with pedagogical narrations, who they are for, and what they set in motion.  

We invite you to linger with the following question that emerged for us in and through conversations provoked by the ELF. “Engaging with complexity means accommodating many ways of thinking, seeing, doing, and knowing as well as being a condition of professionalism in early learning” (Government of BC, 2019, p. 2). What does this ask of us? 

References:

Government of British Columbia. (2019). British Columbia early learning framework (2nd ed.). Victoria: Ministry of Education, Ministry of Health, Ministry of Children and Family Development, & British Columbia Early Learning Advisory Group. https://www2.gov.bc.ca/gov/content/education-training/early-learning/teach/early-learning-framework