Setting the mood Little feet tap with excitement, Little eyes wait with longing, Few little minds forget its coming, ‘Its time for snack’ as the teacher remarks. The gates open to meal prepped tables, number of little feet scramble to spot their seats, oh , the joy to see the familiar(their snack boxes), ‘Its time for snack’ as the teacher hums. The mood is calm, the mood is focus, munching into their snack with a sense of purpose, a spill or two is cleaned with care, ‘Its time for snack’ as the teacher smiles 🙂
The choices From cottage cheese to applesauce, to crackers and sandwiches. The choices are one too many, For little minds to fathom hastily. A spoon, a bib, ”I’ll open it” an excited friend speaks, the cold strawberry yogurt is savored with every spoon. Across the table a little friend perplexed, pushes away all the choices with a sudden reflex. A patient educator with a calm and softness in her tone, offers time to process the choices that lay forth a momentary pause later a decision is made, ‘I want this’ the little finger points to the quinoa salad that awaits.
The closing ” I want something else”, “I’m done”, Few little fingers play with an empty container in sight, Snack time is coming to an end Let’s get you cleaned up, Here’s a wet cloth and a wipe, Little hands wipe and clean themselves I want water, I want milk, Little faces and tummies flooded with joy, “I want to go play again” As tables and chairs creak across the floor, Little friends are excited to return to play, A teacher stays back, humming a rhyme, as she wipes and cleans every little crumb.
I am thankful for being introduced to the infant toddler curriculum from such dedicated educators as Magda Gerber (Gonzales-Mena & Widmeyer Eyer, 2018) and Ward Nakata (Child Care Human Resources Sector Council, n.d). While watching their individual interviews related to infant and toddler child care, I can really tell how dedicated and knowledgeable they are in this field. Both talk so highly about respecting the infants in their care, and following the children’s rhythms of the day. I am very interested in exploring how we might follow children’s rhythms in early years programs and will be engaging with the following critically reflective question posed in the ELF (Government of BC, 2019): “What role does the clock play in my day? Do routines follow the clock or the people in my program” (p. 78)?
I recently watched the video ‘Thinking big: Extending emergent curriculum projects’ (Felstiner, Pelo, & Carter, 1999).
The children in the centre were really interested in the block building activity. The teachers sustained this interest in building for weeks by letting the children use wooden cubes to stack and climb on to make tall towers.
The educators supported the children in building even taller towers, by taking them to the hardware store to buy a step ladder.
Finally, the educators further sustained curiosity and inquiry by going on a field trip to a local park to have a tour of a large stone tower.
I am curious to find out how children and educators can generate curriculum like this together. As a practicum student, I also wonder how I might become engaged in co-creating curriculum with children and educators. How might we accommodate and respond to children’s interests? What might happen when children’s rhythms, rather than the schedule, lead the day? What might it feel like for children, educators, and families to be in a setting with fewer limits around, or structure on, activities and schedules? I have noticed from my experience in a preschool setting that each child goes through the day at a pace. Some children really enjoy painting and take their time, while others are finished in minutes. Some children eat very quickly while others like to socialize while they eat. Some children enjoy an afternoon nap, while others do not need the extra sleep. How can we be accommodating to each child’s unique needs? What is fair?
The First Peoples Principles of Learning remind us: “Learning involves patience and time” (Government of BC, 2019, p. 14). To notice the children’s rhythms we must be attentive and in the moment. If our attention is divided, then we are not able to pick up on the cues the child is trying to communicate with us. Danielle Alphonse (personal communication, Jan 29, 2021) reminds us what matters in our relationships with children: “An educator is being really present. Identifying your gift as an educator is honouring what you have in your mind, heart, spirit and recognizing your internal thoughts regarding guidance to support children’s development/behaviour for their future, or are you basing your decisions by thinking about the past interactions? Asking these appreciative inquiry questions helps an educator to situate oneself in the present. Children know when you are not being present with them, and they know right off the bat and will decide not to give you time and engage in relationship. If children don’t feel like you are giving them your full presence (attention) like they do, they will engage with another educator who is giving them full acknowledgement of their being.”
While we continue to learn and grow with our little explorers, I would like to challenge you. Be fully present, get engaged with the materials, and build on the interests to take the learning experience to the next level! Whether that’s with a trip to the hardware store or simply your time and attention. Take a page from the book of everyone’s favourite teacher: “Take chances, make mistakes, and get messy!” – Miss Frizzle
Child Care Human Resources Sector Council (n.d.). Working in early childhood education – Early childhood educator profile: Ward Nakata. Child Care Human Resources Sector Council. https://vimeo.com/38643168
Gonzales-Mena, J. & Widmeyer Eyer., D. (2018). Infants, Toddlers, and Caregivers: A curriculum of respectful, responsive, relationship-based care and education (11th Ed.). McGraw-Hill Education.
At this time, we are situated in, a time where individualism becomes prevalent and bubbles of selected few represent our current state, we cannot help but ask, will this be our new world? The potentiality of a world anew, opening again. I find myself embracing this thought of new beginnings. A place where we are connected in a network, that fosters sustainability, support, and retention. This place became the missing link in Early Childhood Education (ECE). It left many unanswered questions in our profession. Unanswered questions that were there before the pandemic and became emphasized when ECE’s fragmented parts were exposed. It leads us to ask, how might we move forward in a sustainable way?
In my journey I have always been passionate about the field of ECE. I found myself at a crossroads when I wanted to take my education further. I enrolled myself in selected electives to continue my path to obtaining my degree in Education. This encounter with disciplines beyond ECE challenged and enlivened my thinking. The entangled roles of student and educator excite me and give me new perspectives.
When it was suggested to start an ECEBC community branch in the qathet Regional Disrict I found myself on foreign ground. What is an ECEBC community branch and how do you start an ECEBC community branch? It is not easy to start from a place of uncertainty. However, starting from this point fostered a curiosity and excitement of what could exist. Actively shaping an ECEBC qathet Regional Disrict branch to help sustain, support and retain ECE’s in our community. This is a starting place, to be open to asking questions and think with the Early Learning Framework in mind. What does it mean to collaborate? What does it mean to work together? How do we sustain an ECEBC community branch? What do we want to see in an ECEBC community branch?
The following is a collective response to the second event in the ‘Collaborative Dialogue’ series, a professional development opportunity hosted on March 17, 2021. You will find a brief introduction to this series in our blog post posted on March 8th. We invited presenters, guests, and hosts to co-compose this blog post. Our hope was to sustain the ‘Collaborative Dialogue’ by staying with the generous offerings and creating a space for a playful “back and forth” (see Amanda Gillmore’s post, 2021). We created an online document that updates in real time, shared the invitation to contribute, and waited…
We are connecting to several blog posts shared at the ‘Collaborative Dialogue’: Sabrina and Julie (forthcoming – on mentorship) Amanda Gillmore (March 17, 2021) Vania Zanetti (March 16, 2021) Kate Boyd and Danielle Cazes (February 23, 2021)
Antje: Welcome to this site for curiosity, experimentation, improvisation, and wonder! You are invited to join this written dialogue inspired by the question: How might we – collectively – continue the ‘Collaborative Dialogue’ event(s) in a virtual way? Here are a few of my questions as a way to enter the conversation, feel free to add your own. What are you compelled to write about as you reflect about the event? What ideas and themes are you returning to? What are some of the alternate stories that you witnessed at the ‘Collaborative Dialogue’ event? What might this dialogue set into motion? What questions are you left with?
Cheryl: Amanda’s swinging boots are an invitation to a child who responds. What are the messages that we send to children, to the world in the way we move? What are the senses beyond words? Toddlers and educators take time to eat their snacks and linger with Sabrina and her mentor Julie. Conversations verbal and otherwise activated by the shared experience of nourishing our bodies and souls. What is activated between us as we think with Vania and Peter Moss?
Antje: I shared Vania’s reflections on play spaces with my sister when we visited Linley Valley Cottle Lake Park in Nanaimo. Inspired by Peter Moss, Vania “wonder[ed] about the multiple ways spaces can provoke exploration”. Their words echoed into this space. We lingered to watch my nephews with/in the trees and stream. This also takes me to Powell River, to the forest, just out of sight, that Kate and Danielle visit with children and their families. How might we cultivate a love for a place? What would the vocabulary be?
Vania: I had asked Sabrina and Julie to speak on their mutual connection to each other. In my reflections I wondered about my own mentor (twenty years ago). I asked myself the same question I asked during the dialogue. What was the moment when I knew I could trust or that I felt connected to my mentor? And I knew the answer. I’ve never forgotten the moment because I use the same words when I work with my colleagues to this day.
There are times for whatever reason when children will be resourceful in getting their needs met. On this particular day a child was not getting what they needed from me (a newbie). Clearly thinking I didn’t know what they were asking they moved on to make the same request from my mentor. My mentor had been an educator in the program for a few years more than myself. My mentor replied with “Vania is right…” and repeated what I had already told the child. Word for word. The child moved on satisfied with the response. To this day I don’t remember what the request was but those three words made me feel so validated, so able, so confident and so trusted. I felt connected knowing they were supporting me in a shared role of caregiver. This was a mentor that saw the importance of stability, consistency and predictability for both the child and a mentee’s emotional development.
Later that day we were able to discuss the moment together. I’m assuming we made changes as may have been needed or perhaps we laughed together at the child’s ingenuity. In reflection the connection happened because my mentor had been vulnerable with me. Not allowing the child to perceive them as ‘greater than’ in that moment made me feel I could be vulnerable together with them. The willingness to be vulnerable made way for connection and trust between us.
When I consider this I think again about the play spaces we create. If dominant language is used when choosing materials, choosing curriculums, and enforcing outcomes how can we be vulnerable with each other? How authentic are our connections with colleagues or the children we care for? How can growth happen when we are not able to make connections that help keep us open to new possibilities?
The outdoor circle was recently built using paving stones. On top of these stones are 11 seats that are made out of cement blocks that have caps on them. I was sitting on one of the seats and began pushing the snow, back and forth, between my boots. There is one child sitting across from me. There is no conversation between us, but he observes me moving the snow, back and forth. We notice that this action results with some of the stones peeking through the snow. This child gets up, walks across the circle and sits beside me on one of the other seats. I make eye contact with the child as I continue slowly moving the snow, back and forth, between my boots.
Child: “We need to cover it.” Amanda: “Why do we need to cover it?” Child: “So nobody finds it!” Amanda: ” Finds what?” Child: “The treasure, Amanda!”
As it states in the BC Early Learning Framework (Government of BC, 2019), “Children can engage with their own ideas, theories, and inquires in ways that are meaningful to them” (p. 68). With this recent snowfall, the snow created an additional material in this child’s outdoor learning environment. This additional material gave this child an opportunity to engage, to be curious, to create wonder and to imagine- and all of these opportunities were created because of just one additional layer, a hidden layer, to what was once familiar to this child.
In the book Alternative Narratives in Early Childhood: An introduction for Students and Practitioners, Moss (2019) speaks to the idea that the vocabulary we use in early childhood spaces shapes early years practices and experiences. Moss suggests that the dominant language of the early years narrative is “instrumental, calculative and economistic, technical and managerial, dull and lifeless” (p. 81). This makes me thoughtful about theoretical influences that inform the choices that educators make and ultimately shape what is imagined for early childhood spaces.
With the image above I am intrigued to think about the language used to create environments for children. I imagine conversations about safety and regulations that stripped aged trees of lower branches to keep children from scaling higher than they “should”. I wonder, ‘How often, and why, are toys and equipment chosen in early childhood settings because they include words such as safety, quality, durability, and development?
As an alternative to the dominant narrative Moss offers the language used in Reggio Emilia. The language is almost dream-like with a narrative that uses words like exploration, possibility, imagination, and becoming. It makes me wonder about the multiple ways spaces can provoke exploration, project making, and pathways for growth and development. I’m curious about connections to the Early Learning Framework (Government of BC, 2019, p. 77) and welcome the invitation to engage with the critically reflective question, “What opportunities do children have to access materials that can be transformed or investigated?”
I wonder how we can nurture alternative dialogues about children’s spaces. How might these dialogues be informed by the first principle listed in the Early Learning Framework (Government of BC, 2019), “Children are strong, capable in their uniqueness, and full of potential” (p. 15)? What kinds of worlds might become possible?
Moss, P. (2019). Reggio Emilia: A story of democracy, experimentation, and potentiality. In Alternative narratives in early childhood: An introduction for students and practitioners (pp. 81). New York, NY: Routledge.
By Students in Practicum II, Ocean Kneeland, and Antje Bitterberg
Creating the event: The public event ‘Collaborative Dialogue – Learning together and building relationships: A professional development opportunity for early childhood education students, mentors, and curious educators’ is a series of three events imagined and created in collaboration between the VIU ECEC Program and three regional CCRRs: Cowichan, PacificCARE in Nanaimo, and Powell River. When we began to imagine this event, it was important to us to create a space for ongoing dialogue that could hold all of us – students, educators, instructors, and community members in and across our regions. We decided that a series of online events, rather than one, would allow us to nurture a space for dialogue and connections over time. We will share a definition of collaborative dialogue from the Early Learning Framework (Government of BC, 2019), our process for continuing the conversations after the event, and offer some traces of our conversations.
Collaborative Dialogue: “Collaborative dialogue means inviting comments, questions, and interpretations from children, families, colleagues, and community members to elicit multiple perspectives. This process opens avenues for discussion not to find answers but to explore the different ways of thinking about pedagogy, and to invite reflection on assumptions, values, and unquestioned understandings. Ongoing collaborative dialogue can enrich and deepen perspectives, and can challenge educators to consider new ways of seeing, thinking, and practising.” (Government of BC, 2019, p. 50)
Revisiting the event with students: To invite students to reflect on the ‘Collaborative Dialogue’ event, we (Ocean and Antje) visited the students in their practicum seminar a week after the event. We wanted to express our deep gratitude to the four first-year students who shared their pedagogical narrations at the event. We also wanted to acknowledge the students in the audience and their contribution to creating a lively and welcoming space for their peers. In conversation with all the students and their instructor, we learned that many of us embraced uncertainty and an openness to experiment together. Below are two images we created with students to describe what was most meaningful to them.
Students who offered their work at the event shared these reflections:
Students who listened and engaged in the event shared these reflections:
Continuing the Dialogue: We invite you to share your response to our post or the event by submitting a comment! You might also share your ideas and hopes for future events. What are you curious about and what kinds of professional development opportunities are meaningful to you?
We would like to acknowledge that this was filmed on the traditional territory of the Tla’amin peoples, where we are grateful to work, play and learn.
Kate Boyd has been an Early Childhood Educator for twenty years, working in Young Parent programs, Supported Childcare and currently in StrongStart. She lives In Powell River with her family and enjoys volunteering in her community and exploring the great outdoors.
Danielle Cazes has been in the Early Childhood Education field since 1991. She is currently part of an amazing Strong Start team in Powell River, where she is privileged to participate in play-based, outdoor learning with children and families
“Children’s worlds are small, detailed places – the crack in the sidewalk receives their full attention, as does the earthworm flipping over and over on the pavement after rainfall. They have access to elements of the natural world that many adults don’t acknowledge. When we, like the children, tune ourselves more finely, we find the natural world waiting for us: cycles of light and dark, the feel and scent of the air, the particularities of the sky – these are elements of the natural world and can begin to anchor us in a place.” (Pelo, n.d.)
This quote brings us back to thoughts of our own childhoods and attachment to place. As you watch and listen to the blog post, we invite you to explore the space with the wonder of a child.
This post was originally published on Rachel’s student blog in February 2020.
From the moment I leave my front door, I can hear the sound of the water rushing down, the sound is encompassing, and immediately connects me to its natural surroundings. I cannot recall the last time I was out for a walk on my own. Carving time out to allow for this escape into the woods, just beyond my yard, required my full intent. It’s myself, my dog Katie, and my thoughts on values I embody as an Early Childhood Educator: respect, relationship, connection, curiosity.
My thoughts are inspired by the pedagogy of listening described by Carlina Rinaldi and foundational to the vision of the Early Learning Framework [ELF] (Government of BC, 2019): “Listening as sensitivity to the patterns that connect, to that which connects us to others; abandoning ourselves to the conviction that our understanding and our own being are but small parts of a broader, integrated knowledge that holds the universe together” (p. 48.). While I’m walking, searching for inspiration, and listening to the many streams, rivers, and sounds of rushing water, I realize that respect, relationship, connection, and curiosity are values that we share as educators that can only be achieved through the act of listening, our abilities to form relationships depend on it.
The curriculum scholar and author Ted Aoki (2011) has influenced many educators in reconceptualizing curriculum. In Curriculum in a New Key he writes about what listening means for a teacher, suggesting her responsibility to the children:
“But she knows deeply from her caring for Tom, Andrew, Margaret, Sara and others that they are counting on her as their teacher, that they trust her to do what she must do as their teacher to lead them out into new possibilities, that is, to educate them. She knows that whenever and wherever she can, between her markings and the lesson plannings, she must listen and be attuned to the care that calls from the very living with her own Grade 5 pupils.” (Aoki, 2004/2011, p. 161.)
Early Childhood must have educators who are listening. Children’s trust in us is cultivated through how well we listen. Listening to the child’s hundred languages forms strong connections, and opens new possibilities for learning. When children feel heard, valued, and supported they can connect to their learning through these relationships and meaningful work. Educators need to notice more about the child than what appears obvious, and what might be shared in verbal language. In a culture of research, educators can listen to the hundred languages of children, and (un)intentionally enact what they value by being compassionate and inviting a sense of wonder.
“Educators are not imposing their ideas on the children, but truly recognizing the children and their efforts. In a way, it is like viewing a child through new eyes. It is challenging to really listen and get to know a child anew and to resist previous ideas of who that child is. Through carefully and intentionally noticing children and what they do, educators have an opportunity to wonder at what they are seeing and hearing.” (BC Early Learning Framework, 2019, p. 57)
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.