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.

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

Retracing my steps

By Alejandra Gorostiza

The Early Learning Framework (Government of BC, 2019) describes a rhizome as a plant that develops underground and buds in many directions and without a predictable pattern. Inspired by this image, I created this visual map of my learning connections on this wonderful, complex, and unpredictable path to becoming an early childhood educator.

Grateful for so much!

References:

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

A Response to Responsibility.

Dear Ash,


Today I found myself in a grove, to be very specific, in an Alder Grove; I thought about how these trees are so quick to grow and that they fall quickly—constantly rising, falling and re-growing again. This speaks to the images you pull from the pedagogical narration by Shannon McDaniel called “The Educator I Once Was” (Government of British Columbia, 2019, p. 91).  With this, my heart is open to new ideas, and I am, hopefully, forever willing to grow and be teachable.


Ash’s encouragement that I may already know who I am responsible for brings joy to my heart. Her writing sings a song of welcome and invitation. I feel called to respond…

So, after her invitation to breathe, I can articulate who I feel responsible to: I feel responsible for all things human and non-human. I am also responsible for living well so others may live well too. 


How might I respond to this call to be responsible? 
Here is the how and why of it:

  • To uphold, live and breathe our Framework’s vision: “Respectfully living and learning together” (Government of British Columbia, 2019, p. 42).
  • To love and be loved (human and non human).
  • To feel welcome and welcome others, much like Ash has done above.
  • To challenge and critically reflect on the thoughts and stories that have led me to where I am today. “To be and to become an experienced teacher is not merely the accumulation of strategies and knowledge, but rather it calls for one to confront one’s previous understanding” (Pelech & Skuce, 2020).

I will share that I appreciate Ash’s way of bringing her learning visible; It opens up an opportunity for me to do the same. I will close with this question: is it possible that we are also responsible to our colleagues?

“Every breath that you take is a breath that was made for you by plants”(Kimmerer, 2019). 

In Gratitude and Kindness,

Chelsea

References:


Bioneers [Bioneers]. (2019, June 11). The honourable harvest – Robin Kimmerer [Video]. YouTube. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cEm7gbIax0o


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


Pelech, S., Skuce, T. (2020). A pedagogical venturing into the three sisters’ garden: Lessons of attunement and reciprocity in education. Journal of Applied Hermeneutics2020: 2020. https://journalhosting.ucalgary.ca

An Inquiry in Responsibility

“We find our allies by being vulnerable.”





– A conversation with a loved one.

In Shannon McDaniel’s work ‘The Educator I Once’ Was she tells a story of her experience with taking children out into nature. McDaniel reflects on the transformative journey. First, her initial hesitancy and discomfort while supervising the children as they explore the forest freely. Next, her awareness and vulnerability in asking for help and support from colleagues, which is met with warmth and wholehearted acceptance. Then, in her own time McDaniels is able to ease back into spontaneity alongside the children, trusting, and observing their processes with curiosity. Through this observation and reflection McDaniel poses some profound questions. Amongst them, this:

“Who are we responsible to?”



“Who are we responsible to?”

I sit in silence between breaths waiting for an answer to uncover itself.

To Parents? Teachers?
Bosses?
Peers?

The multitude of possibilities writhe around in my head.

“Who are we responsible to?”


The children?
Mother Nature?
Our community?

“Who are we responsible to?”

Tradition? Education? History?

Slowly the pieces begin to form patterns,
falling into place.

In personal reflection of this question, I draw parallels between McDaniel’s anecdote and the answers that come to mind.

I imagine the children in McDaniel’s writing, bounding through undergrowth, laying on the forest floor, constructing fortresses built from the inspiration bursting forth from their limitless imaginations. Joyously. Honestly. And I recall McDaniel. In open an honest connection and collaboration, plunging her bare feet into the cold and squishy mud to break the tension of uncertainty within the group.

Who were they responsible to?

The bugs in the dirt? Forest flora and fauna? The dirty socks to be laundered and the mopping to certainly be done upon returning indoors?

Maybe all of these things..

And maybe none of them.

“Inclusive learning and care supports the individual strengths and needs of each child, allowing them to meaningfully engage, learn, and contribute to the community and culture of their program.”
-BC ELF P.103

At any given time, within any experience, each individual carries their own perspectives and motivations. Children and adults alike. This intrinsic and intuitive drive has such potential to be a catalyst for a plethora of rich and impactful experiences. A bridge between the known and unknown. And in tandem with connection and collaboration, an almost immeasurable opportunity for growth and transformation.

So, breathe deeply…
Sit and listen,
Let your thoughts come and go however they so choose.

And inquire honestly:

“Who are we responsible to?”

“Who am I responsible to?”

You may be surprised what you will find.

You already know.

References:

Daniels,S.(2019).The Educator I Once Was. British Columbia Early Learning Framework. 91-92.https://www2.gov.bc.ca/…pdf

British Columbia Early Learning Framework (2019). https://www2.gov.bc.ca/…pdf

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 

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 

Respect

By Lacey Holmes

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

References:

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.

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 

Felstiner, S., Pelo, A., Carter, M. (1999). Thinking big: Extending emergent curriculum projects. Hilltop Children’s Center. Harvest Resources.