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.

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.

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 

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 

Meal Time Journey

By RoseMary Antony

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.

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.

Back and Forth

By Amanda Gillmore

Audio recording of ‘Back and Forth’ by Amanda Gillmore

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.

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 AdvisorGroup.  https://www2.gov.bc.ca/gov/content/education-training/early-learning/teach/early-learning-framework

Curriculum as Connection Through the Acts of Pedagogical Listening

By Rachel Phillips

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)

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