Connect to Nature

We have known how beneficial the outdoor is for children. According to BC Early Learning Framework (2019), “Environments are integral to well-being and learning” (p 22). In addition, there are three elements that weave environments (Early Learning Framework, p. 22):

  • Space and place
  • Materials
  • Time: rhythms and flows

The weather finally got sunny this weekend, so I’d like to show you how these three elements look like in my neighborhood, The Abyss Trail.

  • Space and Place
Music: Balloon Musician: @iksonmusic
  • Materials
Music: Discover Musician: @iksonmusic
  • Time: rhythms and flows
Music: Evergreen Musician: Gabriel https://icons8.com/music/

I was amazed by how the scenery has been changed in the fall. What I have received from nature is not just the beautiful scenery and crisp air, also the energy from the land and plants. All of those precious gifts allow me to relax, recharge, and sort my mind. As a way to engage with the world, I took some photos of art that was created by nature. The first and the second art were probably man-made. I was curious how come the moss only grew along with the pattern. The third one looked spooky, which was perfect for Halloween, I like how those fallen leaves decorated the entrance of the trail. Likewise, even just the shadow could make beautiful art as the fourth photo present. I had a lot of fun while walking the trail and appreciated the natural art, and kind of understood why Andy Goldsworthy is obsessed with it.

As a future educator, I would like to create more opportunities for children to connect to nature, allow them to choose their own natural resources, and give them time to make anything that is meaningful to them. In addition, supporting and encouraging them, or participating in their plays/ experiments if they want me to.

References

Andy Goldsworthy. (n.d.). Artnet.com. http://www.artnet.com/artists/andy-goldsworthy/

Government of British Columbia. (2019). British Columbia early learning framework. Victoria: Ministry of Education, Ministry of Health, Ministry of Children and Family Development, & British Columbia Early Learning Advisory Group. 

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.

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

Collaborative Dialogue 2

Dear reader! 

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?  

Adventures in the Great Outdoors – Powell River StrongStart

By Kate Boyd and Danielle Cazes

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.

Danielle and Kate

Reference

Pelo, A. (n.d.). Rethinking Schools. A pedagogy for ecology. https://rethinkingschools.org/articles/a-pedagogy-for-ecology/

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

Raised by a River

By Heather Wilson

Soo River, Whistler, BC

After watching the TED talk video, Reclaiming the Honourable Harvest by Robin Kimmerer (2012), I could not stop thinking about a statement she made. She said, ‘… a boy was raised by a river.’ And further questioned if there were two meanings in that statement – was the boy near or reared by a river? Now that I have reflected on that statement, with my own knowledge and experience, I would say that ‘a boy raised by a river’ was just as near it, as he was reared by it. If the boy had the time and freedom to wander and wonder… Where would the boy go to play? Where would he go when he was bored? Where would he want to take his friends? Where would he go to explore? Where would he go for adventure? Where would he go when his soul needed soothing? To the river. 

My role as an ECE would be to create time and space for children to become familiar with the land. There is much excitement in the novel experiences, but there is depth, layers and the richness of the child’s own knowledge when they are in a familiar place. Only once this familiarity is there, do children begin to connect with the land, when they are influenced, loved, and raised by that space. In the Early Learning Framework [ELF] (Government of BC, 2019) there is reference to this idea, “Providing time, space, and materials rich with possibilities for experimenting, imagining, and transforming allows children to create and explore…” (p. 75). 

There is depth to these questions once you start unpacking them. My role as an ECE seems clear, but what challenges are we facing? Children come from many different families and thus different cultures and perspectives, how do we connect children who would prefer to be connected to a screen or game? When it comes to Infants and Toddlers, how do we explain to families that they are capable of walking a trail, exploring a forest/beach/field/rocks/dirt and connecting with it meaningfully?

Robin Kimmerer spoke and wrote beautifully, and I really appreciate her nine responses to the gifts of the earth:

  1. Never take the first one.
  2. Ask for permission.
  3. Listen.
  4. Take only what you need.
  5. Use everything you take.
  6. Minimize harm.
  7. Be grateful.
  8. Share.
  9. Reciprocate.

I am wondering how Kimmerer’s nine responses to the gifts of the earth invite me to think with/about the pathway “Every child is a gift” (Government of BC, 2019, p.66) as offered in the ELF’s Living Inquiry Well-being and Belonging? How might we meet and receive children as gifts? How might we give meaning to the statement, “every child is a gift?” in our daily encounters with children? How might we show our love, appreciation and responsibility to the children in our care?

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

Tedx. (2012, August 18). Reclaiming the Honorable Harvest: Robin Kimmerer . YouTube. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Lz1vgfZ3etE&feature=youtu.be

Sensorial Journey to the Great Outdoors

By RoseMary Antony

Growing up in the Middle East I never had many opportunities to explore the outdoors due to harsh desert weather. As I grew up, adapting to indoor life became a part of me and my comfort zone. When I reached B.C, I was blown away by the endless outdoor adventure possibilities. This picture is from my daily walk to Buttertubs Marsh in Nanaimo.

I love listening and using my auditory skills, be it listening to people, music or the sound of crashing waves at the beach, or distant wind chimes on a windy day. One of the first things I did during my early Fall walk at Buttertubs Marsh was to pause, close my eyes and listen. I could hear the frogs croak, ducks splashing and quacking in the water, lizards and small creatures scurrying across tall grass, insects buzzing around my ears, the soft leaves swaying as the gentle breeze blew, all this while feeling the bright sun on my face.

I slowly opened my eyes and looked around to make myself aware of my surroundings again. The Early Learning Framework reminds me that, “Learning is not an individual act but happens in relationship with people, materials, and place” (Government of BC, 2019, p.65). Since spending quality time outside is a relatively new concept for me, I am equally curious and amazed by the novelty of nature and excited to collaborate and engage in reciprocal learning with children.

In A Pedagogy of Ecology, Ann Pelo (n.d.) discusses the significance of developing an ecological identity. She writes, “To foster a love for a place we must engage our bodies and our hearts – as well as our minds – in a specific place” (Pelo, n.d.). As a teacher/researcher, I am inspired by this idea, and wonder what it feels/looks/sounds like to respectfully explore a place with young children. How might children lead us when it comes to exploring the great outdoors? Which paths might become visible? What meaningful experiences could be magnified?

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

Pelo, A. (n.d.). Rethinking Schools. A pedagogy for ecology. https://rethinkingschools.org/articles/a-pedagogy-for-ecology/