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.

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

Conversations Through the Fence

By Amanda Gillmore and Jade Felty

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

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

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

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

Reimagining Practicum Seminar

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

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

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

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

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

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

References:

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

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.

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?  

Note to the World

By Amanda Gillmore

Communication has always been a struggle for me- whether it is communication on paper, in an email, a text message or I verbally need to express myself- I always hesitate and/or second guess myself. You wouldn’t think that if you met me! But, it stems from my childhood and is something that I am working on- it’s not an easy task but working with a Counsellor has helped me and given me the tools to work through this barrier.

At first when I saw the requirements for this weeks’ course content, I immediately became uncomfortable. My course instructor asked us to “create a hand-written/ typed/ or video recorded note to a friend/ family member/ colleague/ mentor/ classmate.” <Insert anxiety NOW.> But, after a cup of Earl Grey Tea and reminding myself to consider this ‘a brief note to invite conversation’, I pressed through. I started off by reading the article ‘Your Image of the Child’ by Malaguzzi (1993). And, here is my Note to the World:

Dear Mentor,

I sincerely appreciate how you have guided me so far through my practicum experience and showing me that “the ability to enjoy relationships and work together is very important” (Malaguzzi, 1993, p.2). Over the last few weeks we have had numerous heart to heart conversations about the importance of child-child relationships, child-educator relationships and educator-educator relationships. I recently read an article in one of my ECEC courses called: ‘Your Image of the Child: Where Teaching Begins’ written by Loris Malaguzzi. I would kindly like to share with you a passage that resonated with me:

“When you enter the school in the morning, you carry with you pieces of your life — your happiness, your sadness, your hopes, your pleasures, the stresses from your life. You never come in an isolated way; you always come with pieces of the world attached to you. So the meetings that we have are always contaminated with the experiences that we bring with us.” (Malaguzzi, 1993, p.2)

Each morning I invite you and the other educators to enter a safe heart space and each ask yourself what pieces of your life are attached to you as you enter the school. This passage I have shared with you has made me more aware and mindful how I want to start each day- whether I will be at my practicum site, starting one of my ECEC online courses or starting my morning rituals at home. I hope sharing this will do the same for you.

Amanda

References

Malaguzzi, L. (1993). Your image of the child: Where teaching begins. Exchange (3).