Wednesday, 24 April 2013

The language of carpentry...

Nathaniel and Teagan have both been avid bug catchers for a while now and often explain to me in morning meeting that their plan for the day is to find a Preying Mantis in the garden. The other morning I saw their interest take a new form when they told me their plan to make a house for a Preying Mantis. Nathaniel and Teagan decided to use the carpenty area to make their house and sought the materials they needed from around the centre. They found carpet samples, wire, bottle caps and wood to use. As they sorted out the materials, other children became interested in what they were doing and asked to be involved. Ben and Kylie were invited to join in but Teagan made it very clear that Nathaniel and her were the leaders. 

Construction began with Nathaniel nailing milk bottle caps to the wood base. Kylie soon filled them with water.

Nathaniel: This is the bath and another one for the toilet.
Kylie: And a water bowl! 

The children continued to find different materials in the carpentry area which inspired them to create new items in the house such as a tunnel made from a pipe.

Kylie: I’m working on the stairs!
Teagan: What about a tunnel? 
Kylie: He needs some carpet

Teagan noticed a gap in the roof they had made.

Teagan: They will get rained on here
Nathaniel: No its okay thats the shower!
Teagan: What about his towel?
Ben: Heres some carpet for a towel

The children bagan to think about what compforts of home were important to them.

Kylie: Here’s a toy for him to sleep with
Ben: He needs toys in the bath too
Nathaniel: What about a swing?

Kate came over to investigate what her peers were doing and took on the role of a cynic, challenging the others on what they were doing...

Kate: The preying mantis will die in here...
Nathaniel: No he won’t! He will love it so much.
Teagan: Why will he die?
Kate: They are supposed to live outside, not in a house. He will get lost and his Mum can’t find him and he will miss her.
Nathaniel: He will be okay, his Mummy will come find him at the house.
Teagan: There is a door for him!

The house is completed and placed in the garden for the Preying Mantis to find (No need for catching him!).

Teagan and Nathaniel kept checking all afternoon if a Preying Mantis had moved in to their house but no one has yet... This hasn't phased them though and they were insistent that their Dad went out in the rain to see it when he came to pick them up.

It is interesting how this little project was largely about concern and empathy for the preying mantis' who have to live outside. Over time, through their interest in insects, Teagan and Nathaniel have developed a relationship with nature. Alongside their friends they seemed to be relating their own lives to that of the preying mantis. If we have a house and toys, then surely this is what they should have? Kate of course had a different view, yet it was still driven by concern and empathy for the preying mantis. 

I am excited to see where this interest will go next...

Wednesday, 17 April 2013

Why I love collaborative art...

Why I love callaborative art...

I like the idea of creating something over time, of seeing an idea evolve into something different, something better. The fact that lots of children have been a part of it, it tells a story. The children can see their contribution and celebrate that they have made something special for the classroom with their peers. 

I think its a good lesson for children to learn that art can take time, it can have many layers and new ideas can come along the way. I guess its that whole ‘Rome wasn’t built in a day’ thing. I want to clarify that i’m not saying quick art isn’t meaningful and that children should make all art together! I definitely don’t believe this. Art should be done in many different ways, this is one way!

I want to share about some of the callaborative pieces in my classroom and the significance they have. They all tell a story about the children who were a part of it.

Canterbury Earthquake Anniversary

"This is my commandment, that you will love one another as I have loved you" John 15:12

One year after the earthquake in Christchurch a project begun at the centre. The children had seen images of the earthquake on the news and were trying to make sense of it through their play. We began to discuss with the children what had happened and invited them to think of how the people felt. It quickly turned in to a project. This piece of art was made as a fundraiser for another centre in Christchurch who had lost their building. Families and children were invited to donate a coin in order to tie a ribbon onto the rope. The response was amazing with young children even using their pocket money to tie a ribbon on. We were blown away with the empathy our children showed! Now we can always remember the project and the children involved.

Chandelier of clay and bead work...

I have slowly been adding children's work to this lovely chandelier over the past two years and counting. Children will often make things especially to hang on the chandelier. I guess theres something special about being part of a collective piece of art. I love this piece of art because it tells stories about the many different children who have passed through the centre, some of which have moved away or gone off to school. 

Pirate Flag

 "We need a flag for our pirate ship!" Lucy proclaimed. The 'pirate flag' took over two weeks to complete and there are many layers to it. Each of the pirates painted some sort of representation of themselves on here. You can see a face, butterflies and many love was a group of girl pirates you see.

The garden...

This big piece of plastic (I don't really know what it's called) was presented to a group of five 4 year olds who had been particularly interested in painting. "I have a very special job for you all" I had told them and showed them the plastic, "This is to make a big piece of art to make our room look beautiful". They took their job very seriously and discussed what they would do. They decided in the end that they would paint a garden and talked about all the things that were in their gardens at home. There were suns, flowers, bees, butterflies, trees and clouds. They set to work over a couple of days and completed this lovely painting which divides our room quite nicely.

For arts sake...

These two pieces both went for about a week each and had no objective in mind. Everyone was invited to be involved if they wished! 

The first piece is a collage and its about 1x0.8 Metres.

The second piece is our most recent addition. We used crayons on the first day and the second day we added different dyes. The third day it was black paint and the last day silver paint and more dye! I only put out small brushes the entire time so it turned out really detailed. I think its about 1x0.5 Metres.

I hope you enjoyed this little tour!

Saturday, 13 April 2013

Kiwi Teacher now has Pinterest and Facebook...

Kia ora lovely readers,

I got Pinterest and Facebook for Kiwi Teacher! These pages will both feature lots of inspiration I get from other blogs and websites. Plenty of cool little ideas, thoughts and links that you can quickly glance over in your news feed. Of course, I will also share on both pages when I post something new on the blog as well, so its a good way to keep informed!

Come join me!

Kiwi Teacher

Friday, 12 April 2013

Sand trays!

This provocation seems to have generated a lot of attention over the last few days and lots of you have been asking about it. So heres the deal...

At the end of last year we sent all our children home with a paper bag. The idea being that they would collect treasures from their summer holiday to share with everyone when we started back. The treasures would act as a starting point for conversations about the holidays. The children came back with all sorts of things. Some children brought back photographs and tickets, but natural resources were the main attraction with children bringing shells, feathers and glass from the beach as well as sticks and leaves they had found on walks. Many of the children contributed their special treasures to the centre and an interest in ephemeral art began to show. 

We extended on this interest by presenting the children with many different provocations. The children began to create art in the sandpit using sticks and leaves. We noticed they were drawing patterns with sticks in the sand. I presented this provocation to a group of interested children as an extension on this.   Here's how they responded...

A swimming pool

This is a volcano!

Hope this answered a few of your questions!


Tuesday, 9 April 2013

Lets talk about provocations...

Lets talk about provocations... What is a provocation? The options really are endless! Provocations are happening wether you come from a Reggio Emilia inspired centre or not. They are the questions we ask, the materials we put out, the music we put on...even we as teachers act as a provocation sometimes...

Heres how Journey in Early Childhood defines it...

Deliberate and thoughtful decisions made by the teacher to extend the ideas of children. Teachers provide materials, media and general direction as needed but the children take the ideas where they want. 
Journey into Early Childhood 

I want to emphasise something here... 

The children take the ideas where they want...

See, I was asked recently by a volunteer..."Do your provocations always work?". I was taken back by this...what did she mean by 'work'? Then she said, "I haven’t seen the children drawing crosses here"...

What she didn’t hear was the conversation happening at the drawing table...

Jayden: Hey Kalen, thats an X aye
Kalen: Yeah, I don’t have an X, I have a K
Jayden: Oh I have a J and an A and a Y and a D and a E and a N

The two boys then began searching for letters around the room, trying to find them on the walls, in the artwork and documentation.

The boys did not see a cross...they saw an X. They did not feel compelled to draw the cross...instead it became a point of discussion. 

I’ve talked about the childs agenda before but I think it is important to mention it in this case as well. We need to consider this when setting up our environment or when we ask a question to children. Do not pre-empty an experience and decide what will happen. If you come with an agenda you may tend to restrict children. Remember children express themselves through a hundred languages...take a minute to observe how they speak. 

Check out a few of our provocations...

The children take the ideas where they want...

Wednesday, 3 April 2013

Easter walk

The childcare centre where I work is connected to the local church and we implement christian values into our program. This year we celebrated Easter by hosting a walk through exhibition about Easter alongside the after school program, playgroup and infant and toddler room. We felt creating art was a good way for the children to communicate their feelings and understanding as we went through the easter story this month. The children had a real sense of ownership over the walk through and were proud to show their families and share with them what they had learned. Have a look through our walk through...

Jesus prays in the garden of Gethsemane...
Jesus felt very sad because he knew that some of his friends were telling bad people to come and take him away and hurt him. He was praying to his father God.

Judas sells Jesus...
Jesus had many friends, but his friend called Judas sold Jesus to the bad people. They gave him some silver coins and took Jesus away because they did not like him helping the people.

Video of school children's drama about Judas and Jesus

The market place...
Another one of Jesus friends, called Peter, told people that he didn't know Jesus. He was telling lies. Before Jesus died, he told Peter that he would tell lies before the rooster crowed three times.

The Jail...
The ruler (prime minister) tells Jesus that he will be killed and that no one wants to be his friend. Jesus is tied up and put in jail. Lots of his friends were very sad and scared that their friend was going to die.

The children created this jail in our carpentry area.

Jesus carries his cross...
The bad people who didn't like Jesus, took his clothes and hit him, then they told him to carry a big wooden cross through the streets. It was very heavy and Jesus was hurt. A man called Simon used his helping hands to carry the cross for him up the hill.

Visitors were invited to share how they could use their hands to help others just as the children from playgroup had done.

Jesus is crucified...
When Jesus was on earth, in our world, people were hung on a cross with nails in their hands and feet', this is called crucifixion. Jesus had not done anything wrong but he died for all the wrong and bad things we have done. All Jesus' friends were very sad.

A cross created from clay, nails, wood and wire by a group of preschool aged children.

Visitors to the exhibition were invited to create a cross from salt dough which they could either take home or contribute to a piece of collaborative art for the centre.

Jesus is placed in a tomb...
Jesus' friends took his body and washed it and then wrapped it in special material and carried it into a tomb which is like a cave. Then all the very big men pushed a huge rock across the door way into the tomb so no one could get it. There were soldiers outside the tomb so no one could get it. They stood there for three days...

A tomb created by the preschool children.

Jesus is alive!
On the third day, Jesus' friend Mary went to the tomb but the big rock was pushed away and Jesus was not in there. An angel had pushed the rock away and he told Mary that Jesus was alive. Jesus had told her that this would happen, so she ran all the way to his friend's house and told them that Jesus was alive! All Jesus' friends were very happy to see Jesus.

Written by the preschool children.

This painting is a celebration of which all were invited to participate in!

Thank you to all involved!

Monday, 25 March 2013

Learning from Children

I noticed Maria (3.5 years old) sitting on the edge of the sandpit crying. I went to investigate and asked Maria “Why are you crying?”. Maria was rather caught up in her emotion and struggled to tell me what had happened. Instead she pointed to Emily (5 years old) and Amy (4 years old) who were watching, cautiously from a distance. I asked Emily, “Do you know why Maria is crying?” and with slight guilt in her eyes, she claimed she did not know. Amy then told me “Maria is crying because Emily wants to play with me”. Maria confirmed this was the case by nodding her head when I looked over at her. I suggested to Maria that she could talk to Emily and Amy about this and tell them how she feels. Maria was reluctant to do this but I decided to step back and allow her to come to her own solution. Meanwhile, Peyton (3.5 years old) who had been listening on, became concerned for Maria who was still crying. She approached Maria, gave her a little cuddle and took her by the hand. “Come on Maria, lets go talk to Emily and Amy” Peyton suggested and Maria followed on. I watched for a while as Peyton facilitated a conversation amongst the children, encouraging them all to listen to one another and come to a solution. I heard her point out the tears in Maria's eyes to the other two girls and she asked them "How do you think Maria feels?". Peyton and Emily then invited Maria back in to their play. Peyton, Maria, Emily and Amy then played happily together in the sandpit for the afternoon. 

Looking at life, it is pretty clear that as humans we have to work together and whilst we don't always agree on things, none of us are good at everything and we do need each other! So when conflict arises amongst children, as hard as it is sometimes, I try to bite my tongue and encourage them to sort it out amongst themselves (obviously within reason!). After all they are definitely going to require these social skills in life! Janet Lansbury points out that our interruptions ‘put the brakes on valuable social exchanges’ and leave children with the message that they are incapable of interacting with their peers. I try to see conflict as an opportunity for children to learn much needed skills, after all society could do with more citizens who can effectively work together!

I have been challenged lately about the purpose of Early Childhood Education. Is our job solely to prepare these young children for academic learning? I like to think its so much more. Its so inspiring to think that Reggio Emilia's approach was born out of the belief that childhood (particularly the early years) is a time where children's' identity is developed and that this was the time where they could support children in becoming good, valuable citizens of the world.The children we teach are citizens and I believe the purpose of early childhood education is not merely to ready children for school and academic learning but to instill in them morals and skills that will enable and empower them to be valuable contributors in to the world both in the present and into their future. 

The idea that children are contributors to their world is powerful, that they too have something to bring and to teach. If children are given the opportunity to have a voice, they really do have a lot to bring, like Peyton who was able to facilitate a meeting with three other children where views were shared, voices heard and problems solved. I think we can all learn a lot from Peyton who is clearly capable of making a valuable contribution to our world. 

Saturday, 23 March 2013

The child's agenda

The children have been exploring the concept of sinking and floating lately using the water trough. K came up with the theory that all wooden objects floated which inspired my set up the next day. I set up the trough with as many wooden materials I could find and added plastic animals as a provocation.

J was the first to discover the provocation in the water trough and I observed him as he began to engage in dramatic play. This was exactly what I expected would happen! J was expressive as he chased the animals around the trough with the plastic alligator, snapping at them and yelling "I'm coming to eat you!". J's older sister T noticed my interest in what he was doing and went to investigate. After observing him for a little while she asked him "can I play with you J?". J was not phased by this and invited her into his play by handing her a dinosaur. T began to chase all the farm animals around the trough with her dinosaur, just like J was doing with the alligator, but it wasn't long before she began to take control. "We need to take everything out of the water now J..." she said and I gulped. I had spent quite a while setting up this provocation which only J and T had explored. However, I stood back and observed. What is T's agenda? I wondered. 

T began to splash around with her hands and then picked up an animal. "Its a swimming pool!" she proclaimed as she threw a dinosaur in to the water. J was unsure about this and stood frozen as if he wasn't sure what T wanted him to do. T sensed this and decided to bring the sticks back in to the trough. J went back to balancing the animals on the sticks and chasing them with his alligator but T now had a different agenda and I observed her closely as she began to balance the sticks on top of each other... "How can I make a bridge?" she asked J. J did not say anything, preferring to continue his play with the animals and T began to build her bridge. T struggled to make the bridge connect from one side of the trough to the other but quickly came up with ideas solutions which can be seen in the photographs...

T must have been working on her bridge for a good half hour before she excitedly told me "It has worked!". I was amazed at her perseverance and the fact that not once did she get frustrated even though the bridge repeatedly came crashing down. Instead she sought solutions and made repairs. 

As teachers, sometimes we need to throw our agenda out the window, because more often than not, the child's agenda is so much better! The environment really has acted as the third teacher here and my role was simply to observe and document this awesome learning experience for J and T.