Saturday, 13 September 2014

Its spring, get outside!

It's finally spring! I have been so excited to finally have a few sunny days where I can get outside with the children and do a bit of work on our outdoor environment. For months and months we have been staring out a window at a patch of dirt which once was a lovely patch of green grass. It was driving me mad! We have a bad drainage issue and every time we try and grow grass it quickly turns into a mud patch which of course has its benefits when your a toddler! But as much as we love our puddles we finally decided to try create a sensory garden for our children so naturally the second we made this decision plants were brought and I was excitedly mapping out the garden while toddlers sneakily moved each plant when my back was turned. Honestly, I am not a gardener, I have no idea what i'm doing so i'm really hoping all these plants don't die.

I really believe that if children are invited to take part and have a little ownership over their environment that they are far more likely to respect and care for it. With this thinking in mind, we created this garden alongside the children and took the time to talk about the process and the living things we were working with such as worms and plants...

We have found so many worms! Its been really awesome to see the children becoming aware that there is life underneath the ground. They have been so respectful and caring towards every living creature we have found on our little journey. They know that they need to live in the mud with all our new plants.

It was really important for me that all the children had an opportunity to be involved in the garden. Even our youngest baby, R (6 months) was able to be involved, sitting amongst it all, kicking and feeling the new plants. I can't wait to see him crawling through the garden this summer!

So here it is, the very nearly, mostly finished garden...

It was really important to me to create a garden that challenged all the children in my classroom including 'crawlers', the 'just walkers' and the 'runners'. The mound in the middle and the stepping stones have created that challenge! Now our children can experience different terrain and slope while engrossed in nature!

As you can see, the drainage issue hasn't been completely resolved but the puddles provide nice little habitats for our dinosaurs!

This space used to be completely unutilized, it was just a retaining wall. Jess who has recently started a new adventure came up with the idea to allow the children to access this area by putting a ladder up to it and installing a fence. The children now have a space where they can feel they are away from teachers which is so important. It has been amazing!

I am proud that we have utilized our small outdoor space in way that immerses children in nature, providing them with opportunities to connect with and experience the natural world.

"We need to allow children to develop their biophilia, 
their love for the Earth, before we ask them to 
academically learn about nature and become guardians 
of it" - Department of Conservation (2011)

Thursday, 7 August 2014

Theories about puddles...

Blair (2 years old) and Thomas (2.5 years old) are keen explorers of our garden and venture into it everyday! They began to notice a few months ago that sometimes there was a puddle in one area of the garden. This was an exciting discovery and the first few times they jumped and splashed in it, giggling away. It quickly became their routine to check the garden every morning to see if the puddle was there. They would inform me everyday on wether or not it was there and lead me over to have a look. Eventually the boys began to notice that the puddle was only there some days and wondered why this was...

Some days we come to 4kids and there are lots of puddles!

Blair: Lou Lou’s plants made it!

Thomas: There are fish in the puddle

Blair: It rained...theres a puddle

Thomas: They are like mud and splashy

And some days there are no puddles...

Blair: I’ll find more puddles

Thomas: The sun is here, it dried it all

Blair: Thomas stomped it all out, no puddle today!

Thomas: There is no water

Every day we check to see if the puddles are there and wonder why some days they garden is full of puddles and some days there are none at all... 

Blair: The water is gone! The water is gone in the air, the clouds have it.

Thomas: The sand made it dry (the boys had brought sand into the garden the day before)

Blair: Elise, look the puddle! The sun put water in, theres water in there!

"Each child is unique and the protagonist of his or her own growth. Children desire to acquire knowledge, have much capacity for curiosity and amazement, and yearn to create relationships with others and communicate. "

- Loris Malaguzzi

Friday, 11 July 2014

Pipi Whanau (Infant and Toddler classroom)

The Pipi Whanau is the infant and toddler classroom at 4 Kids . We are both inspired by Reggio Emilia and RIE in this room which I hope you will see through the photographs. I have only recently moved in to this room and alongside my team we have spent the last few months organising and rearranging our classroom. In a few weeks it seemed our class had evolved from being dominantly a toddler room to an infant and toddler room as a few of the older children moved through to the preschool room and two very young infants started. We really needed to rethink the space to accommodate pretty much all ages and stages from 3 months - 2.5 years. At the moment we have very young infants, crawlers and toddlers. It can be a challenge to create an environment that can provoke and inspire all these different children but we have given it a good go and it will continue to evolve!

We developed this area for our infants, the aim was to create a sensory space. The hanging materials are low enough that the infants can reach and grasp them. They all make different sounds and reflect the light in various ways. The tactile canvases are interesting for children as they learn to crawl and sit. The mirrors are low so infants can see themselves play during tummy time. Our toddlers have been just as interested in this area and use it in very different ways to the infants. They love to walk through the hanging materials and touch the canvases. 

Being RIE inspired, we believe children should have freedom to move so we avoid placing children into things they are unable to get out of themselves. The Pipi Whanau does not have any cots, highchairs or swings. We use these baskets as an alternative to cots. Each child has a frame above their basket with a photo of them and their name. Our children have ownership over their space which we believe creates a sense of security and familiarity for the children during rest and sleep times.

We believe it is important to provide children with places to retreat from the hustle and bustle of the centre especially since some children are with us for very long hours. The teepee has become a bit of a retreat for the toddlers and often we will find them in here just pondering quietly to themselves. We change it around but at the moment we have ribbons hanging and loosely placed on the floor and fairy lights pinned to the roof. 

Noah's Ark provocation. This is a familiar story for our children and perhaps one that may inspire their play in the construction area...

Tinfoil is a great medium to use with infants and toddlers. It is easy to manipulate and tear and it has some qualities that are very interesting to children such as the way it reflects and captures light. Our infants have been fascinated by the sound this material makes when they scrunch it, pat it and kick it with their feet.

This provocation is very open ended. The children enjoyed sorting the objects in to different containers and investigating the tactile nature of the materials. One of the older toddlers used these materials to make his own ephemeral art. 

As we all know, young children are very sensory learners. We want our classroom to reflect the sensory nature of children. These are sensory bags. We refresh them every so often with new and different natural materials. A variety of herbs, lemon, garlic and cinnamon are in these ones. The children are able to engage their senses especially their sense of smell. 

A play dough provocation with lemon and orange rind as well as a variety of asian herbs. 

The toddlers have been very interested in the dolls since two infants started in our room. They have been closely observing the teachers caring for the infants and we have noticed them mirroring what they have seen. One toddler was patting the dolls back and I realised she was trying to burp her doll. This provocation was set up in response to this interest with photos of infants being cared for in different ways such as sleeping, being fed a bottle, being winded, played with and cuddled. 

Thanks for reading :)

Saturday, 17 May 2014

A tour of the outdoor environment

Recently at 4 kids we have had a few tour groups come through our centre. This has been an awesome opportunity for us as teachers to reflect on our practice and really think about how our environment is set up for the children. We have really enjoyed sharing our knowledge of Reggio Emilia and how their philosophy can be interpreted in a kiwi context. I think we got just as much out of this experience as the teachers who came through our centre!

My colleague Skye and I set up the outdoor environment for one of the tour groups who came through...

Carpentry Table

Dramatic play in the sand pit

A provocation in the vegetabe garden. Books, magnifying glasses and torches to investigate with.

It's always nice to read in the garden

An opportunity for children to develop theories about different materials and their properties

Our children love to build rivers! 

Ephemeral art in the outdoors. Something for the children to discover and add to.
I hope you enjoyed this! Indoor provocations to come...