Learning in the ELC and beyond…

This week we continued to develop the children’s sense of belonging to Alive ELC, as well as the wider Holy Family School community.

At the beginning of the week, the children noticed that our pet turtle Strawberry’s tank was looking “a little bit dirty and smelly” (Imogen). This lead to some group problem solving where we discussed how we could help to fix the problem. The children shared their thoughts, including – “maybe we can take the water out” (Tesi), “and put in the clean water now” (Blaise). In response, both the Murraya [3-4 years] and Grevillea [4-5 years] children were eager to assist. The children took turns to scoop the water out using a small bucket, which we then re-used to water plants in the yard. Afterwards, we used the hose to refill the tank much to the amusement of all involved. Once the tank was full, we noticed that it was still dirty so we figured it was best to give Strawberry some fresh air. Many of the children took turns patting and waving to her in the yard.

Later in the week, Gerry the animal keeper at the School organised for some Year 6 students to come and fix Strawberry’s tank once and for all. They were more than willing to share their knowledge about caring for Strawberry. They even let the children help pump out water using a special device called a siphon.

Other adventures during the week, led groups of Grevillea and Murraya children to explore other areas of the school and meet new friends along the way. This included visiting the MUDLA where some children shared a lesson with a class from Holy Family about the Bearded Dragon. Some children were even brave enough to pat the lizard. Leo excitedly exclaimed, “I love the lizard!” after his turn. A group of older children also went to explore the school grounds including the playground (which was unfortunately still closed), the oval, the MUDLA and the courtyard full of leaves. Lexi was happy to share, “This is my big school soon, you know?”

We look forward to further connecting with the Holy Family School and their living creatures in the future.

Making connections between our learning environments and nature

This week, we have extended upon the children’s interest in the natural world by participating in our first Nature Play SA incursion, observing and documenting the growth of our caterpillars into chrysalis’ and butterflies, as well as taking nature inspired walks in the school grounds. On Tuesday, the children were actively engaged in an incursion called ‘Nature Arts and Crafts’ where they were introduced to Cameron and Maria who used Zoom to share a range of nature based songs, stories and games. The children really enjoyed the story ‘the Magic stick’ and finding their own ‘magic’ items in the garden, including one that was smooth and one that was bumpy. They then used their collections as well as sticks, leaves, seedpods, rocks, yarn and other materials to design their own natural masterpieces. These included:

Eva – “It’s a instrument thing. There is a drum and a guitar and a piano and you press them to make music.”

Xavier – “It’s a plate with a leaf and a stick going in there (inside the yarn).”

Jaylah – “It’s my pretty sticking. There is lots of leaves on there.”

These were shared with Cameron, Maria and Oscar and Emmett Standing (who joined us in the Zoom call). They were very impressed with our creations, as we were with Oscar and Emmett’s wonderful designs. We look forward to our next incursion on Tuesday 26th of May.

This week we also saw the wonderful transformation of our caterpillars into both Chrysalis’ and Butterflies. We noticed that there was a very big butterfly in the enclosure and the flowers inside didn’t look like they had much pollen left to feed it. When asked what we could do to help look after the butterfly (and perhaps find it some food), the children had some wonderful ideas, such as:

Tesi – “Get some flowers and take them outside to the flowers, just the butterflies.”

Imogen – “We could go for a little walk and release the butterfly.”

On Thursday, we took the children on a walk into Holy Family to release the biggest butterfly into the flowerbeds. They took the opportunity to not only release the flowers but also collect new flowers for our soon to be butterflies, as well as some beautiful coloured leaves for future arts and crafts experiences.

 

Explorations of the natural world

In the past few weeks, the children have demonstrated a keen interest in the natural world, which seems to have stemmed from the Moths that have been visiting our playground. This helped to guide our learning throughout the week as children were exposed to many engagements with the natural and living world.

Originally, we were curious to find out what Moths were visiting. Blaise suggested, “Lunar Moths”, whilst Charlotte instead believed they were in fact “Rain Moths.” After our research, we concluded that they were most likely rain moths and proceeded to investigate their appearance and life cycle. The children used matching experiences to represent their ideas. Throughout this process, Olivia communicated an interesting idea, “After they’ve been a caterpillar they go to a chrysalis and after a chrysalis they become a moth or maybe a moth.”

Building upon this theory, we looked into the Very Hungry Caterpillar story and uncovered that butterflies and moths do typically share the same lifecycle. Excitingly for us our caterpillar enclosure arrived on Thursday and we began to closely observe what we saw. Max shared, “It goes upside down like a silk and gets cocoon and transforms into a caterpillar.” Mattia observed, “The little caterpillar is eating the leaf”, and Mattia stated, “It gonna turn into a butterfly.” Amazingly, on Friday we had our first butterfly appearing from a Chrysalis. We therefore placed some colourful flowers into their enclosure to help feed them over the weekend. This excitement coincided with further visits from the Rain Moths, which children used as real-life models for their paintings. Noticing that the moths were perhaps a little overwhelmed we decided to place them on a tree in the yard. Tesi stated, “That is their nature. That’s where they live,  like their home.” Thus, Making a wonderful connection between the living world and a sense of belonging which we also experience as people.

Extending upon the notions of being grateful and caring for God’s creations in the living world, we also discussed how we could help to look after our new caterpillars and butterflies. Here were a few wonderful ideas.
Xavier – “By sitting down with the caterpillar.”
Aria – “Don’t unzip their home.”
Joel – “We look and listen and not poke them or break their home.”
Max – “To eat plant stems and leaves.”

Over the coming weeks we look forward to continuing our explorations into the natural and living world. This will include looking into the life-cycles of other creatures and continuing to observe and care for other living creatures at our ELC and Holy Family School.

 

Harmony Week

This week we have been learning about Harmony Day – a day that encourages all people to participate in their community with respect for cultural and religious diversity as well as helping to foster sense of belonging for everyone. The children engaged in a range of activities to explore the notion of togetherness and belonging as part of the local, national and international community. This included identifying and painting ‘flags of the world’, making a classroom wreath of identity and listening and responding to music from various cultures.

On Friday 20th of March, on Harmony Day, the Marraya children read the story “I’m Australian Too” by Mem Fox and sang the song ‘We are One’ which celebrates diversity in Australian society. Afterwards, the children discussed where they and their families are from. The countries included Ireland, Greece, Vietnam and India. The Gravillea children played a dice game with questions related to their families, such as ‘Where were you born?’, ‘Where is your family from?’ The children gave some wonderful responses and we learned a lot about others within our classroom community.

 

 

Mark Making

What is mark making? The early marks that children make on paper and other surfaces consist of lines and shapes and are often referred to as scribbles, however, these marks are the first steps towards writing. Making marks also supports physical development, imagination and creativity. Sometimes marks are made just for the physical pleasure, such as in Anthony’s case. He used a whiteboard and markers, enjoying the gliding motion of the markers on the whiteboard.  As children learn that their marks, as symbols, can represent their thinking it is wonderful for educators and families to see children’s thinking become visible.

Making marks is a physical skill. Children need to be able to control the large muscles in the body before they can control a mark making too,l such as a pencil. Core strength is required to make marks. Babies “coordinate their arm muscles from the shoulder, then the elbows and then the wrists. Skilful manipulation of the fingers or fine motor skills, comes last” (Meyerhoff, 2013).

In St. Anne’s Room many of the children are displaying interest in mark making. This week we provided many opportunities for this, inside and outside, with a variety of resources. Clipboards were especially popular. We observed children making marks about their current favourite interests. An example of this is Lorenzo’s volcano drawings. Currently he talks about volcanoes and how he is going to make one at home.

     

Some of the children are demonstrating writing in their marks. Often their first writing involves people who are significant to them. Frankie made a book about Santa’s toy sack and wrote on it. We asked her to read it to us, at first she said, “I don’t know, I can’t read”, she then told us it said, “For mummy”. Leo made marks as he painted at the easel outside. He used recognisable letters and some words. A favourite saying of Leo’s is “Where mummy?” He attempted to write this using his prior knowledge of letters and sounds.

               

Children also make marks about experiences they have had, whether they are trying to make sense of them or wanting to communicate the experiences to others. Edward drew a picture of an experience he told us he had, he also wrote his name. “I love Coca Cola, I was tiptoeing out of the bed and had a drink of Coca Cola and ran back to my bed before Dad wakes up”.

                 

Ava drew a picture of one of her dreams. It was about Monster’s Inc. She talked about Sully the monster and drew her representation of Mike, another monster.

               

Marks have been made by children this week to explain their thinking about concepts. Alex was exploring the concept of whole and half with a small group of children and Ojasvi drew a wonderful picture of her explanation of whole. She drew the whole world.

Children are born with a desire to communicate. As children develop they make meaning through mark making. We aim to create an environment where the children feel secure and know that their creativity is valued which we hope will lead to prolific mark making.

Links to The Early Years Learning Framework

Outcome 1. Children feel safe, secure and supported

Outcome 5. Children express ideas and make meaning using a range of media

Links to philosophy

We will provide an emergent and responsive curriculum for all children based from the philosophy of the service, provocations of educators and children’s strengths and interests as well as the interests of the group.

Learning opportunities in routines and transitions

Over the last couple of weeks we noticed that routines and transitions in St. Anne’s Room have had an increasingly smooth flow. As educators, we believe that throughout the routines and transitions of the day there are valuable learning opportunities for all children, such as; relationship building, supporting a sense of belonging and identity, language and skill development and independence. These opportunities may arise during transitions from one space to another or when handwashing for snack or organising their bowl, cup and cutlery for lunch time and so on.

All aspects of the program, including routines, are organised in ways to maximise opportunities for each child’s learning. (The National Standard, ACECQA, revised 2018)

One part of the routine that has particularly shown development is the transition the children make from their play, inside or outside, to group times. The children are now familiar with the group they are in, Murraya or Grevillea, and know which end of the room they have group time in. As soon as they hear the bells for group time there are children sitting ready for their peers to join them. This has supported the children that have started recently, they learn from the children who are familiar with the routine. We have also introduced visuals into the environment to support the inclusion of all children in routines and with transitions, ie. a visual timetable using photographs and pictorial symbols that the educators use with the children.

The sense of belonging to a group has developed, Emannoop was concerned when he noticed that his Grevillea group sign on the door had disappeared, he searched high and low until he found it. The children are beginning to use the words Grevillea and Murraya too. Belonging to a group is supporting a sense of identity. When children feel they belong they are more receptive to learning.

Our image of the child is rich in potential, strong, powerful, competent, and, most of all, connected to adults and other children. (Loris Malaguzzi, Young Children 1993)

Group times offer opportunities for children to be connected. Learning is evident throughout the routine but we have noticed that group times have become a time where the children enjoy being together with their peers and experiencing shared learning. Group times are the part of the routine where we routinely focus on Prayer, discussing bucket filling and specks of gold. This week Murraya group have also been learning about Australian animals, their habitats and the sounds they make. We had positive feedback from Casey, Mason’s mum, she told us how amazed she was that Mason was talking about Kookaburras at home. The Grevillea group had a focus on colours, a particular interest of Max’s. We read ‘Where is the green sheep?’, mixed colours, made shades of colours and played games involving colours.

The children demonstrate their independence throughout the routine. They have become particularly capable at organising their own rest mats before lunch and then after resting; cleaning them and putting them away. It is also lovely to see the children helping each other when required. An example of this was when Aria showed her new friend, Anna, every step of the process with the mats. Xavier is often observed helping others lift their mats into the storage cupboard to pack them away.

The children are involved in designing the routines, this has shaped Grevillea Prayer time, for example.  Eva asked if she could set up the space for prayer time with the Bible, the statue of Mary, Joseph and Jesus and other resources, we now do this every day, the children love having the responsibility for certain jobs. This also provides an opportunity to develop their emerging autonomy.

When routines and transitions are consistent and predictable, as they are for the children in St. Anne’s Room, they can contribute to a positive learning environment.

 

Links to The Early Years Learning Framework

‘Children feel safe, secure and supported and use effective routines to help make predicted transitions smoothly’

‘Children develop their emerging autonomy, inter-dependence, resilience and sense of agency’

Outcome 1: Children have a strong sense of identity (Belonging, Being and Becoming: The Early Years Learning Framework for Australia, 2009)

 

Links to our philosophy

We will provide an emergent and responsive curriculum for all children based from the philosophy of the service, provocations of educators and children’s strengths and interests as well as the interests of the group.

 

Play is literacy (Wohlwend 2015)

The children in St. Anne’s Room continued to engage in shop play this week. With the provision of resources to support role- playing shops we continued to observe the children. We wondered whether their play was about shops or making connections with each other as they used the shop scenario to initiate interactions.  

This week we have noticed many less spontaneous announcements of “Ice cream” around the room. This may be because the shop is providing some opportunities for the interactions that the children are seeking or because the children themselves are discovering new ways of initiating interactions themselves.  

We observed an example of the children initiating group interactions this week on numerous occasions. Some children collected as many chairs as they could and arranged them in different ways. On one occasion the chairs were arranged in a long single line and it became a train, another occasion saw the chairs arranged in lines of two and it became a bus. This play has been led by Jon and Tavae, wonderfully, the play has been very inclusive, whoever wants to have a ride on the vehicle, can.  

In addition to social interactions the shop also offered opportunities for both literacy and numeracy. The clipboards are popular, some children like being in the shop to draw, like Leo, who draws his family. Others use the clipboards as shopping lists or to show customers what is on offer, such as Ojasvi, she makes wavy lines on her paper from left to right then she offers, “Noodles”, pointing to her paper. Ellara had a different purpose for her writing, she hung her papers up on the frame behind the shop, “To tell people not to climb”. She then wrote one to inform everyone that it was lunchtime. As the week progressed the children’s interest became more focused on using the clipboards and writing for different purposes, Eva wrote to Santa, Charlotte recorded her teddy’s temperature and Sarah wrote to her Grandma in Melbourne. 

We saw numeracy with the children using large buttons as dollars. There has been much comparing of who has the most dollars and counting to ensure fairness. Sorting the dollars using the attribute of colour has been prevalent too. We introduced some numbers to the shop, the children were particularly interested in the numbers that meant something to them. Leo held up the number three and said, “I three”. There was also interest in the numbers on the cash register display. Alex pushed the button twice on the cash register and two numbers appeared, he said, “75”. He pushed more numbers until the display was full, he then said, “A thousand”. He knew that more numbers meant a bigger number like one thousand.  

The theorists, Jean Piaget and Lev Vygotsky, both emphasise the important contribution role play makes in children’s development.  “From a Piagetian viewpoint, creating sociodramatic play opportunities allows children to independently consolidate cognitive skills like concepts of print, and explore the interactions between other individuals and the physical environment” (Piaget 1962: Yaden, Rowe and MacGillivray, 2000).  

A focus for the children in their role play this week has been literacy. From a Vygotskian perspective literacy is viewed as a social, constructive process that begins in early life (Vygotsky 1967). Emergent literacy develops through everyday experiences with others, shop role provides this opportunity.  

We will continue to observe how the children are developing their skills in initiating interactions with others in their play and we will provide further resources for literacy which encompasses communication through language, making marks, recognising symbols and social and emotional development.  

Links to The Early Years Learning Framework 

Practice – Learning through play. When children play with other children they create social groups, test out ideas, challenge each other’s thinking and build new understandings. 

Outcome 5 – Children are effective communicators. Experiences in early childhood settings build on the range of experiences with language, literacy and numeracy that children have within their families and communities.  

Links to our philosophy 

We will engage in projects that build on the learning of educators and foster new understandings of the ways in which children learn and grow in their early years. 

Anyone for Ice cream? The Power of Role Play in Children’s Learning

Some of the children in St. Anne’s room have been observed engaging in a variety of shop role play. We noticed that outside Charlotte transported items to set up her own shop. At the playdough table Charlie, Lexi and Olivia made cupcakes and offered them for sale. Tesi stood at the door of the light room and called out to the main room, “Ice cream, ice cream for sale”. Ojasvi and Mischka climbed up a step so they were higher than the other children around them and called out, “Ice cream”, in unison. This play has not been limited to ice cream, it’s also been sandwiches and with Lorenzo: chocolate cake.

As the educators reflected on this play we decided to set up a role play shop for the children. We placed it outside as that was where the majority of the shop play was observed. However, we wonder whether the play is about shops, buying, selling and re-enacting their own experiences or whether it is a vehicle for something else, like connection.

Role play or pretend play is thought to be imaginative and fun but it also has much learning value. During role play children learn about themselves and the world, they may act out new learning, their fears, interests or dislikes. For example, how often in children’s dramatic hospital play do we see them giving each other vaccinations? Children are acting out an experience that they may not understand or find scary. They do this in a safe environment where they can explore their feelings and make sense of the world.

Shop role play has many opportunities for learning, such as; sorting food into groups with similar attributes, mathematically organising food in spatial arrangements, calculating the cost of food, communicating verbally and through writing, exploring shapes and weights, collaboration and so on.

The Early Years Learning Framework informs our curriculum. It states “Children develop a sense of belonging to groups and communities and an understanding of the reciprocal rights and responsibilities necessary for active community participation”. We wonder if this is what are children are trying to achieve by building on their own social experiences, negotiating roles and inviting reciprocal play?

These observations also link with our philosophy, “We will engage in projects, both internally and externally, that build on the learning of educators and foster new understandings of the ways in which children learn and grow in their early years.”

Here are some photos of our first observations of the children engaged in our role play shop. We will reflect on these and keep you informed as we attempt to interpret the learning. We would love to hear your thoughts.

24/10/2019

To start off a very hot day, we went outside and engaged in some water play, to stay nice and cool.

As it started to heat up, we made our way into Home 2, where we all engaged in a range of inquiries. Some of us engaged in socio-dramatic play, such as pretend cooking, dress-ups and role play. Kunal noticed a milipede and was observing how they moved. Some of us enjoyed building and construction using the Lego and blocks and others enjoyed creating a range of artwork using paint, the whiteboards and pencils.

Tesi and Jon started creating patterns using the lose parts.

Tesi: “white, black, white, black, white oh, black comes next”.

Jon: “Black, white, white, black, white, black”.

Tesi: “Look Jon, we need a white”.

 

Specks of Gold

My speck of gold was playing with the doctor set- Haniya

My speck of gold was playing with Tavae- Tarun

My speck of gold was doing prayer- Arabella

My speck of gold was playing with the books – Olivia

My speck of gold was making a truck- Liam

My speck of gold was playing with Arielle- Tesi

 

17/10/2019

To start off our wonderful morning, we went outside to engage in a range of provocations based around the children’s interests. Many children were engaged in painting, whilst other children enjoyed engaging in play that strengthened their gross motor skills and encouraged creativity and curiosity.

After playing outside for quite some time, we progressively made our way into Home 2, where we had the opportunity to explore other provocations that encouraged socio-dramatic play, problem solving, curiosity, creativity, perseverance, love of learning and zest. Take a look at our learning.

Specks of Gold

My speck of gold is playing with Aisha- Olivia

My specks of gold was playing with Ariel and my friends to hunt millipedes- Tesi

Playing with Tesi- Ariel

My speck of gold was playing with Olivia- Omelia

My speck of gold was playing with Omelia – Kunal