We started our journey outside on a trail walk in the little forest behind the ECE classroom at Conestoga College again. We went with the lens of using our senses in the environment to see, hear, feel, touch and think about tasting what we found outside. Under this lens, I keep going back to where my little ones would venture off to on this adventure, who would be interested in what, who would require a little more support, and who would be off to discover with little encouragement from me.
My little ones, depending on their abilities all would choose one of these to climb on, and try and jump off. Thankfully, the littler ones, would not be able to climb onto the taller one. I do not help them climb up, if they can get there, I will stand close and support the process, but to help them get up to a place that is to high for them to climb, seems a little unsafe for my comfort zone.
We took some time to break down some research, we broke into groups and looked at the Cultivating Outdoors Classroom, Designing and Implementing Child-Centered Learning Environments, by Eric M. Nelson, Ma, 2012, Chapter 2, Working with Children in the Outdoor Classroom.
"1)Thinking About the Outdoors as a Classroom, 2)Working in Natural Environments, 3)Working with Children Outdoors, 4)Engaging Engaged Children, and 5)Teachers Role." Each of these have powerful expectations and implications on the education of children. My group looked at 4)Engaging Engaged Children "Engaging children is the primary objective of the Outdoor Classroom. Engagement doesn't happen by accident: it required the support of teachers on many levels."Nelson, 2012 The fact is that "Teachers' engagement includes many steps: awareness, observation, connection, reception, acceptance, alignment, empathy, unconditional positive regard, understanding, presence, communication, action, reflection, evaluation and learning." Nelson, 2012
I was blessed with being able to take this workshop. It has brought to mind a few pieces that I need to keep in the forefront of my mind. I am an agent of change, if my program is not working, I need to look at the Action Research Cycle and work through the steps to come to a clear awareness of what needs to be focused on to insure that my environment is working effectively for the children I serve each day.
My SMART goal is to help children get out from behind the windows and start exploring their world hands on. Let's get them outdoors, there is not bad weather, simply bad clothing for the weather conditions.
so, I am going to finish this blog with a wonderful quote from Nelson's book, Cultivating Outdoor Classrooms, taking a look at the "Environment as the Teacher... Placing children at individual desks says something different then gathering them in a group around round a table. Round rooms read to the eye differently than square ones. Classrooms without windows affect children differently than ones with windows. Not surprisingly, the Outdoor Classroom a paradigm shift..." Paradigm shifts according to the dictionary "is a fundamental change in approach."
Personally, I truly hope there are eager RECE's, home childcare providers, teachers, and policy makers ready for this shift in approach.
Lesley Cressman, RECE
October 1st, 2018
Back at the college for another thought provoking workshop. I say that as a reminder, when I am feeling a little discombobulated to remind myself this is the time of tremendous growths. I love the topic of outdoor classrooms; but it is a new process for me to view and label my outdoor play space as an outdoor classroom. "The best classrooms and the richest cupboards are roofed only by the sky." Margaret McMuillan
Facilitated by Maria Cabal Garces, MSC, RECE: "In this two-part series, participants will be invited to rediscover their own excitement about nature and the outdoors, and to explore the role they play in children’s learning in these environments. They will embrace action research as a strategy that will help them analyze current practices, develop a plan to strengthen outdoor play, and create a seamless connection between outdoor and indoor play experiences within a framework of emergent, child responsive curriculum." The PRC Calendar,
In a workshop for outdoor learning, it was fitting that we experienced an outdoor Scavenger hunt. We were asked to explore the quotes on the walls, to find an area we were attracted too and one that made us uncomfortable. My favourite quote was, "Children who have interactions with nature, green space, and play 'develop higher levels of social cohesion and sense of community'... This interaction contributes to children having increased levels of of physical activities which in turn reduces unfavorable health concerns such as stress obesity, mental fatigue, vitamin D deficiency, cardiovascular disease, sleep apnea, and diabetes," Dietze & Kashin
We looked at goals for Documenting Observations, additionally, Elements, Characteristics and Tenets that Support Quality Outdoor Play, and Finding your Focus to explore Outdoor Play. "The Outdoor Classroom addresses the problems facing children today with certain principles, elements, characteristics and tenets."
This was a interesting way of processing information for me. When I worked through the Finding your Focus to explore Outdoor Play paperwork, I came to the following concussions: One area the causes me a little stress in my program is the log section. Specifically, there needs to be more pieces, which can foster more for disrupted play opportunities, My focus on the observation was one of the key elements, "the physical resources are needed to support the outdoor classroom." Cultivating Outdoor Classrooms by Elisabeth Jones
My classroom goal is to create more of this type of work space for the children. I have the bones already in place, I have some of the step logs there. However, I have put out a request for tires and poles from my families and friends. I am hopeful to create this for the children over the long weekend.
Before I go to far on the workshop, I wanted to share just a little about the Region of Waterloo, Home Childcare. Website I am very excited to be working towards my license with the Region of Waterloo. There are a lot of paperwork steps in this process, which is okay. It is just a new learning curve, which those who know me, know I love it. I am glad to be walking this journey with my peer and friend Natasha Kocher, RECE.
"Region of Waterloo Home Child Care Program & Philosophy Statement. The Region of Waterloo Home Child Care program views children as competent, capable of complex thinking, curious and rich in potential. We strive to ensure all children receive quality child care which promotes healthy, social, emotional, cognitive and physical development. We do this by:..." PDF LINK
This conference was all focusing on HighScope; but what is HighScope you might ask? According to the HighScope website, "HighScope's educational approach emphasizes “active participatory learning.” Active learning means students have direct, hands-on experiences with people, objects, events, and ideas. Children’s interests and choices are at the heart of HighScope programs. They construct their own knowledge through interactions with the world and the people around them. Children take the first step in the learning process by making choices and following through on their plans and decisions. Teachers, caregivers, and parents offer physical, emotional, and intellectual support. In active learning settings, adults expand children’s thinking with diverse materials and nurturing interactions. Through scaffolding, adults help children gain knowledge and develop creative problem-solving skills."
My day at the conference was split into three workshops: Building Authentic Relationships, by Erica Hill, Early Childhood Specialist, HighScope, Outdoor Play, Meredith and Kathy, The Heart of Building Relationships with Parents, by Ruth and we had lunch and snacks in between.
The building Authentic Relationships workshop was a full morning time span. We explored the concepts: "natural opportunities for conversations, join the children at their level, responding to the children's conversations, conversing as a partner with the children and ask responsible questions." from the handout.
We also looked at expanding questions from just open-ended to the acknowledgements and contributions spectrum. Remembering to never as a question that you already know the answer to; such as what colour is that crayon.
My lunch was GREAT! Lunch will be provided by The Rich Uncle Tavern. I had a Wood-fired Vegetables/ Seed & Grain Bread sandwich and salad of Baby Arugula/Pear/ Aged Sheep's Cheese, and a granola bar that was incredible.
HighScope, Outdoor Play, Meredith and Kathy, was on safe risky play. This has been a theme of training for me at this moment, I am pulled towards outdoor classrooms, risky play and positive relationships with families right now. I believe it is because, these are the topics that are deep in my core belief system on being a professional educator.
"Learning by doing creates more neural networks in the brain and throughout the body, making the entire body a tool for learning. " Johnson J Christie, Wardie.F 2010, the Importance of Outdoor Play for Children.
We dived into the topic of Executive Function: working memory, international language... connecting the past with present, reflecting, organization, paying attention to details, self-regulation, delayed gratification, persisting, planning, prioritizing, negotiating, compromising, and problem solving.
Personally, I found it shocking to realize that some two and three year olds watch 30 to 35 hours of television in a week. We expanded it to creating a game with a peer in the room, preferably someone you did not know to create a game or activity using your own creativity. "play is executive function". We left the workshop with the knowledge statement that "You are not teachers, you are brain builders."
The last workshop was on The Heart of Building Relationships with Parents. Sadly, I got mixed up and I missed part of this workshop. I went to the wrong room, before I figured out I was in the wrong one. When I got to the right room, I loved it.
Thanks Region of Waterloo, Home Childcare for a AWESOME day!