Author: Flinders University Childcare

Project Wild Thing

Project Wild Thing Last night, some of the educators from Flinders went to watch a documentary called Project Wild Thing. The film was made by a British man named David Bond who is worried about children becoming increasingly disconnected from nature and instead spending time ‘plugged in’ to screens and digital media. David Bond dubbed himself Head of Marketing for Nature and began a nationwide marketing campaign to promote play in natural spaces. This campaign has since become an international movement, which you can read about on the website. Obviously living in Adelaide does not pose the same challenges to accessing natural spaces as living in London does, however many of the reasons why people spend less time outdoors were similar. The Project Wild Thing website offers a range of apps and play ideas to support families to begin spending more time outdoors. There is even an app where you can put in the amount of time you have available and a range of outdoor play ideas are suggested. You can also check out the trailer for the film and join the Wild community. We understand that this might not be for everyone, but we were excited by the film and excited by the Wild Thing movement; at Flinders we love being outdoors and this project is a great way to share our joy! Being outside in natural spaces, fostering a connection to nature, has been shown to have a myriad of benefits for humans regardless of age. Children whoRead more

Why Natural Resources?

Natural resources are a big deal in early childhood education at the moment. It seems every catalogue, blog and article is talking about the importance of natural resources for children. But why? The Early Years Learning Framework (EYLF) states; “Materials enhance learning when they reflect what is natural…Environments and resources can also highlight our responsibilities for a sustainable future and promote children’s understanding about their responsibility to care for the environment. They can foster hope, wonder and knowledge about the natural world.” (pg. 16) The National Quality Standard (NQS) talks about the role of natural resources too, highlighting the need for children to have access to natural elements such as rocks, sticks, sand and water. When we consider that the NQS and the EYLF are our guiding documents in early childhood, we must acknowledge that natural resources are a requirement for high quality education. These documents are based on contemporary research and it is our legal requirement to follow them. But more than that, from a pedagogical perspective natural resources provide children with so many more opportunities for creativity and imagination in their play. Natural resources provide a range of textures and possibilities for children to explore within their play. They are flexible, open ended, aesthetic and unique. Traditional early childhood toys such as those mass produced from plastic do not offer the myriad opportunities that natural resources do. Generally speaking, mass produced, manufactured children’s toys tell children how to play with them; they resemble something so closely that itRead more

Educators as Researchers

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about the role of research in early educational practice, about how the research others have done impacts on our practice. What I’ve come to is this; most of what we do as early childhood educators is research. We observe closely, collect data, make changes, track results, evaluate outcomes, assess for impact. We think and reflect, we study, we learn, we grow. What we don’t do is refer to our work as research, we call it programming and planning. We call it assessment for learning. But what would be the impact if we did call it research? To what extent would this help us, and the communities we work within, validate our work? In search of an answer to this question, we are exploring the role of practitioner research at Flinders this year. A number of educators are involved in a number of projects exploring a number of areas within early education. Elusive, I know, but more details will come to light in due course… When educators engage in practitioner research (also called practitioner inquiry) they begin to unpack and explore concepts that have meaning to them and to their context. Unlike drawing on the work of others, practitioner research is entirely relevant to the educator who is undertaking it, drawing deeply on their own context, ideas and knowledge. This enables educators to develop programs and practices that have a deeply positive impact on the children with whom they are working as the research is aboutRead more

Dealing with the Heat

Well, well, well…according the the United Nations, today Adelaide is the hottest city in the world, predicted to reach a top of 46 degrees! The week as a whole has been a very hot one and the educators at Flinders have been using all their tips and tricks to ensure the children (and educators!) are cool and well during this heat wave. Children often don’t realise how hot they have become and need keen eyed educators to help them maintain a healthy body temperature. For this reason, children are considered a vulnerable population group during extreme weather events such as we have had this week. At Flinders, we keep a regular eye on the daily temperature and forecast for the coming week in order to plan effectively and adjust our routines as needed. This week we implemented a range of “keep cool” strategies across the Houses; only going into the gardens in the early mornings and late evenings moving any outdoor meals indoors having water play and using the heat as an opportunity to explore ice making frozen fruit and yoghurt pops respecting that our bodies might need an extra rest drinking lots and lots of water In order to support the children to maintain high levels of involvement when inside, educators have been complementing these approaches with lots of special, educator supported play experiences. This multifaceted approach has enabled children to stay as cool and involved as possible. We are so proud of all the children, who have adaptedRead more

What is Play, Anyway?

At Flinders we talk a lot about play. Play based learning, play based curriculum, free play, guided play, role modelled play, spontaneous play…the list goes on! But recently it has become clear that our understanding of play is not universal. In fact, despite the introduction of the Early Years Learning Framework (EYLF), the concept of play is not even consistent across early childhood education services. The EYLF states; Play provides opportunities for children to learn as they discover, create, improvise and imagine…Play provides a supportive environment where children can ask questions, solve problems and engage in critical thinking. Play can expand children’s thinking and enhance their desire to know and learn (pg 15) When the EYLF talks about play, it is talking about a very specific kind of play. And at Flinders, we are talking about a very specific kind of play too. Play that is focused, deliberate and engaging, play in which children are deeply involved, this is the kind of play that is a context for learning. Although children are hard wired for play, the kind of play that fosters deep level learning that relates to a range of outcomes and content areas does not always happen naturally. This kind of play requires certain conditions to grow; inspiring environments, flexible resources, a wide range of opportunities, and intentional educators. Each child may also require a different entry point or invitation, or a methodology that is unique to them. Educators need to be responsive, observant and aware in order toRead more

Empowering Children and Families through Transitions

Transitioning is a big, big process for children, families and educators. Next year, the South Australian government will begin single school intakes each year for all government schools. This has had a huge impact on Flinders, where we have traditionally transitioned children to different buildings in groups each term as children left for school. Next year this won’t be the case, and instead we will be having one very large transition across buildings at the end of January when the school terms starts. We have spent the last twelve months planning for this significant change, thinking about how to make it smooth, informed and positive for everyone involved. The biggest thing we have worked on, and will be continuing to work on over the coming two months before the big move, is getting all the relevant information out there. We have found over time that the more knowledge families have about the environment and educators they will be moving to, the more empowered they are about the process. And the more empowered families are, the more empowered children are. So for this reason we have developed a two pronged approach, balancing visits for children with visits for families. Each building has been (or will be) holding information sessions for families, where they can come and meet the educators, get a feel for the environment, and hear about the programs. This is a time for educators to pass on what to expect and be excited about, and for families to askRead more

Making Meaning, Making Marks – Literacy

This is the final in our series of posts regarding children’s mark making, although certainly not the last time mark making will be discussed! It is important at this stage to look at what the Early Years Learning Framework says about making making, especially in regards to literacy development. The EYLF Outcome 5 (Children are effective communicators) deals specifically with communication. Whilst literacy is implicit throughout the EYLF Outcomes, principles and practices, Outcome 5 is really a celebration of literacy in all it’s many forms in early childhood. When most people think of literacy they tend to think of reading and writing, however this definition is too limiting for early childhood, where there are so many ways to express ideas and make meaning. The field of early childhood education and associated research areas are currently seeking a re-definition of literacy in early childhood in order to more truly reflect the nature of children’s communication techniques. This is not to say that reading and writing are no longer relevant, they are and always will be, but more a response to the rote, teaching to the test techniques that have developed over the recent decades. In early childhood, literacy is more than copying letters. It is making meaning through making marks, it is dramatic play, it is telling stories, it is reading books. Literacy in early childhood is the exploration and increased use of language, be it written, spoken, drawn or enacted. The most obvious of these new examples of literacy inRead more

Making Meaning, Making Marks – Representation

The last couple of posts have talked about the typical progressions in children’s mark making. We discussed firstly the power of children recognising that they can make a mark, and then children’s progression into circles, lines and ‘seeing something’ in the drawing. The third major stage of children’s mark making is representation, where children begin to draw things that are recognisable to both themselves and others. These representations take on a range of different subjects and may be drawn from life, memory, imagination or experience, or some combination of these. The important thing is that children are drawing with the intent of drawing some thing, something that is recognisable to them and to others. Children will often begin exploring representational drawing by drawing people or faces. This may be because circles resemble faces (developmental theory), or it may be because children want to draw what is most important to them, the people around them (social constructionist theory). Whatever the motivation, children often begin experimenting with the face, the body, the limbs. Typically it starts with a disembodied face, then perhaps arms and legs may be attached to this face. Next children seem to realise that arms aren’t actually directly attached to faces, but to the body, and a second circle or line may appear to represent the body. The important thing to realise in these early stages is that children do not think arms and legs are attached to heads, but that they are breaking the body down into the mostRead more

Making Meaning, Making Marks – Progression

Last week I posted about children’s mark making, and where they tend to start. First children experience the joy of making their mark; the recognition that they have the power to change things in their world. Once they have discovered this, children begin to take control of the act of mark making in a different way, beginning to explore what the process and the look of the mark in different ways. Some educators and experts refer to the early stages of mark making as ‘scribbling’ – where the child is not trying to draw anything in particular, and neither do the marks look like anything in particular. What is more interesting at this stage is figuring out how to control the marker, and how to coordinate all those muscles at the same time, whilst simultaneously keeping the paper on the table and occasionally changing colours. This a complex dance children are choreographing! In this stage of mark making, lines and shapes tend to join together, with no distinct stops and starts. Mark making tends to start with circles, or circular shapes, and then move into lines, both vertical and horizontal, although it is important to remember that each child’s journey through mark making is unique and may not fit within the typical pattern (this is no cause for alarm!). Children may draw layers of zig zags or round shapes, or one single large motion across the whole paper. The mark may only occupy one corner of the paper, or itRead more

Making Meaning, Making Marks

One of the areas and experiences that is becoming increasingly more pronounced across Flinders is the art space and mark making. The art space and mark making are hugely important aspects of early childhood learning, linking to many learning areas and building links between many experiences. But just what is mark making in the context of early childhood? Broadly, at Flinders we define mark making as any mark made on a 2D surface with a ‘flat’ media. This includes drawing with media such as pencils, markers, pens, pastels and crayons; painting with fingers, brushes, or sponges; or making marks in the earth (sand, soil, concrete etc) with fingers, sticks or chalk; or writing using any of the above mentioned media. It does not include collage (sticking different things onto something) or 3D construction (these explorations are still significant learning opportunities, but they are defined differently). Mark making occurs in a range of ways, and experiences can be introduced as soon as children are able to grasp a pencil or crayon. Of course, mark making processes and products are very different depending on the provocation or invitation provided, the engagement level of the child/ren involved, the child’s familiarity with the media or experience, and their age. Some theorists and practitioners talk about mark making progression as purely based on the age of the child, but at Flinders we see that the child’s previous experience with mark making is just as important as their age; we recognise that children tend to go throughRead more