Author: Flinders University Childcare

Why Flinders?

Over the past couple of years there have been some significant changes to the field of early childhood education. These changes, including the Early Years Learning Framework (EYLF) and the National Quality Framework (NQF), have lead to a significant decrease in the perceived gap between kindergartens and childcare centres. Previously, childcare has been seen as a service exclusively devoted to caring for children, and that when children are old enough they head off to kindy to begin their education. The reality is, high quality childcare has long been an environment that caters to the care AND education of children, with the awareness that for very young children there is often no difference. With the Labor government’s changes, the public perception of childcare began to change as people became more aware of the way children learn and the learning that takes place in childcare centres. This changing perception, however, is not pervasive; some people still believe that children need to go to kindy to learn. This is despite both facilities following the same curriculum framework and being assessed under the same standards. So when families choose to stay at Flinders and not access a kindy, they are sometimes receiving flack from those who don’t know. These families sometimes choose to share other’s responses with us. This bothered us, so we thought we’d plead our (and their) case. There are many reason to choose Flinders over a kindy.  Firstly, there are the national laws which outline the use of the same curriculumRead more

Environmental Planning

Programming at Flinders is framed by the Early Years Learning Framework and the centre philosophy, and is deeply rooted in play. Generally speaking, programming draws on children’s interests, key learning areas, and is specific to the context. So the Baby House program will look different to the Sturt House program, but there will be consistent and recognisable themes or ideas through both. The programs at Flinders are typically based on two key and intersecting areas; environments and interactions (provocations). Today we will talk about the environmental aspects of the program, and next time we will talk about interaction and provocation. We believe that children learn best through resourcing their own learning and having access to a range of different resources and spaces. This belief is based on Waldorf and Steiner theories of education, Vygotsky’s theory of children as actively engaged in their own learning, and the Reggio Emilia approach. When you pull different elements of each of these key theories together, the value of the physical environment is emphasised and everything from the colour of the walls to the volume of the music playing becomes significant. When we are planning for children’s learning (programming), we consider all aspects of the environment. Some things, like the colour of the walls, are mostly fixed, and require long term negotiations to change. Other things, like the music that is playing, the books and resources that are available, and how these are presented, are flexible and can change on a daily (even hourly) basis.Read more

Waking Up

I spent some time in Baby House today, during a gentle patch in their afternoon. Whilst I was there, some children were waking up from their sleeps. As I watched the educators help the children readjust to the room, I found myself thinking about an article I read recently by Anne Stonehouse. She was talking about babies and very young children transitioning from the bedroom to the play room, and the significance of this time. I watched as these babies were gently taken from the darkened bedroom to the bathroom, where they were gently dressed. I watched as the educators carried these babies into the play room, speaking softly to them and letting them know what was going on. I watched these babies take a moment to sit and just be, then once they were ready, move off to say hello or to play. Not one baby was distressed. Not one educator was rushed. Everyone took their time and moved gently and calmly about the space. It all just felt so kind, the way these educators recognised the children’s need to move slowly and gently between sleep and awake. Their intentionality during this time, the way the educators seemed to place themselves and make themselves accessible, the way only one educator helped one child at a time get out of bed, was so considered, and so responsive to the children. What a beautiful way for these children to start the afternoon. What a beautiful way for me to start theRead more

Why White?

Flinders has undergone a massive change over the past month…we have been painted! No longer do we enter lavender and lemon coloured houses! This has been a long time coming for the educators at Flinders and signals a significant change in thinking regarding children’s environments for learning. Flinders has been lavender and lemon for over ten years. These colours were chosen for their believed benefits to children; colours that fostered calm in people based on principles of colour therapy. However, over the last ten years, thinking in this area has shifted dramatically, as one would expect. Experts in early childhood environments now emphasise the importance of neutral colour schemes that compliment rather than compete with the inhabitants of the space. Because that’s the thing about early childhood environments; they are rarely seen empty. They are filled with children, educators, resources, sounds and light. They become quickly busy and full of documentation and art work. So if a space is brightly coloured when empty, it becomes overwhelmingly coloured when filled with people. This can increase levels of stress, anxiety and tension. On the other hand, when a space is  neutrally painted and furnished, the addition of children, educators, resources and documentation creates a balanced and interesting environment. The inhabitants of the space bring life and excitement to it; complimenting that environment rather than competing with it. This decreases the ‘busyness’ of the environment and creates space for children to be. The environment should be a blank canvas, only complete once theRead more

Children’s Documentation

Documentation and assessment for learning are an important part of what we do as early childhood educators. Documentation helps us to recognise what is working, what isn’t, what opportunities there are, what children know and what children are thinking about. It is essential for planning, reflecting and assessing against the Early Years Learning Framework and for measuring the ‘distance traveled’ by children. But what about children’s documentation; children’s versions of what they know and see? Their self assessment, their understanding of what they have learned and how far they have come? How do educators capture this and use it to inform their planning, reflection and assessment? Sturt House have introduced journalling as a tool to enable children to document their own learning. Each child has their own learning journal, which travels between Sturt House and home, and operates separately to their learning portfolio. As well as this, there are two journals that track learning relating to two key curriculum areas; gardening and cooking. The educators use these journals as a way of sharing the role of ‘documentor’ with children. The journals are a place where the child’s voice sits beside the educator’s voice, creating a balanced and shared perspective on events and experiences. The challenge for children’s documentation is finding ways for all children to be heard. Sturt House achieve this by taking a wider view of what constitutes recording. Children are supported to share their thinking in a variety of ways. Some children choose to write, have their wordsRead more

Into the Wild

One of the exciting things we are exploring at Flinders is nature play; the idea that getting out of the everyday spaces and into the wild offers children an opportunity to take risks both physically, emotionally and cognitively. The Sturt House children recently did just that; took a risk (after an extensive risk assessment) and left the centre, heading into the wild space between the Flinders and the university. The educators planned this experience believing that leaving the centre and entering the wild would build learning dispositions in children, such as resilience, persistence and risk management. And it is obvious these opportunities did present themselves when you look at the photographs taken during the walk. The children left the path and tackled long grass, muddy puddles and slippery hillsides, all of which required dedication, commitment and team work to overcome. Perry commented; “See, I just go straight through; nothing stops me!” demonstrating the positivity and persistence the children experienced. The biggest challenge the children faced was getting up and down the steep hill. They shared theories with each other; walking sideways, not running, taking your time and being careful, going down on bottoms, and walking on the grass instead of the track as it had more grip. “Hey take my hand and I’ll pull you up!” one child called to the next. The children were then able to test their theories and discover which one worked best for them, then test this result on the next hillside. Science is aRead more

Playful Numeracy

We’ve been very interested in a collection of wild peach stones that Sturt House shared with us in Preschool House over the last couple of months. Initially, I set up the lovely little balls in a tray with a collection of spoons and some different sized glass jars. I wasn’t sure what would happen, but I predicted it could become a space for some playful numeracy.  And playful numeracy did emerge. Children were intrigued from the first morning the provocation was offered. I observed their play over the morning, noticing how children combined the different resources in different ways. Some children filled each jar using handfuls of stones that they dropped in masses, and some carefully and methodically moved one stone at a time into the jar using a spoon. Some children took delight in pouring the stones from one vessel to another, and some children worked to ‘trap’ the stones underneath the upturned jars. But all children were deeply engaged with what they were doing. That afternoon, I took a moment to sit quietly with the children at the table. Saffron was beside me. She had two jars, one big and one small. She filled the small one first, and as she filled it, she counted the peach stones. She made it to twenty before making eye contact with me and asking what comes next – “21” I answered and she continued on. “27. 27 peach stones fit in the small jar” Saffron announced. “Now how many fit inRead more

Framed

The other day I was washing the dishes whilst having a conversation with two of the children, Violet and Perry. We chatted about many things, and eventually our conversation led to their families. I suggested they might like to do a painting for their families, and Violet informed me she had already done so. “Would you like to make a painting for Preschool House then? You see these frames here? We could put your paintings in there when they dry” I offered. Violet and Perry smiled wide and turned around to the easel to begin painting. It was interesting to watch them. Both Violet and Perry are very capable artists who regularly paint, draw and sculpt. Today, however, watching them paint, I felt there was something different in their focus, some deeper level of attentiveness. I regularly noticed them taking the time to step back and look at their work, perhaps considering where to make the next mark or what colour to add. I wondered if it was the offer to frame their work that had made a difference to their focus, or if it was my focus that had changed; was I watching them in a different way, knowing that their work would be displayed on the wall? We hung the paintings up to dry once they were finished. When it was time to go home, Perry checked his work and said; “It’s dry now! You can put it in the frame!” His mum looked at me questioningly, andRead more

Children’s Gardens

Did you happen to watch Gardening Australia on Saturday evening? They did a special on children’s gardens and gardens for families, and the episode really resonated with me. So much of what they were talking about is what we are trying to achieve at Flinders. Costa went to Kings Park in Perth and played in their natural play space, and the way he talked about risk, imagination and natural play was so exciting. The school in Melbourne was truly inspiring; the beautiful plantings, use of open ended space, access to loose parts and consideration for ‘outdoor rooms’ are all brilliant examples of natural, flexible outdoor play. The biggest thing I was excited by was the fact that the broader community is starting to talk about the importance of natural spaces and appropriate levels of risk for children. Natural play spaces provide children with opportunities to explore creative, open ended play, to assess and take risks, and to build a relationship with the natural world. These are the kinds of things research is showing to be best for children’s learning and development, and these are the kinds of environments all early childhood services (and the broader community, for that matter!) should be providing for children. You can catch the episode on iView here: http://www.abc.net.au/iview/#/view/39659 Catch it while you can, it  expires in 9 days!

Can I Really?

I’ve spent a fair bit of time working on a lovely post about numeracy and play at Flinders that has been discarded because in Adelaide it has finally started to RAIN! So we have begun implementing our winter play program. Now this is all becoming very familiar for the educators here at Flinders, but I think I had forgotten for a minute what a significant part of our program winter play is for the children. Especially the children who have only just started. So I help the five or so children who are ready to play outside get into their rain suits and put on their gumboots, get into mine, and off we go. As we we stand out in the rain, hearing it fall onto our hoods, I notice one child, Connor, looking at me intently. “It’s all wet” he says. “It is. It’s raining” I reply. “Do we need to wipe it down?” he wonders, and I reply; “No, you are in your rain suit, you will stay dry.” “Can I go in the sand pit?” he asks, eyes wide. “Of course! You can go anywhere you like!” I tell him. “Can I jump  in the puddles?” he continues, and I nod again, smiling. With a swift intake of breath, Connor heads down the creek bed and straight to the edge of a puddle. He jumps, landing with a splash, and the look on his face is complete and utter delight. And this is the moment I realiseRead more