Author: Flinders University Childcare

What is Inquiry?

In our last post, we discussed the road to inquiry, detailing some of the steps that educators may take towards implementing lines of inquiry, or projects. But just what is inquiry learning, and why is it a feature of the educational programs at Flinders? Put simply, inquiry learning is a child-centred approach to learning, where children’s questions or interests become an ongoing focus for learning. Educators centre children’s questions or interests by providing a range of experiences, resources and texts that offer support or extension of ideas. Inquiry approaches recognise that children are active participants in their learning, which is fundamental to the image of children presented in the Early Years Learning Framework (EYLF). This means that children have a right to make decisions about what they are learning. In Outcome 4, the EYLF states; Children develop a range of skills and processes such as problem solving, inquiry, experimentation, hypothesising, researching and investigating (p35) The EYLF further elaborates that educators support this learning when they; provide babies and toddler with resources that offer challenge, intrigue and surprise, support their investigations and share their enjoyment provide opportunities for involvement in experiences that support the investigation of ideas, complex concepts and thinking, reasoning and hypothesising encourage children to make their ideas and theories visible to others (p35) Through engaging in inquiry, children develop skills closely associated with scientific thinking, but learning in early childhood is not limited to particular content areas. Children’s learning is fundamentally holistic and intertwined; the scientific skills developedRead more

The Road to Inquiry

As the weeks pass, the dust begins to settle from the busy-ness of the transition period. Children, families and educators are coming to know one another and find ways of embracing commonalities and differences. Houses are finding rhythm as we step forwards, backwards and sideways, dancing our way through the days. The first step in becoming a community of learners is to establish responsive, respectful and reciprocal relationships, as we discussed in the three previous blogs; Beginning with Relationships, Building Relationships  – What does it look like? and Building Relationships – Connecting with peers. As these relationships emerge, educators begin to look more closely at children’s interests, wonderings and curiosities. Beginning with what children are doing, educators document and record patterns of interests. Where do children play? What do they play with? How do they play with it? Who are they playing with? These initial recognitions form the basis for programs as they help educators decide what resources to put out, where to put them, and what to add to them. So, if a group of children are interested in painting, educators might continue to offer painting, but ensure there is a variety of paint types available over the course of the month, like acrylic, watercolour, poster or tempera. On the surface, this offering of resources constitutes a play-based, child-led program. But The Early Years Learning Framework invites educators to go further, encouraging educators to engage in “intentional teaching” and practices of assessment that help us to understand what isRead more

Building Relationships – Connecting with Peers

As children begin to feel comfortable in the space and in relationship with educators, they begin to recognise the possibility of connecting with their peers. Reaching out for friendship and connection looks very different for different combinations of children at different times and in different spaces – there are endless variables that children learn to recognise and navigate as they explore their social worlds. Learning to be friends is complex and fraught with emotional risk. Children, in seeking companionship, demonstrate incredible levels of resilience as they reach out, make mistakes, experience success, and try it all again tomorrow. If we undertook the same process that children undertake as adults I expect we would be in awe of children’s competence and bravery. Children might reach out for friendship by: passing a toy to a peer (or taking a toy from a peer!) playing the same game alongside a peer smiling and other reciprocal facial expressions spontaneously joining in play with a peer, such as throwing back a ball that passes them by and then continuing the game explicitly joining in play with a peer, such as inviting or agreeing to an invitation to play Connections to peers is essential to development of belonging, and results in a strong sense of community. The EYLF states; “Children’s connectedness and different ways of belonging with people, country and communities helps them to learn ways of being which reflect the values, traditions and practices of their families and communities. Over time this learning transforms the ways theyRead more

Building Relationships – What does it look like?

In our last post, we emphasised the importance of developing relationships at this early stage of the year. The Early Years Learning Framework (EYLF), the Flinders Philosophy and the National Quality Standard (NQS) all emphasise the significance of relationships as the foundation for children’s learning. But what does this look like? Each child is unique, and will require a thoughtful and nuanced approached in the establishment of relationships. Educators are observant and reflective in their practice during this time, seeking a wide range of possibilities for connections. This might look like; Returning the smile of a child on entry Providing a safe pair of arms on saying goodbye Remembering their favourite story, and having it ready to read Ensuring children’s favourite play-things are displayed or readily available Gratefully receiving children’s gifts, such as collected leaves, pictures, or stories from home Sitting close by as children play, and being a reliable and predictable presence, ready with a smile Educators are mindful of the importance of communication at this time, both with families and with one another. We encourage and invite your feedback, questions and comments via email, phone call, or on drop off and pick up. If you would like to discuss anything in further detail, we invite you to make a time with an Assistant Director or the Director.

Beginning with Relationships

“No significant learning occurs without a significant relationship” James Comer As we begin the year at Flinders we welcome many new families and children in our major annual intake. Existing children, families and educators are also transitioning to new Houses, exploring the dynamics of new groups and environments. These transitions are mindfully planned, however the most carefully laid plans are never equal to the reality of differing personalities and family contexts that come together through January and February. Whilst it would be easy to get caught up in the busy-ness inherent with discovering the new, educators are mindful that the success and happiness of our coming year is pinned on this time, as we establish respectful, reciprocal relationships with children and families. As we move through this process of building relationships, we pay attention to our guiding documents; Belonging, Being and Becoming The Early Years Learning Framework for Australia (EYLF) and the Flinders Philosophy. The EYLF tells us; “Educators who give priority to nurturing relationships and providing children with consistent emotional support can assist children to develop the skills and understandings they need to interact positively with others” (p12) We interpret this to mean that relationships come first, before all other learning; we must prioritise the establishment and maintenance of relationships with children. The Flinders Philosophy states; “Our environments are a place of belonging, where there is space for everyone to feel safe, to feel they are heard, and to share their ideas, understandings and learning.” This feeling of safety, andRead more

Our Planet, Their Future

Sustainability is defined as ‘Meeting the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs’ (United Nations, 2016). Being sustainable is critical to ensuring future generations have the opportunity to enjoy the beautiful world we live in. At Flinders we are mindful that: Only 1/5th of plastics get recycled. More than 1 billion people do not have access to fresh water and excessive water consumption contributes to the global water stress. Each year, an estimated 1/3rd of all food produced ends up rotting in bins or spoiling due to poor harvesting practices and transportation. Plastic has been found in the stomachs of marine life all over the world As a result, we are making it our responsibility to not only continually improve our own sustainable practices but to also ensure that children are provided with the tools for living their own sustainable lifestyles. Composting After every meal the children know to place their food scraps into the compost bin, a process which starts in Baby House. We then transfer our own food scraps to the large compost bin with the rest of the Houses. What happens to our food scraps after it is placed in the bin is a question several children ponder, and why can some things be composted and other thing can’t was another. Gardening The seed to table program is a vital part of our program, engaging children in learning about the food cycle by growing, harvesting and cooking food.Read more

Playful Investigations

At Flinders we talk a lot about play. Play underpins our Philosophy, pedagogy, and assessment and planning cycles. Play is fundamental to children’s learning and is emphasised in the Early Years Learning Framework and the National Quality Standard. Play can basically be defined as anything children choose to do independently, which leaves the concept of play-based learning open to a wide range of interpretations. This can leave people wondering; what are children actually learning? Learning is a highly individualised process, and it can often take a great deal of time for it to become clear. Babies playfully investigate everything they encounter, often by mouthing or otherwise touching. Play for toddlers continues to be primarily a sensory experience; the texture of paint is perhaps more valid than what images children can paint. As children grow, play becomes thematic and imaginative. When children are supported to investigate, explore and wonder through play, and when they are supported by intentional educators, the sensory play of babies eventually becomes the careful and purposeful enquiry of the five-year-olds currently transitioning out of Sturt House. Here are some examples of their garden discoveries, explored through the context of playful inquiry. We have found many exciting things in the garden this week! Here are a few… The children thought it could be a “baby lizard.” S thought that it could be a baby “blue tongue lizard.” We researched skinks and geckos. Our research told us that skinks can blink, while geckos cannot. Skinks have full eyelids that enableRead more

Community Events

The end of the year is rapidly approaching and Flinders is in full planning mode! Educators are carefully planning transitions, beginning to develop summative statements and holistic overviews, and preparing portfolios that celebrate children’s learning across 2019. There are a number of important community events taking place in November that we invite our current families to attend. Annual General Meeting: an opportunity to come and hear about the experiences and achievements of the last 12 months, as well as our philosophy and future directions. Please see invitations in each House. Internal Transition Morning: an opportunity to come and spend some time in your child’s House for 2020, meeting educators and becoming familiar with the space. Please refer to invitations in your current House and see your Assistant Director for further information. End of Year Party: a save the date has been sent on accounts, and an invitation is on its way. We would love to see as many families as possible at these events, community participation is not only essential to the operation of community-based services such as Flinders; community is what makes us unique.

Talking without Words

For the last 12 months Flinders has been participating in the Re-Imagining Childhood Project, which focuses on children as citizens with rights from birth. The project brought together teams of educators from 13 early childhood sites across South Australia, who engaged in action research projects alongside children aged birth to three years. Flinders focused on children’s non-verbal communication, and how children engage with one another to build community. The final question was; Talking without Words: How do children embody community through non-verbal communication? Recently the project came to a close, and we shared our findings with the project group at a final presentation day. This was a wonderful opportunity to share the journey of learning at Flinders, and to hear about the amazing work other teams had undertaken. Educators left feeling inspired and excited about what comes next. As a part of the presentation, Flinders produced a banner displaying significant  documentation, and a book that shares key moments of the journey in the form of a fairy tale. The banner is currently displayed at the main entrance to Flinders, and the book is on display in the office. We invite you to have a look!

Developing an Ecological Identity

“To nurture ecological identity in young children, we invite them into relationship with the world beyond walls and with the creatures that live there. We invite them into ethical thinking anchored by the compassion that comes from caring and engaged relationships. We invite them to come home to the Earth and to live honourably in that home.” (Ann Pelo, 2013, p.43). Our Flinders Philosophy states that: “We are committed to maintaining our outdoor spaces, placing an emphasis on natural materials to promote a sense of wonder and an understanding of the natural world. We support children developing understandings of sustainability and ways we can actively preserve natural environments; locally, nationally and internationally. We provide resources from natural, renewable sources wherever possible.” You may wonder ‘what does this look like in practice?’ Here are some ways that Sturt House educators have been enacting our philosophy. Maintaining Our Outdoor Spaces For educators, ‘maintaining our outdoor spaces’ not only means ensuring our outdoor spaces are aesthetically pleasing, but more significantly, ensuring outdoor spaces provide opportunities for children to form connections with our natural world. At Sturt House we are currently growing lemon verbena, mint, parsley, broccoli, garlic, spring onion and mandarins. Children watch as these plants grow, measure their progress, notice mini-beasts and developing theories about their worlds. Educators also invite children to use these plants and herbs in our cooking. Recently we have used our garlic and spring onion as some of our toppings on homemade pizza. We have also invited childrenRead more