Whilst the sunshine has been wonderful so late in Autumn, we welcomed the rain over the last couple of weeks to our very dry gardens. With it comes the reminder of Winter, and the beginning of flu season. This year so far, SA Health has recorded over 10 000 cases of flu, compared with just over 1 300 at the same time last year. The flu can be harmful to people in high risk categories, and is an unpleasant illness for anyone. There are many things we are doing at Flinders to reduce the risk of infection for children, families and educators, most of which are a part of everyday practice, like regular hand washing, washing of resources and surfaces, getting plenty of fresh air and eating healthy foods. At this time of the year we also spend more time explicitly teaching children cold and flu etiquette like sneezing and coughing into a tissue or your elbow, how to safely blow your nose, and washing your hands thoroughly after coughing, sneezing or blowing your nose. Many of our educators choose to have the flu vaccine, and Flinders covers part of the cost of this. The South Australian government has decided to fund flu vaccinations for children aged between six months and five years, along with funding vaccines for vulnerable communities. Some more information about the flu vaccine can be found here. You can find some more information about from SA Health about healthy hand washing here.
As the week draws to a close we head towards an extra long weekend. And boy, doesn’t it come at the right time? For some, it’s time to get away, camping or travelling with family. For others, it’s time to catch up on all those jobs that get away from us as the busy-ness of our lives takes over. As we head towards it, we are reminded of how fleeting time is, and how fleeting childhood is. It seems before we know it, our children are heading out into the world with all we have given them, and we hope it’s both roots and wings. And we are reminded, and remind you, to take a moment to grab hold of these short and precious moments. The washing will wait (it already has)…but those little hands and toes are only this small once. Take a moment with your family to watch the clouds drift by, to soak in the last of the autumn sun, to breathe in your children, to really be. Perhaps in being together we will gain the memories that sustain us until our next long weekend… If you are looking for some suggestions of wonderful things to do together, check out Nature Play SA’s 45 Things To Do Before You’re 5.
Last week we introduced our inquiry question; Talking without words: How do children embody community through non-verbal communication? As we have been collecting data, we have come across many moments of silent connection, many times that children embody their sense of belonging and community through gesture, facial expression, action and body language. What is important is not so much what they are doing (smiling, making eye contact etc), but their intention. Whilst as educators we can never truly know what children intend through these moments, we can make guesses based on our understanding and knowledge of the particular child, and the context in which these actions take place. We have to listen carefully, and listen more. As we have listened, we have seen children demonstrate compassion and kindness as they bring children their belongings or comforters. As we have listened, we have seen children seek belonging and connection through mimicry and imitation, and have this reciprocated. As we have listened, we have seen children as active co-constructors of knowledge, observing and taking on the actions and perspectives of others and applying them within their play. As we have listened, we have seen children seek and contribute to emerging relationships with educators though physical proximity, contact, affection and connection. And as we continue to listen, we wonder what else we might see.
Flinders is currently participating in the third stage of the Re-Imagining Childhood Project, which focuses on children aged birth to three as citizens with rights. Our research question for this round of the project is; Talking Without Words: How do children enact community through non-verbal communication? As a part of this project, we are collecting data that demonstrates the diverse ways through which children communicate and connect with one another that do not involve verbal language. This requires us as educators to become extremely careful listeners, and to reconstruct our image of what listening looks like. As we are progressing through the process of data collection we are noticing the power of gesture, smiles, eye contact, body positioning and movement. The way our mouth moves, the way our eyes move, the way our hands move tells others many important things about what we are thinking. As we capture children as skilled non-verbal linguists, we are recognising moments that may have been missed before; the way children position themselves as they watch their peers play; the way children use mimcry and imitation as a means of sparking a connection. Over our next few posts we will share with you some moments we have captured so far between children at Flinders. And we wonder, just how much do we tell others without saying a word?
Play is identified as a key context for learning within the Early Years Learning Framework and is one of the foundations on which the Flinders Philosophy is built. Drawing on Shipley’s (2008) definition, the Philosophy states; “Play is voluntary, symbolic, pleasurable, meaningful, active, process-oriented and intrinsically motivated”. The National Quality Standard, which is the basis for assessment and rating for early childhood services in Australia, details the importance of play for children through Quality Area 1: Educational Program and Practice, stating that children should be observed engaging in long periods of uninterrupted play. Play is, therefore, essential to children’s learning and the foundation of all curriculum decision making at Flinders. Play is considered when selecting resources, designing environments, and planning provocations for learning. Periods of uninterrupted play are considered when planning the daily routine. Play is the central context for learning, around which all curriculum decision making orbits. Play requires educators to be intentional in all aspects of their practice, from the way they move and talk, to the way they observe and document, to the way they assess and plan. As many wise people have said, “Play is the work of childhood.” Therefore it is our work, the work of early childhood educators.
January is a time of transition at Flinders, a time of exploration, discovery and wonder. We move to new buildings, meet new people, discover new places. We search and question. We become familiar, and find new ways to belong. For some, the journey is brand new, as new children and families are welcomed into the Flinders community in all Houses. For others, it is the careful blending of the familiar and the unfamiliar as looping maintains relationships in new environments. Change is present for all of us, so we move gently and kindly together as we uncover the new. Programs during January, and sometimes through February and March, focus on the development of strong, respectful relationships. Educators’ primary focus is to build, develop and maintain reciprocal relationships with children and families. This might look like cuddles, stories, songs, shared play, smiles, hand holding, or quiet time just being close by. Each individual relationship is a dance, and it can take time for each participant to learn the steps. Sometimes families wonder; what can I do to help my child feel settled? Here a some simple tips that might help. You know your child best, so please feel free to share your thoughts with an educator or offer other suggestions in the comments; Sharing your positive thoughts about Flinders and the things your child might do Being brave Taking time to stay and play at pick up time, and making drop offs brief and kind Talking about children and educators yourRead more
In November Sturt House celebrated and raised the Sturt House Community Flag. As posted in July the children at Sturt House have taken a journey this year to express their identity through the making of a flag. It is now raised in the morning and waves a warm welcome as families arrive each day. It has become part of the rhythms, routine and culture of Sturt House. It acknowledges our interdependence with each other and belonging as part of this community, our “together group”. It depicts our relationships, our place at Sturt House and Flinders and the things we enjoy together. Let it wave a welcome to you.
Mapping has been an interest for many of the Sturt House children in 2018. It started with ‘hide and seek with maps’ the year before in Preschool House and grew into treasure maps, maps to go in adventure backpacks, maps about Nature Play, maps of Flinders, maps from holidays and maps found in books. We explored maps in many ways; their curiosity never satisfied. In late October, educators posed an invitation to the children; could we make a map of Sturt House? Out intention was to bring together several ideas; mapping and collaborative work as an extension of the virtue of cooperation. We discussed the idea with the children and one child suggested that we could make the map ‘so that the Preschool House children would know how to get to Sturt House’. This idea consolidated the project by introducing the notion of giving, our final virtue focus for the year. And so, the project; ‘A Map for the Preschool House Children Coming to Sturt House’ began. The project presented many problems for the educators and children to solve. How were we going to coordinate all the children’s contributions? How were we going to keep the map roughly to scale? What materials should we use to make the map? We decided to use Google Earth as a starting point; projecting the image of Flinders onto the wall for the children to explore and ultimately trace. This tracing gave us the structure for our map and now we were ready to addRead more
On Wednesday night the darkness fell at Flinders and hundreds of tiny sparkly lights began to shine. Then slowly and quietly but with a buzz of excitement many, many children and their families began to arrive. Up the path they travelled, whispering, laughing and eyes sparkling. Preschool House and Toddler House were having a Festival of Light. A gathering of all. This had been many months in the planning, the children have been thinking and working and discovering all things light. We had worked with light boxes, torches, rope lights, black lights, florescent light, fairy lights and snake lights. We had discovered shadows and natural light. Again and again we had revisited. The Preschool children had worked with the Toddlers and the Toddlers had shared their learning with the Preschool children and on this special night, the night of the Festival of Light, as a community of learners we were going to share all we discovered with our families. So now as the Toddlers wonder where the ‘party’ has gone? And the Preschool children ask “when we will be having another light festival?” We know it must have been a night that won’t be forgotten for a while. It was amazing.
The youngest citizens at Flinders are the babies. They watch with interest the comings and goings on the path from the veranda of Baby House. They enjoy the experience of walking the paths of Flinders. They like being helpers with visits to the office, the laundry and other houses as well helping to water the gardens. These have become regular occurrences. Flinders has a strong focus on sustainability, the importance of caring for our world is imbedded into the Early Years Learning Framework as well as Flinders policies and procedures. The educators at Baby House have asked how babies could be more involved and how a sustainability focus could become part of the practice and rhythm of Baby House. So grew the daily ritual of visiting the kitchen and emptying the food scraps into the compost bin. The Baby House children and educators are paving the way to a more sustainable Flinders. The children respond with joy and excitement by being involved in the process of visiting the kitchen to dispose of the scraps. The ritual explores the path and surroundings, viewing the kitchen herb garden and observing the growing that is occurring there. We watch out for visiting birds taking a bath or looking for a worm in the garden. The opportunity to test our physical skills using the stairs to reach the kitchen, carrying the buckets and bags up the hill and practicing our walking down the hill to Baby House. We share daily stories of the adventure,Read more