Author: Flinders University Childcare

Why Play-Based Learning?

At Flinders, we spend a lot of time thinking, talking, wondering, inspiring, dreaming, observing, planning for, assessing and documenting play. We live and breathe play. Indoor play, outdoor play, nature play, arts-based play, block play, socio-dramatic play, experimental play, creative play, imaginative play, sensory play; any kind of play you can think of, we want to know about it. We. Love. Play. But sometimes there is a difference in understanding about the role of play in children’s learning, and what we mean at Flinders when we talk about play. Over the next couple of weeks on Our Million Opportunities, we are going to delve deeply into the idea of play as a context for learning. We will share with you a range of articles, videos, and our personal reflections, on the role of play in children’s lives. Because play is much more than fun for children. Play is how children engage, how they begin to understand their place in the world. Play is how children make authentic connections between ideas and concepts, enabling long term success in learning. Play is how children learn. The Early Years Learning Framework marks play as a key practice for early childhood educators, recognising play as a context for learning. The EYLF discusses play as follows; Learning Through Play Play provides opportunities for children to learn as they discover, create, improvise and imagine. When children play with other children they create social groups, test out ideas, challenge each other’s thinking and build new understandings. PlayRead more

Severe Weather Warnings

Over the last couple of months we have seen a number of days with a severe weather warning. This has a significant impact on the programs at Flinders, as we need to go from an indoor-outdoor curriculum to an exclusively indoor one. There are a number of reasons why we remain inside during severe weather warnings, most significantly due to the many beautiful trees we enjoy in our outdoor environments. We are guided by the Bureau of Meteorology in making decisions about when it is safe for us to go outdoors and when it is best to avoid it. The Flinders children absolutely love heading outside in all kinds of weather, and most of the time we do abide by the philosophy “There is no such thing as bad weather, just bad clothing” but these warning days are the exception. Educators and children all work exceptionally hard on severe weather warning days, finding ways to be engaged in an exclusively indoor environment. We try to remain engaged with the natural environment without actually being a part of it, such as watching the weather through the windows, listening to the sounds of the storms, and sharing stories (both our own and in books) about interesting weather we have experienced. We have found this year that the more informed children are about the severe weather warnings, the more able they are to adjust their expectations and manage a day inside. Children from May Mills House have been calling the office to findRead more

No More Transitions!

As you know, at the beginning of the year the South Australian government implemented a single school intake for public schools. This had a significant impact on Flinders. Traditionally we have transitioned four times each year, at the beginning of each term, as children left for school. This year, we had one enormous transition at the beginning of the school year, with nearly all children in each group transitioning to the next house. This was a huge process, logistically and emotionally, for the children, educators and families of Flinders. We had faith that it would pay off in the long run, with each house having a stable group of children for a twelve month period. Over the last couple of months, the benefits for children have become crystal clear. We are seeing deeper relationships developing between children and educators. We are seeing deeper engagement for children within the educational programs. And perhaps most excitingly, we are seeing deeper relationships between children, and a genuine culture of kindness and respect emerging across Flinders. We spend a lot of time talking about the Flinders community, and the impact of the single transition has really highlighted this. Not only are families and educators developing strong partnerships, the children are demonstrating sophisticated levels of empathy and compassion with each other. From handing a friend their hat, to comforting a friend who feels sad; from offering moral support, to asking someone who seems alone to play, the children of Flinders are becoming increasingly caring, compassionate andRead more

Work and Play

At Flinders, we have a strong culture of play and play based learning built on contemporary early childhood theory. But not everything we do at Flinders is play based; there are a number of aspects of our program that are work based, outcomes based, and task oriented. Regular experiences such as cooking and gardening cannot be considered play in the sense of early childhood theory; these experiences are not exclusively ‘pleasurable, self motivated, process oriented, symbolic, active and voluntary’ (Lennie Barblett, Why Play Based Learning?). They have clear guidelines and boundaries which are defined by educators, and are only available for certain periods of time. Children work collaboratively with an educator towards a particular goal and the product is as important as the process. The integration of these kinds of work based experiences within a play based program gives children an opportunity to learn new and important skills and processes, to be involved in different kinds of tasks, and to develop different kinds of community relationships. The task oriented nature of the experiences leads to explicit teaching opportunities relating to health and hygiene practices, safety, turn taking and cooperation. The guidelines for participation in this kind of experience are clear; children know that this is not a time for play but a time for work, and whilst it is fun and we do gain a significant sense of satisfaction from the process, participation is dependent on working within certain guidelines. As these guidelines are generally related to personal and group safety, health andRead more

Early Childhood Australia Biennial Conference

As we have mentioned in previous posts, Flinders will be presenting at the Early Childhood Australia Biennial Conference in Melbourne in September this year. We are extremely excited about and grateful to have this opportunity, not only to present our work in relation to the Making our Mark project, but also to be a part of the professional learning community that will be attending the four day event. Educators from Flinders have attending ECA Conferences in the past and have come back feeling inspired and excited about their experience, ready to find ways to translate new ideas and theories into practice at Flinders. We will be presenting on the Saturday of the conference, and our paper is titled Making our Mark. The Making our Mark project has been discussed in previous posts on this blog, so head back through our history to find out a little more. As a part of the preparation process for the paper presentation, the Programming Educators have been involved in an intense one month period of writing, meeting and thinking hard about the data we have collected so far. As we have reflected, thought, conversed and challenged ourselves and each other, we have come to some very exciting new ideas and understandings about the role of mark making in children’s learning, our role in facilitating mark making experiences, and how various theories can act as lenses through which we can analyse our work. Without giving the entire paper away, we are looking forward to sharing ourRead more

Babies in the Rain

As regular readers and members of the Flinders Community would be aware, we are very interested in outdoor play and winter outdoor play. Preschool and Sturt House both run successful winter play programs, and May Mills House are beginning their journey this year. But there is another house of educators and children who are interested in learning more…what would happen if we took the babies out to play? We wanted to share with you a video of babies engaged in rain play, but we couldn’t quite find the right one, the one that really resonated with us. So instead we have made a pinterest board to inspire us, we would love you to take a look at it by clicking on the link below… What do you think?

The Image of the Child

Over the past couple of months the Programming Educators and Assistant Directors at Flinders have been exploring the image of the child. What does this idea mean? What is our image of the child? What does the Flinders child look like? How does this impact on our practice and programs? An interesting journey… We began by exploring what the phrase ‘image of the child’ means. Originating in the Reggio Emilia philosophy, the image of the child corresponds to people’s beliefs about who children are and what they can do. Not individual children, but children broadly. So when we talk about the image of the child we are talking about all children; not just a quality or personality trait or disposition that is a part of one child’s character. The image of the child informs all areas of our practice, be it consciously or unconsciously. Because the image of the child has such a significant impact on our practice, we began to explore some descriptors, some terms that could encapsulate our collective image of children. This is a complex process to undertake within a group of educators; so much of this is about values and attitudes. Yet we recognise that having a statement or series of terms that we all agreed clarified our collective image of the child, a definition of the Flinders child, could helps us to support children, educators and families in new an interesting ways. We could use this statement as a touchstone to refer to in ourRead more

Hidden Woods – Being inspired

I’ve been watching this video over and over lately, and feeling inspired by it’s message. Connecting children to the natural world is a key part of our journey at Flinders, and finding moments of inspirations such as this help validate our path. This video is making us think about how we can translate these experiences to our context – how can we generate deep connections with nature for children? Especially those children who are under three? What environments should we develop, what experiences should we facilitate? How can we build hidden woods at Flinders?

Heuristic Play and Treasure Baskets

We’ve been thinking a bit about heuristic play and treasure baskets lately. Heuristic play is “used to describe the activity of a toddler when he plays with objects…this play is not a social activity as it concerns how the toddler experiments with the objects and the environment…This kind of play can be desribed as ‘experimental’, as the toddler’s primary interest is to discover what he can do with the objects he finds.” ( A. M. Hughes, Developing Play for the Unders 3s). Heuristic play is playing with real things, and treasure baskets are collections of real things that have a common connection, such as all wood, all metal, and so on. Treasure baskets are for one child at a time, to be explored as they see fit, with minimal interaction with an educator or parent, although the adult should always remain close by. The video shows 11 month old Freya with her treasure basket for the first time. We can see how engaged she is, how interested and involved, how exploratory and curious and competent she is. She remains here, playing, for eight and a half minutes, and many advocates of heuristic and treasure basket play recommend leaving space for half an hour to an hour of uninterrupted time for child’s play. We loved seeing how completely involved this child was, and are keen to begin exploring heuristic play and treasure baskets at Flinders. Imagine babies and young toddlers engaged in a single play experience for this length of time…trulyRead more

Making our Mark

Earlier in the year I alluded to a couple of educator research projects that are taking place at Flinders this year. One of these is called Making our Mark, an investigation into children’s mark making and 2D art. Making our Mark is running in all houses across Flinders and is managed by the programming educators. But what exactly are we looking at… As discussed in previous posts (the Making Meaning, Making Marks series), Flinders values children’s mark making and considers it both a language and a literacy skill. Mark making occurs for children from a very young age and continues throughout their time at Flinders. It is this pervasive nature of mark making that has prompted us to explore it in more detail. We educators have been wondering, how can we better understand children’s mark making? How can we better support learning in this area? How can we learn to read children’s messages, to become more fluent in their language? As a means to begin answering these questions we developed the Making our Mark project. Each programming educator has chosen at least two focus children, one boy and one girl, who attend Flinders for at least three days each week. The educators are collecting a sample of each child’s mark making each week as a part of our ordinary documentation practices, and analysing this over time to track changes, recognise patters and better understand each child’s mark making language. We will collect and analyse the data over a full twelveRead more