We are so fortunate to have an endless natural playground in our backyard. With our new health protocol calling for even more outside time, the forest has been calling to us.
The children run and giggle through the trails, up and down the hills and over the bridges “watching with their eyes where their feet are going.” It is a great pleasure to watch as the children take risks, move out of their comfort zones and conquer their goals all the while respecting the rule that if they cannot see the teacher the teacher cannot see them and they must now wait.
Sometimes our feet take us to the Great Maple.
Here, our imaginations soar as this area becomes our home, sometimes complete with a hot tub!
The bike park is another favourite destination providing the perfect space to run, climb and slide!
Click here to Watch the sliding fun!
In hopes of escaping the cold heavy rain, I take my group to ride bikes on the back deck. What I had not predicted was that the eaves trough was leaking right over the children’s bike path.
Rowan can’t resist riding directly under the drips while laughing: “A waterfall!”
Initially, I worried about how cold (and potentially miserable) Rowan would get, but I stop myself from interfering and give him an encouraging smile. It doesn’t take long for his joyful experience to attract friends to try this out as well.
“We’re getting soaked and wet!” They boast.
Quinn waits patiently to have the waterfall to himself. I am guessing that he is pleased to experience it under the protection of the car hood.
COOPERATIVE UNSPOKEN AGREEMENT
Apart from the occasional “U-turn”, the children intuitively organize themselves in an orderly fashion. They line up one way, pause under the water flow, ride towards the end of the deck and then turn around to do it all over again from the opposite direction.
BRAVING THE ELEMENTS
“I’m cold! I want to go inside!” Rowan complains, but feels comforted when a new jacket is offered to him. He returns back and initiates a new exploration: drinking from the waterfall!
Like his friends, Eoin makes the best use of his protective hood against the cold water but now he tastes the waterfall full on. He soon becomes distressed: “I got water in my eyes! I got water in my eyes!” he yells while walking away and rubbing his eyes. His discomfort is short-lived and Eoin eagerly returns for more.
FINDING A DIFFERENT WAY
Not all of the children feel like daring the cold shower. Isadora and Liv are willing to experience the waterfall under their cozy clothing. They hesitate to go further until they witness their friends using their hands to catch the water to drink. This appeals to both girls and they join in with everyone.
GOING WITH THE FLOW
In order to respect children’s spontaneous explorations, early childhood educators must be willing to be reflective and question the reasoning why they do or do not support the children’s ideas? Is it safe? Is this appropriate? Is it inclusive? Or is the activity not encouraged because it can be “inconvenient” to the teachers?
To promote exploration and creativity, adults provide an environment where young children can:
Explore the world using their bodies and all their senses.
Develop a sense of wonder for natural environment
Express a zest for living and learning (Early Learning Framework p.33)
There are limitless ways in which children begin to experience reading and writing. At the Children’s Centre we foster the child’s natural curiosity to explore this through a variety of mediums.
A child’s letter to her mom.
Juniper quietly sat to draw a picture for her mom who was away for the first time.
She volunteered this explanation while drawing : It’s a letter for my mom, I wish mommy comes home this day. I love mom. I wish we could facetime. I know I miss you.
In early care and learning we recognize that lines and scribbles represent a natural stage to reading and writing as well as developing hand-eye coordination.
Having meaningful relationships with “messaging” creates an innate desire to learn how to communicate with letters later on.
A Christmas decoration.
A child brought me over to our decorated Christmas tree. She proudly stated, “This is my cousin’s decoration. See, he made it because it has three H’s, for his name, Hudson."
Hudson is 3 years old and was excited to recognize the first initial of his name in the basket of Christmas decoration choices.
What began as a teacher's painting of a tree trunk, grew into a "Fall Tree" as a few groups of children experienced a variety of art supplies and natural materials.
August 8th, 2019
Our friend Eoin and his mom Kaylin brought baby Arlo into the Children’s Centre to show us how he takes a bath.
Before Arlo arrived, we thought of ways we could help him to not feel afraid of this new experience. We came up with some ideas to help Arlo feel comfortable, like staying nice and quiet, not crowding him, and keeping our hands to ourselves, except to maybe tickle his toes!
Once he arrived we watched him get undressed and made sure his bathwater was just the right temperature. He had some bath toys, but his mom said he was still too small, and didn’t really know how to play with them yet. He was so cute and chubby and we all marveled at his tiny fingers and toes. Kaylin was very gentle washing Arlo, so that he didn’t cry. Arlo wasn’t scared of the bath at all and splashed us when he kicked his little feet in the water. We all tried to get him to give us lots of smiles. We could tell he was a growing baby because his shirt was too small for him when he got dressed again! We were all happy Arlo came to visit. What a cute baby!
As we continued with our natural materials exploration, we took a step away from the creation of our nature table and salt dough homes, and headed for the Rebecca Spit. What could the children create with the abundant driftwood? For inspiration, we visited the sculpture of Mayhew, the Sasquatch.
While visiting Mayhew, we took notice of how many fingers and toes he has, his size compared to the creatures that live at the beach, and how he had a great big walking stick.
With our ideas on how Mayhew was built, it was time to hit the beach in search of materials to build our own structure at the Childrens Centre. As the children were gathering up their materials there was some conversation about the Eagles and Mayhew “keeping watch” over the Spit. This inspired the children to help Mayhew by collecting garbage from the beach.
“Children benefit from opportunities…to recognize the connection between their own actions and the wider world. These activities help them build the ethical foundation for social and environmental health and well-being, now and in the future” (ELF pg. 33).
Beside collecting, part of being at Rebecca Spit is enjoying all of the pleasures of the beach on a beautiful day; jumping off logs, searching for crabs, exploring seaweed, playing in a fort, and throwing rocks in the water.
After lunch, we went back to the Children’s Centre with our bags stuffed full of beach treasures, ready to build, create, and learn new skills.
Soon we were putting together our own structure. With their own self- assurance and ideas, the children were eager to pick out all different shapes and sizes of driftwood collected from the Spit and begin drilling it all together. It was a thrill and and a real confidence builder to be in charge of a real power tool. “This confidence is essential to children as they begin to explore their creative capacities as family members, friends, thinkers, citizens, and stewards of their natural environment”. (ELF pg.18)
With the smaller pieces of driftwood, seaweed, and other smaller treasures found at the Spit, we offered a table activity with glue and paints to create smaller structures they would be able to explore and enjoy inside.
As play in nature and with natural materials is eroding generally in our culture, we are so fortunate to live here on Quadra Island, where there are such rich opportunities. Just as play is the innate mode of learning for children, nature and its treasures are the most accessible, and essential learning medium. At the Children’s Centre, the values of natural materials and nature is central to our approach.
The BC Early Learning Framework (p.23) states: The capacity to explore and create is vital to nurturing the zest for life that is the basis for learning. Through play, children express their natural curiosity about the world and explore multiple early learning goals simultaneously. Supporting children’s explorative play is perhaps the most important-and the most natural and accessible-means to promote meaningful learning in the early years.
Our exploration of natural materials allows the children to explore the world using their bodies and senses. We have painted and felted rocks; glued small objects found outside to pieces of bark; crushed and ground clay, leaves and chalk using a mortar and pestle and a grinder. This wide range of materials has given the children the flexibility to transform the materials in creative ways. Through their play with real tools their experiences have been meaningful as they expressed their curiosity of the world around them.
We have painted leaves and added them to mobiles which we beaded.
We have ground leaves into fine sprinkles which we glued into beautiful collages. We have experienced the heavy scent of dried cedar boughs as they went through the grinder.
We have practiced our cutting skills as we cut leaves and moss.
By offering materials in interesting and different ways the children's creativity can blossom. The way they consider the materials is challenged; crushed leaves are not trodden on and overlooked but instead are caught as they fall from the grinder and focused upon as they manipulate them with a glue stick. These materials were collected by the children on walks in the forest or found in the yard and playground.
In the lead up to Christmas, we made presents for our families using some of the natural materials. Using air drying clay as a canvas the children selected materials they wanted to use and pressed them into the clay. Each child took their time, suggesting that a lot of thought went into deciding how to arrange the materials. Some of the materials were collected especially for the project while others were a product of our exploration, such as the finely ground leaves.
To extend their interest and to involve their families, an invitation went out, and the response was wonderful:
Our intent is to create a space where they can once again explore natural materials through play.
Unpacking our treasures
“The development of languages and literacies among young children provides them with a strong basis for successful learning throughout their lifetimes. “Literacies is a broad term used to describe the development of the physical, emotional, social, creative, linguistic and intellectual means of communication among young children.” Early Learning Framework (ELF).
Revisiting their materials gave the children many valuable experiences of sharing, rich descriptive language, storytelling and wonderings.
Descriptive words such as : ‘prickly’, ‘hard’, ‘soft’, ‘pointy’, ‘sharp’, ‘dead’, ‘alive’, ‘crunchy’, ‘stinky’, ‘gooey’, were used to describe characteristics of items.
We compared and distinguished the materials: “Green is alive, brown is dead”.
Stories were told: “Under the moss was an egg that Raven stole.”
When sorting their items, some matches were obvious to us while others seemed unrelated. A rolled up piece of bark was tossed into a basket of pine cones with the explanation that it was a rolled up pine cone. – A fine example of a literacy goal of being able to express one’s own point of view.
An invitation to play with the materials was extended to the children.
We were surprised at the speed in which the children dumped scattered and arranged their found materials on the nature world table. The pieces had no meaning to them unless they had found the materials themselves.
It wasn't until they began to play with them that the children began to discover the potential of the materials.
What began to emerge was an interest in animal habitats and dwellings. Sticks, pine cones, shells, rocks were manipulated to form homes for the animals that we had added to the table to evoke their play.
To support and extend their interest we offered clay and salt dough for them to build more sturdy and permanent dens.
The children have painted their homes and were invited to cover them with materials that they have ground, crushed, broken and transformed.
To show the children the possibilities that natural materials offer, we provided them with opportunities to explore and use them creatively:
Our natural materials exploration will continue in next month's blog with a visit to Mayhew.
Jackson expressed he wanted to do some gluing. He was unsure of the glue stick as “it wasn’t drippy”. After I explained the glue stick and took off the lid to show him the glue he spent several minutes twisting the bottom and watching the glue going up and down. He touched the glue. “Sticky, not drippy.” he said. He started off being gentle and soft while applying it to the paper flowers. I told him to push hard and use his muscles to get the glue down. In between every application he would twist the glue all the way out and check how much he used and how much was left.
He seemingly understood the cause and effect of his use of the material. If the glue was all the way down he couldn’t get any glue. If it was all the way out he could glue. If he spread lots of glue the stick was “getting littler”.
As stated in the Early Learning Framework (page 18) “A sense of well-being and belonging is vital to children as they learn about and explore the world around them”. Jackson, although unsure in the beginning felt confident to try this new way of gluing! He was in control and felt strong in his abilities to explore the glue stick as well as his uncertainties of its stick form vs. liquid glue.
January 2019 - Beckham, Westley, Eamon, Miles and Eoin