A balloon is a great shape to work with but it takes several coats (with drying in between) to be strong enough. As paper covered balloons start lining the shelf, the children request: “When do I get to make mine?
What about creating a mask?
This invitation is received with enthusiasm. A list of the children’s ideas is posted with flexibility that it might not be a mask at all.
Inspiration, preferences and personalities
Some children use an image to guide their vision. The emotional quality of the picture seems more important to them than creating a duplicate; for instance, a very scary, fierce tiger. The cut outs are saved collectively for possible use as body features while other recycled materials are attached with hot glue to create an instant one of a kind alien. The children also get inspired by each other’s creations as one confidently wants to make a cat “Just like his!”
“That’s the one!” (Instant choice) Curved cut outs make great ears!
BEYOND LEARNING HOW TO PAPIER MACHE
The children are noticing transformation of the papier mache art and often admire each other’s work. To our delight, they are enjoying taking their mask off of the shelf and improvising a social imaginative play. They are respectful of handling only their own masks.
This project expended into a rich emotional and social inclusive experience. The children demonstrated their abilities to be patient and trustful as their work sat openly for months. Although some children received a fair amount of a helping hand, they were in charge of their vision. This collaborative creative process extended in consulting their families to support their ideas. Above all, the ‘masks’ gave some of the children a genuine feeling of belonging.
There’s a feeling of pride rising from our diverse gallery.
A POWERFUL SHOW AND TELL: HOW AURORA’S MASK BECOMES THE PERFECT TOOL
Aurora is confident that her mask will be a very scary vampire. It is one of the first to be completed. She would often wear it for a few minutes and interact with friends. One day just before group time, Aurora reacted strongly to a situation and screeched loudly twice and the room freezes! A teacher lovingly takes her aside to help her calm down. Aurora returns shortly to the group now seated at the carpet and requests everyone’s attention: “I have a show and tell,” she says and starts to share about her two little hair clips. It is a short talk but Aurora has more to say. She walks over and grabs her mask while demanding all eyes on her again: “Guys, I’m gonna show you how I look like when I’m frustrated.” Her mouth opens wide as she growls. “Now I’m gonna show you how I look like with my mask on.” Aurora wears her mask and growls loudly; she then returns it back to the shelf and seats herself down calmly.
CELEBRATION AND CLOSURE OF OUR PAPIER MACHE EXPERIENCE
To honor and share the children’s creativity, we paraded with our colourful creations ‘downtown’ Q. Cove! How joyful to be applauded by the big school kids, honked at by the passing traffic and cheered on by proud friends and family members.
We ended it all with a lovely picnic, frozen treat and a roll down the hill!
At first, Mathias uses the brushes to paint the paper but soon he stacks them away and dunks his whole hands in the jars and proceeds to use his hands to paint with.
Mathias's sensory exploration enhances his brain development. Language solidifies as he feels the paint; it is wet, cold, sticky, smooth, thick ...
He notices the cause and effect of mixing the colours and witnesses the paper ripping when over worked.
His early experiences are interchangeable and will continues to expand as he plays in the sand, the water, the play dough, the mud kitchen etc.
Mathias is like a "sponge" gathering information about the world he lives in.
It is becoming a common affair that we spontaneously wrangle our Friday group (car seats and all) into staff vehicles to venture to the Rebecca Spit for the day. We spend time on the beach, splashing in the ocean, throwing sticks and rocks, exploring sea life and walking along the logs, and sadly, often finding garbage. There is always a lot of important conversations that happen like how to keep our beaches clean and why we should limit the use of non-organic materials we use in our lives. You wouldn’t believe the excitement expressed when they find garbage to pick up. It is a
beautiful thing to see indeed
We are always ready to refuel with a picnic lunch! With our renewed energy we play chase games in the field, walk the loop trail to the tip of the spit and back, and most favourably, play on the far side of the beach in the log forts that have been built there. This play is risky and offers children the opportunity to test their own personal boundaries and to push them. Sometimes they fall and need a snuggle and an ice pack. This risk taking is how we learn!
Sitting in the wagon and being pulled by a teacher or friend is so much fun that you wish to sit in there forever! That became a problem when you all wanted a turn to ride inside but nobody wanted to pull the wagon! It made me think of a car that is missing its motor! When I asked if someone had power and would be the back motor, I heard a friend call out: “I do! I’ll be the motor!” Then quickly another friend cried out: “Me too! I want to do it!”. All of you began to take turns to be drivers, passengers and engines. The little wagon became a favorite toy again with friends sharing, turn taking and using their strong muscles in the power of team work!
It is important to allow children to navigate potential conflicts with their peers and to trust that they are capable to come to fair resolutions.
The level of cooperation between children often amazes new adults who come to our centre, one parent said: "I just find the children here so kind and they get along so well with each other."
Children have a natural desire to be together to accomplish tasks or goals but often need support in figuring out how everyone can participate in equal and meaningful ways. By simply asking "Does anyone have power to be a motor?" this offered another way of participating in the wagon experience besides just being the passenger. Once the children had this new role suggestion they were able to take this into their own hands and show us that they can naturally take turns without much support.
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.