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As a school, we use video documentation to guide our work with children. One crucial piece of working with video is revisiting the video, analyzing it to pull out questions for further research or to reach new understandings of children’s and teachers’ motivations. We practice analyzing videos with interns and mentors.
Below is a video and write-up that we have shared with Videatives, an organization with whom we partner.
Camden and Olivia Use a Tool
Camden and Olivia, both 3, are on their third day of school. Both are brand new to an already established class of children. While using the outdoor classroom, they have discovered a tool is needed to move the handle of the zip-line to the rider’s position.
Olivia, who is next for a turn to ride, is actively cheering Camden’s efforts.
Camden is using a tool that is appropriate for the job, however tripped up, literally, by an extra material on the ground.
At 0:44, Camden realizes the white tube lying on the ground is playing some part in his setbacks. At 0:54, the white tube does not act as he is expecting, and he throws it to the ground, his face conveying that he is on the verge of frustration and giving up. He makes a brief moment of eye contact with the teacher (behind the video camera).
Consider: According to the Zone of Proximal Development, this would be an ideal moment for scaffolding from the teacher. In this instance, the teacher chose to remain silent – ultimately a decision that paid off for Camden. Did the eye contact act as the teacher’s scaffolding (did it communicate, ‘I’m here, I’m present, you can do this’)? How could the teacher’s interaction here have altered Camden’s next steps? As a first experience at this school, how will this interaction shape Camden’s sense of self-efficacy within the school community?
At 1:00, Camden revisits his initial strategy with the longer black tube. He is successful, now that the white tube is gone. At this point, the teacher joins in with a cheer.
Consider: How did Olivia’s encouragements act as scaffolding? Did the teacher’s voice become stronger because she added it as a collaborative celebration rather than a top-down instruction? Also consider: When Camden switched to using the white tube, was his motivation that he recognized the white tube was a key ingredient in some way and did not recognize that its role was merely to be moved?
The Jay and Rose Phillips Early Childhood Center at the Boulder JCC has been a Boulder Journey School Teacher Education Program Partner School for the past three years. As a practicum site, the school hosts graduate students and mentor teachers. One of the resources the school incorporates into their curriculum is the Milk and Honey Farm, located adjacent to the Boulder JCC building.
Milk and Honey Farm at the J is a 2+ acre educational sustainable farm that brings the greater community together via experiential programs and activities designed to ignite wonder and discovery, grounded in vast Jewish heritage, tradition, and values. It provides a place for individuals to connect on the simplest level with soil, plants, animals, and people, for the health and well-being of themselves and the larger community.
On this particular day in February, a class of 2-3 year-old children was invited to visit the geodesic dome greenhouse to explore and participate in planting. They explored the plants that were already growing, as well as the fish in the aquaponic pool.
The class was introduced to the baby parsley plants, started from seed by the resident farmer. They observed the leaves and root structures of the tiny plants. They discussed the process of starting seeds in trays, like the one pictured, and then transferring them to soil so the roots can spread out and the plants can grow to maturity. As the conversation unfolded, teachers documented the experience, so it could be revisited and reflected upon at a later time.
The parsley itself is culturally significant. Parsley is one of several symbolic foods that is traditionally offered on the Passover Seder plate. Passover takes place near April each year, so these parsley plants were ready for harvest in time for the holiday.
The Boulder JCC is part of the JCC Network of North America. The JCC is an inclusive organization, open to members, teachers, and students of all backgrounds and cultures.A strong part of the ECC’s philosophical approach to early childhood education is the Sheva Framework. Described in detail below, the Sheva framework represents an expression of the Jewish tradition that is reflective of the inquiry and inclusiveness held by all in this community.
The art of inquiry within Judaism is a time-honored tradition. Teachers and students are on a continuous cycle of asking questions, researching answers, and co-constructing knowledge together.
The following seven values of the Sheva Framework help us to focus our intentions and serve as Jewish ‘lenses’ through which we see our curriculum and the life of our school community.
Reflection, Return & Renewal
In order to move forward in a meaningful way, we must reflect upon the past. Our travels are more important than the destination.
TZELEM ELOKIM/DIVINE IMAGE צלם אלוקים
Dignity & Potential of Each Person
The image of the child as capable and competent is a core Reggio philosophy value. We view children, families and colleagues with dignity. This is a lens of accountability, empathy and self-worth.
Belonging & Commitment – Community
A bound and trusted relationship allows us to unite with others in pursuit of a shared vision. It enables us to grow, take risks, and share with honesty.
The spirit of inquiry within human nature is the drive that aides in reflection and growth. To question, to debate, to interpret, and to communicate are all essential components of the Jewish tradition.
When we as adults take the time to slow down, we become more aware of the miracles that exist in every moment, allowing gratitude to flow freely through us. Young children are more apt to wonder, naturally embracing life with exuberance.
TIKKUN OLAM/REPAIR OF THE WORLD תיקון עולם
Repairing the world is done with a spirit of generosity and a partnership with families and children to continuously make a difference in our community. There is a sense of responsibility to perform social “acts of kindness” every day.
We envision holiness in terms of sacred time, spaces and intentions. We find holiness at distinct times in the Jewish calendar, such as Shabbat and holidays. We also unearth holiness in our daily experiences as we observe the interactions of children, listen to their voices, and discover life together.
By creating opportunities for children to experience the life cycle from planting to eating, the children can develop ownership and care for their food in a rich and complex way. The values expressed in the Sheva framework offer a powerful lens through which to think about the significance of experiences such as this.
As the spring weather takes hold and a new outdoor growth cycle begins in all the spaces of Milk and Honey Farm, the school will continue to explore ways the children can explore and research the farm-to-table cycle.
How do the cultures reflected in your school impact the experiences offered to children?
What resources exist in or around your school community that can offer possibilities?
What kinds of opportunities can you offer children to build close relationships with the food they eat?
As part of their continuing conversation, Marissa Tafura from Empowering Kids met with educators from the Boulder Journey School Teacher Education Program (BJSTEP) to discuss the importance of engaging in conversations about race. Marissa focuses on equipping teachers and families with the tools they require to enter into dialogue with young children.
We reflected on the following questions:
How often do teachers and parents talk with children about race?
Marissa recommends using very descriptive colors to name race and to make it personal by referencing someone you know who identifies with that race. Be sure to model that it is okay to notice and talk about race, while recognizing that those conversations may look different in public and private spaces.
How can we challenge the normalization of whiteness and diversify materials offered in classrooms and homes?
Marissa recommends sharing why some images or narratives make you uncomfortable. For example, “I don’t like that the only brown skinned person in the book is the one opening the gate to the zoo.”
How do we name race as an important part of one’s identity?
Marissa made the comparison to how we talk about gender and accept that gender identity is important to our self concept. She encouraged us to do the same with race and not shy away from it.
How can we raise children who are able to identify injustices and take action?
Marissa recommends empowering children. She suggests that adults should include narratives that challenge the idea that people of color are always victims.
We look forward to continuing our work with Marissa and plan to schedule a meeting for Boulder Journey School parents as a next step. You can learn more about the importance of talking with children about race by visiting this blog: http://family-garden.org/talk-kids-race/
“In order to act as an educator for the child, the environment has to be flexible: it must undergo frequent modification by the children and the teachers in order to remain up-to-date and responsive to their needs to be protagonists in constructing their knowledge.” – Lella Gandini, “Education and Caring Spaces”
At the beginning of the school year, the children in Room 14 at Boulder Journey School expressed a strong interest in performance and music. The teachers observed the children frequently discussing and engaging in play around performance and instrument design, especially in the outdoor classroom. According to Erin, the mentor teacher in Room 14, “It started with two children using materials to represent different instruments. There was a wooden platform outside that they made into a stage, where they performed.”
The children used shovels or flat, long “loose parts” to represent guitars; they would play them together in groups. Microphones were represented as fairly tall objects that either stood on their own or could be propped. Erin recalled, “They used tall stable objects, such as shelves to balance sticks or tubes to be hands-free and reach their mouths.”
In addition to their interest in representing instruments, the children showed a strong interest in using their instruments to perform songs for others. Erin recalls that many children shared an interest in songs by Jeff and Paige, a local children’s group. They sang these with and to one another. They also sang pop culture hits, and made up their own songs. Ultimately the children’s’ shared interest in music and performance sparked a year-long investigation into the concepts of music, performance, and instrument design.
As an assignment for the Teacher Education Program (TEP), the teachers reflected on the incorporation of technology as an essential learning tool into the classroom. One goal of the TEP is to seamlessly weave together current theory with classroom practices. As the graduate students learned about the changing role of technology in the early childhood classroom, they also engaged in dialogue with their mentor teacher to uncover the ways this assignment would fit with the current work taking place in the classroom. Building on these conversations, the children were offered videos and projections of professional live performances to act as references in their understanding of guitars and microphones. The children were then asked to reflect on and share their observations of the videos and photos.
Alongside their digital investigation of professional performances, the teachers worked to deepen children’s understanding and interest in performance and instrument creation through adaptations of the classroom environment. While the children started the year performing their songs outside on a wooden platform “stage”, over time the children and teachers worked together to create a performance stage with open ended materials for instrument design and exploration within the classroom. The performance area is an example of a responsive environment, one which develops in relation to the children’s interests.
The children also added new elements to their instrument creation. Wire, fabric, and string were used to represent the straps, plugs, and wires of guitars, banjos, and other string instruments. Room 14 teachers continued to observe the children’s interest in music, and offered new materials and provocations to spark further exploration. Teachers introduced tape to the children and supported individual and collective exploration of the properties of tape over several weeks. As the children developed their understanding of the properties of a variety of materials, including tape, teachers presented a question to the class: “Is there a way you can make microphones stand up so you can play your guitar and sing at the same time?”
The children also offered a challenge to themselves: to make a more accurate looking guitar that had a strap so you could let go of the guitar.
Over the course of several weeks, the teachers and children in room 14 explored and worked with multiple materials to create their own microphones and guitars. As they worked, they became more aware and intentional about the physical elements of design.
“With trial and error, a design was created that fit the criteria of the children,” recalls their teacher. For example, the children designed a shovel with a wire going through the hand hold and wrapped around the neck as their first prototype for a guitar. Over time, this design was adapted, and the final prototype for a guitar was established as a long piece of wood with tape used to depict frets, binder clips to hold lanyard, and wire to plug into the amp.
TEP mentor and intern teachers worked to scaffold and deepen the process of learning by revisiting and reflecting on the instrument prototypes with children. Teachers presented children with complex materials and questions that encouraged them to engage in the reflective process of critical thinking and learning.
In the children’s process of designing a microphone prototype through open-ended exploration, they considered four main elements: design, height, functionality, and stability. While many children engaged in an independent process of design, they also tested different designs out with one another, as well as with older children in prekindergarten Room 12, who have an expertise in design and construction work.
Currently there are a few prototypes for microphones. Most involve tape, wire, tubes, and cut pool noodles, with a large container with a weight in it to act as the base of the microphone. Erin noted, “The class now seems to have a fairly strong idea of the elements that they need for each microphone. The challenge of stability is now the biggest obstacle in their path.”
As the children continue to explore the concepts of stability and functionality through their design process, they also express a passion for innovation and creativity. In addition to the elements of design, room 14 continues to explore and incorporate the various social aspects of performance into their classroom culture.
Erin recognizes that the goals of the class have evolved, “We have started to look into the
different elements of performance, including dance and music, and consider the children’s interests relating to these elements. The dynamic of a band is really interesting to them right now. The social negotiation of who is going to take on what role in the band is very interesting.”
As the children continue to delve into the social aspects of performance, the teachers in room 14 hope to continue to support children’s social-emotional, cognitive, and physical learning around the art of music, instrument design, and performance.
Gandini, L. 1998. “Education and Caring Spaces” in Edwards, C., Gandini, L., & Forman, G. The Hundred Languages of Children. Greenwich, CT: Ablex.