Boulder Journey School (BJS) hosts an annual two-day conference to support participatory exploration of topics related to quality and innovation in education. The conference welcomes participants from around the world to visit, engage, participate, and explore. Below is a reflection by Haley McPherson, 2016 – 2017 Boulder Journey School Teacher Education Program (BJSTEP) graduate student.
Many of the attendees at the 2017 BJS summer conference traveled from states across the US, including Alabama, Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky, Massachusetts, and Pennsylvania. We also had groups travel from other cities in Colorado, including Denver and Fort Collins. With this diverse group of individuals came an even more diverse set of theories, questions, practices, and most importantly, experiences.
We took advantage of this diversity among our community and spent two days reflecting and engaging in thoughtful dialogue with one another. Our hope, as hosts, was to offer experiences that educators from various backgrounds could integrate into their daily interactions in the field of education.
One strategy used was time for educators to ‘mess about’ with materials. The materials were offered as invitations, based on work that had taken place in the BJS classrooms and BJSTEP during the 2016-2017 school year.
“If teachers can join us in mapping paths into subject matter, they are on their way to being able to do so for children.” – David Hawkins
On Earth Day, 2017, a group of graduate students in the BJSTEP created a community pop-up event at the Boulder Farmer’s Market. The topic presented to the community was the dynamic interplay of Nature and Technology, especially as it relates to the connection with early childhood. As the graduate students interacted with the community at the Farmer’s Market, they observed children who, when presented with the materials, were determined to make a wiffle ball fly.
One of the invitations to play at the summer conference was inspired by this observation.
The photo story below captures a collection of moments, experienced by Troy Byrne, a pre-primary teacher at the Children’s School in Atlanta, Georgia, as he experimented with materials presented in combination with a wind tunnel.
Troy shared his initial thoughts on the challenge as he began the process of messing about, “I wonder how many feathers it takes?”
He proceeded to test, changing the arrangement and number of feathers, until, at last, success!
Troy’s experience with the wiffle balls, feathers, and wind tunnel demonstrates the type of learning that can be offered to children and adults.
While this experience should be considered standard practice, it is more often thought of as a luxury. I invite you to think about why this is relevant to what we are doing in early childhood.
If we want to promote early childhood as a time for learning, experimenting, growing, and indulging, we should start with ourselves as educators. How do we experience learning, experimenting, growing, and indulging, and how do we translate these moments into our work with children?