Current Boulder Journey School Resident Teacher Molly Harrington shared the following on her classroom’s blog:
As a participant in the Teacher Education Program at Boulder Journey School, my graduate coursework aligns with my time spent in the classroom. These past few weeks in our contextual curriculum course we have been discussing technology in the classroom. I wrote a position statement discussing the benefits of technology in early education, and made a slideshow as well to summarize my ideas. Here are the slides below!
The classroom blogs are a space for dialogue and reciprocal learning. Educators post on the blog and families can engage via comments and reflection. In this way, the blog serves as a space for honoring the right to participation of all members of the school. Boulder Journey School parent Kelly M. shared a comment in response to Molly’s blog:
Love the positioning, Molly! We love how BJS helps to foster a healthy and curious relationship with technology. -Kelly M.
The documentation Molly shared with her Room 2 classroom community made way for Kelly to share her perspective with the community and provoked the potential of a dialogue.
In the video below, Ysidro introduces himself and shares a little bit about his personal context and what he values about Boulder Journey School so far in his journey as a Resident Teacher.
Below, Ysidro touches upon the importance and space for perspective taking within his 2022-2023 Boulder Journey School cohort. He shares why he chose the Boulder Journey School Teacher Education Program and what he loves about Boulder; he also speaks to the supportive environment of the Teacher Education Program & the importance of the anti-bias/anti-racist commitments within the school community.
Lauren Robinson, a Boulder Journey School Teacher Education Program graduate and current Boulder Journey School Mentor Teacher, shared her reflections after revisiting Carlina Rinaldi’s “The Pedagogy of Listening: The Listening Perspective from Reggio Emilia.” Lauren connected her reflections to a visual mini-story she created for the course A Colorado Interpretation of the Reggio Approach, one of the courses she took while completing her Residency MA in Early Childhood Education.
Lauren Robinson: It was really helpful to have my mini-story in mind while reading through Rinaldi’s “The Pedagogy of Listening.” I was able to refresh my knowledge on what listening truly means, and relate it back to the experience that I captured and analyzed for my mini-story. Specifically, a couple of Rinaldi’s ‘meanings of listening’ that were listed really resonated with me. The first one that stood out to me was “Listening is generated by curiosity, desire, doubt, and uncertainty.” I feel like as adults, things like doubt and uncertainty are feared. Butwhen we get in tune with children and ask questions about what they’re thinking and feeling, we are able to embrace things like doubt and uncertainty, because they motivate the researcher in us. This is closely related to the second ‘meaning of listening’ statement that resonated with me, which was “Listening produces questions, not answers.” Seeking answers to questions is natural, but again, as adults we tend to value the answers more than the questions, when they can equally tell us just as much about whatever experience we’re having. This statement also really embodies the idea that process is just as (or more!) important as product, like how having questions is just as important as having answers.
When I read this article at the beginning of the year, it felt much harder to comprehend then it does now. I definitely attribute that to the quality time that I have gotten to spend with the children and in the classroom. I have been learning so much about being present with children, truly listening to them, and honoring whatever it is they are trying to tell us. My definition of a teacher has expanded so immensely in these past few months, and in turn my confidence in my capabilities as a teacher and my role in these children’s lives has increased!
View Lauren’s visual mini-story below. You may notice Lauren uses the language of photography to listen to this moment of connection between children.
What do the photographs tell you about the teacher’s capacity to deeply listen? What do the photographs say about children’s capacity(ies) to listen and connect? What does Lauren’s visual mini-story tell you about the teacher’s choice to document in this moment? Please leave your comments below.
Resident Teachers work with Mentor Teachers and Pedagogical Support Faculty, including the Studio Teacher, to deepen practices around Observation, Documentation, and Assessment.
Jacie Engel, Studio Teacher, offers the following verse to explore the children’s experiences while visiting the studio.
The older infants in room 3 recently visited the studio, encountering light projected onto fabric.
To go inside, into, within,
to cross over and through-
these movements of curiosity plot new points of reference that expand our understanding of self as part of,
and within the world.
It’s magic, this world.
Because we find that it includes not just the unknown and the mystery.
It resonates with this possibility- here, there, and for what’s on “the other side”.
We find that this world includes me...
And it includes you.
We’re here together!
Let’s play with our togetherness.
Can we hide ourselves?
Who is hidden,
Me or you?
Let’s find each other,
and relocate our awarenesses.
A spontaneous game.
An improvisation of innate connection. We know how to play it.
I can’t see you.
You can’t see me.
But I know you’re there.
I feel you.
And the anticipation…
Let’s find each other again…
The course, Observation, Documentation, and Assessment is one of the introductory courses offered through both the Residency and Online Master’s Program. To view course descriptions and learn more about applying to join the Teacher Eduction Program, visit the website.
This year’s cohort of Teacher Education Program Resident Teachers experienced changes in our national society, the likes of which have not been seen in our lifetimes. Through it all, they remained dedicated to learning alongside and from the young children in their classes.
Rachel Lurie, Resident Teacher, 2019-2020, submitted the following paper as the Culminating Assessment of her year enrolled in the Teacher Education Program. She spoke to her growth, her challenges, and her hopes for the future.
I grew up in an unstable home where children did not have a voice. As we grew into adults we were expected to be stable and communicative. This translation was not possible. What we learn in childhood translates to who we are as adults.
I became a teacher six years ago to empower children, yet less than a year ago I truly began to understand what it means to hold a strong image of the child. Children are innovative, brilliant, powerful, and empathetic. Throughout this past year working at Boulder Journey School as well as learning alongside and from some of the most beautiful minds in the Early Childhood Education world I find myself becoming less of a teacher and more of an advocator and lifelong learner. The word “teacher” has taken on a new meaning for me.
This experience has opened my mind to the importance of families and communities and how to partner with them. I have learned of my own biases and how to acknowledge and work to diminish them. I learned to celebrate diversity and many different cultures for they are the fabrics that weave together to make our school whole. And, most importantly, I have learned about the young learners in all of their magnificence – how to honor their voices, how to learn alongside them in their wonder, how to advocate for their rights, how to document their curiosities. The child is powerful beyond all measure.
During this time I have grown not only as a teacher, but as a person. One extremely noticeable change is in my leadership abilities. Visionary leadership is defined through the Boulder Journey School Professional Qualities as, “your capacity for being a leader in your professional context who inspires others. You will possess a vision for the present and for the future and understand how your daily actions and interactions with children and adults does or does not model elements of your vision. You will view yourself as a leader who wants to co-create other leaders.”
To speak to this growth I first need to establish what my baseline was prior to the Teacher Education Program. My undergraduate degree was in psychology. I did not have formal training in education and thus possessed a sense of imposter syndrome. I would never have considered myself a leader, I barely considered myself a teacher.
During the Fall semester we began our learning adventure creating a solid foundation that we built upon during the Spring semester. However, halfway through the Spring semester we were plagued with COVID-19. When the pandemic swept the world the families of our classroom turned to us with questions – What do they do? How do they teach their children? How can they continue learning at home?
In that moment we became much more than teachers, we became confidants. We were the experts for the families and the friendly faces for our students.We quickly became the leaders in this unprecedented time. We were the stability in all of the chaos. We had daily Zoom meetings every morning which our students along with their siblings and parents would attend. Parents would email us asking us specific behavioral questions, how to spark imagination and creativity in their child, how to extend the learning to home. School buildings may have been closed, but it did not end education. Their home was also functioning as a school.
To me this encompassed the foundation that Reggio Emilia schools were built on – parents and teachers working alongside each other to give students an authentic education. We, as teachers, set the pace and the families followed our lead, but it was a dialogue to make sure both the needs of the teachers and the needs of the families were being met. Because we opened up and communicated more it allowed the parents to do the same. In the book, Possible Schools: The Reggio Approach to Urban Education the author speaks to the same effect, “When . . . asked about families . . . families surprised us every day with things they would never have done before . . . She explained that our increased communication with families showed them we respected them and their children. And they were proud, not only of their children but of the school” (Lewin-Benham, 2006, p. 145).
As a leader, I feel that I gained a lot of confidence in knowing that I held an expertise viewpoint based on knowledge acquired from classes such as Social Supportive Learning and Contextual Curriculum, but additionally I felt confident as a leader in being able to delegate to parents and share the information that I possessed. I felt that I could be a reliable resource for them. Going forward, I can’t imagine returning to a state where I feel as if I am not an expert in my field, imposter syndrome is completely gone. Going backwards is not an option, and not including families in this extremely important time in their child’s lives isn’t an option. Together we foster the children’s sense of self, we are their community.
With this, I developed tremendously in another area: courage. The Boulder Journey School Teacher Education Program Professional Qualities describes the quality of courage as, “your capacity for taking risks and challenging the status quo. You will be courageous to go against the grain and to not always do things because they are popular or because they have always been done a particular way. You will be willing to try things out (with both children and adults), to take risks and be audacious – not just any education is enough.”
In the midst of COVID-19 we had another huge moment in history: the dramatic rise of Black Lives Matter, a revolution that has been coming for centuries. With three white women as teachers and a class of all white children the questions arose: Do we approach this topic with the children? If so, what would be a developmentally appropriate manner? How will the families react with us opening this conversation?
The phrase “against the grain” kept repeating itself in my mind. By ignoring the systemic racism or simply not acknowledging what is going on outside of our school is denying the children their right to be part of the community. It is also suppressing those who are oppressed and not being an advocate for change.
We must discuss this topic, but how? I went to a Black Lives Matter protest on a Sunday and came to school the next day to open the discussion. I showed them pictures, explained why we were coming together to protest. I answered any questions that I could and was honest when I did not have an answer. We did have one instance that I felt nervous in addressing: a child in my class heard a police siren and became frightened because his parents told him that the police were killing people. What do we do? My mentor teacher felt that we need police officers to help us when we get into trouble, I felt that they weren’t being helpful and the child had every right to fear them. Do we continue to teach that police officers are community helpers or do we discourage the image that they have traditionally held in our minds?
We made the decision to teach against the grain, which was quoted beautifully by Cochran-Smith, “Teachers need to know from the start that they are a part of a larger struggle and that they have a responsibility to reform, not just replicate, standard school practices . . . Teaching against the grain stems from, but also generates, critical perspectives on the macro-level relationships of power, labor, and ideology” (Zeichner, Bowman, Guillen, & Napolitan, 2016, p. 281).
To honor the children’s inquisitive nature of the world around them as well as collaborate with the families to form a cohesive community, we chose the courageous route – not the one of ignoring or of ignorance, but one of reality. Previously, we had done a deep dive into the wonderings on morality, courageously, and honestly, we talked and learned together again.
In order to continue to honor the children and their right to be a citizen of the world I feel that I will continue to engage them in these types of conversations and listen as they form their own opinions. In addition, I believe having a growth mindset as well as being open-minded I will be able to collaborate with future co-teachers despite us having different opinions.
As much as I have grown throughout the past year, I have found myself feeling limited in two capacities.
One being finding difficulties breaking the barrier and engaging with parents. Communication and collaboration is a space where I feel that I fall short, especially written communication.
Something that I believe has inhibited this growth to bloom fully is the families in our class engage with my mentor teacher more comfortably. I believe that as I continue on with our current students next year, and my mentor teacher moves onto her next opportunity, a natural progression will happen where the families will feel more comfortable communicating with me. I also believe that I held this belief that families were intimidating. However, one of the positive outcomes from COVID-19 has been the breakdown of that barrier. I also believe that practice in communicating will naturally help this as well. When my role shifts from resident teacher to mentor teacher I will take on a new set of responsibilities, including communication. Reading about effective communication strategies will also be of big assistance.
One other space where I feel there is room to grow is in literacy of technology. Children have the right to engage with the world around them, which includes technology. During COVID-19 our entire curriculum became virtual. Once we were able to return to in classroom learning I held a disdain for technology while the children now craved it – they incorporated it into their play making computers out of folded pieces of paper and having Zoom calls with one another through them and using dominoes as cell phones and calling each other from across the classroom. Technology became their norm. I was burned out from technology overload from trying to stay connected during the pandemic. However, is that fair to the children?
I would like to incorporate technology into our contextual curriculum and I believe that to do so I need to become more aware of what is available other than a computer. Collaborating with other teachers to learn what they are using in their classrooms as well as speaking to those who are outside of the classroom setting such as Alex Morgan or Jacie Engel and find out what they would advise could give our children more of an opportunity to engage with technology.
The Maymester course Messing Around with STEM brought to light different views on the importance of technology. “The kind of knowledge children most need is the knowledge that will help them get more knowledge . . . Instruction in programming the computer and thinking about how to develop a complex project was like teaching her to catch fish. With these skills she could build her software and transform her thinking about fractions.” (Papert, 2000, pp. 139-140). Technology can be incorporated into authentic learning, and learning what different types of technology are available is a good first step. Also, revisiting older technology such as simple machines or light tables would enhance the classroom environment.
Despite all of the challenges this year has thrown our way with a global pandemic and a revolution rightfully taking place, we as a cohort have maintained a growth mindset. We are resilient beyond all measures and for that we will be graduating with our masters degree and a new appreciation for our rising generation. May they be as strong and brilliant as this Teacher Education Program has made us.
Lewin-Benham, A. (2006). Our Families, Other Educators. In Possible schools: The Reggio Approach to Urban Education (pp. 130-147). New York, NY: Teachers College Press.
Papert, S. (2000). The Children’s Machine: Rethinking School in the Age of the Computer. New York, NY: BasicBooks.
Zeichner, K., Bowman, M., Guillen, L., & Napolitan, K. (2016). Engaging and Working in Solidarity With Local Communities in Preparing the Teachers of Their Children. Journal of Teacher Education,67(4), 277-290. doi:10.1177/0022487116660623
Reflections from the Teacher Education Program, October 2019
Jen Selbitschka, Boulder Journey School Teacher Education Program Director
We are excited to launch a full catalog of new courses this year. One of these courses is EDHD 6400: Observation, Documentation, and Assessment.
While this course has many objectives, there are two that drive the core of the work. The first is to hone in on the experience of documenting to bring awareness and attention to the decisions made when in the moment with children. This awareness and attention supports Resident Teachers in becoming more intuitive documenters, increasing their chances of gathering artifacts that have potential for unpacking meaning and giving visibility to children’s thinking and learning processes.
Some questions the Resident Teachers consider to develop this awareness and attention include:
Is what you want to document best captured through photographs, notes, videos, and/or sketches?
When do you choose to take a photograph and why?
When do you choose to take notes and why?
When do you choose to take videos as opposed to photographs, and vice versa, and why?
When you are taking video, what causes you to choose to keep the camera focused on a particular situation for a particular duration of time, and when do you choose to change the focus to something else in the experience and then back again?
When do you zoom the camera in and zoom the camera out and why?
How do you find yourself participating through documenting?
The second guiding purpose of the course is to develop competencies in extracting meaning and understanding from documented artifacts. This unpacking generates multiple hypotheses and interpretations about the experience to inform understandings and decisions about next steps in the teaching process.
One challenge of the course is to break down culturally-influenced connotations that impact how we interpret the concepts of observation, documentation, and assessment. This process of breaking down has involved a great deal of “unlearning” through ongoing reflection and critical examination of the Resident Teachers’ direct experiences. Inspired by readings from Reggio Emilia, Italy and other inspired educators, we seek to embrace this experience of observation, documentation, and assessment as an effort to understand and a process of coming to know.
Here are a few reflections from Resident Teachers on the class so far:
Through the three rounds of observation and documentation, I learned a lot about myself because I needed to be vulnerable during the experiences and during the reflection after. I think this learning happened because I was forced to think about how I was feeling/what I was doing during the observations, which helped me learn about myself and how reflecting on the experiences was important for my learning in the classroom with the children.
There really is no end point or answer to observing and gaining insights. It is a continuous process and it’s okay to not get what you wanted or were hoping for, as the process is equally/more important.
I have begun learning to accept my subjectivity and involvement in what I engage in observation and documentation.
Observing and documenting is more than just a blurb on the wall next to an art project. I never knew that through documentation I could show how I am forming a relationship with a child.
Now I am learning that documenting and observing is ongoing, never conclusive, and assumptions are just that… they are not conclusions.
I think I have learned a lot about myself. I have learned to lean into the hard feelings and ask, why am I feeling this way? We analyze the children’s feelings and we analyze our feelings too! It’s a way to learn and to grow.
We would love to have your voice in conversations like these.
In the Spring semester, Boulder Journey School Teacher Education Program (BJSTEP) graduate students enroll in ECED 5104: Advanced Developmentally Appropriate Curriculum (ADAC). Throughout the semester, the graduate students engage in curriculum development through action research in order to better understand learning and teaching, documentation as a form of assessment, and partnering with students around the development of a contextually meaningful curriculum. Through this process, they also encounter opportunities to make an impact beyond their classroom walls.
Join Kayla Chung, 2017-2018 BJSTEP graduate student for an exploration related to her work in the ADAC course.
My practicum experience this year is in the older infant classroom working with children ages 9-16 months. In the ADAC course, I am actively learning how a contextually-emergent curriculum is developed in close collaboration with the children, my co-teachers, my instructors, and my colleagues. The primary means of creating a contextually-emergent curriculum in the infant room is through an Action Research Project. The question I have chosen to research is:
How do relationships support the development of empathy in infant-aged children?
Within this question, there have been two sub-questions that have helped guide my thinking in the classroom with the children:
How do objects/materials support the development of empathy with the infants?
How do relationships within the classroom, the school, the families, and the community support the development of empathy with infants?
Before I could begin my work of implementing experiences, observing, documenting and analyzing documentation, and planning for more experiences, it was necessary for me to understand how empathy is defined and expressed by citizens of the relationship groups I was researching. I sought to understand the perspectives from the children, my co-teachers and colleagues, the families, and the community surrounding these individuals.
“Listening means being open to differences, recognizing the value of another’s point of view and interpretation. Thus, listening becomes not only a pedagogical strategy but also a way of thinking and looking at others.”
-Carlina Rinaldi, President, Foundation Reggio Children – Loris Malaguzzi Center
The Families’ perspectives:
I asked the families of our classroom to share their meanings of empathy and how they have seen empathy expressed by their children. I appreciate their ideas, as they have opened my eyes to the special and unique identities that are represented by each family unit. It was important for me to display their responses in the classroom to have these identities felt and known. I also felt that unity was important to represent in our classroom, and highlighted some of the common attributes that were present in all of the responses – Empathy is:
Reflection Understanding See & Feel Care Connect
Each infant joined the classroom with their individual history of experiences and ways of understanding the world, especially within the social realm of relationships. In understanding how the families in our classroom see and experience empathy, I am better equipped to understand how their perceptions have shaped their children’s ideas and actions related to empathy. Just as each infant is learning and being shaped by their experiences with the many relationships they have now, they are gaining the necessary foundation for who they will become later.
I hope that you will continue down this journey with me, and I look forward to sharing more with you about the discoveries I am making with the children, families, co-teachers/colleagues, and the global community.
Please feel free to reach out through the comments section below this post, as well as sharing your own definitions and ways you’ve seen empathy expressed!
“We do not need to focus solely on the actual succession of facts, but rather to pursue by way of the story, a possible understanding of the intricate adventure of human learning.” – Sergio Spaggiari, Shoe and Meter, Reggio Children
During the Spring semester, Boulder Journey School Teacher Education Program (BJSTEP) graduate students enroll in ECED 5104: Advanced Developmentally Appropriate Curriculum (ADAC). Through the semester, the graduate students engage in curriculum development through action research in order to better understand learning and teaching, documentation as a form of assessment, and partnering with students around the development of a contextually meaningful curriculum. Through this process, they also encounter opportunities for creating impact beyond their classroom walls.
The Course Objectives are as follows:
Understand how to use a continuous cycle of observation, documentation, interpretation, and provocation to create contextually, meaningful curriculum.
Understand how to use documentation as a form of assessment with children and self assessment of your teaching practice.
Synthesize key elements from experiences with children that can be shared with colleagues for further reflection, feedback, and generation of possibilities around new experiences.
Synthesize key elements from experiences with children that can serve as a form of advocacy for a strong image of children and early childhood education.
Identify key elements from your observations of children that can be used to propel learning within an emergent, contextualized curriculum.
Identify and act on opportunities to partner with families in meaningful ways around their participation in the curriculum.
Identify and act on opportunities to partner with community members and resources in meaningful ways around their participation in the curriculum.
The bulk of the course engages the graduate students in a continuous Cycle of Inquiry guided by the following framework:
(What) Design and implement experiences that invite students to encounter and explore aspects of a Focus of Research driven by research questions.
(What)Observe and document these experiences, including preparations for the experiences, using a variety of tools, such as photographs, video, notes, transcribed conversations, charts, graphs and/or samples of work.
(So What) Analyze documentation from these experiences and generate multiple interpretations and perspectives from these analyses as well as assessments about what students know and understand surrounding research-related material.
(So What) Seek more knowledge through a variety of resources including current literature, research, interviews and/or TED Talks, etc. and make connections between what is observed and what is learned through these resourcesto enhance understandings and inform research questions.
(So What) Synthesize and organize work from each week into a visual format to share with colleagues in class.
(Now What) Thoughtfully engage colleagues in conversation around work and receive feedback surrounding the experiences offered as well as possibilities for where to go next.
(What) Based on feedback and ideas generated in class and with instructors, design and implement an experience that invites students to encounter and explore aspects of the Focus of Research driven by research questions. Repeat steps 2-7.
Graduate students, enrolled in the Boulder Journey School Teacher Education Program (BJSTEP) are assigned readings and discussion topics to influence their daily classroom work. They use these readings and discussions to influence the experiences they offer in the classroom, outdoors, and in the community, then submit reflections that integrate their practical and academic research. Graduate students’ reflections are read, and feedback is offered by course instructors and classroom mentors. In this way, graduate students are offered space for theory to inform practice and practice to inform theory.
For the Developmentally Appropriate Curriculum (DAC) course, graduate students,, observe students, document their observations using a variety of tools, reflect on their documentation with colleagues, and develop and implement curriculum plans throughout the semester. To read an in-depth description of this course, refer to this blog post: Developmentally Appropriate Curriculum Course. Part IV of the DAC course asks graduate students to examine ways to extend the curriculum outdoors and into the community.
The following post is taken from a paper written by Meghna Gopal, graduate student in the 2017-2018 cohort, for the DAC course, Part IV.
In a world where violence appears to be on the rise, and media outlets are casting a negative outlook on the future, fear has begun to control the actions of society. In many cases, it seems that people are so focused on the negativity existing in the cultural environment, they are unable to enjoy themselves and take advantage of all the good life still has to offer. Unfortunately, this type of mentality is especially impactful on our youngest citizens. Parents seem hesitant to allow their children to play outside for extended periods of time or to wander too far out of their sight. Thus, many children are now spending more waking hours inside of their homes, as opposed to exploring the outdoors.
In addition, the rapid growth of technology and emphasis on standardized testing in schools have played a role in limiting children’s contact with nature. It is common to see young children staring at a digital screen for hours on end or having their recess compromised for more instructional time in the classroom to prepare for state testing. Given this, it is no wonder that a large percentage of children are suffering from sensory-related issues. Spending time outdoors gives children opportunities to freely release their energy, foster creativity, and enhance self-control. (Natural Learning Initiative, 2012). For this reason, it is crucial for both educators and parents to provide opportunities for young children to actively connect with and learn more about the natural world.
In my own classroom, I was considering ways I could create a palpable experience for the children to further discover the different aspects of nature. How could I bring the learning that was happening indoors into the outside environment? Over the past couple of months, the children have been extremely interested in the exploration of clay. My mentor teacher and I have designed various provocations involving clay, paired with other materials that could be incorporated into the experience. On one occasion the children explored natural materials, including pine cones, wood, shells, and rocks, with the clay. While the children seemed to enjoy deepening their understanding of the versatility of clay, they also actively engaged with the natural materials, pressing the materials into the clay to make imprints. Given their attraction to the natural materials during that particular experience, I decided to recreate the same provocation, but in an outdoor setting. I thought that the learning could be more meaningful if the children engaged with the natural materials while in a natural setting.
I chose to set up the provocation on a table located in the garden. The children often view this outdoor space as a peaceful escape from the action of the other outdoor classrooms. I felt that the calm atmosphere would offer them the chance to focus and fully participate in extending their learning.
To prepare for the provocation, I laid out clay boards on the table. I cut slabs of clay and placed one on each board. I also gathered a variety of natural materials, including pine cones, rocks, fall leaves, and sticks, that could be found in the garden. I placed the materials in the center of the table, as well as on the clay boards. I was curious to see how the children would interact with the materials in an outdoor environment, and whether or not they would draw inspiration from the previous provocation.
On a Friday morning, four children were invited to explore the materials that had been arranged in the garden. Almost immediately, they each picked up a stick and began poking the clay to create holes. One child also used the stick to create lines in the clay. The children made imprints with the rocks and pine cones, as they had done in the earlier experience.
Maya discovered that the pine cone could also be rolled back and forth on the clay to produce a pattern.
Moving the pine cone in this manner inspired her to explore rolling the clay itself. She folded her clay slab in half and began rolling it back and forth across the board. Two of the other children took notice of what she was doing, prompting them to also experiment with moving their clay in a back-and-forth motion. It is noted that toddlers tend to mimic the actions of their fellow peers, as well as adults (Colorado Early Learning and Development Guidelines, n.d.).
Perhaps, the highlight of the provocation was the creation of clay birthday cakes. Maya positioned a pine cone and a stick on her clay piece and started singing “Happy Birthday” to herself. Once she had finished singing, she pretended to blow out the candle, which she had represented with the stick. Not surprisingly, this resulted in the other children also wanting to construct cakes. They started shaping their clay and gathering the natural materials they wanted to use in bringing their creation to life. After the cakes had been made, they took turns singing “Happy Birthday” and pretending to blow out the candles. They each sang “Happy Birthday” to Maya, and not to themselves as she had done. Perhaps, this was their way of acknowledging that Maya was the one who had inspired them to create their own cakes. Or maybe they were following her lead and singing for her as she had done. Either way, it seemed as though Maya was able to celebrate her birthday a few months early with clay cakes.
It was certainly interesting to see how different each child’s representation of a cake was. While Maya’s cake was fairly simple, with just a stick and pine cone, Anna wrapped her clay around a pine cone and added leaves on top, possibly as decoration. Both Anders and Eli used a single pine cone for their piece of decoration. Eli had lines on his cake that he had drawn earlier with a stick, adding a little more intricacy to his creation.
Juniper, an older sibling who joined the experience, neatly arranged each material on her clay piece. She placed a big and small pine cone toward the center of the clay and added rocks and leaves in the spaces around the pine cones.
According to the Colorado Early Learning and Development Guidelines (n.d.), toddlers “use abstract things to represent other things in pretend play” (p.78). In this experience, the children were using their imaginations to depict the clay as cake. They also most likely used the natural materials to signify decorations, using the sticks for candles.
Looking back on this provocation, I was impressed by the children’s creative utilization of the natural materials presented to them. They were able to guide the exploration of these materials in ways that gave purpose and meaning to their learning. When the children were using the pine cones, rocks, and sticks to produce clay imprints, it is possible that they were connecting to a previous experience in which they also made patterns in the clay with similar materials. When Maya rolled the pine cone back and forth in the clay, she broadened her awareness of how the pine cone can be used with the clay.
I noticed that the children were far more engaged with the natural materials than they have been in the past. While they had explored the imprints that could be made with the various materials in a prior experience, they seemed more interested in the versatility of the clay itself. Their actions primarily consisted of squishing, flattening, and rolling the clay into the desired object. Thus, I concluded the natural materials simply did not yield as many possibilities as the clay. The hard surfaces of materials like pine cones and rocks prevented them from being easily manipulated into different shapes or objects. However, after observing how the children interacted with these same materials out in the garden, I have been reconsidering this earlier assumption. What was it about the experience that made the natural materials more attractive to the children? Did the outdoor setting play a role? Perhaps, the children were inspired by their surroundings.. In the movie, Lessons from a Forest Kindergarten, it is mentioned that nature has positive effects on a child’s creativity. The large spaces give children more freedom and opportunities to express themselves (Richter & Molomot, 2013). For this reason, being outside could have helped the children be more creative in their use of the natural materials, incorporating them into the making of the clay birthday cakes. The environment is often referred to as the third teacher and often greatly influences the learning that occurs during a particular experience.
In planning for future provocations, I want to continue integrating the outdoors . Given that nature plays such a big role in ensuring the healthy development of a young child (Natural Learning Initiative, 2012), it is important for children to have plenty of opportunities to fully understand and appreciate what it has to offer. Perhaps, I could present the same provocation to a different group of children or even in a whole group setting. Would the children be as interested in the natural materials as the first group was? How does a large group differ from a small group in terms of how the children interact with the materials?
In addition, I could offer the same provocation, but in a different outdoor space. How would materials in that space contribute to the children’s explorations? Natural materials could also be used with forms of media other than clay. For instance, a painting provocation in the garden could offer the children the experience of exploring how paint and natural materials interact, as well as the possibility of expanding their own interpretations of them on paper.
Additionally, I could take the children on a nature walk through the school neighborhood. We could collect various objects that we find along the way and add them to our classroom to produce a more natural look. Seeing these objects on a daily basis may also provoke the children to talk about their experiences on the walk.
Moreover, I would like to find a way to involve parents in the children’s learning. Maybe, we could organize an event at a local park where families could explore different classroom provocations in a community setting. Materials of interest to the children, such as clay, paper, and drawing utensils could be set up with more natural ones found in the park. How might the children extend their learning beyond the school environment? How might their families learn alongside them? Bringing the learning into this type of space would offer the children the opportunity to make connections between their experiences at school and in the community, helping them gain a deeper understanding of the world in which they live.
I feel it is imperative to expose young children to the outdoors. Nature allows children to process thinking and learning in ways that the inside classroom simply cannot. As mentioned earlier, the children in my class were able to more readily connect with the natural materials and use them to enhance their clay experience, something they had not quite done when engaging with the same materials inside. For this reason, I think educators and parents need to take into consideration the many benefits of nature to a child’s learning and development, and spend more time exploring the outdoors with children. In today’s society, it is becoming easier for our youngest citizens to lose touch with the natural world. Rather than let that happen, we should help them in cultivating a respect and love for the beauty and wonder that is nature, which will hopefully be passed onto future generations of children.
This blog post examines classroom work stemming from the Boulder Journey School Teacher Education Program (BJSTEP) Fall course, Developmentally Appropriate Curriculum. Intern Teachers observe students, document their observations using a variety of tools, reflect on their documentation with colleagues, and develop and implement curriculum plans throughout the semester. Read more about the course here.
The following reflections were offered by Mollie Lyne, a graduate student in the 2017-2018 BJSTEP cohort.
“Technology use in formal early childhood education (ECE) settings, such as preschools and child-care centers, may help shrink the digital divide in terms of both access and use for children in low-income families.”
In the year 2017, we have everything from television programming at gas stations, digital readers on the bus, cameras in our cars, and iPads at the library. We are in the digital world, and we need to find ways for children to engage with it, to form healthy relationships with technology.
The 3-year-old children in Room 13 have been fascinated with music lately.
We have experienced it through the computer, on our record player, through the iPad at nap time, with a visitor bringing a guitar, with Sam, a teacher from another classroom, playing his ukulele outside, and through sharing our favorite songs.
I wondered how to offer a new form of music experiences to these children who are so widely experienced in music. This wondering let me to my roommate Jefferson.
Jeff is originally from Washington D.C. and moved to Boulder a couple years ago. In his free time he DJs at local venues and enjoys laying down new beats.
What would it look like for the children to experience Jeff’s turntable?
Ask Jeff to present to the class how music can be manipulated and moved to create sounds that we have never heard before.
When we offer children the environment to engage with technology and explore it in their own time and space, a whole new understanding arises.
It is important for children to have the connection to technology to have a sense of how it works and in what ways we can manipulate and play.
When Jeff arrived, he did just that for us!
He showed us what buttons we could push.
When we pushed them the music moved.
“Woah, it squeaked!” -Nico
“I can hear the noises.” -Micah
“Can I push this one?”- Alexis
We spun the disk.
We pressed the on / off button.
We hit other buttons over and over again.
We twisted the knobs.
We asked questions.
“Where does the music come from?”
“Why do you need headphones?”
“Why do you turn it all the time?”
“How can you make the music do that?”
We were inspired.
As a community we want to keep asking about technology in the classroom to help us comprehend the affordances of various technologies.
“Technology has great potential for supporting the learning needs of all young children ….”
- Using Technology in Reggio Emilia-Inspired Programs, Linda M. Mitchell
How do you embrace and explore technology with young children in your context? What technologies are you excited to use?
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