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Reflections Magazine : Issue 56 Spring 2014
7 Through my work in early childhood both in Australia and abroad, I am aware of how respected and valued your work is in many countries. So firstly, on behalf of the global early childhood community, thank you for writing again! Can you tell us, after your first two books, what led you to focus on children's imagination for this third book? Focussing on children's imagination was not how I started. It was only after writing many drafts, deleting thousands of words, that I understood what my anecdotes were telling me to write about! The idea of a third book started years ago when my publisher suggested I write a small one for parents. Unsure where to start, I thought I should learn more about what happens in children's homes. So I invited families to share with me anecdotes and photos of their children engaging with ideas, materials and objects of all kinds. I learned a lot but still a book did not emerge. After almost abandoning the project, it finally dawned on me to ask: What sparks the imagination? And that got me going! As the book progressed I became increasingly aware of how today's pressure on parents and teachers is sidelining play. Being passionate about the importance of imaginative play as the foundation of learning, I saw that I needed to emphasise this aspect throughout the book. Your new book is full of enticing and fascinating vignettes of children's experiences and learning. How do you identify a moment that is worth capturing? Even the most 'ordinary' observation can reveal something significant. Anything children do or say that furthers my understanding of their thinking fascinates and inspires me to write about it. Often it's only when I've had time to reflect on my notes and photos that I grasp the underlying significance. What suggestions can you give to educators who may feel overwhelmed about what and how much to capture in documentation? Begin without expectations. Focus on only one or two children. Write down key points of what you see and hear over a limited period; take photos if possible. Accept what you have observed and give it enough attention to find value in it. What did you learn? Be aware that your sense of being 'overwhelmed' may affect children. If you're not focussed, relaxed and enjoying the experience, children are unlikely to be happily engaged. Observing is a two way process: you are being observed acutely too! As Aniella (4 years) once said to me, "You like watching me don't you?" Or when Corey (3 years) suddenly said to me, "It's not a bird yet" to make quite sure that I didn't get the wrong idea! In your ongoing conversations with Susan Whelan, who provides an insightful commentary from the perspective of a parent in the first part of the book, you often return to the role of the adult. What is your advice to educators and parents in supporting young children's creativity and imagination? Listen and watch with interest and empathy, but try to remain quiet (particularly with under-threes, but also under-fives). Educator John Matthews describes this as doing "a special kind of nothing" . The warmth of your company says much. Provide unhurried and uninterrupted time for self-invented play, and a limited selection of open-ended materials that can be used in many different ways. See yourself as a co-explorer rather than an instructor. In the final pages of the book you encourage the adult reader to "develop your own ways of wondering and imagining" (p85). What is the secret to keeping the creative spirit alive in adulthood? Curiosity! As long as you can keep alive a sense of curiosity that inspires you to try something new, you are encouraging yourself to think creatively. REFLECTIONS • GOWRIE AUSTRALIA • SPRING 2014 - ISSUE 56 Ursula Kolbe, "Children's imagination: creativity under our noses" (Peppinot Press, Byron Bay, 2014) is available from Gowrie NSW www.gowriensw.com.au or Pademelon Press www.pademelonpress.com.au
Reflections Issue 57 Summer 2014
Reflections Magazine Issue 55 Winter 2014