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Reflections Magazine : Issue 56 Spring 2014
11 REFLECTIONS • GOWRIE AUSTRALIA • SPRING 2014 - ISSUE 56 Children as Empowered Partners in their Learning Children enter the world of our Centre having travelled a whole journey of their own. They bring with them a background of learning about the world, the foundations of which their families have set up. When we are planning the program for children at our site, we try to hold in our mind this idea, and our planning reflects our vision of children as capable, competent, respected and valued citizens. When families join a room, the initial steps in planning for their child's learning is for the primary educator to sit down with the family and learn about their home life. We want to learn about each family's hopes, dreams and desires for their child and share this ideal as well, so that we are fostering these in our everyday actions with their child. In order to engage children as partners in planning for their learning, our educators recognise their role in listening to children. It is important for educators to listen to children, and not just hear their verbal language, but recognise the unspoken, or the not yet spoken (Gandini 1998). We do a lot of work around capturing the voices of our toddlers in Talking and Thinking Floorbooks, but we also wonder whether we are always capturing the voices of the infants in our programs. When people ask us about how we provide an integrated infant and toddler program, they often see a challenge in finding the balance in meeting an infant's needs and those of a toddler's. In our infant-toddler rooms, one can see an infant crawling inside to find their primary educator, while next to them a toddler has created a campsite out of sourced twigs. In this moment, our educators look at both children and see them as equally capable in their own way at leading their learning. We have found that having our door open to the outside throughout the day, has enriched our programs and empowered children to lead their own initiatives, through choice, unhurried time and space for learning and exploration. With the door open for most of our day, children are supported to make choices to guide their own learning and they are not limited to educator expectations of what happens in a particular space at a particular time. Challenging Learning Environments Our environments reflect the high expectations for children that we hold in our minds, and grow out of the children's ideas and interests we have documented. In the Acacia Room, one child's interest in creating a space to have a campfire has since grown into some project work, with the group of children becoming engrossed in the learning and creation of spaces that reflect camping and campfires. We first created a campfire space outside, which led to the introduction of a makeshift boat to catch fish to cook on the campfire. This has since led to an outdoor kitchen space near the campfire, sourcing of a real tent for our indoor play space, and the invitation for families to contribute ideas, equipment and photos from any experiences they have of camping. The ongoing learning and extension of play spaces has created a world for children to explore their ideas and provide the opportunities for educators to scaffold and extend children's learning. There is a value in creating sustained and purposeful environments so that children have the opportunity to revisit and reinforce their learning over time. Viewing children as highly capable makes us create challenging opportunities for them. Because we recognise infants as equally capable as older children, we know that they will be able to negotiate an environment that includes experiences that are targeted towards older children, and we recognise our role in supporting them at their own level to negotiate this world. In our outdoor learning space, we recently sourced large tractor tyres to create sustainably sourced climbing opportunities.
Reflections Issue 57 Summer 2014
Reflections Magazine Issue 55 Winter 2014