At the Seaside – Professional Reflections

My favourite activities at the pre-school in recent weeks have been our trips to the beach. We are lucky in our geographical location that we have a beautiful beach with a variety of natural resources on offer (for example, chalk and rock pools) within easy walking distance. We aim to extend children’s interests beyond the confines of our setting as often as possible when appropriate (in response to child-initated ideas).

The children’s interest in beaches has been sparked by the sudden improvement in weather (although one child noted “it’s [the sea] still very cold… Only for silly swimming.”) and the addition of a seaside themed natural materials basket. As always, I am humbled and awed by the vast number of ideas and experiments children come up with whilst exploring such simple things. By the end of the first morning we had children: requesting different colours of paper and wooden boards to draw on using the natural chalk, creating “castles” with the pebbles, adding sand and water to a shallow tray to make a lake for boats made of driftwood and seaweed, creating paper beach clothes for the small-world dolls (so they could go swimming), making lots of lovely sounds with the pebbles and sticks, taking the natural chalk outside to draw on the ground, crushing the natural chalk to make a lovely tactile material (which when water is added to becomes “milk” and “hot chocolate”), etc.

It was then that we decided that the best way to really explore our local environment would be to organise an impromptu trip to the beach. Full-waterproofs were donned (staff and children!) and we discussed beach safety before setting off down the gangway towards adventure. We spent far longer down the beach than originally anticipated (why prematurely halt such engaging and meaningful experiences?), so the return to the setting was hasty, however the enthusiastic communication heard between parents and children during collection time validated every practitioners’ belief that what we do is one of the most important jobs in the world. After answering the children’s curious questions on the beach, we utilised several books to help us explain tricky concepts such as erosion (“where does chalk come from?”, “will that house fall off the cliff?”); tides (“what makes waves?”); ecosystems (“that seagull is eating the crab”); natural occurences (hermit crabs “moving house”), etc. in a familiar visual format.

In the next few weeks, I will be collating the books we have utilised and giving each a short review. I hope you will find these as useful and inspiring as we have!

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Quote of the Week

“It is easier to build strong children than to repair broken men.”

Frederick Douglass

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“Laurence Houseman once said, ‘A saint is one who makes goodness attractive.’ Surely, a great teacher does the same thing for education.”

John Trimble

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“Education is all a matter of building bridges.”

Ralph Ellison

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“I am often amazed at how much more capability and enthusiasm for science there is among elementary school youngsters than among college students.”

Carl Sagan

Give a child a typewriter and they will create worlds

I had a wonderful conversation with my grandparents a few months ago, about the types of things I liked to play with as a child. We chatted about paint, paper, notebooks and huge canvases (plentiful in a house full of artists and teachers) before moving on to things children find in the garden and the beliefs children have (fairies, mythical creatures, etc…); as a professional the conversation gave me the opportunity to consider whether the resources within my setting instigated the sort of quality play I wanted children to experience. One of the items I remember very vividly from my childhood was an old typewriter. My grandfather had an electronic typewriter for his work and I remember watching it in absolute wonder (being a bookworm I adored the idea of creating a book as much as I enjoyed reading them). In response to my interest (and to save the electronic typewriter from the over-zealous toddler, I suspect) my grandmother found a typewriter complete with black and red ribbon and reams upon reams of computer paper for me. Upon recollection, my mother states that the typewriter hardly went a day without being used for creating stories, invitations, bills, menus, newspapers, lists, messages (at one stage my sister and I became preoccupied with telegraphs) and other written communications.

In the setting…
A few weeks ago, my grandmother informed me that she had bought an old typewriter (with black and red ribbons, no less!) for me, at auction for the princely sum of £3. Since installing the typewriter (after a grand unboxing) at a table with a variety of different types of paper and stationery items, I’ve been able to observe literary behaviours unseen in some children using the computer or normal mark making table/tools within the setting. Children who thus far had no interest in writing have spent upwards of ten minutes carefully tapping away (bearing in mind that they are 2-5 year olds!) and children who previously wrote their names and various letters upon hand-written notes have been writing stories and messages. With the help of a practitioner, children have been requesting assistance in typing such words as “crocodile” and “monster” alongside favourite nouns such as “mummy” and “daddy”. Practitioners and parents/carers alike have had a go at typing, providing excellent role models and illustrating the enjoyment that can be had from expressing yourself upon paper (even if it is just to say “cheese sausages milk” – child’s snack time wishlist!)
The typewriter has also reinforced mark-making with pens, pencils and chalks as children patiently wait for “the ding” to tell them it’s someone else’s turn (a fantastic built-in turn-taking mechanism!) and name recognition has improved dramatically as children search for their name on a “turn-taking” list and urge practitioners to cross names out as children take their turn.
Although it has only been a few weeks, interest hasn’t waned and the children’s enthusiasm for reading (and creating things to read) has spread across all the areas of provision. As a setting that focuses mainly upon child-initiated learning, this addition of a springboard item has set off an explosion of fantastic ideas that I cannot wait to follow up (and possibly blog about)!

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