Learning for life: curiosity and enthusiasm!

All the world is a laboratory to the inquiring mind.

Martin H. Fischer

I was reminded of this quote on a trip to Canada in February. The enthusiasm of children out in the deep snow reflected my own (snow-deprived living in East Anglia) excitement to get outside and play! I especially wanted to try out frozen bubble blowing (with temperatures forecasted to be -11 or lower).

Later in the trip, we visited the Royal Ontario Museum where children were exploring a woodland scene (see photo) – noticing tiny details and making links with their previous real-life experiences in the woods.

As practitioners we can cultivate our own curiosity and inquiring nature, to role model those effective characteristics of learning and communicate (without sometimes jaded adult eyes) that the world is indeed fascinating! When I returned to work, I was able to show children a time-lapse of a bubble freezing beautifully in real-time. The awe and wonder (and subsequent conversations about how we could do it again) reaffirmed the notion that working in early years is a little bit magic.

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Talking Point: The Silent Child (film with professional discussion prompts)

A short watch which is thought-provoking and worthy of reflective discussion amongst colleagues.

I use a book club format when using film as a professional reflection tool, with questions to prompt discussion and thinking. For example:

  • What makes up Libby’s world?
  • How does Libby feel?
  • How do her parents feel?
  • What are her parents’ motivations?
  • What has informed her grandmother’s understanding of Libby’s capabilities?
  • How do you think society views people with hearing impairments (current and/or historical understanding)?
  • What is the role of the social worker?
  • Where is the line between state and parental responsibility?
  • What support is available for children with hearing impairments, parents, professionals?
  • What could improve the outcomes of children with hearing impairments?
  • Where does early years education fit in to this?
  • How did the film make you feel?
  • Will the film change your practice? If so, how?

This list isn’t exhaustive but it captures some of the main elements of discussions I’ve had on the film – your team will be different and bring different experiences to the discussion. Let me know if you have any other suggestions to include!

Synopsis: A deaf 4-year-old girl named Libby lives in a world of silence until a caring social worker teaches her to use sign language to communicate.

Watch The Silent Child on BBC iPlayer: https://bbc.in/2qsCIa0

Ask Kate: reclaiming the word ‘classroom’

I’ve recently been asked why I refer to our woods as the “woodland classroom” and why I insist on calling our infant unit a classroom too. The question had overtones of “let children be children” but actually, my reasoning for using the phrase “classroom” to describe the environments my pupils spend their time in is both full of reverence for the importance of early childhood experiences and an attempt to communicate that.

This is not about schoolification, this is about reclaiming the word ‘classroom’ to communicate in a way that is readily understood by laymen that children are learning in my setting. Babies, toddlers and older children are learning (through play!) all the time, in all environments (even when you don’t want them to!) – and the word classroom in its purest form is a place where you learn, gain experiences and engage in experiences. Yes, my pupils also benefit from warm, responsive staff in classroom who carefully scaffold their learning – but we also have the ethos that no child can grow and learn until they feel safe and secure first.

In the same way that Forest School uses the semantics of the word ‘school’ to communicate the important ‘work’ (Maria Montessori definition) children undertake within that space – so I use words to raise the profile of the incredible development, growth and tenacity my children exhibit every day in my classrooms. Until early childhood is universally understood to be vital and foundational to all other learning (tied up with early years profession’s perception, worth and value – I suspect!), I use the words that communicate this.

Let me know your thoughts on this – do you have particular words in your setting that you use for their wider meaning rather than their perceived restrictions?