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!

Advertisements

Top 5 TED Talks of the Week

My favourite app of the moment is the TED Talks application. The app description reads: “Riveting talks by remarkable people, free to the world.” Its genius is in its simplicity; a collection of short (3-18 minute) TED talks, updated on a daily basis, on such a variety of topics that you can easily skip from neurobiological researchers talking about phantom limbs to a man discussing why it’s important that children have access to real power tools (rest assured, the two talks weren’t linked). All the information of the TED website in one tiny pixellated box.

For those of you not yet acquainted with TED, it could be described thusly:

“TED is a non-profit devoted to Ideas Worth Spreading. It started out in 1984 as a conference bringing together people from three worlds: Technology, Entertainment, Design (TED). Since then its scope has become ever broader. Along with two annual conferences TED includes the award-winning TEDTalks video site, the Open Translation Project and TED Conversations, the inspiring TED Fellows and TEDx programs, and the annual TED Prize.”

I’ve chosen 5 talks for a variety of reasons ranging from the purely interesting, the inspiring and those able to spark discussions. So, without further ado I present this week’s top 5 TED Talks:

  1. Ken Robinson says schools kill creativity. [9,838,473 views on TED Talks] Easily one of the most infamous TED Talks, Sir Ken Robinson makes an entertaining case for creating an education system that nurtures (rather than undermines) creativity. “If you’re not prepared to be wrong, you’ll never come up with anything original.”
  2. Annie Murphy Paul: what we learn before we’re born. Science writer Annie Murphy Paul talks through research that shows how much we learn in the womb – from the lilt of our native language to particular foods the outside environment. I watched this during lunch one day at work and found myself utterly enthralled by the concept of the womb environment having such a far-reaching influence on health later on in life. Needless to say I spent the evening sourcing further reading.
  3. Charles Limb: building the musical muscle. Charles Limb performs cochlear implantation, a surgery that treats hearing loss and can restore the ability to hear speech. From the perspective of a musician, Limb thinks about what the implants lack: the ability to fully experience music. At TEDMED, Limb reviews the state of the art and the way forward. One of my first significant experiences with communicative difficulties arose when one of my key children was diagnosed as being profoundly deaf. After a successful cochlear implantation, I set about liaising with professionals and practitioners to ensure she had the best possible start in her new, noisy life. I remember trying to explain to the other children (and occasionally parents) how the implant worked and the sounds it produced, before seeking to acquire a approximation to share. For an example see here.
  4. Gever Tulley teaches life lessons through tinkering.  In this talk, Gever Tulley (founder of the Tinkering School) uses photos and video to demonstrate the valuable lessons children learn at his school. He supplies them with tools, materials and support; then allows their imaginations to run wild and fosters creative problem-solving culminating in a variety of projects including boats, bridges and even a roller-coaster!
  5. Ron Gutman: the hidden power of smiling. Ron Gutman reviews a raft of studies about smiling and reveals some surprising results including: your smile can be a predictor of how long you’ll live, a simple smile has a measurable effect on your overall well-being, it’s a evolutionarily contagious behaviour and children can smile up to 400 times a day (in comparison to adults’ 20). After watching this video I felt quite healthy knowing that I tend to smile more than 20 times a day, and set out to find more information on facial expressions. After reading Charles Darwin’s “The Expression of the Emotions in Man and Animals” and about the Facial Action Coding System (FACS), I found an interesting interactive smile experiment on the BBC website alongside some truly awe-inspirinresearch carried out by Professor Campbell (Consultant and Director of Ultrasound for Create Health, London).

Quote of the Week

“Our thoughts are always imprisoned within the words we use to express them, and we cannot solve a problem if we use the wrong language. We have need to use the language not of building and mechanics, but of biology – roots, nourishment, growth – since we are concerned not with machines but with living, growing beings.”

Christian Schiller

Quote of the Week

“It is the mark of an educated mind to be able to entertain a thought without accepting it.”

Aristotle