“Food is our common ground, a universal experience.”~ James Beard

“Food is our common ground, a universal experience. “~ James Beard

Food unites one and all…

 ‘‘Lights, camera, action…’’ – one of the eager Yr 5 girls exclaimed as they were about to share their imovie about ‘strawberry smoothies’!

It was ‘Movie Day’- the girls having met with their buddies from the EEC, enthusiastically researched and prepared visual and audio presentations about the vegetables and fruit found in the EEC Vegetable Patch!

The children from the EEC were captivated by the imovie highlighting the use of carrots to make a carrot cake and the movie trailer showcasing the myriad of uses for celery – namely celery pasta.

However it was the visual of the plump, red, juicy strawberries used to make strawberry smoothies that won the vote of our conscientious, food critics from the EEC!

EEC Child: Delicious…strawberries

EEC Child 1: I love the colour…red

Interpretation:

Again, it was evident from the array of media devices used, that the ‘Hundred Languages’ …was truly embedded in this meeting –

“The child

is made of one hundred.

The child has

A hundred languages…” Louis Malaguzzi

The EEC teacher and I commented on the ease at which both groups of children engaged with each other. Although it was only their second meeting, the conversation and way the two groups interacted was affirmation that the joint project/s this year enhanced and enriched our sense of community as a College.

Questions arose…

What factors influenced the ‘ease’ at which both groups of children and students engaged?

 Were both groups of children familiar with meetings – observing interactions from previous projects?

 Did ‘food’ – the joy of creating meals and drinks inspire and unite all?

 “Eating with the fullest pleasure is perhaps the profoundest enactment of our connection with the world. In this pleasure we experience and celebrate our dependence and our gratitude. “~ Wendell Berry

 Strawberry Smoothie Delight…

 “Five, four three two , one”…the chorus of children from the EEC and Primary school could be heard chanting – as we waited and watched with vigilant eyes, the smoothie mixture whirling around…

 Observation

The joy was infectious…as the older primary school students worked collaboratively with their friends from the EEC. As the students prepared the cooking table, and discussed steps it was evident that the older students recognized the children from the EEC as ‘strong, capable and full potential’ – listening to their ideas and knowledge about strawberries…

EEC: We have 2 strawberries from our vegetable patch, we have helped them grow…

Primary Student: How have you helped them grow?

EEC Child: you know, by watering them

Primary student: and sunlight

EEC: Yes, but we don’t give them that, it’s in the sky!

Interpretation

Both groups of students were co researchers, their curiosity and questioning contributed to the cooking experience – they were formulating and testing hypotheses:

EEC: I think we need to add some more strawberries for the next smoothie…I couldn’t taste them!

Primary student: and not a lot of yoghurt, perhaps just 2 tablespoons.

Teacher: How long do you think we should blend the mixture?

EEC: not long

Primary student: less than last time

Primary student: let’s try for a minute

One of the Primary students, aware that the EEC children would not be aware of the duration for a minute, suggested we count backwards when we reached 20secs…the problem solving was admirable!!

It was evident that using the produce from the vegetable patch, making strawberry smoothies –

“Making [food] simple and letting things taste of what they are” (Maurice Edmond Sailland) –

delighted the appetites of all and enriched the learning across all subject areas…

Maths: counting forwards and backwards – duration of time.

Science and Technology: formulating and testing hypotheses

English: phonic awareness ‘s’ for strawberries, writing procedures and recounts about the experience.

Talking and listening to each other, suggestions and experiences.

Observation

As cooking time came to a close, and the girls walked their buddies back to the EEC –one teacher commented as she watched from the Library window…

“The projects between our EEC and Primary School certainly enhance our College atmosphere…if only we had school tours now, they could see what it means, how special it is to belong to our College – SSC!”

Personally I was struck by the image of one of our Primary School students with her friend from the EEC…several years ago she was a bright eyed graduate from the same EEC!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

    

 

 

 

 

 

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It Takes a Village to Raise a Child…

**EEC: Early Education Centre

Last weekend, I completed my first full marathon, in a time of 4hr 31min! Indeed it was a ‘learningleap – for the mind, body and soul! Just as I was soaring high on the momentum of completing a half marathon in May, the same endorphins motivated me to begin documentation of our second joint project between our Primary School and Early Education Centre!

The sense of community spirit throughout the Sydney Running Festival was infectious! I was in awe of the generosity of volunteers, the genuine  encouragement from spectators and comradeship felt between all participants- from ‘all walks of life’. As I made my way through the different parts of the course, inspired by the companionship of all, I was reminded of the ‘power of community’, and the sense of community spirit within our College, that is being enriched through projects between campuses!

This growing sense of community was captured during the initial meeting for our second joint project, “Mini Masterchefs” – it is evident, that while our college comprises of 5 distinct campuses, we are ‘one’, and through our interactions, we influence each other’s development.

’It take a village Raise a Child’ – it takes more than one person to teach a child the ways of life.

Provocation for the project

The flourishing Vegetable Garden was the catalyst for our next joint venture – in the project The Vegetable Garden(that proceeded this), students and children investigated the different plants, their needs and growth patterns. As the group shared their knowledge about the plants through a variety of mediums (‘hundred ‘languages’), questions and ideas ‘arose in abundance’.

Observation

Student: We use these plants…they’re called herbs, at home in our cooking

EEC Child: herbs?

Student: Yes, herbs are the name we can use for these plants.

EEC: We could use some in a salad, I love strawberry salad!

Student: We could use carrots for carrot cake…yum!

The conversation about the different recipes that could be followed and variety of meals made really engaged the children and students.

Reflection

On reflection, as an observer the backdrop for our initial meeting for both groups of children and students to ‘get to know each other’ was picturesque! The spectacular spring morning provided a stunning backdrop; with rugs spread across the lawn in front of MBH, students and children shared morning tea, and enthusiastically ‘chatted’ about the prospect of using the plants to ‘make and consume’ meals!

In a sense the provocation…’food’

‘How can we use these plants in our meals?’ –engaged all and encouraged conversation, as each wanted to share their own ‘food story’ – experiences with food, preparation and cooking!

Furthermore through the conversation, students and children were co-constructing meaning, developing and extending their vocabulary, through questioning – for example discussing the meaning of ‘herbs’.

The power of technology…

As technology is a vital learning tool for all of us in all dimensions of our lives, the Yr 5 students shared their ‘ipads’ with their EEC buddy to research ‘potential’ recipe ideas.

The investigation/question was shared with the group:

 What recipes can you find /locate that will require the plants grown in our vegetable garden?

Observation

(Nb for the purposes of blog, I will refer to groups in documentation)

Group 1: We’re going to use the strawberries to make strawberry muffins…and strawberry cake!

Group 2: We’re exploring tomatoes, capsicum and strawberries, we might make strawberry smoothies and fried capsicum.

Teacher: Do you have fried capsicum at home?

Child: Yes, Mum cooks it, it is delicious!

Group 3: We’re thinking of using apples and oranges, to make orange and apple cake.

Teacher: Do we have apples and oranges in the vegetable garden?

Child: No, but we can plant some!

Teacher: Perhaps you can research what season is best to plant apples and oranges?

Group 4: We’re going to grate the carrots and make carrot muffins – see like the ones in this picture (pointing to the screen).

Group 5: We have lots of these herbs in our garden at home, so we might use celery…Mum makes a delicious salad, with celery chunks!

Reflection

Indeed the ipads and the prospect of cooking engaged all – again highlighting the ‘power of experiences’, that are drawn from student interest, are relevant, engaging and challenging!

Interestingly the buddy pair in group 5 are brother and sister (they really wanted to work as a team) are bringing their own prior family experience and working together in a different context.

As the students and children discussed various options they were actively engaged in a range of skills, pertinent to authentic inquiry experiences, some are highlighted below:

Problem solving:  discussing ways to obtain different ingredients.

Research:  locating best ‘sites’ for ‘easy to follow recipes’.

Communication: collaboration between students, children and teachers. Sharing insights confidently with their peers.

Reflection: Reviewing and selecting appropriate/manageable recipes, in light of discussion with peers and teachers.

Where to next?

 The primary school are on a 2 week holiday break, we will meet first week of term:

  • Yr 5 students are preparing short imovies/PPT’s, that outline the procedure for the recipe selected.
  • Yr 5 students will share their imovies/PPT’s with their MBH buddies first week of term.
  • Questioning/information shared from imovies/PPT’s will influence recipes we select – to prepare, cook, and consume (using produce from the Vegetable Garden).
  • Create a joint MBH/DM recipe book (from produce in Vegetable Garden).

Santa Sabina Village…

As I observed the way the girls and EEC children interacted with ease and showed mutual respect for each other, I was reminded of how fortunate we are to be able to share our interests, knowledge and skills cross campus – the richness of our community – our village is greatly enhanced!

 

 

 

 

Growing the ‘Reggio Principles’ up into the Primary School…

 EEC: Early Education Centre

Growing the ‘Reggio principles up’…allowing ‘them’ to ‘flourish’ in the Primary School…

 As we continue our journey, strengthening ‘relationships’ cross campus, it is so rewarding to ‘listen’ to our ‘student voice’, articulating in their own words – the essence of the Reggio Philosophy…

Extract from a primary student reflection..

“Today with the EEC children, one of the boys and I drew a few pictures about what we might like our bee house to look like. I found out that if you took the time to listen to the children that they actually knew a lot and they can actually lead you into the right direction. I had no idea what an insect house was nor that they even existed, it was one of the boys from the EEC,that showed me what it looked like and described it to me.”

In this reflection, the primary identified in their own way, The Image of the Child:

 Children are viewed as being strong, competent, full of potential and the co-constructor of their own learning and understanding” Rinaldi

Teacher Reflection

The principles of Reggio have been interwoven, and acknowledged in various ‘Blog posts’  throughout the development of both projects: ‘ The Frog Pond’ and ‘Vegetable Garden’. Indeed, it is the Reggip principles which underpin and direct our inquiry. As a co-researcher on the learning journey with the children and students,  I find myself reflecting and posing the question:

How do we grow these principles (Reggio) up?

Research shows that students level for inquiry deteriorates as they move up through the schooling system, the average question a Year 9 student asks is ‘1’, so we ask…

How can we as co-researchers build on the inquiring minds of our young pre-school children and empower them through authentic inquiry experiences in the primary school to take meaningful and responsible action and make a difference in the world?

What can we learn from the expertise of the highly experienced, engaged and caring staff of our EEC?

As I wonder and seek ways to respond to the questions posed, I turn my focus to the IB PYP program.

Our primary school campus is currentlyin the process of ‘seeking candidacy’ from the IB.

Its mission is to ‘to develop inquiring, knowledgeable, caring and internationally minded people …to help create a better and more peaceful world.’

These words align with Image of the Child, which is at the heart of the Reggio Philosophy.

Hence as I continue to document our lines of inquiry, I endeavour to do so through the lenses of the IB Learner Profile, principles which underpin the PYP program. In this way, I hope to demonstrate the alignment between Reggio and IB learning philosophies and how the PYP facilitates the growth of the Reggio Principles in the Primary School.

Designing Insect Houses

The design process unfolds…

 Collaboration between campuses…

After a holiday break, feeling refreshed and reenergised we were very enthusiastic to reunite with our friends from the Early Education Centre. We were eager to share our ideas for our insect houses. We brought with us; our prior knowledge and experience, our imagination and intrigue as we discussed the possibilities…

EEC Child: I want to make a bug house, I’ve seen bugs, did you know there are all kinds?

Primary students: ok, what size do you think?

EEC: this one, come here, I ll show you…my teacher has a picture of it

Primary Student: How do you think we could make it? Cardboard, glue, sticky tape?

EEC: No…we need wood, a drill…for the holes…see the picture, it’s wood!

Primary student: how will we get the wood?

EEC Teacher: I’ll bring some in and we will take it in turns to drill the holes.

Interpretation

This conversation highlights the difference between the ‘meaning of inquiry’ for the EEC child and the primary student. The primary student sought to create a house from recycled materials, which in some way looked like an insect house,  however for the EEC child, their intention was far greater- their purpose, an authentic one, to achieve the purpose and attract ‘real insects’. This conversation exemplifies inquiry as a process to ‘enable students to take meaningful and responsible action’ – ‘action’ is central to the PYP Program.

As the collaboration continued, ideas abounded, students and children used  a range of resources  -‘hundred languages’, such as laptops, ipads, poster paper, coloured markers and drawing tools to explain their hypotheses for their insect houses. The primary students initiated conversations about responsibilities within the group; lists of jobs and resources for the insect houses were generated.

Confident and highly engaged with the prospect of building their houses next week, the primary students accompanied their friends back to the EEC and joyfully shared their experiences of the design process with their peers.

Reflection

Designing insect houses, is the culmination, so to speak of prior experiences of inquiry –which build upon student engagement, interest and questions. Thus this approach resonates with the PYP pedagogical approach where inquiry needs to be relevant, significant, challenging and engaging.

Furthermore the following attributes of the PYP Learner Profile were also highlighted in the design process, and throughout the cross campus project thus far…

 

PYP Learner Profile Designing Insect House Experience
Inquirers Students and children ‘develop their natural curiosity’. They acquire new skills, learning from each other to conduct the inquiry…designing an insect house.
Knowledgeable The students and children ‘explore concepts, ideas about insect houses – ideas that have local and (global) significance.’
Thinkers The students and children ‘exercise initiative in applying thinking skills- critically and creatively solving problems’ when sharing insect house designs.
Communicators The students and children ‘work effectively and willingly in collaboration with others’. Their relationships are enhanced as they express ideas and information confidently and creatively.
Principled It is evident in all our inquiry experiences that the children and students always ‘act with a strong sense of fairness, justice and respect for each individual’. This is strongly reflected in the documentation of conversations shared.
Open-minded As each of the students and children exchange ideas about insect houses, it shows ‘they are accustomed to seeking and evaluating a range of points of views, and are willing to grow and learn from the experience’.
Caring In all our meetings, it is evident that ‘they show empathy, compassion and respect towards the needs and feelings of others. In both our projects; The Frog Pond and Vegetable Garden – ‘we are displaying a positive commitment to make a difference to the environment.’
Courageous (Risk takers) In all our areas of inquiry, particularly as we design our insect houses, we approach ‘unfamiliar situations with courage…and independence of spirit to explore new ideas/strategies…we are all brave and articulate to defend’ our hypotheses!
Balanced As we work together, we are learning from each other the importance of ‘intellectual, physical and emotional balance’.
Reflective As each of us – students, children and teachers reflect on our experiences , using various ‘languages’, ‘we give thoughtful consideration to our learning and experience- understanding our strengths and limitations.

Making the links between the IB PYP and Reggio Principles is indeed a ‘learningleap’ for me…one that I embrace, with commitment and passion! We look forward to further exploring the possibilities between both campuses as we embark on the PYP journey at our primary school!

‘The Hundred Languages’…myriad of ways students share knowledge!

*EEC: Early Education Centre

*EEC: Early Education Child

The child

is made of one hundred.

The child has

A hundred languages

A hundred hands

A hundred thoughts

A hundred ways of thinking

Of playing, of speaking. Loris Malaguzzi

The essence of the Hundred Languages was central to our recent meeting, as the primary students engaged with various ‘mediums’ – ‘languages’ to communicate their research about vegetables and frogs!

The students, having shared gardening experiences and observed the development of the Frog Pond in the EEC over the last few weeks, were eager to develop ways to further enhance and promote an understanding of related concepts about these two topics – frogs and vegetables. They were seeking ‘different languages’ to work collaboratively as co-researchers with their younger peers to ‘construct meaning’.

‘Snapshots of the Hundred Languages’…

 ‘A hundred always a hundred

Ways of listening of marveling of loving’ Loris Malaguzzi

 

The passionfruit story…

 One of the Primary students began her slide show about passionfruits

She asked the children about the colours of passionfruit and a conversation generated about their knowledge of passionfruits:

EEC child – Mine is red

EEC child– Mine is yellow, pink and red. I like them and suck on them, they go crunch

EEC child – with black seeds

EEC child – It grows in a vine. I like passionfruit icecream

EEC child – What’s a vine?

Teacher Reflection

The picture of a vine intrigued one of the EEC children and acted as a provocation for future exploration.  This authentic questioning allowed the primary student to demonstrate her knowledge as she confidently explained the vine, providing analogies so the children could develop a deeper understanding of ‘vines’. This question was recorded as a possible line of inquiry for future learning experiences.

 

‘A hundred worlds

To discover’ Loris Malaguzzi

The frog pond story…

Eagerly, another primary student shares her information in a different way, to communicate information about frog habitats.

The EEC children listen attentively and are highly engaged, as they recall some of the elements/key words from the presentation about frog ponds:

EEC Child– leaves and bushy

EEC Child – grass

EEC Child – cockroaches

Wil – bees and dragonflies

Siena – mosquitos

Hamish – spiders

 Teacher Reflection

The EEC teacher challenged the students and children to apply the knowledge gained from this presentation to their own context by asking:

EEC Teacher:

“How could we check if our frog pond has all those elements?”

Hence, another possible ‘line of inquiry’ to further investigate was shared.

 

‘A hundred worlds

To invent’  Loris Malaguzzi

Another student shows the children a slide show on the life cycle of the frog – this slide show engages the audience with the use of sound effects!

The children watch as the eggs hatch and the tadpole develops into a frog – the pictures explain that frogs can been seen from June to September.

We discuss that its that time of year right now and will need to look out for signs of frogs!

 

‘A hundred joys

For singing and understanding’ Loris Malaguzzi

 The carrot story…

Lastly. information is shared about carrots, using an imovie! The children marvel in the animations that show the seeds being sown, the effect of water and how they grow under the ground.

 

Teacher Reflection

‘The Library’ was our meeting point for this session and it was a delight to observe the initial interaction of students and EEC children. The EEC teacher and I both observed that the students and EEC children did not require as much scaffolding and support to greet each other. As a follow up to previous sessions, I had discussed ‘verbal prompts’ and ‘gestures’ with the primary students to engage their younger peers and it was wonderful to observe the growing confidence of the older students, to initiate conversation; in effect, modeling leadership qualities.

This session highlighted ‘The Hundred Languages’ (Reggio Principle) – as the primary students shared knowledge about ‘vegetables’ and ‘frogs’, using a myriad of forms.  The different use of ‘media – hundred languages’ engaged the children, promoting and inviting different lines of inquiry, which we look forward to investigating after the holiday period.

Some ideas…

  • Observe the frog pond for elements discussed in power point presentations
  • Look at the difference between vines and bushes
  • Investigate insect houses and how to make them

These possibilities continue to engage and inspire us, on our learning journey together.

 

 

 

‘Wisdom begins in wonder.’ Socrates

*EEC: Early Education Centre

 

‘Wisdom begins in wonder.’ Socrates

IMG_2691

 As we all eagerly abounded for the gates of the EEC, I listened intently to the discussion between the girls:

 Wondering was the central theme, as we embarked on visit number three!

“I wonder if the children are waiting for us?”

“I wonder what we are going to see today?”

“I wonder if the plants the senior girls gave us last week, are planted?”

“I wonder if they’re (plants) are still alive!”

“I wonder if we’ll have time to share our imovies with them about vegetables and frogs?”

“I wonder what they’re (children) are thinking?”

‘Our wondering’ was met with awe and amazement as we viewed the seedlings/plant pots given to us by our senior gardening counterparts last week – they were beginning to flourish beautifully!

Teacher Reflection

As I stood back and observed the interaction of both groups of students, they were almost ‘like old friends’; the reconnecting phase of this visit was a distinct difference to our initial meeting. It was obvious that friendships had been formed – just as the plants were sprouting shoots, relationships and bonds between the children were also growing.

As we ventured out to the vegetable patch, the students and children organized themselves with minimal direction or encouragement; with hands intertwined, the younger children led the way…

 “Sometimes, reaching out and taking someone’s hand is the beginning of a journey.

 At other times, it is allowing another to take yours.”

Vera Nazarian, The Perpetual Calendar of Inspiration

Student: What plant do you want to plant?

Child: strawberry one…

Students: where do you want to plant it?

Child: it needs to be able to get sunlight

Student: over here (gesturing the position)

Child: ok…I ll get the shovel

Child: look there’s a bee, watch out!

“One should pay attention to even the smallest crawling creature for these too may have a valuable lesson to teach us.”  Black Elk

 I wondered…

What was the lesson of the tiny insects?

Indeed, the insects, flying from leaf to flower, to stalk, certainly engaged and enthralled all!

 Were they united in wonder about the tiny creatures?

 Did the insects, act as a stimulas for discussion, as they shared ideas about the presence of the bee, the ladybug, the ant and butterfly in the vegetable patch?

Just as the ‘tiny crawling creatures’, added beauty and wonder to the garden, so too they enhanced the connection between both the students and EEC children.

There is something of the marvelous in all things of nature.  Aristotle

IMG_2690

 Their attention returned to the ‘joy’ of planting all the seedlings, busily they worked away, selecting and holding each small plant – one partner carefully dug the hole, while the other placed the vegetables/fruit precisely into the ground, covering it generously with soil. This process continued until all plants were embedded in the vegetable garden.

Teacher Reflection

The planting process was quite symbolic during this visit.

Just as the plants required nurturing to grow and blossom, it was a reminder to the teachers, the co-researchers that relationships need to be cultivated; to grow from the offering of trust, respect, kindness and affection.

‘Watering the garden’ –  the final stage of the planting process intrigued and united one and all!

Student: I’ll hold the hose, you hold the nozzle and water…

Child: ok…..it doesn’t reach

Student: ok…I’ll let it go a little

Teacher Reflection

The Students and children developed a system that ‘was fair’ for all participants, taking turns and assuming various roles, so everyone was able to water the vegetable patch! Independently, they were ‘constructing meaning’ and making sense of their world.

Needless to say the plants were water drenched, and puddles abounded!

As time was not on side for this visit, laughter and smiles shared, we parted ways with our young friends and were reminded…

‘The world is mud-luscious and puddle-wonderful’.  e.e. Cummings

                                                   IMG_2613

 

Reflection ‘snapshots’ and our cross campus visit…

*EEC: Early Education Centre

*PS: Primary Student

*SS: Secondary Student

 

Reflection ‘snapshots’ and our cross campus visit

After each visit, I ask the students to share their experiences with the class…as you can imagine the thirteen Yr 5 girls, not part of the project (this term) eagerly wait to hear the progress from each of our visits. Students are also asked to record in their journals, most complete this through our online forum, ‘Edmodo’..

Sometimes, I offer prompts, to encourage the conversation and discussion…

Some guiding questions…

What did you enjoy?

What did you find out??

What did you find challenging?

What are you looking forward to?

What are you finding out about yourself as a learner?

What questions/wonderings do you have?

 In this way, I gain information about how the older children are feeling, their interpretation of the experiences, the memorable moments and also the challenges they encounter…

Some student reflections to date…

 Student 1: Over the last couple of weeks, I have had the privilege to work with some children from the EEC. This opportunity has opened up my eyes to see how a different part of our campus learns. I’m eager to begin this unit of work as I enjoy interacting with the children. Seeing them so engrossed with nature assures me that the children will be engaged in these two projects we are exploring together. I hope I can teach the EEC children some skills and they can teach me. I will have the opportunity to learn many skills that I will enable me to be a great steward of our universe.

 Student 2: I really enjoyed going to the EEC because I’ve learnt a lot of things about the preschoolers. I now know what they are growing and how they are going to attract frogs to their frog pond.

Student 3: The EEC has a vegetable garden; they are growing strawberries, chilies and tomatoes. They also constructed a frog pond, and they are testing different theories to attract the frogs to the pond!

Student 4: Today, I found it challenging to talk to the preschoolers and start a conversation…

Student 5: I am looking forward to seeing the EEC children next week, and sharing with them the different resources we have created for them about frogs. I really hope the PPTs help them gain further knowledge about frogs.

Student 6:  Over the period of time that we have worked with EEC children I’ve really got to know the EEC children better. I’ve learnt about the plants they’ve been investigating. I’ve learnt how various plants grow and the different stages that happen. In sharing this information with the ECC children, I’ve had to think carefully how to explain this knowledge: how and why this occurs. I’ve also gained some knowledge from my EEC partner about how plants thrive and survive.

I found it challenging to explain things at a level where it wasn’t too complex for the children to understand. I’m eager to have another block of time with the children because I thoroughly enjoy working with other members of our campus.

Teacher Reflection

The reflections represent a ‘snapshot’ of their thinking to date. Interestingly it is the students themselves that are identifying and articulating the principles of Reggio in their own words/reflections…

Pedagogy of Listening

‘I found it challenging to explain things at a level where it wasn’t too complex for the children to understand. I had to ask and listen to see if they really understood!’

 Pedagogy of Relationships

I’ve really got to know the EEC children better’

‘I’m eager to have another block of time with the children because I thoroughly enjoy working with other members of our campus.’

 Collaboration

‘I hope I can teach Mary Bailey some skills and they can teach me. I will have the opportunity to learn many skills’

 Projects

‘Seeing them so engrossed with nature assures me that the children will be engaged in these two projects we are exploring together.’

 Image of the Child

‘I’ve learnt a lot of things about the preschoolers.’

 ‘I hope I can teach the EEC children some skills and they can teach me. I will have the opportunity to learn many skills that I will enable me to be a great steward of our universe.’

 Hundred Languages

‘I am looking forward to seeing the EEC children next week, and sharing with them the different resources we have created for them about frogs.’

Our cross campus visit…

 ‘…when ripe it’s round, yellow and orange and quite heavy to carry..’ (the ECC teacher gestured the shape of a pumpkin with her hands)

The ECC teacher had all children and students captivated as she described the physical characteristics of pumpkins!

We would be on the ‘look out’ for pumpkins as we were off on a first ‘field trip’ together!

 This discussion marked our third visit…

Our third visit initiated a ‘triple cross campus venture’, in that children from the EEC and students from the primary campus crossed the Boulevarde Bridge and in effect broke down the physical barrier that links all 3 campuses and further strengthened relationships between students across the College P-12!

The ‘Garden Club’ on the secondary campus, comprising of students from Yrs6-9, warmly greeted us, and led us down a winding track, that led to their flourishing green vegetable garden. It was evident from the array of healthy growing sprouts and well developed stalks of spinach, and basil leaves that much love and care had been invested into this garden…setting a high benchmark for any keen horticulturist …truly inspiring.

Teacher Reflection

As the students and children enthusiastically paced the pavement to gaze and admire the patch of vegetables, I observed the way the students listened to their younger friends, bending down to hear and truly listen to their comments.

A few of the EEC children distinguished the various plants by smell, I observed how the older students followed their lead and proceeded to share the description of fragrances with others; including their teachers. Evidence that ‘listening’ takes many different forms, this action of the younger children informed their older counterparts, that they would also need to observe their behavious to develop a true understanding of their thinking.

EEC Child: that’s spinach

EEC Child: and they’re strawberries…we’re growing them too

Student: I think that’s basil

S Student: Why do think that? How could you check?

P student: smell? (she smells)

P student: No, not basil, basil is quite strong

S Student: have another go

Teacher Interpretation

Students of all ages were collaborating, constructing meaning, asking questions to prompt, to test theories and gain deeper knowledge….without teacher intervention!

Quite remarkable to observe , the teacher was the co researcher, listening with all senses to provide provocations for future investigation.

As the students from all campuses shared their gardening tips and stories, respect was shown, equity for all, as each group listened intently to each other.

I noticed that throughout the course of the morning visit to the senior campus, that each of the primary students had connected with a younger child from the EEC, they had in fact, assigned themselves a ‘buddy’.  This helped immensely with engaging the younger children in conversation, and developing ‘relational trust between both groups. Prior to the visit, primary students had commented that initiating and sustaining conversation was a challenge:

Student: ‘I found it challenging to talk to the preschoolers and start a conversation…’

As we walked back across the bridge, relationships strengthened, my colleague and I discussed the need to affirm the ‘buddy connection’ and encourage the primary students to use prompts to engage and extend conversation, fostering authentic interactions between both groups.

We all felt energized by our brisk walk and visit to another part of our College, expanding our network of relationships cross campus!

As we each parted ways at our meeting point – ‘The Library’, the ‘plant pots’ given to us as a gift by our senior gardeners – carefully crafted and packaged, to ‘survive’ the trip from one garden to another, were to become a ‘symbol’ for our ‘Promoting Partnerships Project’!

Our first visit…

“I’ve always wondered about that building…” exclaimed one of the students, as we headed towards the Early Education Centre (EEC), and the chatter began…

“Me too”…another student added.

“I see people, mums and dads coming going, children in the outdoor play area…if the EEC is part of our College, why is it all out of bounds?”

“ I am just so excited to be visiting, to be part of this project…teaching the little children!” other students commented.

Teacher Reflection:

As one of the students shared her comment about ‘teaching the little children’, I was going to interject and explain to her that the process/project would be collaborative etc,

However one of the underlying intentions of this project was for the students to recognize themselves and the children in the EEC “as strong, competent, full of resources and the co-constructors of their knowledge” Rinaldi in Milikan (2003;32), hence I acknowledged her comment and asked:

‘I wonder what we are all going to learn?’

As I listened to the students engaging in conversation – for a Friday morning, their enthusiasm was infectious! Taking into account, their week was interwoven with a myriad of events; namely the recognition of Reconciliation Week, our Annual Sports Carnival, the Da Vinci Decathlon and Cross Country Championships, the anticipation of meeting the children and working in their environment – building relationships with other members of our College was a joy to observe!

Visit: One of the teachers from the EEC and a group of children (4) warmly welcomed us into their room…

I observed the awe and wonder shared by the studentstaking in the kaleidoscope of colour, resources, watching children intently engaging in a range of activities. Our girls wandered eagerly, yet respectfully around the EEC room, trying to capture and make sense of all the images that abound them.

Teacher reflection: Likewise the EEC children initially were startled/puzzled by the visitors who had entered their room, as their little eyes darted across the room, I wondered what they were thinking…their smiles and laughter assured me they were looking forward to working with us – they would in a sense assume the role as leaders, sharing their environment with us.

The students showed respect towards their new friends, observing, engaging the children with smile, conscious that they were the visitors. As Louis Malaguzzi (Educational Theorist for Reggio Emilia) regonises “the importance of the relationship between the physical environment and its ability to support social relationships”  

Visit: As the students and EEC children exchanged waves and more smiles, we moved outdoors:

MBH: “We want the frogs to come..”

The ECC teacher prompted the students to explain what they had to do to attract the frogs

MB: We put in a light, some stones…

MB: yeh..and lots of insects came

A student asked inquisitively…in an effort to extend the thinking of her younger peer:

Why did the insects come

ECC child: the light, insects like light

Student : I think I see a tadpole…

Eagerly all eyes gazed to the pond for the sighting of the ‘tadpole’!

The ECC teacher explained that it was probably a worm etc and continued to share with us different experiences of the Frog Pond.

As the students and ECC children exchanged stories and knowledge about frogs, we suggested that we could collaborate with them in their research …ideas abounded….

Student: We can make them a book…about frogs, next time we come we will ask them what questions they want to found out and make a question /answer book

Student: What about an imovie ‘Why frogs won’t come out in winter’?

ECC Child: I love going to the movies!

Instantaneously, one of the boys who had found it a little tricky to remain focused on sharing the ‘frog story’ entered back into the conversation. The idea of a movie about frogs certainly gained his attention!

 Teacher Reflection: As the enthusiasm rose between the students I observed and listened to their ideas/ their initiatives. The relationship between the two groups of students was strengthened by a shared project/purpose. I was impressed by the way our students calmly led the ECC chn back into the conversation and continued to ask them questions to encourage and elicit responses.

Student reflections:

‘we can work on expanding the area and make it more inviting for the frogs, for example encouraging plants, native to the area, perhaps finding ‘real’  lilly pads, taking out some stones, removing the excess number of insects and later on we can build on the use of materials’

 

‘We’re going to contact Strathfield council, and find out the best plants to grow in the Strathfield region.’

 

The students and children from EEC were ‘constructing meaning’ and directing the next steps to enhance the project.

Teacher Reflection: Similarly, Catherine and I in our role as co-researchers discussed some further possibilities:

Where to next with ‘The Frog Pond Project’?

–       creating insect houses, drawing / visualising ideas prior to creation of models

–       encouraging students to develop and test hypotheses about the frog pond

For example, building on the provocation of one student:

What if we tried changing the position of the frog pond in the outdoor area?

The Vegetable Garden

Visit: As enthusiasm and genuine interest for the frog pond continued, with ongoing exchanges between the two groups of students, the EEC teacher invited us to view the vegetable garden…

All I can say, upon our first viewing is watch out ‘Better Homes and Gardens’!

We were all impressed by the flourishing plants/vegetables.

Instantly the EEC children shared their learning with us…

EEC Child: look at the spinach, and the basil

EEC Child: wow, I can see a ladybug

EEC Child: no it’s an ant

Student:  why do they (insects) come here?

Again, a sign that the girls wanted to encourage the students to explain their thinking

Student : it’s food for them

Teacher Reflection: Through observing and listening, conscious not to direct the learning experience, I observed:

–       the ongoing exchange of knowledge/questioning etc;

–       turn taking;

–       respect for the learner, listening to one another;

–       sharing of personal experiences, and linking prior knowledge to create meaning;

–       peer mentoring.

The students were again eagerly developing ideas, based on the inquiry/questions of their younger friends:

Visit

Student: The shady area can be used for plants that don’t require sunshine. We will research soil types and plants prone to sunshine and shady conditions

Student: We will also find plants that all children can maintain

Student: We can make books about the vegetable patch…non fiction and fiction

Again, Catherine and I as co-researchers, shared further ideas that would strengthen relationships and enhance the project:

–       exploring recipes that the students could make using the vegetables;

–       sharing morning tea alongside the vegetable patch;

–       storytelling using the books the students create with EEC children;

–       accompanying the ECC children on their mini excursion to our secondary campus next week, to observe their vegetable garden.

Teacher Reflection: A beautiful reflection, on our return to the primary campus captured the essence of the project thus far…

 

‘I loved visiting and working with the EEC children today’

Primary Teacher: Why? What was the highlight?

Student: It was great to listen, to talk to the children – even though they’re little and cute, they know what they’re doing!

Primary Teacher: What do you mean –‘they’ know what they’re doing?

Student: Well if you ask questions , you learn, if you’re inquisitive, which they are, everyone learns. I just can’t wait until we work with them next week… I am inspired!

 

The student (who had initially thought of her role as the ‘teacher’) had discovered for herself Rinaldi’s view of the child as strong and capable!

Indeed ‘learners constructing meaning’ was evident today!

 

 

Taking the leap…’learningleap’

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Soaring on the momentum and endorphins of completing a half marathon last Sunday – a ‘physical leap’, so to speak,  I thought I would take a ‘professional leap’ and  activate my blog!

‘learningleaps’, as the name suggests will document areas of my own practitioner enquiry. Practitioner enquiry is a vehicle for my own professional learning and growth.

Each week, I hope to keep you updated with the  ‘leap’ I am undertaking! In sharing my projects with you,  I would love to learn from your wisdom and expertise and thus invite feedback from all!

‘learningleap’…

How can I embed the principles of Reggio in an upper primary environment and strengthen relationships P-12?

I recall vividly the Early Childhood Conference I attended at a local university at the end of 2005. In particular, I was overwhelmed by the exhibition which included ‘mini narratives that showed the social construction of knowledge … by powerful capable children as authors of their own learning …’

The exhibition represented a range of preschool and primary school contexts. I was in awe of the panels of ‘documentation’ – transcripts documenting student conversation between their peers and teachers.

Through the interpretation and analysis of documentation it was evident these educators really knew their children. They listened to, valued and showed a deep respect for each child’s contribution. The knowledge was created and shared by all participants.

Unlike previous conferences where I came away with notes of answers and information, I felt energised as I walked  away with questions, provocations to explore…

Do I just say ‘I listen’ or do I really listen to the students in my class?

Is it ‘my class’ or are we working together as researchers making sense of our world?

How would I see the learner if I took time to document and interpret conversations?

I was challenged by my own understanding of what it means to educate. This planted the seeds for change in my own practice.

and the journey continues…

Being blessed by motherhood, I am mum to Ava, now 2.5yrs and Miss Molly, 11 months! My husband is relishing the role of part time work, and strengthening the bond with his daughters. Hence I have returned to full time this year, feeling highly energised and passionate about pedagogy, I am again inspired  to embed the principles of Reggio authentically into my current practice.

Hence I  recently met with a colleague, the Director of our Early Childhood Centre to discuss possibilities for joint projects between Yr 5 students and students in the pre-school room. We discussed the idea of developing projects that would enhance student, staff and parent relationships across the campuses of a P-12 College.

 

Context:

The students in Year 5 have been investigating: How can we demonstrate joint stewardship of the universe: an enquiry question developed from this complex question: What are the issues for the future and what is my responsibility?

In order to promote the principles of Reggio. I am ‘listened’ to the students, to ascertain potential sustainability projects in our school environment and encouraged the link with our younger friends at Mary Bailey House. In so doing building and strengthening ‘relationships’ between students.

The Director of the childcare centre shared the sustainability projects, already underway, namely – ‘The Frog Pond’ project and ‘Vegetable Garden’ project. While we have discussed some initial ideas, we will observe the interactions between the students, listen to their questions/findings  and plan accordingly.

Stay tuned for an update of this ‘learningleap’ and news of my next ‘leap’– project later this week!