Monday, 29 July 2013

The science of colour (BJS " Birthday in Color" project)

So now I am going to reveal the inspiration behind what is going to make these jars so special...

Whilst at the Boulder Journey School they shared their "journey" with the birthday canvas/ birthday paints - and it really was just a fantastic way to bring a group together... to help them feel community and collaboration and to feel how all individuals participate in a group - creating an inclusive group... it also sets up a beautiful birthday tradition.

As you can see they have displayed two canvases - one for all the children in the class/group and one for all the parents. When a child has their birthday they get to create their own colour... they start off with saying what their basic colour is... green, blue etc etc... and then they can start talking about what sort of shade it is and how to create that shade...

Once the birthday child has their colour the group paints the whole canvas with the paint specially created... and left over paint is put in a jar and labelled.

When the canvas is dry masking tape is put across the canvas and there is the wait until the next birthday and the new choice of colour to be painted...
and once dry more masking tape...
this will continue throughout the year until all the children have had their birthdays (the same is done for the parents) and then they will have a masking tape removal celebration where they will peel away all the masking tape revealing all of the children's colours...



I bet that celebration is going to be quite exciting working out where your own colour is after being hidden under many layers of friends' shades of paint...

And here is the row of paint designed by the children...

Of course it doesn't have to be birthdays... I have been thinking about how to make this work at the preschool where I work, and so many of our children have their birthdays during the summer break that it would not make this activity viable - so I am thinking why not do it anyway... as a method to learn about the science of colour (if we are going to recreate their colour maybe we need to think about measuring the amounts of each colour added to create the shade... maybe there ought to be sessions before hand where the children can just experiment with creating colours - so that whole need to mix as many colours as possible is satisfied before thinking about it as a science... also maybe they should be given the opportunity to try and recreate colours themselves - give them an apple and see if they can recreate the apple colour etc etc... and see how difficult it is, and how the use of mathematics can make recreating easier and faster...)

And then there is the naming of the shade... will the children call them light blue, dark blue, or ill they get named sky blue, sea blue... does it make a difference? How much do you want to influence this?
I guess it depends on what question you ask
"What kind of blue is this?"
"What are you going to call your blue?"
"what does your blue remind you of?"
All three could produce VERY different answers from the same child...
(I have had children call their colours "Emma" because I asked "what are you going to call your blue?" Or "What name are you going to give your colour?"
Its a rather humbling thing to think how much power of influence we have - just by making a simple decision as to which question do we pose!!

Its also a fantastic way to document all the children's birthday over the year - imagine the birthday book you could create along with it for the children to take home at the end of the year...

Anyway - the "Birthdays in Colour" project from Boulder has inspired me to delve further into the science of colour... and with the creation of our new larger atelier I am getting very excited about putting that space into action...

I will no doubt return to this topic as I start to encounter it with the children... and will mix my own reflections with those I have collected from Boulder... as one of the sessions we listened to was about just this project...

so if I have whet your interest here... keep tuned in for the next post on this...

Saturday, 27 July 2013

Tinkering bark boats - and the maiden voyage!

building boats with bark, sticks and bits of cardboard - they took out the tools and just got on with it...

summer does mean there are lots of empty boxes of ice-cream to cut up and use as sails... no glue - hole ingenuity!

and of course decoration is a vital part of the process...
the boats ready to be tested on the lake...
but it was important to test the lake themselves before testing the boats...
they worked!! splash technique to make them move...
filling the sails with wind!!
pirate boats under attack from the shore (a row of stones) mud balls made to knock the attackers over....

Outdoor water play inspiration...

opportunities for water play have been built into the grounds at Acorn School - the stones mark out a stream - its dry bed now but with added water/rain it will flow... and the water table for some playing, mixing etc
 And now I am turning my attention to the photos showing water-play opportunities outside. It is something that I saw at both preschools - The Acorn School (AS) and Boulder Journey School (BJS). Playing with water is something that I valued greatly as a child - in the ditch making mud pies at the bottom of the garden or using stones and mud to dam streams (if I am entirely honest that part of my childhood has not ceased to exist... on a holiday to France in the early years of my marriage my husband was somewhat surprised to see me making stone towers and damming the mountain streams... he soon got over it though and joined me...)

I gather from talking with locals in Boulder that it does not rain much there... so waiting for the weather to create mud and other such conditions could be a long long wait (in a way like in Sweden during the winter the mud play disappears as the surface freezes hard - and not al years are blessed with snow to play with...) - so with dry baked earth in Boulder it is important to add water to the outdoor environment to create muddy puddles and other water play...

Again the surface nerd in me that has well and truly escaped has enjoyed seeing how water play is not for a specific surface - that by having water play available on a variety of surfaces allows the children to observe the variety of behaviours of water as it comes in contact with the surfaces - will it run, will it follow grooves, will it just absorb etc etc

water tap available on both sides of the wall - the walls and gate are there so that groups can work on outdoor experiments in small groups without being disturbed, and often the gates are open so that there is collaboration between groups - all group-rooms had their own doorway to the outdoor-play area so the children were free to go in and out as they pleased... (AS)

a view of the dry river bed just begging to be filled with water and for adventures to begin!! (AS)

what equipment you offer the children also influences how they will interact with the water - of course pipes etc can be used for more than just water... (AS)

here the water play is on a gravel surface and is a variety of containers and pipes for the children to experiment with (BJS)

close by is sand and a kitchen - perfect to take water from the other area to create mud pies and other potions... (BJS)

Sometimes water play can be more gentle - sitting in the shade watching coloured ice melt and slowly spooning over the coloured water into clear water to see what happens - again the visual joy of so many different surfaces is very pleasing, and the shade really adds to the whole experience - the rounded organic shade of the tree compared to the lined shade of the roofing... (BJS)

a close up of the previous water -play/experiment area - the choice to have just metal equipment here is aesthetically pleasing... will also affect the sound of the water... (BJS)

use of an old slide to create a waterplay/experiment feature - a more sandy surface (got into my sandals ALL the time - personally I would want to be barefoot here or with shoes where the sand would not irritate my feet - my feet are like many children I know who are constantly at the edge of the sandbox emptying their shoes) (BJS)

so its not just about WHAT equipment you have on offer, but also how it is stored. When I see this I get so envious that Sweden would not allow for such boxes without lids - with the amount of snow and rain we got - BUT it is about taking this idea and working out how we can create something that works for US in our weather, with our circumstances and with our children... (BJS)

another view of the slide - I really wished I had played with this now to see how it worked, but as a visitor I was not sure if turning on the taps was an options - it would be fun if the BJS could do an outdoor workshop in coming summer schools where the outdoor areas can be played with - especially as the "messing around" idea comes from David Hawkins... but more about David Hawkins in another post.... (BJS)

to have so much water play requires lots of hosepipe!! (BJS)

another dry river bed and there are watering cans hanging there - as they have had a gardening project... (BJS)


water-play was not restricted to the preschools - in the middles of the main shopping street in Boulder there was water play - and it was always well used every time I went by - I also liked the fact there was a similar water-play area next to the Wholefoods supermarket...


of course water play does not require lots of equipment and fancy designed outdoor play areas... the preschool I work at does not have its own outdoor play-space - we use the square, the parks and the nearby forest as our play-space. Here is an example of ice and water play on the square... (Filosofiska)

the simple pleasure of water and brushes to create temporary artworks on the ground - this is when the surface can really influence the way you work - concrete create easy "paintings" but the children still marvelled at how the water flowed along the cracks - what would happen on gravel, grass, mud, wood etc etc? (Filosofiska)

of course the local parks here in Stockholm often have some form of water play opportunities - here my children are taking full advantage of that... 

water-play in nature can mean up-close encounters with new friends... (Filosofiska)

mud play needs nothing more than dirt and water - and then what ever equipment you desire to encourage play/experimentation... here we took the children onto the square using sensory tables and a big box full of mud... (Filosofiska)

as you see, not having a outdoor-play does NOT mean you are limited - it just challenges your imagination - you have to be more creative to provide the opportunities for the children... and once you have thought of them... often they are not that complicated.... (Filosofiska)

rain can really offer some of the best water play outside - just to allow the children to see the water droplets on a bench and to draw pictures with them and then wipe them away and watch the water swoosh off the bench... (Filosofiska)

of course that first access to water outside after a long frozen winter is VERY special... and this is proof its NEVER too cold for water play!!!!  (Filosofiska)

Thursday, 25 July 2013

A story about a hole...

A story about listening to children... not jumping to conclusions...
From The Acorn School in Boulder...



Debbie told me about the hole - that was once much much bigger and about how the adults became concerned about the safety of the children but instead of asking the children to fill in the hole the children were asked what the children were aiming to achieve with the hole.

The children knew exactly what they were doing - they wanted to know how deep they could dig and how many children could fit in the hole.

The children were allowed to continue with their digging but they needed to ensure that all the children and staff at the preschool were aware of the hole so that no-one accidentally fell in, as well as making sure they marked out where the hole was so that it was clear to everyone where the hole was located - just as real construction sites need to do...

On a photo it might look like just a hole - but there was a whole lots of learning involved...

  • gross motor skills
  • collaboration/social skills
  • mathematics
  • language skills
  • understanding safety
  • understanding how their actions affect others
... to name a few...

The hole has been filled up over time ... and probably fills some other purpose in the children's play... I bet it would be a great place for rain to collect and for muddy potions to be concocted - or even for feet to squish in!! Will treasure be buried for children in the future to discover? Could it be a pit of snakes to jump over or balance over - and what will they build their bridge from... I wish I could be there to see what more happens with the hole...

A hole as a lot of play and learning potential...

Wednesday, 24 July 2013

Let there be light...

Light is important (especially during the dark winter months of Sweden) but experimenting with light and utilising light to enhance the setting or to stimulate the senses is something we should all consider in our activity planning and the designing of preschools...

Here are some (not all) ideas I gathered from Boulder Journey School (BJS) and Acorn School (AS)

hole in the wall (one of many) BJS 

shadows - tree shadows and other shadows outside add extra interest to the outside environment. Stimulation to the eyes as they adjust from shade to sun, but also the opportunity to be creative with the shadow shapes...

light table turned on its side... another approach to light investigation, as well as a whole basket of materials for crawlers to explore... (BJS)

more light exploration at different heights (there will be a short film of this later) BJS

light exploration and mirrors... glad I bought some small round mirrors while in Boulder (the day before I saw this actually) BJS

exploring natural light - the chance to see the sun transformed into pools of colour (BJS)

the zip line and the shadows of two sun shades... they certainly add a new dimension to the play-space.... not only can the children trace how the sun moves during the day, but they could be used as a "can you land in the shadow game" (BJS)

paints under plastic on the light table to feel and to mix and to create patterns of light... (BJS)

using coloured material in the outdoor playspace to create pools of light outdoors, shade and the placing of this material under a tree allows for beautiful shadows to be created... (AS)
 Here comes the film of the lamp that changes colour shining down on reflective material (BJS)

another light changing light experince - there is a remote control to change the colours or to enable the light to automatically change colours - this was built be the staff at BJS
more light and shade opportunities outside - also the material is thin enough to see through it but durable enough to play on... more about these outdoor play materials I saw at Acorn School in an upcoming post... (AS)


again, I would like to point out that I have far more images of  BJS where I spent 16 hours over 2 days compared to 2 hours at AS... I took many images at AS, but many reflections of how to share all the wonderful inspiration came on the second day of the BJS Summer Conference... wish I had more time In Boulder to be able to return to the wonderful staff and setting at Acorn School

Tuesday, 23 July 2013

Looking up...

painting on plastic and hanging it to allow for pools of light (BJS)
 My second post from my Boulder experience encourages you to lift your eyes from the ground upwards... yes the ground should be visually intriguing and a sensory experience but the ceilings should also be a feast for the eyes...
Ceilings can create new dimensions to the room, not only by defining a space for use (room in a room), by lowering the ceiling in a certain area making it more intimate - and more child size appropriate (ie the ceiling is no longer so high up, allowing the child to feel bigger), ceiling decorations can also create new lighting effects - soften, add shadow or colour which can enrich the child's visual experience. The child's audio experience can be enriched by adding items that make sound t the ceiling area (using natural wind, fans or body contact to set them going) - and remember even material can make a noise when the wind blows...
BJS - Boulder Journey School
AS - Wilderness Center/Acorn School
hanging shelf as well as hanging material (BJS)

more painted plastic, this time hanging face down (BJS)

a view from underneath (how the children se it (BJS)

material hanging across the ceiling and draping down to create a "wall" (BJS)

visual inspiration in the studio (BJS)

hanging reflective material above the changing area (BJS)

hallways utilised to display children's work not only on the walls but on ceilings too (BJS)

recreating the outside in (Boulder Civic Area) using hangings, plants etc. This time the material is woven through poles. (BJS)

a whole room view - the rooms looked visually exciting and complete - not just a bit here and there, that there was thought to make each area its own but STILL a part of a whole. I imagine this is very much in keeping with the child - each child is an individual but also part of a group. (BJS)

painting on material (BJS)

hanging frames from the ceiling - this one had rope wound round with clips on it so images could be clipped on . Notice also the use of plants high up near the ceiling together with lighting. (BJS)

 The film below shows how by adding a fan you can create movement - also shows the science of wind and movement.

At the Acorn School I saw how ceilings were created outside too using fabric, adding valuable shade but it also added to the visual interest of the play space (AS)

The material could be moved easily around, came in a variety of colours and was strong enough to be used as hammocks too. Its important to not just think of ceiling decoration on the inside, but to take the visual and sensory experience outdoors too. The sky is even higher than building ceilings so creating smalls spaces is perhaps even more important outside... (AS)