Monday, 30 December 2013

The ATELIER - a work in progress

Filosofiska has been open just over a year now - and it's hard to think that the premises I work and play in every day used to be a post-office as we and the children make the place more and more our own... but making it our own is a PROCESS... and we are in no hurry to get it finished - in fact we will never be finished as it will always be changing with the children in order to meet their needs...

Here is the journey so far of ONE area of the preschool - the atelier...


Many of the rooms are large and spacious with BIG windows (in the photo above my back is to the windows as I take the photograph).
There is soemthing quite amazing about BIG rooms - BUT it does say to the children RUN; RUN AS FAST AS YOU CAN ALL OVER THE PLACE... this urge to run was hardly conducive to exploration.
Where the mat and pillows are used to be the construction area, but we moved that over to the window to make way for a library/quiet area. The words "Filosofi - kärlek till visdom (Philosophy - love of wisdom)" has been moved to above the documentation board in the library area (that is also under full development to encourage sitting and reading and a quiet place to reload with enrgy and thoughts). Where I am standing was a table separated from the construction area by shelving - on this table we had playdough etc.

The atelier that was already in exisitence at this point was in the adjacent room - and was quite small but placed next to the fantastic windows. It did not have easy access to water though.

So we made a decision to create an extra atelier making a divide between the posts that you see here - with the floor colour change being where it cornered off to create the atelier in the far right of this room.

This is what it looked like the other day - after a whole term of being used and not really being used the way we would like it... it got often chaotic and I felt there needed to be some sort of way that the room TOLD the children (and my colleagues who cannot read my mind) how the atelier should work, and where things have their home - as I was spending lots of time trying to keep things in the right place and sorting and resorting. The room should TELL the children how to do this (with help from us).
The tabes have been arranged in a variety of ways - this table constellation is the left over from the light table art we did and the table needed to be moved closed to a power outlet...

I pulled everything off the shelves and started from scratch. We moved a easel from the "orange room" to the atelier and raised the documentation board at the same time. (The rooms have been given different names by colour so that in the future their purpose can be changed and we will know which room we are talking about - at the moment the blue room is for BIG construction, movement and music - and also rest time, the yellow room for construction also the library, drawing, the red room for games, puzzles, drawing, playdough, the mini-atelier, the green room is for water play, the toilets and nappy changing area are here too, the orange room which has smaller things for the older children (we have mostly 1-2 year olds) and this room is developing more and more into an exploration/experiment/sensory room, and the rainbow room is for role-play. We have three groups of 10-14 children in each group - and we all have access to the whole preschool.
I am not finished here with my sorting - but this is how I left it after a day of sorting - at one point I flt it was never going to get finished...

This is how I left it today... the table closest to us is the clay and wirework table, the easel for painting and the table for drawing and crafting - and probably painting too - big open floor space so that we can paint BIG on the floor too! To the right is a shower so that we can clean up the children in the big messy art sessions!! - There are also three sinks low down for the children to wash their hands AND to take care of the tools and materials that they are using...

My aim is to have small pictures/symbols/label on each shelf to help the children feel competent about where toput things back - and also to support my colleagues to understand MY logic of the atelier...

I am going to also fix some inspiration photos and artwork to put up on the wall to get the children more inspired to create and not JUST experience the various materials - although there will be opportunities for that of course...
The big boxes either side of the easel contain tubes and boxes etc for junk modelling - as yet none of the children have shown a great interest in that... but I think this up and coming project might just introduce them to such possibilities...

The artwork on the easel I did TOGETHER with a child this morning as a way to support language and also to support concentration - the owl is sleeping - in fact there are about five different songs bound up in that art pice - so it might look like black splodges on what could have been an owl... but it does tell a very specific story with songs with their lyrics changed to fit the art and to challenge and increase the child's vocabulary...

Not the most clear photo in the world - sorry about it's fuzziness.. but this is taken with my back to th easel. Here you can see the partition and on the other side are the BIG windows that face out onto the SQUARE - you will probably hearing a lot about that square during 2014!! By the left hand window is the construction area - it was moved from the other side as it was close to the door that was used to go throw away the rubbish at the end of the day... it meant that saving the children's constructions was not always easy if tyou waned to be able to open the door and get out! So we swapped windows... and now there is the possibility for the children to save their constructions if they wish... which is no easy feat with 22 one and two year olds who have a mission to knock things over... But we do manage - and there WILL come a day when all these 1 and 2 year olds no longer have that need and we have a whole load of contructions being saved. At the moment to compensate the constructions being at high risk for being knocked over we take photo documentation of as much as possible...

The brown partition is going to be painted white (at some stage) - the chest on the white shelf is filled with "treasures" and will be something new for the children. The aim is that when they are creating that we can open up the treasure chest to see if there is anything they need in there... well it will suffice until I can get my hands on a whole load of glass jars to display the treasures that are in there...

There is a vase next to the flower thing... they are the children's wands!! Behind the big white shelves on the right is the library...


So as you can see we are entering a new phase of the ateliers journey... it is just a case of waiting for the children to see how they interact with the room and the material there ... and also how easy it is for my colleagues and I to use the room too... it has to work for all of us...

Now that there is more space in the orange room, since the removal of the easel, my mind is turning to how I can expand the possibilities for the children there - so that they can really explore... and also sorting out some other shelves that have become dumping grounds (you know what I mean) so that they too talk to both children and adults!!

In the last week we have been open 3 days - and we have had children on all of those days too - so all of this has to happen at the same time as taking care of the children. There have been very FEW children as most are spending time at home - but so are most of the staff too...

today I my children came to help... (for extra pocket money) here is Michael washing the chairs - he cleaned every one - and made enough money today to buy some lego (of course) that was in the sale.



Sunday, 29 December 2013

Russia and the Winter Olympics - collecting inspiration

What with the Winter Olympics coming soon I am starting to look for activities for a week long Olympics and Russia exploration - with most of the focus, for us, being on Russia as we have a child and her family that come from there, so it would be a wonderful and natural way to introduce her culture to the rest of the group...

This is a post full of links... here I am gathering ideas - as yet I don't know  how or IF these ideas are going to be used - but I gather lots of ideas and then see where the children are in their interests and then introduce the activities I think will meet the children's needs and interests...

So here are some of the things and some of the ideas I have had so far...



The Imagination Tree - Salt dough Olympic medals


 Making flags - not just a great excuse to share the Russian flag, but other flags too - hopefully a whole string of flags from all the coutries represented at the preschool...

 Put some music on and pretend to skate - either speed skating in sock feet indoors, or figure skating - we might need some squares of carpet to make it more slippery and fun. It would be great to choose Russian music - not just folk music but all forms of their music - maybe check out the Russian entries of Eurovision song contest over the years!!

The official Winter Olympics mascots - here you can see the mascots - there are also short films in Russian with English subtitles featuring the mascots.

Snowball activities - who can throw it the furthest, throwing them into buckets - if you don't have snow why not use white beanbags or rolled up white socks.

During the 2010 winter Olympics instead of curling I made up a game where the children wafted newspapers to make round pieces of paper move across the room and try to land in the circles taped onto the floor at the opposite side... this game proved to be VERY popular.

Using ice-cubes to build with. AND other various forms of ice sculptures

Ice-hockey/bandy (a Swedish game done on ice - or indoors not on ice) - can be done with or without ice of course

Use toilet rolls dipped in the olympic colours to create the Olympic flag - and Olympic inspired art - let the child go wild with those circles - I usually try to do two paintings - one where the child tries to copy the olympic flag - for the mathematic value of it - and then to do a separate piece of circle artwork.

Sledging - use a piece of cardboard on sand or grass - or slide down wet plastic if you are somewhere hot! One year I built a snow obstacle course for sledges - that I ended up mostly pulling the children over as fast as I could so that they would fly over the jumps...

Toddler Approved - indoor min ice-hockey


Toddler Approved - hands free pingpong (with links to some other Olympic ideas - but they are of a summer feel rather than winter feel). The great thing about this indoor sport is that it really does train up the mouth muscles which is wonderful for language development and pronunciation.


Meet Kandinsky - born in Moscow Russia - Art and Design Technology for Kids - why not look at Russian artists - and of course the circles lend themselves so well to the Olympics!!


Russian Folk Music on Youtube - lots and lots of Russian folk songs - do take the time to browse through the various clips of music and dance... some are really old, some are new, some are cartoons for children - there is a real mix here.

is this dancing or gliding? Another youtube clip -  can you glide like this dance? Would be fun to see if we could all do this as part of a music and dance session Russian style!

Cossack dancing - on Youtube - this  makes my thighs ache just watching

more recent filming more russian dancing

Tchaikovsky - another famous Russian - Dance of the Sugar Plum Fairy, Nutcracker Suite


Having Fun at Home - several Russia inspired craft activities


The Educators Spin On It - Seven ways to use Russian Dolls


National Geographic Russia facts from Kids National Geographic

Russian For Free learn Russian for free... some odd sentences to learn - just pick out the positive ones!!

Russian for Everyone the Russian alphabet - with the facility to listen to the sound of the letters... looks very appealing too!

Olga's Flavour Factory lots of food ideas...

Of course this is just a start... there ARE lots of things out there with worksheets and colour in pages... but that is not the sort of thing you will find on my blog or page (there are plenty of other sources for you if that is your sort of thing though...)... so for now that is what I have found so far this evening that seems like it can be of inspiration... if you come across any other Russia or Winter Olympic inspiration please drop by my facebook page and link them... many thanks

Interaction Imagination Facebook Page

Friday, 27 December 2013

My 10 favourite posts of my first blogging year!

As my first full year of blogging comes to an end I have been going through some of my posts and adding some reflections - and I hope to be doing this with most of my posts (time permitting) - as part of the reason for blogging is self development - so returning to re-read my posts and to reflect upon them should be an important part of my process.

I realise that I am a blogger that uses a lot of words and has a lot of thoughts - this is not the kind of blog where you will find  templates and preschool plans of what to do - but HOPEFULLY it IS the kind of blog that makes you think, that gets you questioning what you do, and how you do it, and why you do it. I hope that this blog does offer you inspiration...

So here are my favourite 10 posts - and they are not all the most read posts - in fact my most read post does not make it onto my top 10, as although I DO like the assignment I wrote for my masters it does not have the same feeling of a post - it was a lot of hard work - and something like 200 books and articles were read before writing the assignment - BUT it was just pasted in and somehow that just doesn't count!!! BUT I am glad that there are many taking advantage that it is available to them!

 I would REALLY appreciate it if you could take the time to add to the comments what YOUR favourite post has been and why!!



 so here goes - in no particular order

 1
    Do Templates Kill Creativity

This post finds itself on this list because it WAS one of those posts that challenged ideas... I made the mistake of once making a comment on a page about some Easter bunnies that were being presented as an idea for children in preschool where it was very obvious that it took longer for the adult to prepare cutting out all the parts than it did for the children to glue them on to the form to create a rather scary looking bunny. I asked if there was something that could be done to make the bunnies more individual and for the children to "own" more of the process... I was absolutely slammed by a whole load of people including comments about "I hope you don't work with children"... to this day I still cannot work out WHY I deserved THAT comment for wanting the children to be a bigger part of the process but there you go - it made me realise that THAT page I did not want to be a part of. It also made me realise that my blog and my page is not going to be BIG like that page was because I do not put up suggestions to fill the children's time with products - as I am about the process - BUT that does not mean that I see templates as an evil either - which I have been a part of MANY discussions where there is such a black and white view of templates when I feel the world of templates, art, crafts and creativity is more grey....



2

Its the Process Not the Product

 The last post leads me nicely into this post - the process. I am so much about the process - and there are times when others might not see the process at first as they only see the product - and that is why documentation is so important - to share the process.

 3

Spaghetti Painting
This is the first of the spaghetti painting posts - and technically belongs to last year - but I am including this as part of my first year of blogging as I started at the end of last year! Over this last year I have done various spaghetti paintings - and I have also used thread as well. I have also had THAT comment about "you shouldn't use food in art" - but I have also written a post about that - and how I feel about that too... I just love when a great sensory experience creates a fabulous product too... I also like when I can do a spot of research in my observations - this time to find out more about gender differences/similarities


4
Dragon Skins
Another post from last year and my previous workplace - but I really loved this whole process of experimenting and testing - and being aware that what I am placing on the shelves and making available to the children is also influencing their thought and their choices - and that was the reason for then putting things on the shelf that I did not think would work or did not think the children would be interested - to allow the children to choose and not for me to make all the considerations about what would print great dragon patterns...


5
The Art of Listening
Listening is such an important part of what I do - I listen not only with my ears but with all my senses - and it is hard work and tiring to listen - and I understand why the children don't always want to be active listeners - especially in preschool where there are larger numbers of people, more ideas and opinions to negotiate and more compromise is necessary - if you don't listen then you get to do what YOU want - BUT in the long run listening DOES get you what you want - as others will also listen back... Its a complicated thing to learn... above is an image of the talking ring - the idea is that when you are holding it you can speak and when you are not holding it you are listening - it was VERY important NOT to just say when you are not hloding it you are quiet - because being quiet does not mean you are listening - it just means being quiet...


6
Outdoor Surfaces

My trip to Boulder, Colorado was fantastic - I got to visit two fabulous preschools there and participate in a summer conference. I had for some time been interested in the texture of the surfaces that we walk on - as part of my passion for sensory activities... so it came as no surprise that many of the photos that I took in Boulder were of various surfaces - both indoors and outdoors. I often feel that the learning potential of the outdoors is often overlooked in comparison to the indoor environment - so I focussed this post on outdoor surfaces - it turned out that I was not the only one interested in outdoor surfaces!!


7
Inspiration not Cloning

As I shared more and more images and thoughts from my trip to Boulder I got more and more concerned about the responsibility I had for ensuring (to the best of my ability) that these images of inspiration were being used for just that. I strongly feel that images like this of other settings are valuable and so incredibly inspirational and this is why I share as much as I can - but I DO hope that I share in a way that provokes thought and allows you to think about HOW and WHY you are developing the environment at your setting... my connection to the Reggio Emilia Approach feels that if I do not URGE you to take the time to think and reflect on why, then you are missing an important part of the process ... and just as with the children - it is the process that is important - THAT is where the learning happens - so if you just hop over to the product then you also miss out...


8
Philosophical Flowers



9
 Gender Dialogue


 This is something that is important to me - equality in all its forms - but I do feel that gender is often discussed in a way that excites a lot of emotions - and rolling of eyes. This is a photo of my son as a toddler who always wanted to dress up like his sisters when we danced every Friday evening to loud music!! He has had his own dolls to play with his sisters, just as his sisters have had their own cars and trains... but they have always shown their own preferences... in a typical girl and boy way - the girls went through their pink phase which I embraced despite my own dislike of pink since being a child and Michael has gone though his car phase...

10
Scaffolding
This is a post about my musings on why do we have rules and routines in preschool - and I think this is a VERY important discussion to have - why do you have the rules that you have? How do they affect the children - support them and allow them to be competent or restrict them by saying no (without them understanding why)?




oops couldn't keep it to 10

 Snail Party
Snails HAD to be included somewhere in this top ten - they have been such a big part of our year - we even named the small garden/park between the preschool and the metro station "Snail Park". This post really allows you to see how animals can give you the opportunity to talk about social relationships and develop their empathy




The sad part of this post is not being able to include so many posts that I have enjoyed writing and participating in - the posts about using philosophy with children, or International Mud Day, or painting with flowers, or the posts about risky play and "what is play" - the post about the Morocco painting is a favourite too as are all the sensory posts including my search for allergy/eczema friendly sensory experiences...
I think one of the things that I am proud of this year is the fact that I have not celebrated any of the traditions  in a traditional way but have always asked the children what THEY have thought about these traditions and built upon their knowledge and their experiences. I am looking forward to next year to see how their thoughts about these traditions have developed - and how they react when they find out about their thoughts from a year ago! ONE year is a long time in a preschoolers life!

Tuesday, 24 December 2013

Hands on learning...

celebrating one full year of blogging and one full year of working at Filosofiska Preschool in Stockholm, Sweden.

Here are some photos celebrating the hands on learning over the year... in no particular order - as all learning and all play is of importance...

all hands together - learning about being "we" playing together, sharing...

fine motor skills, sensory, mathematical patterns, yoga like calmness...

exploring nature - discovering what is inside a berry - sometimes small worms!!

using hands to construct... and knock down and build up again...

collecting bubbles - feeling them pop - bringing them close to your ear so that you can HEAR them pop

experience a WHOLE variety of textures...

and for those hands who are nervous of getting messy cling-film can be an option

shaving foam - on the tabel, on bubble wrap and with various textures added...

fine motor skills and imagination - what can be built with aluminium foil?

mittens and gloves - a necessary evil - especially big mitten which make it impossible to hold hands, climb efficiently and experience things as usual - BUT so so necessary in the well below zero temperatures of a Swedish winter!!

experiencing glitter and ice...

more strange textures to explore - do you dare put your hands in this slime? Meeting fea - HANDS on

making goo - cornflower and hand cream - competent hands pump out more cream to change the consistency of the goo!

adding popcorn to the cornflower and (this time) liquid handsoap goo to create YET another texture...

at the beginning of the year painting could not be done without covering their entire hands... this is STILL fun to do, but does not have the same requirement as earlier in the year... now there are other areas of the paint that need to be tried and tested...

one of many spaghetti painting opportunities - not only a chance to get creative but also an enormous sensory experience.

taking off gloves to feel the frost - to write and draw and to taste...

hands-on experience with light... as part of a mini light project at the beginning of the year and as part of a fear project towards the end of the year... the same activity but with a different perspective...


playing with jingle bells - making music with hands... with instruments and clapping rhythms...

more goo - this time with a cinnamon scent and frozen - using the warmth of our hands to melt it!

getting up close with nature - feeling plants, flowers and making rain drops roll...

paint on the light table - working together - sharing hand space!

mixing colours, experiments - back to the start of the year when experiencing the paint was almost more important than painting itself...

the thrill of hands on painting... hands on, feet on, the whole body on painting... with scent and texture... couscous, ginger, tumeric, cinnamon... a hands on way of learning about Morocco when not in Morocco!

mud, mud glorious mud....

more paint this time many colours together to create mud brown mixed with old coffe grinds for texture and sensory experience...

painting nails, using a fine brush to tickle your hands and all the way up to your elbows - watching how gravity works and the paint drips down the arm and on to the floor and table...

hands and water is a magnetic connection - and wet clothes never stops children from their water exeriences - only AFTER the experience do they realise just how wet they are!!

some like to use the brush to create patterns in the glitter salt on the mirror - others prefer a more hands on approach...

hands learning new skills - how to hold scissors - how to cut snowflakes forthe first time...

snails have been a huge part of our first year together - I have watched how many of the children have been terrified of snails at the start of the year...

... and by autumn they were arranging parties for their new friends... by allowing time and a hands on approach the children have learned about their own competence and more about snails...

spaghetti does not have to be covered in paint to be fun - it can be dropped to create spaghetti rain - it can be pulled to see how strong it is...

using real tools - hands are curious and they want to find out how things work...

more water - joining up the drops on the bench - at first to create pictures and then to create rhythmic patterns with their bodies - swishing from side to side...

the Christmas tree is not just something to be admired with eyes... but to be experienced with all senses... we saw, we smelled, we listened, we touched and YES we tasted too!


So a very MERRY CHRISTMAS to you all - and if you don't celebrate Christmas - I send you peace and love!