Monday, 31 March 2014

Reflections on the new design

I haven't brought the project book home... so I will have to go from memory... and there has been a lot of reflection today... with the children, by the children and amongst us teachers too in our planning/reflection this afternoon...

The children were happy with the new design... there was a great deal of excitiment... they could see all the things that they had been talking about... and could answer easily one of the questions asked by the children at Richland Academy in Canada...

"we thought up all the things, all the ideas and Suzanne wrote them down and then she put them all on the photograph"

You could see there was great satisfaction that we had created this design from THEIR ideas.

My memories of this morning are too vague.. and I want to get it right... so I will leave their ponderings of the design and share their excitement that other children had seen their previous photo design... and amazement that children so far away were interested in them... and that they ALL spoke English and not Swedish. We looked at the map, and saw that there had been children from Ontario that had celebrated The International Fairy Tea Party last September... were these the same children they wondered.... ? There was great curiousity about the age and the names and what they looked like... just as we had seen that the PK children at Richland Academy had the same curiousity about us...

We played outside on the Square, pretending that everything was already there... pretending there was water to swim in, a castle to climb and big fountains splashing... then it was time to mix gravel, old autumn leaves (apparantly mushrooms), some grass and puddle water to create snail soup (I did check to make sure there were no lives ones in there... but it was all imagination!!)

During snack we prepared the children that we would Ellen, Emma and I would be planning/reflecting and asked if they knew what we did then? They had no idea... so i told them that we asked ourselves three questions...
  • what are the children busy doing/preoccupied with?
  • How can we meet/support this?
  • What are our reflections?
So the first question we started WITH the children... did THEY know what they were preoccupied with... many of the children shared their experiences from home... which is maybe not so surprising on a Monday when they have spent the weekend at home... but there were a few answers about what we were up to at preschool and most of them were things that we had seen too... some of them were made up on the spot... like "my foot" because a child had been working on putting on their sock!! Which, yes the child was pre-occupied with that... but only for less than a minute!!

We felt that the project "Together on the Square" had been a little fuel injected today with the enthusiasm the children had seeing their ideas on the photograph. We will be taking in plasters and things for the role-play tomorrow... I have a bunch of brightly coloured ones in front of me right now that I bought when my son was small, but he refused point blank to have anything so colourful to remind him that he had hurt himself (the complete opposite of his sisters who LOVED all the animal shaped plasters and Disney plasters). This will help us follow up the children's interest in mending hurts and problems with plasters... and we will see where it takes us and how to continue supporting that...

Tomorrow we will have another philosophy session with an adapted story so that no-one gets hurt, only frustrated that they can't get past all the "attractions" on the new square. Will this provoke thought about making adaptions? We already started talking about this as we saw people with prams, bikes and also wheelchairs going by... and we asked how would they get past if the square was full of water, castles and others things blocking the way? One child mentioned a short-cut, another talked about a tunnel and yet another mentioned that a rucksack with new dry clothes should be carried by everyone so that when they got wet by walking through the water they could get changed into something dry!!

This week in the afternoons the children will get the chance to cut out ideas and glue them onto an image of the square that they have already been working on (well most of them... those that took an interest) - this the children seemed very excited by. Next week we plan to start plotting out a more to-scale" design... using the childrens new found knowledge and skills of map-making and building based on them... two months we have been slowly building up to this... I feel so happy it was not rushed, that we took out time, and that the children are no ready to be competent in their designing of the square... of course doing things to scale will require more scaffolding from us...

AND next week's philosophy session will be about "what is important" to them ? As the "Through the Eyes of the Child" project kicks off in earnest. We have reflected on how we want to approach this... and felt that we want to get the children thinking about what is important to them so that they are making a concsious decision about what they want to take a photograph of, and how they want to communicate what is important to them through the language of photography... so a week of dialogue BEFORE we get clicking... then a week of clicking.... then a week of dialogue about the actual photographs and which photograph the children in Vinden will select as theirs to be uploaded onto the project to be shared with others around the world!!


Sunday, 30 March 2014

Taking the children's ideas... the new design

Last week the children got to see their square design constructed with magnets and blocks etc in the contruction area as well as lots of images of real life public space design, which I selected based on the children's expressed interests in previous dialogues.

They reflected about what they would like to keep and what they would like to change... the monsters and the balloons and flowers were keepers for everyone... the castle was a keeper too, but they chose a different design, as the idea of sliding and playing appealed . The cupcake should be replaced by waterplay, and the doorknobs replaced by a fence and animals (which I have not managed to fit on... and with intention, as to stimulate the concept of how busy/full the square already is). The shiney surface was replaced with anew shiney surface design they saw, and there was a need for benches... ones that could be played on, and the one with lights was very appealing to (understandable when we have really dark winters here).

So what will they make if this image...

AND what will they think of the feedback they have got from Richland Academy on their previous design? it is going to be an interesting day for sure tomorrow!


Saturday, 29 March 2014

reflections on the New Square...

I have been thinking about how the children responded to the story about the story of the New Square
(post can be seen here) and how essentially it did not really go as planned... our aim was to introduce the children to the idea that others need to use the square aswell and that our designs will need to incorporate the wishes and needs of others and not just our own dreams... so that we could move into the next phase of the project...

Instead the children have shown us THEIR thinking and THEIR preoccupations...

The story opened up the idea of getting hurt. This is something very relevant to children... it is something they have experience of. Designing a square, and meeting the needs of others... well that is a process they are learning, and not a deeper experience of their own. But being hurt, having pain is something they have all experienced in their own way.

 Many children experience their pain as improving by having a plaster put on... either a cut, or sometimes a tummy-ache can feel better with a plaster on the tummy. So...
"no, they can have a lot of plasters and then they can walk" 
is an excellent response from a child whose experience of something not working, of being hurt or being sick, is that is you get a plaster  (or medicine) than you will get better. The same thing with visiting a doctor. The children have no or little experience that sometimes you cannot get better, so of course their way of solving the problem of getting around the castle etc on the square is going to be healing the people so that they are better equipped.

After all in their daily experience at preschool they meet many challenges... putting on shoes, climbing equipment, making the swings work by themselves, using scissors etc etc... things that they cannot do, but have to practice, practice until they master the new skill. So I can quite understand that these children will not even think about the fact that these "old people" have come to a phase in their lives where their bodies are slowly losing the capabilities to perfom the skills of their younger years...

So if we are to reach our goal of introducing the children to the idea of the need to redesign the SQUARE to meet the needs of everyone, then maybe the story needs to be adjusted. Maybe instead of accidents happening there needs to be frustration of not getting past - for people getting to the supermarket and the train station... for old people, for parents and prams, for children wanting to get the the playgrounds or the swimming pool... if the focus is NOT on the cuts and the accidents will the children be able to look for solutions to the design of the square?

Of course the dialogue has given us useful information about what is interesting to the children - blood, doctors, plasters and fixing people and hurts. This is not something we should ignore in our desire to follow the Together on the Square project... but an opportunity to explore something else on the side... in much the way Sleeping Beauty has been walking parallel to the project... maybe a doctors waiting room in the role-play area could meet the needs the children have exploring health, their bodies and the process of getting better?



Friday, 28 March 2014

a hedge of thorns...

Just a quick post... as there is no energy for nothing more after spending the day in and out of sleep due to a tummy bug!!

here is an image of the progressing hedge of thorns that will go round the castle... although we are not quite at the thorn stage yet... I have a few ideas about possibilities for the thorns... just have to see what the children make of them and which one we opt for. I am thinking of 3D thorns, but whether or not the children think of that is another thing... but I  challenge their thoughts about our creative Together art and the various methods and techniques that can be used... my wish being the more ideas they can test and try out the more experience they acquire so that they can apply them in their own unique and creative ways in the future...



Thursday, 27 March 2014

"The New Square"

Today we had a philosophy session with the children, although this time I wasn't with... so writing this post is going to be a great way for me to see the process of the session...
I was with two children in our little "library" reading books and supporting their language development... last week we got a new pedagogue in our group, to support us with a couple of our children who at this time in their life need some extra scaffolding - language being one area, the need for small groups to reduce sensory overload being another. it is wonderful to be able to provide the children with the support that they need right now... and being able to have such a small group (of just 2) really allows you to see their language and what areas that need scaffolding the most...

back to the philosophy session.
We wanted to introduce the children to the thought that others will want to use the square too, and that their decisions in their designs have effects on other... Ellen wrote a story about the square... here it is

There was once 11 children. Every day they used to play on the square together. The square was big and many people lived around it. Close by there was an ICA supermarket. One day one of the children said
- I wish it was summer on the square

-I wish I could swim

- and I wish that there were flowers

- and a castle, said a fourth

- I wish there was a big cake, said a fifth.

They sat in a ring in the middle of the square and began to think. After a while they got an idea: we can re-build the square so that everything we wished for was here. And the children began to build. The Castle became bigger and bigger. Around the castle they planted rose bushes, just like Sleeping Beauty's castle. Round the bushes they dug a lake. Inside the castle they baked a huge cake.

When everything was finished the children were satisfied. Wow, what a square they had built!

Suddenly someone screamed

- Help! Help me! Heeelp meeee!

The children ran out to see what it was. On one side of the castle was an old man. he had fallen into the lake and couldn't get up. Now he was screaming for help.

- Ow! OOOWWW! burst someone else

The children ran further and saw an old woman stuck in the rosebushes. She had sratches on her arms. Now she was crying for help.

- Hello! HELLLOOO! shouted another, I am not going to get to the train on time

The children ran there and saw another old man that looked at his watch. he looked angry when he looked at the new square. He wondered what had happened.

Then the children sat in their castle and began to think. How were they going to solve this?




The children had some thinking time and then were given the chance to suggest some ideas for a solution...
  • if the children could look for other children they would have blood, lots of blood
  • maybe they could build another square
  • what if there are old people there too?
  • they have to go to a square without people.
  • do such squares exist?
  • yes, for I have seen them before
  • they have to go to the dentist they can get a plaster.
  • they need to find another square
  • if you get a splinter in your finger you have to get tongs to remove it... they could come to the square when they are ready
  • the old ones need to go to the doctor
  • should all the old people go to the doctor... is that a solution?
  • If one build a castle who is allowed in?
  • it should be in the corner
  • so that the old ones can get by... do you think that is a good idea?
  • its a strange idea, we should have the castle behind the roses
  • but they hurt themselves on the roses...
  • they can go to the doctor
  • you have to take care or have a rope so she can go to the doctor. A rope that you can sit on.
  • is that a good idea?
  • I have many questions. he can help of a horse. One can borrow a horse and ride it so that you come to the doctor
  • is that a good idea?
  • YES
  • where should the horses be?
  • in the corner
  • in the stables
  • who will take care of the horses
  • we will
  • I will
  • I ride horses
  • But when we sleep who will take care of the horses?
  • when we sleep we can put the horses in the stable, they sleep
  • they cannot come out, we lock the door
  • if I think about old people, some have difficulty walking and use a rullator, they cannot ride
  • then they can have a sled to go on and hold onto the tail
  • is that a good idea?
  • no, they can have a lot of plasters and then they can go
  • they cannot walk so they can lie in bed, then they can walk again
  • if they go into the castle, there is a woman and a crown.
  • one can get a bandage on the foot and remove the thorns
  • but if there is a castle on the square how will wheelchairs get across?
  • they get carried..
  • who will carry them
  • others who live in the castle


It certainly is interesting to read, this session was with a group of six three year olds. There is a clear focus on the cuts and scrapes, and how children comfort themselves through accidents and illness with the fact that they will get better... the idea of not getting better has obvioulsy not occured to them. It would be interesting to read the same story with the older children of the group (that were not with due to days off, illness etc) - what would those children focus on?

And then to bring them all together with all their ideas presented would also be interesting - would their thoughts change, expand or stay more or less the same?

one of the designs from January... ballons and flowers on the square.


Wednesday, 26 March 2014

Building a castle

As the claywork is still in the process of drying this week we worked together to create a castle/palace - the idea being to recycle the Morocco isnpired painting as the background to the palace/castle. I had cut out a whole load of brick shaped using some of the Together paintings... but I saw there was a total lack of interest in creating that effect... and with the space being shared by another group (but in another area) it was just too distracting to be able to try and inspire them with this idea. The atmosphere was just too busy for the kind of concentration the brick pattern making project would entail... so a fast change of plan to meet the needs of the children and the situation...

The focus became on the towers and how we could create towers. I asked them to look around the atelier to find something suitable... they all started looking aimlessly... so I jumped in and suggested some areas that would be good to check first (like the two big boxes filled with junk material that they were totaly ignoring).

We talked about how we could fix the towers onto the body of the castle (that they decided should be tall rather than wide) - with tape... so I presented an idea about making some cuts in the tubes that they had chosen from the junk boxes to allow the towers to sit more sturdy, explaing that they could choose whether or not to use this technique and also if they did use it they could decide how long the cuts should be and that it would affect the size of the tower...

Of the five children three of them needed help with the cutting, one needed just a little guidance and the last made so many cuts that it worked anyway. They then had to collaborate holding the castle base as they stuck on their towers - this was not entirely easy, as it meant having to focus on holding when you weren't doing the interesting bit... and also being observant of how to hold it to meet the needs of the child sticking their tower. This worked with varying amounts of success, and is obvioulsy something we need to practice more at ;-)

Once the towers were in place they got to choose the colour of their tower (yes, it might have been easier to paint FIRST - but that would have not forced the children to problem solve or collaborate). The problem being that the towers were all so close together it would be hard for them to paint at the same time, so they needed to collaborate to work out a way that they could paint the towers and not each other!!!

This also needed some support as the idea of waiting a while was not appealing to any of the children... all wanted to paint FIRST. But with patience and with explanations we could work out who was able to wait and so the towers got painted. We also had to talk about the type of paintbrush to use - learning the difference between a big/wide paintbrush and one with a long handle but a thin tip... and WHY it was a good idea to use a wide brush. So much being learned.
Afterwards the children cleaned their pots and brushes... and for one child this was a magical moment of observing how the water was turned green.


The other group were in the Blue Room busy building a castle using the BIG blocks, cushions, climbing equipment and BIG/LONG tubes. Again the focus being on collaboration.
Both groups had access to the same five photos of castles as inspiration... as printed laminated photos in the atelier and projected onto the wall in the Blue Room...

I will ask Ellen for some photos of that session, they looked like they were really enjoying their creative construction.

Our focus on collaboration and TOGETHERness is all part of supporting the children in their awareness of empathy.




Tuesday, 25 March 2014

designs on the square!

The Together on the Square project is picking up speed now that we have worked on some of the skills the children need.

This morning we took a closer look at the photo I created using the square with a whole load of their ideas and constructions on it... and we looked at images of benches, climbing frames, water play, castles, etc etc etc that they got to talk about point at what they liked and consider again what they would like on "their" square...
A play castle... water play... balloons (take away the cupcake) were amongst the ideas that were being discussed...

We then went out into the square with chalks and the children got drawing their ideas and the locations of where these should be on the square. Some of the children were very focused... other wereinterested in exploring how the chalks felt and worked (including colouring their clothes... hohum - good thing its easy to get off!!)


a reminder of the photo of the square full of the children's ideas

chalk designs and planning



What is interesting with the square is that it is not devoid of risk... today there was broken glass... the children had to learn about it being sharp, and that avoiding that area was in fact the safest. Today there were lots of cars going across the square 8which is usually just a pedestrian square... but does has access for some vehicles). today it was a police car that went back and forth. The children have to stand still until we say that its safe to play again... so that the vehicles know what the children are doing... it has been a process, and luckily the cars here HAVE to go real slow as its not a road, so it is a great place to practice... but for some of the children the need to move that bit more is just to irresistable  - and so we need to stay closer to those children to support their ongoing process.
It is a risk... a VERY small one... and I remeber as a child how I played on the street with my friends... we were lucky as we lived at the end of a cul-de-sac.... but I still get nostalgic when the word "CAR" is shouted out... and how a whole gaggle of children moved their play off the road onto the paths and waited for the car to go past until we could reclaim the road with our play.

It felt a little like that today on the square... that we were claiming it for the children's play.... and leaving our play mark afterwards as a reminder that this is a space for play too!


Monday, 24 March 2014

Changes... the third teacher

It's always a process and we are getting there closer and closer... and I know there will be a new voyage to make... but for now we seem to begetting closer to the vehicle that needs to take us on this journey right now...

We have many large rooms, and one small room...

Which started off as the role-play room... but recently was changed to the construction room, to allow role-play have a bigger area, and more importantly, access to the huge mirrors we have in the yellow room!!!

The smallness of the room made the construction (1) area even more popular... and therefore it was not working optimally... at the same time the library area of the yellow room was now being invaded by noisy running around role-play. So we decided to move the construction area there and the library to the small room... this would allow for the construction materials and the role-play materials to particiapte in each other's play... something we have seen the children wanting to do by transporting role-play things into the construction area and vice-versa... this way we are enabling this language the children are speaking to be heard... and not creating a situation where a trail of play things are being scattered between the role-play area and the construction area, now they can naturally weave in their play... like filling bags full of blocks...

The library (2) looked a bit, well not so cozy, it has been for a while... we have had plans, but with it being a new preschool things get prioritised... you know, like the children... so the aesthetics of the preschool has been a slower process, but a continual process.

Today the library got a bit of a pimping... (3) and it is more apparant what the feel of this library is going to be... nature feel for calmness, to help the children find their natural calm to read and play stories with each other... more things are to be added... this is juts the beginning of the library transformation process...


Sunday, 23 March 2014

Together on the Square...

Our project "Together on the Square" has been moving forwards all the time... even if it might not seem so visible...

Designing a square was not a skill the children possessed... so it has been something we have been scaffolding, at the same time as allowing the children to learn more about each other and how we come together to preschool each day.

In January I gave the families some "homework" that they should work together (parent and child) in creating a map between their home and the preschool, showing the route so that we would be able to follow the directions.

For the last two months we have been transforming the 2D maps into 3D maps using blocks and other materials in the construction area. The children learning to work together, with a whole lot of sypport from us. The aim was to introduce these new languages... of map making, of 3D representation, of map reading etc - and that by repeating it over and over again, with our support, that the children would master it enough to be able to apply the skill themselves... and last week they did. I was bouncing around the room with joy as I saw the children's 3D design of the square. They were competent in what they were doing, and also in how to delegate. it really was TOGETHER on the square.

this is one of the maps that we worked with the children to show the route to their house. After the construction we then walked to the house, pointing out the things in reality that we saw on the map and had built at the preschool.

the children's design for the square... with a palace (Sleeping Beauty still influencing their choices, as a palace was not in their original ideas about how their square should look, but has popped up in discussions this week)

MY surprise for the children... their desin construction and other ideas of theirs for the square... What will they think of it? I long to hear their reflections...

Saturday, 22 March 2014

Exploring paper...

 Masking tape, strips of paper and scissors - then just add children.
We explored different ways of making bridges, folding and curling and cutting paper.
When we had finished our explorations one of the children thought our paper art looked like playgrounds... this has got us thinking about the possibility of designing the square in our "Together on the Square" project using paper...




There was also time to explore paper weaving...

Friday, 21 March 2014

Slime

Yesterday the children were talking about slime a great deal, after the last TV programme of "Labyrint" for the season... the programme has been talked about by one or two children recently, but not like this... and Ellen did not know anything about the programme on the Swedish TV channel... so we checked it out on the computer... and watched the last show together... the slime being the manin interest for the children...

So today we had slime available for the children to explore...

I just mixed a few spoonfuls of fiberhusk (powdered Psyllium seed husk - which can be found in the gluten-free baking section of a supermarket) with water and some food colouring... I felt I used too much food colouring as it did stain hands for a little while.
The mix thickens up in no time - and it is a case of experimenting and making it as thick and gloopy as you want or thinner by adding more water... I made it quite thick as the process of mixing in more water is so much fun for the children.

I also added some glitter after a while to add to the effect... and sensory experience. I would also recommend doing this near a sink where the children can wash their hands as it is messy... and some of the children did like to wash their hands on a regular basis and then return to the slime...

You can heat this in the microwave for a more flubber like consistency... but this gloopy slime was quick and easy and worked brilliantly... and with it being natural (except for when I added the glitter) you know it is safe if it is ingested... but it doesn't test that good, but it doesn't taste bad either...

I had placed the box on top of one of our mini-homemade sensory tables... putting submersible tea lights in the box part of the sensory table... this created a kind of little light table, perfect for exploring the slime. With the tealights being submersible I did not have to worrry about them getting wet.

Thursday, 20 March 2014

A palace of snow

Sometimes nature just hands you a construction material at just the right time...

absolutely load of "kramsnö" (squeeze snow or hug snow) was at our disposal today... we started off making lots of snow balls... and then a tall snowman, that just got bigger and bigger and turned into a tower... a tower where Sleeping Beauty was sleeping... so we needed to make the rest of the palace...

All hands on deck... and a palace we had... complete with windows...

 At the end of the day one of the children went by to chack out the palace on the way home... and sent a photo of a pile of mushed snow... yep the palace had been demolished...




So the question is ... do we return there tomorrow and have a look and talk about the events? Or do we let the children have their memeory of an intact palace... stay tuned tomorrow to find out what we do!!



There are more Sleeping Beauty art going on too in the atelier... the start of a hedge of thorns and roses that surrounds the palace/castle using tissue paper - yellow, two shades of green, white and off white. I mixed white glue with water to create a wash which a dumped a whole load of green glitter in... the children then layered and layered the tissue paper using the wash to fix it onto the paper... so glue ON TOP of the paper, rather than under... this will give the baclground of the bush a glossy and sparkly look...

Always interesting to see how children want to paint in the same place until the paper almost rips... the same was with this glitter glue wash... (using plastic spatulas) one child glued and glued in the same areas... creating a very glittery patch indeed!

Wednesday, 19 March 2014

when older children visit..

When older children visit the preschool they can really add value to what we and the children are doing on a daily basis... they can play games and create giggles like no adult can... and they can also create art and constructions that can inspire a new way of thinking, or a new technique to try...

The children seldom build REALLY high... so this contruction could just spark of some new creative constructions...
Checking out the colours inside was FUN too! AND creating a roof that could open and close... will this inspire more moving parts in future constructions... it is just to wait and see...

clay sculptures...

The project that started last year...of looking at the ceramic sculpture art in the sheltered housing next door, where the children chose their favourite, then have drawn their version of the art has finally reached the place I have been intending... creating "intentional" art with clay.

After a month of playing and exploring clay today we plunged into recreating our chosen ceramic sculptures...

We talked through each of the documentations... what can you see, how do you think we can create that... so that all the children could think together and offer ideas for each child's chosen art... I also helped with ideas too... after all I see my role now as supporting the children in collecting ideas and techniques so that they can apply themselves at a later date (we have seen how creating #D maps from 2D maps has done that... we helped a GREAT deal with setting up the 3D maps, with the aim that the children would be able to create their own 3D designs for the square - yesterday they were able to do this with competence... I will share more about that at the weekend...)

Anyway I shared the technique of making prints... using a car to make the car prints on one of the art pieces... and we worked out other things we could make prints from too...

It does pay off though.. taking time. Not just rishing in and doing the project from start to finish because there is an idea... but to let it gently grow, to allow the children to develop the skills needed to finish off the project feeling competent about what they are doing.

As we walked to the Square to play afterwards, one of the children slipped her hand into mine, saying "I like playing with clay"

I will be doing the documentation for the children over the weekend... I will then be in a better place to share more of the entire process then.




Tuesday, 18 March 2014

messing about with clay

I was preparing clay for tomorrow... we need more slip. And I was checking on the clay that I had been rehydrating after it had dried out a little... that is lovely and soft now and ready for tomorrow when we will start our sculptures based on the artwork we have seen in the sheltered housing for the elderly next door.

But the slip was just so lovely and gooey... I have a feeling that there is one or two of the children that will be more interested in the slip than in creating the clay sculpture tomorrow... and in a way my actions today might just have selaed that...

The children saw how gooey my hands were and some wrinkled their noses... so I just wanted to challenge their thinking... and used the slip like a facemask...

The children thought it was hilarious... I started with just a bit on my cheeks, but the children called out "make a mustache" etc, and it was fun. Some of the children wanted to do the same too, and they got to.

I could feel the skin tightening as it dried, and we could watch the colour changing too, from grey to white.

I popped into the other group... of 1-3 year olds. They stared at me with big wide eyes. I went round so they could look closer, touch if they dared. Then I went to wash it off and came back.

Where has it gone?

"behind your back" said one of the two year olds - I turned round... it wasn't there.
"in your mouth" said another - I opened my mouth wide... it wasn't there.

it seemed we had a bit of a mystery on our hands...

The older children in Vinden,though, knew straight away what had happened. But I did find it interesting that the youngers ones could not work out what had happened. Makes me want to do it again and see what theories they have next time!!

It did leave me with  lovely smooth skin afterwards!!

OK, I haven't quite mastered the art of the selfie yet!!

Monday, 17 March 2014

Getting closer... To Through the Eyes of the Child project kicking off

The photo project that popped into my head in January is just about ready to go live... with a few weeks left in March to register and then the month of April to be able to take photos with the children and talk about their meaning, reflect and make a decision as to which one should be uploaded and shared with the world... and importantly WHY that photo was chosen BY THE CHILDREN...

this is about the children... about learning to listen to their ideas, the way they see the world. This is about making visible the children's thoughts and what they view as important.

Of course in a way it is NOT just about the children... to be honest it is about the adults working with the children too... as it is an opportunity for them to  test out using photography as a language of communication with the children. It is a way of developing a process of listening to the children and allowing their images to shine, regardless of whether the teacher/adult at first understands the point of the photograph. The idea of this project is that it will encourage the teachers/adults to take the time to understand them from the child's perspective rather than their own adult perspective.

Here is a link to Through the Eyes of the Child blog - there are some posts about using photography with young children and a few links too.
Maybe not so many posts as I was hoping for... But sometimes life is just busier than you expect. I am hoping that once the project kicks off there will be a natural need and interaction with others that will feed the post writing. After all this is a process for me too.

There is also a facebook page connected to the project... hopefully a place where particpants can also meet and share their process... and be a community of learners together - children and teachers/adults.

so far this group as been mostly interested in taking photos of things they see and things that they have done... after all they have watched me document their work for the last year. Here the child is taking a photo of me, she also took a photo of a parent with us on the trip.

visiting the Royal Palace was a big thing for these children... previously the children have not been that interested in using the camera... their focus has been on play, and taking photos seems to have got in the way of their play. This day there was MUCH more interest in using the camera. Having the hand through the loop is essential. One child dropped the camera whilst outside, but fortunatley the loop prevented the camera from smashing to the ground... so it DOES work. I would rather like the kind of loop they have on wii controls, that tighten, as these loops are BIG for little hands.

and taking photos of their work continues to be the most important purpose of the camera, for most of the children

some guidance has been necessary... not to put fingers on the "eye" of the camera (the lense) and also not to much the camera up onto wet paint!!!

Sunday, 16 March 2014

Sleeping Beauty

One of the books I brought back with me from the Uk was Sleeping Beauty... as requested by the children before I left... (what books should I look for in England? - about the body, Cinderella, Sleeping Beauty, princess, how cars work, blood...)

Sleeping Beauty has been well read in the last couple of weeks... and it became apparant that we needed to extend the children's thoughts about what is a castle/palace, what is a princess etc etc.

We decided to start with the palace, as it was this I could see been drawn the most by the children... and all with towers and turrets, and I know that the Royal Palace in town does not have any towers... if I took them there would the children still define it as a palace?

So we took the underground train seven stations to the Old Town (Gamla Stan) to look at the palace. As we walked across the Old Town we observed the differences between there and the neighbourhood around the preschool - especially Stortorget (The main square) with our own square - for a start there are no old old cannonballs lodged in the walls of the building in our square outside the preschool!!!

The children were given paper to draw the palace they saw before them, after we had talked about its size and observed that it did not have towers. It was not quite what they had expected... but it was still a palace... I found it interesting that one of the children still drew her palace with towers--- others had expressed that they could not draw a palace, but when we talked about the shape of the palace in front of us, they soon discovered that they could, indeed, draw a palace. The children were given time with the camera to document their work and their experience.

We were lucky enough to witness a horse and carriage go by us, clip-clopping on the cobbles. Then went over to ask questions to the guard... why was he there, why did he have a sword, a helmet and did sleeping beauty actually live there?
We then went on to see the statue of St George and the Dragon, as well as the princess.

In the afternoon the children were given the opportunity to look at palaces and castles via google... there were so many different shapes, size, colours and locations... the children chose paper and pens and also documented their own work. Others painted - with a sleeping beauty theme - royal gold, red and white to create roses, green leaves and black thorns - to create the catsle and the bush of thorns and roses that went around the castle for a hundred years. Again the children documenting their own work. The Together Painting had been inspired by sleeping beauty - and as usual images and patterns appeared and disappeared under layers of creativity and exploration.

The day ended with sleeping beauty role-play - while listening to the music from the ballet Sleeping Beauty... there was dance, there was a variety of characters... the princess, the thirteenth fairy, creating somewhere soft to sleep, developing and exploring costumes, creating a tower area... and the role-play was loosely based on Sleeping Beauty... the more I withdrew from the play and became observer the more daily life crept into the role-play - washing the clothes, and relocating the bed again and again and again.

It was a fabulous day of Sleeping Beauty exploration. It was exhausting too - but in a good sort of way.

Saturday, 15 March 2014

The competent child...

Yesterday we went to a park that has a play contraption that is simply too high for the children to get on themselves... they had to be lifted on.

After a while I turned to Ellen and said.... let's do an experiment...
and the experiment was that the children had to work together to help each other up and down... we were no longer going to help them...

The children looked at us as if we were mad... they looked at how high the seats were and felt a little defeated...
So I gave the children a tool... I curled in a ball in the sand... and asked "if you do this are you strong enough to be s step for your freinds?"

They all tried it out...

It was not easy. They needed several attempts to get the angle right, the shape of the ball right so that it did not hurt as feet were put on their backs and so that their friends could reach.... another child had to hold the play swing still so that it did not escape the mounter's grasp.

They managed... with great excitement... I cried out "children power" in my excitement and the children danced with joy... they helped each other - big children helping the small children up, small children helping the big children up... and then they helped to push...

The experiment not only worked... it was a great fun too. The children learned that collaboration is an important and fun skill... that alone we will not always succeed... but our chances of success are better TOGETHER!!



Friday, 14 March 2014

and now we know...

For the last six month we have been in the middle of an inquiry to learn more about my son, and why school is not a natural learning place for him...

Today we met up with the social worker and psychologist to hear their official decision as to his diagnosis... as it became clear fast that there would be one...

My son has been diagnosed with ADHD/autism - this diagnosis now opens up a whole toolbox of help that we can turn to in order to be better parents - and also to equip him with the right tools to get through school. We have the opportunity to turn to both the ADHD Centre and the Autism Centre... we also have the opportunity to apply for financial support if this is necassary to help my son... for example I have just reduced my hours at work to be able to be with him more... full time was adding too much stress, as the long days were exhausting him...

For children like my son... it is not just the learning that can be tiring, but having to work hard to be like the accepted norm... THAT is the most exhausting... the lack of flexibility in school to meet his learning needs and interests... not necessarily the fault of individual schools but a general "the way schools are" problem.

I feel that if my son can get through school he will thrive in real life, because he will find what he enjoys and he will excel at that. I believe in his competency. I have less belief in the competency of the school system to meet the individual needs of the children that HAVE to move through first grade to ninth. Homeschooling is illegal in Sweden... that is not an option.

I believe in his teachers... I see them, I talk with them... I see that they really see my son... and that they like him and care about him... but they also work in a system that doesn't allow them the flexibility to teach and meet the individual needs as they wish...

At the moment I have a strange sort of calmness.
I have known this since he was 2 years old... this EXACT diagnosis. And have been told again and again by preschool teachers and teachers that all is fine, it's just a phase... there is nothing wrong... and yet I received little positive feedback about his days... there was always the moaning about his transitions and his not following instructions and his interactions with other... so as a preschool teacher myself.. I knew what all this meant (I could see him at home too) - and yet when I asked should we take this further, they backed down - no no, its just a phase he is perfectly normal...
(yes he is normal, and there is nothing wrong with him... but it was so obvious he needed more support and more positive feedback than what he was getting).
NOW, after seven years, despite the sadness that life/school is going to be a bit trickier for him, I feel happy that the school system will now have to take me seriously. I had to get these four pages of official writing that sit in front of me right now. Now it is just to see if it will make a difference. I know his teachers will continue to do an amazing job... I just hope that these teachers will get the support they need to meet my son's needs, and those of other children in his class.

But this calmness... it's a bit strange.

But now Michael is asking lots of questions... what is ADHD... what is autism... why me... is there medicine that can take it away and make me better...????????????????

We talk. We watch films. We talk more.
We watched a film during the week on ADHD... where he turned around and told me that I was a good mother, as he could see the frustration on the parents in the film
.....and I was in disbelief how non-pedagogical they were... so it was good for me, too, to watch ... that maybe I am getting things right... with so much opposition/defiance it does make me feel like a bad mother at times (many times) especially with the wonderful parenting advice of Janet Lansbury because my reality is so far from wonderful all the time, its so far from calm all the time, and to be honest at times I wonder how I still have hair!!! But the film made me realise that I am calmer than I thought I was (because I am not calm inside), that I am saying much kinder words and choosing them more carefully (even though it all feels heat of the moment) that I am much more patient than I thought I was (even though it's something I feel I want a shipload more of)...
Of course, having access to centres that can shed more light on his ADHD and autism is going to help... both with how to deal with him and also how to deal with my emotions about my parenting... as well as support for his sisters... after all he is not the only one living with ADHD/autism - we all are... and the films have helped him to understand that... well when he is capable/ in the mood for understanding at least...

He is an amazing soon-to-be-10-year-old with an eye for detail, an amazing imagination and a wonderful intact childishness which I hope he never loses... as it is truly magical. It let's you believe in things that others deem impossible... a valuable asset to have at times!
I remind him every day that I love him, and that even if  I don't always like the things he does, I will always LOVE him, I will always be on his side, even if he does not feel like I am. Because I am fighting for what is best for him and not for what makes him happy now.

OK, I am going to stop... the strange calmness is lifting... the emotions are starting to rush in.....

Thursday, 13 March 2014

Sleeping Beauty...

The story of Sleeping Beauty has taken a grip of the children... so we are starting to explore it a little.

Right now it is far too late to start sharing very much of our day... you will have to wait for the weekend for that... SO much happened! But I will share that we went into town to check out the Royal Palace, so that they could see a REAL Palace...

My favourite moment?
When one of the children asked the guard if Sleeping Beauty lived there... no he replied.... well do you know where she lives? ... he didn't know that either!!


Wednesday, 12 March 2014

happy

Its taken me a while, but finally I have found reasonably priced pestle and mortors that I feel comfortable using in preschool. These a just small ceramic ones and I got just three, because frankly I could not fit much else in my bags when I was returning back to Sweden from UK.

One will be used in the atelier... for art projects, one with food, so they can mush and taste, and one for the outdoors to experience nature on yet another sensory level...

I marked each one so we could remember which one is which...

Looking orward to putting them into action... at the moment we are busy creating 3D maps from the children's drawing od maps to their homes and have been visiting... by this Friday we will have visited every door in the group... although the children are now interested in where I live!!


Tuesday, 11 March 2014

Photography...

Vinden has now got its own camera, one that the children can use.
Each department has its own camera, but as I was using my personal one most of the time, Vindens camera was taken to the newly opened preschool...

As much as I like the children I am not going to hand over my camera to them - for a start it's too heavy for their little hands - and I think more complicated than what they need write now, as you have to use the view-finder rather than the screen.

I have to admit that was expecting the children to want to use the camera MORE... but all respect to them... they were more interested in their play. Some of them wnated to use the camera to take photos.

I presented the camera with that every child could take up to three photos every day... (as I know this group has a VERY hard time to share things with each other and a VERY big need to have control of things themselves, I thought this would be the best way in the early days to take the stress out of "will I get a turn?")



Six of the ten children there that day wanted to use the camera - only two of them used all three photo opportunities... two of them wanted to use all three when we were outside, but when I asked if they wanted to take a photo when they were inside too, they changed their minds and saved a shot for later.
My idea being that the children learn to be aware of their actions and choices and not just do things for the sake of it. The children take responsibility and are not just trigger happy...

I wonder though if this was the wrong approach, maybe I should just let the children loose with the camera... and let them take as many photos as they want...

Maybe that is what I will do tomorrow... a whole day where the camera is available to them and they can take as many as they want?
Will there be arguments over the camera (what I feared - and should I really be afraid of these arguments - well, sometimes yes, as I think not all children are in full control of their impulses right now!!). How will the children resolve the issue of how long each child should have the camera. Will there be any interest at all (none of the children asked for the camera in the afternoon. even though they knew they could - maybe they are not in the rhythm of that either?)
What will using the camera mean? Will it mean they feel like an adult, because it is usually the adult who is taking the images? If so what responsibility comes with that? OR do children view adulthood not as something that is about responsibility but about the power of making decisions and doing things they can't (this is what I think the children I work with think... that adulthood is about being able to do the things children are not "allowed" to do - this is why we are doing the den side-project to meet this need - as it is apparent that children think adults say no because we have power over children, not because 1. it's unsafe 2. we can't because we dont have it/afford it/ have access to it etc etc etc 3. we lack the skills at this time and need to learn them. etc etc etc - and yes I explain and explain... but it does feel like at the moment I am like a broken record... and it feels like they have understood, and then the following week they challenge the exact same point. I guess its all about patience and answering and re-answering...)

My own children have been taking photos since they were preschoolers - and the photos are always interesting and unique - if not always comprehensible in their topic or amount!! Sometimes not even to them afterwards...

The images the children took on Monday we have deliberatelt not shown them yet... we wanted to put some space between the action and the reflection... will they be able to tell which photo is their own? Will they remember WHY they took it. And what will they reflect as they look at the image now... did it turn out as they expected... and what would they like to take a photo of next time?

I had written a whole load more... but realised it was nothing much to do with this topic of photography... so that will be coming as a little extra post of its own...

Monday, 10 March 2014

the hand drill

Last week the hand drill came out for the first time ... not sure who was more excited. the children or me... there is something very satisfying about drilling holes and creating something that wasn't there before (or are we creating nothing from something that WAS there before? HMMM, what IS a hole actually?)

Of course the children need to learn all about the risks involved with using the hand -drill - and it is wonderful to see how seriously they take this information and how they have treated the hand drill with respect (so far at least)...

For the moment they are exploring the drill on the stumps... the hard inner wood and the softer bark - the different coloured dust that is created depending on where you are drilling. As well as taking turns...


We have a little side project of building a den - the children in another big discussion about decision making said that if they could decide they would make a den (koja) - so they have drawn designs and they are making a first prototype our of ice-lolly sticks - we will eventually look into the prices of how to make such a den - so that they can discover that making decisions is not always that easy as they are often more complicated, lengthy and costly that what the children think... and there is a lot of responsibility...

BUT IF we do get as far as making a read den... well maybe the hand-drill practice will come in handy then?


one of 6 designs... all but one was square/rectangular

the children opted for a square den... and have been let loose with the glue gun to get this far... this is built sporadically over two weeks. The roof at the moment just rests on the walls... but they will have to re-look at their designs and work out of there are any missing details...

Sunday, 9 March 2014

Reading...

My desk around the computer is filled with books, my computer is busy with pages and pages of articles and links... and a million ideas and questions... mostly questions... are zooming chaotically around my head... that I am just having to pause... not least because I cannot relocate that one article I want to refer to that I discovered far too late last night and shut down without saving (or remembering) - the FRUSTRATION...

So what books do I have on my desk right now? In no particular order...

  • Philosophy for Children - Marilyn Bowles
  • In Dialogue with Reggio Emilia. Listening, researching and learning - Carlina Rinaldi
  • Beyond Quality in Early Childhood Education and Care: Postmodern Perspectives. - Dahlberg, Moss and pence
  • The If Machine. Philosophical Enquiry in the classroom. - Peter Worley
  •  The Process of Education - Jerome Bruner
  •  The Learning Brain. Lessons for education - Blakemore and Frith
  • Thought and Language - Lev Vygotsky
  • Experience and Education - John Dewey
  • Understanding Schemas and Young Children. From birth to three - Atherton and Nutbrown
  • Early Childhood Matters. Evidence from the EPPE project - Sylva, Melhuish, Sammons, Siraj-Blatschford and Taggart
  • The Informed Vision - David Hawkins
  • The Language and Thought of the Child - Piaget
  • The Mosaic Approach - Moss and Clark
19 tabs are open with something interesting on each side... from Jesper Juul, Beate Børrelsen, Lipman, a list of various articles on listening - and then I have various word documents open where I have been saving quotes and articles on listening - this I have been doing over a period of time so there are a few... and some are wonderfl longs lists of quotes!!

I am also trying to make sense of all of this information overload... in a concise sort of way... which is proving difficult... as one idea trigger off another question or two or four and then another theory with even more questions... how am I going to discover my answers if I keep asking questions all the time?

Oh well... maybe time for a coffee, a moment or two to soak up some sun... and with time for reflection things might make more sense?

more collaborative art ...

The Together painting have been popular... and they continue to be...

I returned to black and white again to see how the children would react after using lots of colour... I was sort of expecting a negative reaction... but there was not... they simply got on with creating.

I do, though, see that this painting is moving more and more into a sensory experience rather than an expression of ideas and creativity... so I am considering putting these collaborative artworks on hold for a while and putting up individual paper to see what happens to the art then... will the children choose a subject for their painting when they know that the painting belongs to them?

Have the children decided that it is not worth while to paint a specific subject when they see how it quickly disappears under the paint of another child?

There IS a great deal of joy in these paintings... and the sensory experience is worth while too.
using hands to paint and to paint with was important for the three children that stayed to paint for a longer time... the same three children that usually paint for a longer time...


This week I took one of the previous Together paintings to use as a background for how "friend" can be represented in art... my first question "what is a friend?" was being answered... but then got put on hold as the children felt it was too tricky to explain... so the question became, "how would you draw a friend?"
  • a person
  • a princess-me
  • an angel
  • an angel
  • "gubbe" - old man
The children then drew their representations on the artwork using black pens. It was obvious that they took inspiration from each other... there was also a discussion about "I want to draw like O" - and we discussed the difference between drawing like someone else and being inspired by someone else... that in fact we are learning to draw in our own way...

the figure in the bottom right is one of the angels.. the hair was done in the same manner as the other angel... rather than trying to recreate the look this child recreated the action and rhythm of the first angel's hair, second from left at the bottom. The angel on the right comes complete with beard and mustache too! The princess-me (middle top) developed wings, inspired by the drawing of the  angel and the person (on stilts) on the bottom left receieved a crown, inspired by the princess. The youngest in the group drew his first person that I have seen him draw at preschool - what we call in Sweden a huvudfoting (headfooter) as their lacks the body... there are arms, legs, ears and hair sprouting out of the head - as well as eyes, nose and mouth - this child did not watch the others as much as drawing his old man required all of his concentration. He was very proud of the end result - and was given extra time to finish until he felt satisfied as the others got ready to go outside, this was also appreciated by him.

Friday, 7 March 2014

documenting myself...

This is going to be one of those random posts...

This evening I wanted to post a phot of myself with the link to the post of why Interaction Imagination is called Interaction Imagination on my facebook page... I realised that I am seriously lacking photos of myself...

I take hundreds of photographs every week, but not of myself, but of the children I work with, what they are doing, and of my own children and what we are doing... but not of myself...

The thing is I realise that I am doing the same thing as my father... he was nearly always nehind the camera rather than in front of the camera. No big deal you may think - but since my father was on 50 years old when he died, I have precious little to hold on to him. I realise that I want more photographs and more memories to be able to share with my children of what my father, THEIR grandfather was like - and he would have been an amazing grandparent.

I realise I am just 7 years younger than my dad when he died. Not that I have plans to die young or anything - but life is a fickle thing - and I do not want to deprive my children of things that can be important to them.

So this is a post for my children... a kind of memory for them... that I share not only with them but the whole world... because when my father died I felt like the whole world should come to a stop and acknowledge the passing of this wonderful man... it didn't of course - but all felt really surreal... so may this will help my children... who know?

when the girls were born we did not have a digital camera - so their baby photos are in albums rather than digitally saved. This is me and Michael on his very first day. Me after quite a big blood loss... I was borderline for a transfusion... soemtimes wish I had one, as there was precious little energy...

Sophia Michael and myself in the forest... well at the inlaws who live in the forest...

snuggles for my girls - in their Lucia clothes... a Lucia and a pepparkaka girl...

Isabelle and me

Michael and me
Sophia and me

there have been a lot of stories over the years...


and a lots of cuddles...

but seldom have I been in front of the camera... this one is at Brimham Rocks in UK

and this is me and an owl... just in case you haven't noticed... we spent a whole morning with owls... it was the children's birthday present... and was the most amazing experience ever...This owl is actually sitting on my arm... and it is heavy!!