I can very much see our "Swedishness" in the rooms. Which is a good thing. We should reflect our own context.
For me the biggest difference between the Canadian settings and my own setting is the fact the space is used differently in the sense that we have chosen not to have a room for each age group where each room is then divided into areas of rooms within rooms, but that the whole preschool is available to all the children, resulting in a large atelier, a large construction area etc... I feel in this way there is more space to play... especially for space to spread out the play on the floor.
On Monday we visited Ekudden preschool in Uppsala... this was my third visit, but the first time for my colleagues. It also has that Swedish feel... I have sat here paused for a while trying to work out what that means exactly... and realised that in Canada there seemed to be so much on the walls that was not about the children and their learning but all about HAVING to have that stuff there due to regulations. For me it was visual clutter... but of course they have no choice... this is their context.
Third teacher needs to give space for children's play.. like we as teachers
need to be quiet for the voice of the child to be heard.
Due to sickness this post has been on hold for an extra week, which has meant that I have watched the third teacher interact with the children for a little longer and there have been further reflections... but it also means there is more distance between now and my visits to both Canada and Uppsala. Although the impact of these visits have not diminished in any way. BUT to sit here and write this post, without dipping into my notes from the visit... something I like to do... to let the most prominent memories step forward... I realise that SMELL had an enormous impact on me.
I think preschool's do tend to have a special sort of smell... all those children together... the smell of nappies, the smell of childhood, the smell of play, the smell of cleaning, the smell of food, the smell of activities...
Smell is an important part of our memory trigger... it is also an important part of belonging (social bonding)... after all each home has its own smell too... smell can trigger strong emotional responses - where it is not just a case of a smell being pleasant or unpleasant but the experience connected to a particular smell.
"The one trillion is probably an underestimation of the true number of smells we can detect, said Vosshall, because there are far more than 128 different types of odor molecules in the world.
No longer should humans be considered poor smellers. In fact, new research suggests that your nose can outperform your eyes and ears, which can discriminate between several million colors and about half a million tones. “It’s time to give our sense of smell the recognition it deserves,” said Vosshall." brainfacts.org
Over the years I have visited many preschools... some have stood out due to their smell... and I think if we are concerned about creating space for the children we also need to do this with smell... some places I have found the smell to be overpowering... it did not smell like children and play or food. Some places have not worked out how to deal with the nappy changing/potty/toileting situation so that the smell does not over-power the setting.... it simply smells of old nappies/daipers. For me that got in the way, and I can't imagine how that can be an acceptable odour to play in.
In other places they have used artificial smells to make the preschool smell better... for me this was overwhelming too... how are the children to make their connection to each other, through smell, to smell the wood of toys, or the waft of food coming form the kitchen. Sometimes that smell is so strong that it is overwhelming... but that can be just me too... smell is a very sensitive area... people wearing perfume are headache inducing, or can totally throw me off my game/my train of thoughts. But I am positive that I am not alone with my sensitivity with smell... and if we are subjecting strong smells into a preschool how are we making the space inclusive for everyone?
I enjoy adding odours to activities... creating fragrant play-doh, adding spices and scents to paint etc... but only to add odour to the activity... not to fill the room with smell, but to stimulate the more of our senses... so that there is space for the odour stimulation, but also space to move away from it.
Food smells can fill a room... baking is a wonderful smell (although I can understand that maybe for some even this could be connected with negative emotions)... but food is seldom a day long olfactory stimulation... it is there during the food making and the food eating.
Once my sense of smell has returned (after the children have shared their delightful snottiness with me)... I am keen to explore this more at my own setting... how can we enable scent to stimulate the children and their learning without overpowering them?
Here are a few photos and comments from the last few weeks...