Tuesday, 24 April 2012

What I learn at Kindergarten!

“Every time we teach a child something, we keep him from inventing it himself. On the other hand, that which we allow him to discover for himself will remain with him visible for the rest of his life.” Piaget

"More than a quarter of Australian fifth graders believe yogurt is grown on trees and three out of four of them think cotton is an animal product, according to a study from the Australian Council of Education Research."

 

Children who believe that cotton-wool grows on sheep? Now where could they possibly have got that idea from? Could it have come from adult's intentional teaching? I will let you decide after reading this light hearted journey around an early years environment! Could "THEY" be YOU?

Little Emily (4) was taking me on a guided tour; "That is Spring up there, THEY told us, that is my lamb, oh, maybe not that  one, I forgot which one. THEY gave us a paper and there was a lamb on it and then we had to put that white glue on and then that white stuff THEY call cotton wool. It was really hard, it was very sticky and I did it wrong and THEY came and changed it, THEY said the tail was wrong. I did one of those flowers too but we had to make yellow flowers and had to paint a bit of egg box with yellow and green sticks. I wanted a pink flower but THEY said these ones are not pink. Pink is my favourite."


Celebrating individuality and creativity?
"We also have dough, you can roll it like mum rolls the biscuit dough, but ours is bright red or blue or green and THEY say we can't put it in our mouth. You can make cupcakes and little shapes and pasta BUT you have to sit at the table and you can't take it to the home corner to cook it in the oven. THEY say it is too messy. I made a birthday cake for my baby but THEY said it was time to tidy up and THEY squashed it. I was sad, I wanted to show my baby but THEY said tidy-up time. My daddy cooks in the kitchen, there is no carpet in my kitchen."

 "This is where we can do cooking. This round shape with white at the bottom has some brown stuff on top - THEY call it Spaghetti Bolognaise and you have to take turns to share it THEY say and it is really hard to stir in the pot, it goes bump, bump. We also have potatoes and carrots and onions but you can't cut pieces, they don't go soft or lumpy like my dad's in the cupboard, feel them, when I put them in my mouth I can't taste it and THEY tell me not to eat them cause I have germs! THEY are silly cause I am not eating them, just pretend!"

"This is where the dinosaurs go. We made that volcano! We take newspaper and then THEY put it in watery stuff and then you have to wait and wait for it to go hard. THEY make a hole in the middle....... mmmm I think mountains have a hole in the middle? Then THEY put some white powder in, like my baby's powder, and then some water stuff but it smells bad and you have to hold your nose and then the bubbles came out the top. THEY say that's a volcano. I don't know who put the white powder and smelly stuff in the hole at the top of the big mountain when the dinosaurs came, maybe a giant cause mountains are very big. My dad says the red stuff that comes out is lava and is very hot and burns but our volcanoes just had bubbles and it wasn't hot."
Bubbles from volcanoes - is that really what we want children to learn?
"Those balls up there, see the ones on the string? Those are balloons but THEY said put yucky wet paper round them and then they got hard and then THEY said we must paint them. We had to make lots, THEY said lots but I was tired. I wanted to paint mine with lots of colours and dots but THEY said that is not what Planets look like. I don't know what that is....something in the sky I can't see, maybe they are in the sky balloons!"

"This is the place where THEY say we can play with water. Those are fish but they can't go under the water by themselves, I push them and then they just pop up. My fish at home can swim under the water. THEY put blue stuff in the water because THEY say water is blue, the sea is blue. I don't know, my water in the bath is no colour. When I play in the mud I can make the water brown and mummy laughs and says I am mucky! THEY say I can't play in the mud cause it's dirty."
 
"This is our fire. THEY say take some plastic stones, THEY say real stones are too dangerous so we can't have those, and you put them in a circle, then some paper in the middle cause THEY say sticks are too dangerous and then you squash some red tissue paper in there and THEY say that's a fire! Fire is not that hot, you can even touch it! At camp we make fire and we cook food and that fire is hot and can burn if you touch. I don't touch real fire cause I know it's hot. If you want to put out fire you have to blow and blow, I blow my candles at home and they make smoke. THEY say candles are dangerous and when it's birthday time THEY fetch a little candle but THEY have to put the fire on with the little button at the bottom and you can't blow it out, THEY put it out with the little button again." 

Real fire - mesmerizing,an opportunity to be together and share while learning.

"That's our tools, they're pretend! THEY say real ones are dangerous. The yellow saw doesn't hurt, look you can saw your hand! The hammer, we have a red hammer but THEY say you can't use it to hammer nails because the hammer breaks....THEY say just tap the blue block and then it is safe. Jason's grandad got him a saw that really cuts wood and he brought it but They said it was too dangerous and took it away and put it on the high place. Jason says tools here are really boring cause they don't even work."

"Our coats, that pink one is mine, THEY tell us we have to put them on, THEY say it is cold when the clouds come or the wind is there. I run and run and run and go red and my heart goes boom, boom very fast. I tell them I want to take my coat off but THEY say it is too cold and cross their arms like this and make shivery faces when THEY stand by the door. When it rains THEY say we can't go out, sometimes it doesn't rain and THEY say we can't go out. I love to play in the rain and splash in the puddles, THEY say keep away cause you will get wet!"

Trusting children to self risk assess leads to competent, confident and able children.

"The trees - they are not for climbing THEY say it is too dangerous. My mummy lets me climb to the top of the tree in our garden, to my big brother's tree-house. She says are you feeling safe and I nod my head like this. My tree looks the same but THEY say these are too dangerous. I don't know why. I like to climb and THEY say I can go on the little slide but I have to slide down on my bottom, THEY say it's too dangerous on my tummy. Sometime we quickly climb up and we jump from the top, that is best fun! THEY keep saying be careful but I don't know why?"

"Those are vegetables but we can't go in there, THEY say the tomatoes are poisonous and can kill us. My dad lets me help to plant tomatoes and then I eat them when they are red but I don't die, my tomatoes are not the same, I love tomatoes but not these ones, THEY say they are too dangerous."

Experiencing the delight of growth - the time it takes for tomatoes to change colour - another valuable learning experience

"You see there by the fence. All those sticks. THEY say sticks are dangerous and when THEY see one fallen off the tree THEY throw it over the fence. When we find one we hide it, sometimes the boys make guns but THEY  say that is bad and we can't make guns. They are just pretend and can't really shoot but THEY say guns are bad. My daddy has a real gun and he is good, I love my daddy, he is a policeman!"

"These are beans, well not the white stuff but THEY say you need the white stuff and THEY call it cotton wool and THEY say you put this hard bean on it, close it with more soft stuff and then THEY say put water on, water every day, not blue water, just water like the bath. When THEY say you can open it then some green and white bits are coming out! I like beans. I know, sheep make cotton wool so we can grow beans on the plate and clouds are made of cotton-wool, THEY say so!! I love coming to Kindergarten, THEY know everything and when I am big I want to be like THEM"

I wonder how many adults are brave enough to admit that THEY might have been responsible for generations of children with these or similar misconceptions? I have to admit to the volcano 'experiment' - sorry children!!


Exploring the properties of real materials - natural stones and water.

"Children are investigators, little scientists. They are busy forming their ideas, developing their own frameworks of understanding - how things work, what belongs together, they are making connections between their own experiences and the world around them and then transfer this knowledge to other situation. This is the time adults should support those little explorers by offering real and true experiences to allow the appropriate connections to be made."

We do have to laugh at ourselves at times........ I certainly do!

"Childhood has it's own way of seeing, thinking, and feeling, and nothing is more foolish than to try to substitute ours for theirs."       Jean Jacques Rousseau

43 comments:

  1. Excellent post, thank you so much for highlighting this! Children are robbed of so much when adults interfere too much with their paranoid obssession with 'safety' and 'cleanliness'! That poor girl, the part about them squashing the birthday cake she made is really heartbreaking :/

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thank you Deb. The sad thing is that most adults are well meaning in their actions but sometimes we need to have the time to reflect on our practice - we need to be allowed this time.

      Delete
    2. Talk about like minds. As l was reading this l was thinking, l've got this wrong, this must be Nicki's blog - not one she has shared. Thanks ladies for such good solid encouragement to return to the basics of early childhood philosophy. Providing an environment that trusts chn with the freedom to learn.

      Delete
    3. What an amazing post!! Something I wish to read once a week atleast... I have it saved to my favorites and will be sharing this with many! Thank you <3 -Nicole Roy-Creator at Promised Lands Natural Care

      Delete
    4. Thanks Nicole - I just feel so strongly about teaching children real concepts and not ones they have to unlearn again!

      Delete
  2. Real food for thought here Niki. Thanks for this, I hope that the days of all art work looking the same are long gone. I do recall a student teling the children not to lick the spoon the icing was on in case they got sick! And yes I imagine the children were thinking, then why are we putting it on our buns? We all need to think carefully before just giving bland expereinces with mixed messages. Kierna

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I agree Kierna. I am afraid that the 'template' art is unfortunately still very much alive and kicking in some settings. BUT there is fortunately a big shift away and all we can do is support adults in realising the value of children's own work. Sometimes it is hard to let go and see your display looking 'messy' when you have been taught to double and triple mount everything in neat lines!

      Delete
  3. Oh deary me, just relooked over blog! It is yours Nicki! What can l say?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. mmm......not sure what you mean Alison???? You have me wondering what you want to say?

      Delete
  4. Brilliant :) Should be a poster on every centre wall.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thank you - maybe I should make a little mini poster to download!

      Delete
  5. Exactly why unschooling or "natural learning" is the way to go!!!! :)

    ReplyDelete
  6. Nicki - I agree with ako! This should be spread far and wide, given to every early educator, and be in every centre and kindergarten. And if every parent got a copy too, maybe they would begin to understand what quality early education looks like - and how common poor services are.

    It would make an excellent booklet - perhaps you could get funding to produce it professionally, perhaps through the Dept for Communities? Probably not - DfC is the problem, not the solution! Maybe some community group would help.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Welcome back Alec! Thanks for your support, if anybody knows how to produce little booklets that would be good fun!

      Delete
  7. Thanks Niki,

    Another enlightening post and I agree with all the comments, this needs to be spread wide and far so I will be sharing.
    Thank you Belinda :)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks Belinda - it is great that there are so many of us already promoting real life experiences which is heartening!

      Delete
  8. So well put Niki! I love that it is coming from the child's voice. It gives a very powerful and clear message to let children freely explore the real world and to respect children as really capable and deserving of real tools and real experiences.
    There are many of us out there trying so hard to get this message across, it is a slow and difficult process in some cases. I think it needs to be heard several times through different voices to help the message sink in and become actions for change.
    Thank you for giving us the child's voice. (And I agree a poster would be good!)
    Regards, Kim

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks Kimberley, I think the more we support educators by showing how experiences can be real and that children can and should be trusted as very competent and capable little people the sooner our children will be treated with the respect they deserve.

      Delete
  9. I think that yes, the teachers are restrictive to not letting the kids experiment or play with fire and real tools etc cuz they are dangerous! Not as much if there is 1 teacher per child monitoring them and making sure that they know how to use everything properly, but there is only 1 teacher in the classroom and maybe a teacher's aid VS what, 15-20 children?? Of corse they can't use real tools in a kindergarden classroom. What if a child really did cut him/herself- can you imagine how much trouble the school would be in?? I think that if you want to allow your child to explore and discover, it is up to you to allow them with YOUR OWN SUPERVISION. Not ever parent would be as open to letting their kids child trees and run outside and play in the rain. I have a 2yr old and a 4yr old and I wouldn't let them playout side in the rain without a jacket.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I have had real tools in Kindergarten classes for nearly 30 years and the worst injury I have had is a tiny cut - about paper-cut size, not even needing a plaster! We are not talking chainsaws or huge adult tools. In my environment children from the age of 2 have access to real junior hacksaws, hammers, manual drills, make real fires in the forest and cook food on the fires. There are procedures in place and a benefit-risk assessment is done and then a decision is taken. Children are monitored but do not need one to one supervision as I trust children to be able to self risk assess, they are extremely capable little people. I don't know what country you are in but in Australia it is often warm when it rains and some of my best memories as a child are playing in the rain in shorts and t-shirt! If it is very cold then obviously waterproof clothing would be appropriate.

      Delete
  10. This is going out to ALL my teachers this week! Love it. So true about the coats. I watched them do it just yesterday actually. "If your parents sent you in a coat you must keep the coat on" I just want to shout WHY?!?!?! They'll put it back on if they're cold.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Oh Carrie, those poor children, I can imagine them cooking and they will be hot and bothered! If parents forget to send a coat does it mean they are not allowed to wear a coat even at sub zero temperatures? I feel we all have different thermostats - just look at a group of adults and some will be wearing t-shirts while others are wearing coats! In Norway they allow (but don't force) children to run in the snow semi naked - just so they know what cold feels like...It comes down to trust and respect again. Maybe you should get all your teachers to wear thermals and thick coats, run around and not be able to change out of them! :-)

      Delete
    2. Very excellent thought on the thermals :) Granted it was a chilly day, but after running around in a big puffy coat, it gets warm.

      With my own kids I don't fret too badly with coats either. Middle of winter and my son argues with putting a coat on, I let him go without then just bring it out with us cause I know he's going to want it.

      Delete
  11. This is so well written and so true. Thank you for the reminder that everything doesn't have to be safe and clean and sanitized.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I agree - obviously! We say the environment/activity needs to be as safe as necessary and not as safe as possible.

      Delete
  12. Wry laughter here, I have seen/heard rather a lot of similar things over the years. I have shared with all the EY friends and parents I know. Thanks!

    ReplyDelete
  13. Love this. It makes me sad because so many people stifle children's creativity and interests. We should definitely listen more and speak less. So many times I have an idea for a project, but it's always a rough draft. My son often takes it and runs with what's in his head. I never say, "That's not what we're doing!! That's wrong!!!" I would be wrong! If we're decorating something, I can do my own and he can do his own! More often than not he helps me do mine anyways. Thanks so much for writing and sharing this.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I love the fact that your son takes the lead and you allow it! Children take us on journeys that are far more exciting than any we can dream of!

      Delete
  14. Love this. So true. Children are such great mimics, and they don't filter out the blarney. We have to stop with the blarney!

    ReplyDelete
  15. It makes me sad that children nowadays don't get much opportunity to explore the world for themselves. Sure, as parents we need to provide safety and guidance, but by wrapping them in cotton wool we're doing them a disservice. Take their Nintendos away, let them explore the world. Teach them how to use scissors and knives safely. Show them how to use matches. Let them see how plants and animals grow. Give them some freedom so that they can assess the level of risk and learn from consequences. When they leave home you won't be around to protect them.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. You are so right (and have mentioned another use for that cotton wool that comes from animals!)Nature and the outdoors is generally a gentle but real place to explore risk...starting with a garden space and then leading into a wilder nature experience with its increase in unpredictability and risk.

      Delete
  16. Excellent, love the childs voice here. We need to think deeply about why we do what we do.

    ReplyDelete
  17. I love this! I would love to make teaching more real, however, I have parents that won't allow their child outside if they have a runny nose or worry over a small scratch or bump. Some do not want their children to use scissors and real tools, I can only imagine how they would react if we made a fire or let the children put pretend food in their mouth. The list goes on! The whole issue of GERMS, oh my! LOL Unfortunately, in the US any potential hazard is a potential liability. That really has taken the joy out of natural teaching. I would love to teach in a community that embraces natural learning.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. That is so sad but I know that Claire Warden is doing a lot of work in the US and I hope that things might change - I would love to come and speak there myself! My view is that we as professionals have to stand up for what we believe are children's rights. If a parent asks us to hit their child we would refuse and so we should also refuse if a parent asks us to do anything we don't believe in. I have always had a no cancellation policy on outdoor play and this is in my policy documents for parents to see. If a child is not well enough to go outside they are certainly not well enough to be inside my centre where it is the perfect breeding ground for germs which would them affect all the other children. I do benefit risk assessments and if I can show a benefit for an activity I will do anything to allow children to have that opportunity. Parents should be nurtured and we need to stand up for children's rights - nobody else will. I do hope you will get the opportunity to teach in an environment that will celebrate nature education with you! I am busy writing a blog about children in the bush!

      Delete
  18. This is an amazingly well written post. I plan to homeschool my four children, and it's a great reminder for me to never get in the way of their learning. Thank you for sharing.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thank you Allison, you will so enjoy the journey they will take you on if you follow them......

      Delete
  19. Yes, childhood has disappeared! With regards to ECE work though, I find it is due to regulations, insurance, legal issues that most of these things have been imposed on us by those that regulate the industry.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thank you Jennifer! Let's all work together to allow children their childhood - WE can make it happen! I do not know what country you are in but there are no regulations in the UK or Australia that would prevent adults from offering children these experiences BUT there may be managers, administrators and fellow colleagues who prevent these opportunities. We can not change the Australian regulations but we can advocate to make changes to rules, procedures, philosophies etc of individuals, it all comes down to doing benefit risk assessments.

      Delete
  20. Thank you so much for this beautiful post. I love it!

    ReplyDelete
  21. I agree with an above poster. It's not always the TEACHER'S fault; sometimes you can't do things because of parents, administration, or the law. Standing up for what you believe in is fine, but you also have to be able to keep your job and pay your bills so you CAN be there to do what you can. I was honestly insulted by a large portion of this post. I understand your point, but the comments about people that homeschool because of this just slaps me in the face when I work my hardest to not be THAT person in spite of what restrictions are placed on me.

    ReplyDelete
  22. Hi there! I am sorry you feel offended and I am wondering if you are misinterpreting this post? There is absolutely no mention of homeschooling in this post or any comments in the post expressing a preference for either way of schooling. As an EC Educator I have a tremendous respect for all my colleagues out there who do a brilliant job with our young children. The post was meant to be a lighthearted look at some of the things we as adults do with children with all best intentions and how these could be interpreted by the children. I do not know where you are from but I can assure you that there is nothing in the UK or Australian regulations that prevent Educators from offering children any of the real experiences mentioned in this post. Many EC settings in these countries offer such opportunities - why would they be able to do so and not others? It comes down to the adults and how strongly they feel children should have these experiences and how prepared they are to stand up for the children's rights to such experiences - even if it means making very small changes.

    ReplyDelete
  23. I met a woman in her early 20's a few years ago who thought that if you put water on cotton wool it would grow into a cotton plant. When questioned further about this I guessed that at school they had grown mustard and cress on cotton wool.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. What a delightful story - evidence that we need to be careful what we teach children's such frameworks of understanding will stay with them for a very long time.

      Delete