Saturday, September 21, 2019

Annual Learning is Growing Conference

Learning is Growing Conference is held annually each Fall in Stratford
This year's theme for the conference is FUNdamentals. Participants were invited to come and explore our “inner child” and reflect upon the FUNdamentals in teaching children. To reflect on what attitudes we hold about the value of fun, why is fun necessary, and how does having fun impact learning?

Key note speaker was Marc Battle who spoke to us about reflecting on why childcare programs seem to place so much focus on 'measurable' indicators of success such as checklists for the ability to recite the ABC, 123 and matching of colours. That despite years and years of existances childcare programs today seem to be more mediocre than ever before and places of stress and discomfort for both children and staff.  To reflect on the reality that we seem to see the lack of value in the most important part of child development and why we chose to enter the field in the first place - our desire to have fun with children and to support the healthy development of the whole child in regards to self while instilling a sense of a joy of learning and having FUN in their early years!

My morning workshop a Beginner's Mind: Finding Fun and Zen

The workshop was a reflection on the 'rules' we have in childcare and how sometimes they distract from the overall purpose of our role as educators which is to ensure that children have fun in their early learning journey because when we enjoy ourselves while learning we are more likely to retain the knowledge! We need to constantly reflect on 'rules' as our practice evolves and changes and ensure that our rules evolve along with our increasing knowledge of how children learn and what they need in order to truly thrive. 

We started the workshop getting silly and having fun with some music.

 We than delved into memories of our own childhood and play and what use to be 'typical' in our play.
 Marc shared a story around the benefit of 'risky play' and allowing children opportunities to play in risky spaces.

 Expanding more on the role of 'fun' in learning ...

 What we know know about the 'brain' and the role of fun.
 Defining fun.

We looked at the history of early learning programs from way back to now and reflected on how little so many things have changed despite how much more we know about brain development and how children learn!
 Marc shared a story about how sometimes we need to push back around some of the 'rules' because children do not need to spend their days all day everyday in the 'institutionalization' that photos like these represent .... they need to be free to move and to be close and to interact with each other. One of the things he use to do in his program with preschoolers is instead of using the cots that were spaced so many feet apart at quiet time he would allow the children to grab their blanket and pillows and come to the carpet area. To lay down and snuggle up and he would read to them and they would fall asleep in a little 'fox huddle' of warmth and comfort soothed to sleep by the sound of a loving adult reading ... it created a sense of connection in the group and the children often slept longer than on the days they were kept separated as the 'rules' required. For Marc in his practice the benefits of this little 'huddle' in the quiet room far outweighed any concerns over head lice or germs or whatever rationale is around the rules of having so many feet between resting children as they lay perfectly still on cots lined up around a room.
 We talked about how children 'learn' and the joy and excitement that comes with having a 'beginners mind' when looking at the world around us.

 We reflected on the 'rules' around gun play in the early years as Marc shared his story of a project he engaged with with school age children around their desire for gun play in the childcare setting.

I will admit that while the documentation of the learning and collaboration that unfolded when they embraced children's interest in gun play I still REALLY struggle with allowing this in the preschool age groups when the children do not have the same level of understanding between fantasy play and real life. When we live in a culture with so many accidental shootings by children who pick up a real gun and play with it and end up harming or killing someone. Guns are not 'toys' they are tools that are used to hunt or hurt and I struggle with wanting to embrace such tools in an early learning program when we have no need to 'hunt or hurt' it just seems like there is no place for guns in education setting that is not a extra curricular firing range or other venue around hunting. I understand that children need a chance to explore concepts of good and bad and gun play can be an avenue for that however I feel that there are other ways to explore these concepts while still standing by the value that guns are not toys, they are not something we play with and we do not need to encourage young children to do this it just does not feel developmentally appropriate in the preschool years.

My afternoon workshop Waterfalls in your Playground 

This workshop was AWESOME ... a very hands on opportunity to explore how easy it can be to create moving water walls with children that they can create using simple everyday items in a way that the water wheel can be constructed and reconstructed with ease. 

Have an amazing day

Live Well, Laugh Often, Love Much
Be Totallyawake4-life

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