Friday, 27 November 2015

Freedom to play

At a  recent workshop in Queenstown we discussed this idea of parent free play. We all thought about what memories we had as children regarding play - what did we enjoy. I think everyone said that it was the outdoor play experiences that they remember from their childhood. A couple of teachers took our thinking further by reminding us it was also the uninterrupted time to create their own play. Away from well meaning adults in a space where we could make our own decisions, use our imaginations and as David Perkins said it was about not only problem solving but about problem finding that made the learning through play meaningful. 

What does this mean for teaching practice?  Do teachers hover unnecessarily around children - does without interference look different in ECE and home?  Children need time to be bored that's how creativity is born.  Rather than fill children's day with activities or entertainment what would happen if we stopped and allowed creative thoughts to simmer?
I remember reading or hearing Guy Claxton say that just because a child is busy does not mean that they are learning anything, a very paraphrased version of his words.  We can fill children's days with busyness but this does not mean that they engaged in any real learning expect maybe learning about who is in control  of their days!

Tuesday, 24 November 2015

Caine's Arcade 2

Caine's Arcade 1

I remember reading on Teacher Tom's blog about the  top five toys of all time.  They were The Box, String, Cardboard Tubes, Sticks and Mud.  This video of Caine's creation with boxes, string and other loose parts certainly goes a long way to supporting Teacher Tom's thoughts and the importance of The Box.

Creativity, Compassion, Composure, Collaboration

When children are given the time and space to tinker with their own ideas and build on their passions I think they will have the opportunity to develop what Sir Ken Robinson recommends are the skills necessary for 21st Century learning. Skills for the 21st Century according to Sir Ken Robinson are Creativity, Compassion, Composure and Collaboration.
During several workshops on Tinkering that I have facilitated recently there have been opportunities for teachers to engage with paper, boxes, string, paper clips, wire, feathers and other loose parts.  The teachers are given time to work together to create.  At the end of the creating process we talk about what learning has happened.  For many it has been a collaborative process as they discuss together their ideas.  For every group there has been an aspect of problem solving and of course creativity.  As we discuss what has happened for them as teachers it is easy to see how an opportunity to tinker with open-ended resources (loose parts) can also lead children into developing compassion and composure.
During the workshop we also talk about the time and space that children need to become involved in the Tinkering process - uninterrupted time to play with ideas.  While the teachers are still incredibly engaged in working on their creation I tend to announce that they have to stop what they are doing as we need to continue with the rest of my planned workshop.  Actually I may stop their creative flow with an announcement of, "You are going to have to stop  what you are doing in a couple of minutes because it is now mat time."  With one group of teachers who really wanted to finish their creation we had to negotiate having extra time as they really were not ready for mat time.
Complex, creative and meaningful learning takes time and possibly by suggesting that my plan was more important than teachers creations it opens up a conversation about whose knowledge is valued in our ECE settings. 
I thoroughly enjoy the discussions that we have at workshops as we all mull over how we can support children's learning by having a view of them as capable or how we can stifle learning by viewing ourselves as the knowers.
This is a teacher's written feedback after a workshop when asked what worked well for her, "Making a piece of work to remind me just how fun it is to play", sorry there was no name on the feedback form to give credit for this fabulous thought.
Play is essential to development because it contributes to the cognitive, physical, social, and emotional well-being of children.......

Friday, 20 November 2015

Nature Play

What fantastic rules for teachers.  If we all showed up everyday with these rules in mind the learning would be vibrant all the time.  Over the year I want to explore how tinkering with ideas in the outdoors will support children's learning.  

Thursday, 19 November 2015

Tinkering school

To me this video supports my thoughts about loose parts that encourage children to think creatively.  We need to nurture in children the ability to think outside of the box, to think divergently.  Saracho & Spodek explain divergent thinking as, "the ability to branch out from a starting point and consider a variety of possible solutions, involves fluidity of thinking, board scanning ability, and free association.  It is thought to be a major cognitive process underlying creativity."
Going back to David Perkins - "it is never just problem solving it involves problem finding."

Wednesday, 18 November 2015

ELP - Learning Story Conference

I recently attended a workshop facilitated by Gavin Kerr called Tales from the Tinker Shop.  Gavin explained his journey into Tinkering with children.   Greerton Early Childcare Centre have embraced the philosophical way teaching and learning through the experience of tinkering and by following this link you can read a Learning Story that Gavin wrote which I think started his thinking about children's tinkering. Gavin has supported the children to tinker with machinery such as sewing machines.  The children take these apart and maybe put things back together but never in the same way.  What I loved about the workshop was that Gavin said that through tinkering their is no true knower.  The teacher and the children are all learners together as they explore the many parts of the machinery.Gavin quotes Guy Claxton who (1) talks about children being born “predisposed to learn, with a built in range of amplifiers that kick in in the early stages of development.” He notes: “as soon as they can crawl, [children] go looking for trouble, and they develop a useful set of basic tests that encourage new objects... to reveal their properties” (Claxton, 2014).

This idea of tinkering which the Free Dictionary describes as: "To make unskilled or experimental efforts at repair; fiddle"  fits so well with the idea of children creating their own problems and solutions.  Also it reminds me of the whakatauki that says,  "Ta te tamariki tana mahi wawahi tahaa, It is the job of the children to smash the calabash." I think this might be what Guy Claxton is talking about when he said that children want objects to reveal their properties. It was a truly inspirational workshop that discussed not just tinkering but the ways in which teams work thoughtfully together to create a vibrant learning space for children and teachers.

I don't think that teachers can move into creating a tinkering environment of this kind without some wonderful conversations that will stretch their practice.   Tinkering requires time and space for children to become deeply engaged in what they are doing.  Tinkering also creates mess - what are teacher's view on mess?  Tinkering put teachers into uncomfortable places where they are no longer the knower - how does that feel?  What can we as teachers learn from these experiences when we don't have all the answers? Do these experiences help us to empathise and understand children's perspective who may feel disempowered by those around them?

Reflective practice

Educational Leadership Project is my professional home and my ukaipo. "Ūkaipō are the places we find ourselves, our strength, our energy. Having a place where you belong, where you count, where you are important and where you can contribute......  As a whole person with your identity intact, you can make your contribution."(
My hopes and aspirations for this blog....
It is here that I want to collect my thoughts about the way we support children to learn through tinkering with their own ideas.

Why have I chosen this for my review question?  I think it started from reflecting on our learning environments. We often refer to the child care curriculums as being child-led but I wonder sometimes what this really means.  Teachers often control the environment and the time that children use which make me question to what extent do children lead their own learning.  Also I had been thinking a lot about loose parts and the notion of having an environment that supports children to think divergently.

Finally it was the quote from David Perkins that made me curious to know more about tinkering.  Perkins said, when talking about learning,"It involves open ended or ill-structured problems and novel, puzzling situations.  It is never just problem solving it involves problem finding.  It's not just about right answers.  It involves explanation and justification.  It's not emotionally flat. It involves curiosity, discovery, creativity and camaraderie."

As I stretch my view of teaching and learning I hope that others will share their thoughts through this blog also.  That way we can all stretch together.  I have recently heard a wonderful quote - "once we are stretched out of our comfort zone we can never go back to our original size".  What a great aspiration as it means that teaching and learning will start to look different from now on.

Tinkering begins with.....

Here is a quote from the above link:  "Real learning is achieved through the investigative process. Children have to be encouraged to search for the answers themselves. It is up to the teachers to provide the tools and resources necessary for the children to conduct these inquiries and make meaningful discoveries. One well-formed question will do more to inspire than any number of answers. In every facet of our educational pursuits, it becomes crucial to begin an open dialogue with our students, to encourage healthy debate and to have them form their own conclusions."

The quote says so much about the way we view children and education.  As teachers,  providing opportunities for children to play with their own ideas and thoughts will lead them to be masters of their own learning.  Education is not about right answers but about giving opportunities to create their own questions and problems in order for them to dig deep and find the solutions themselves - this is empowerment.

Albert Einstein said, "Creativity is intelligence having fun."
Nathan Mikaere-Wallis said, "Intelligence is really problem solving and at the heart of 
problem solving is creativity."
It makes sense then to think about ways in which we are nurturing children's ability to tinker with their own ideas in order to allow the creative juices to flow.  Learning is not about right answers it is about the processes of finding solutions. "Tinkering begins with this kind of problem solving and a curiosity about how something works.  When children are encouraged to solve problems on their own, they learn a great deal though the questions and hands on experiments that lead to a solution."Rachelle Doorley