Friday, 29 July 2016

Outdoor Education

In the Kindergarten program, learning in the outdoors is included as part of the instructional day, and the educators play an active role, engaging with children in an inquiry stance as they play, explore, and learn together outside the classroom” 
(Ontario Kindergarten Program, 2016, p. 34). 

What curriculum document do you turn to for outdoor learning in kindergarten?
The Ministry of Education provides educators with a document based on outdoor education allowing educators to plan based on the outdoor curriculum. An example from the Outdoor Education Kindergarten Curriculum V2.1 Explore a variety of tools, materials, and processes of their own choice to create visual art forms in familiar and new ways is a success criteria that fits with a provocation i had set up called nature painting.

What are the benefits of outdoor learning? Why should we take our students outside and expand our classroom and open up new wonders and inquires? Children are happier, more active, less stressed, they are more creative and finally relaxed and calm. The benefits outweigh the negatives when it comes to outdoor learning. 

The many difficulty educators have about bringing their learning beyond the classroom and in to the outdoors is how plan based on the curriculum. The outdoors have potential to go cross all the curriculum categories and can cover each category. It all starts with a nature walk beyond the fence of your school and see what the children find and collect. Nature scavenger hunts will allow the children to go out and find matures they can bring into the classroom and explore in the centres that already are there and the centres they can create. Setting up tree sticks, rocks, leaves, flowers, etc could be used as math manipulatives, art materials, and other wonders the children may see within the materials. 

Children books that can help you introduce outdoor learning in your classroom
  1. The Listing Walk By: Paul Showers
  2. Not A Stick by Antoinette Portis
  3. If You Hold a Seed by Elly MacKay

Outdoor education can be as easy as bringing your materials from the inside of your classroom outside and create outdoor centres that children can play and create. The change of background may take effect on how the children play and the stories they create. Nature materials can be used as loose parts for the children to explore with. 

During the school year I was lucky enough to join the YRDSB early years team at the Beyond on the fence workshop 2016. During the workshop I was able to facilitate “Art of Nature” with KindieKorner and Educate.Invest.InspireArt of nature was a way to show other educators how to incorporate the art curriculum out in nature. Painting with found artifacts in nature, finding a sit spot and drawing what you see in nature, and painting rocks are examples of a few of the many different activities that can be done to take your children outdoor and enjoy the learning beyond the classroom.

For more great information about the wonders of outdoor education please visit  Trista Dutt of Kindie Korner and Rose Marcelli of Educate.Invest.Inspire

Friday, 8 July 2016

Why Observe And Document?

As educators it is our job to make the learning visible for the ones who were not there to be able to see happening live. They are many ways for educators to re tell the learning process through different types of observation and documentation strategies.
  • Pictures 
  • Learning Collages 
  • Videos 
  • Portfolios
  • Bulletin/ Parent Boards
  • Written Observation
  • Children’s Work

Our curriculum is based on the children and the children’s interests. We plan play & inquiry-based learning opportunities, as well as provocation invitations based on what we have observed from the children. To be able to plan activities and provocations we need to use observation to see how the children are using different materials and how they are engaging in play to be able to capture their interests. Observing doesn't mean standing over the children with a clipboard forcing them to play but it means to join into their play or to watch from a distance. When the children do not know they being are watched, they truly put all their imagination into their play. When the children also feel comfortable with you as the educator, joining into their play, they will start expand on the story being told. This will leave you with hints and clues as to what the children are interested in.

Why do we need to observe children and document what we see? 
When we make the learning visible we also give the children a chance to go back and reflect on their own learning. The educators aren't the only ones who have to capture every learning moment that takes place in the classroom. By providing children with an iPad it gives them a chance to capture their own learning and they are able to go back and reflect on what they have created. When we allow the children to capture their own learning they are able to capture every moment of the process but when they have to wait for an educator something could happen to their learning and they might lose the chance to be able to reflect on the process. 

Being able to observe a child truly explore and inquire on a certain interest they might come across on their own time is meaningful to not only the child but for the educators too. What if you miss this amazing wonder the child had? How would you be able to expand on their learning if you don't know what they have been thinking about? Observing the children and documenting their play will help you catch their interest. The hard part is how do you observe 20-30 children at a time if there are only one or two of us? Including the children in their own documentation will make documentation easier. Documentation is tool to help you capture children’s learning from the start of the year as well as the process over the span of the year. Documenting is a tool that we as educators use everyday to ensure we continue documenting the work that the children do over the course of the year.

We observe to capture the meaningful learning that happens around the classroom and make sure we always have a chance for the children to revisit their own learning at any point of the year if they choose to do so.

"The documentation process is best done in collaboration with other teachers, parents, and, in some cases, children soon after the experience."