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Early childhood education has been my life for over 30 years. I have taught all age groups from infants to 5-year-olds. I was a director for five years in the 1980s, but I returned to the classroom 22 years ago. My passion is watching the ways children explore and discover their world. In the classroom, everything starts with the reciprocal relationships between adults and children and between the children themselves. With that in mind, I plan and set up activities. But that is just the beginning. What actually happens is a flow that includes my efforts to invite, respond and support children's interface with those activities and with others in the room. Oh yeh, and along the way, the children change the activities to suit their own inventiveness and creativity. Now the processes become reciprocal with the children doing the inviting, responding and supporting. Young children are the best learners and teachers. I am truly fortunate to be a part of their journey.

Saturday, March 17, 2012

IS THAT ALLOWED?

My last post brought to the fore a question I often ask myself: Is that allowed?  To be honest, it is also a question my colleagues often ask me. When I look over pictures and videos taken over the last year, I see many instances where the question is front and center.

Is it OK to use a knife?
It is if he needs it to leverage the ice out of the container.  That even includes how he might use it when creating a new and novel ways to achieve his goal.

Is it OK to use an over-the-head, roundhouse swing of the hammer?
It is if he needs to use some serious force to break the ice.  Of course, sometimes a gentle tap is enough, but how else will he learn the difference?

Is it OK to put a clothespin in your mouth?
It is if that is his way to learn the mechanical principles of the clothespin.  (After the child in the video used his mouth to work the clothespin, he was able to transfer that mechanical knowledge to his hands.)

Is it OK to put sand on the floor?
It is if that is the by-product of filling your containers.  How else will he know what is full and what is not?  Besides, he has the broom and dust pan ready to sweep up when he is done.  

Is it OK to put sand on a table?
It is if his intention is to sweep it back into the sensory table.  (This boy dumped the white sand onto the table with the dust pan.  Instead of jumping in and saying no, don't put it on the table, I asked him what he was doing.  He did not say a thing, but proceeded to use the broom to sweep the sand into the little sensory table.  That was his intention all along.)

Is it OK to squirt water out of the sensory table onto the floor?
It is if they are experimenting with hydraulics, water pressure, and pumps.  The only way to stop this activity would be to take away the pumps(basters).  That was not going to happen because there was too much learning underway.  Besides, who can resist those smiles?

Is it OK to climb into the hopper tub at the end of the sensory table?
It is if he needs to explore a novel perspective on how the funnel works.  Though funnels were used on top of the tube, this fellow climbed into the tub and held the funnel to the bottom of the tube.  As he regulates the flow of sand, he queries: "What's happening?"

Is it OK to climb up on the lip of the sensory table?
It is if she has to reach up high enough to pour the pellets down the box incline.  Also, it is if she wants to increase her stretching and balancing skills.

Is it OK to climb into the apparatus?
It is if he wants to get as close to the action as possible.

Is it OK to climb on the apparatus?
That is a little more dicey.  I stayed close on this one.  I am glad I let the girl explore the apparatus with her whole body.  To understand why, reference this previous post.  By the way, I was also glad nobody else copied her.

Is that allowed?  I find myself asking that all the time.  I could set rules at the outset, but the truth is I do not know how the children will interface with any given apparatus.  And besides, I am rule adverse.  Rules tend to limit interaction and exploration.  By allowing more interaction and exploration, the children are discovering for themselves what is allowed.  As a consequence, I intervene less.  As a consequence, they develop more self-control.

Does that mean anything goes?  No.  So much of what is allowed  depends on the focus of the child.  If the focus is locked-in on the activity, I hold that sacred.  That is the wellspring of learning.  


14 comments:

  1. I love your explanations to every scenario.
    And that is, how I believe, we need to approach each time that question pops into our head - on an individual basis.
    It doesn't work or help a child develop if we have the blanket statement - no climbing or no knives - because there are times when it may be needed and works.
    Thanks again for a thought provoking post.

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    1. Thanks, Maureen. So many institutions and teachers talk about treating each child as an individual. When it comes right down to it, it means having to make decisions all the time about what is "needed and works."

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  2. I find myself asking this all the time - and the answer can differ from day to day & child to child. Thanks for being brave enough to share the risky photos too! Kierna

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    1. Thanks, Kierna. Children and their idiosyncratic learning make me brave.

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  3. Wow! This is one of the biggest questions asked in the education sector world-wide. I err on the side of allowing children to experiment. Sometimes, I know other practitioners will disagree as it can be interpreted as sending the wrong message, e.g. climbing on a bench or table is generally regarded as loutish or unacceptable behaviour. But it's the development of confidence, physical skills and investigation of "Look what I can do" that for me overrules social expectations - these can be learned at another time and in another place.

    Is it more reckless to inhibit exploration, curiosity and discovery or inhibit some of the risks that go with this?

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  4. Great response. Someone once told me, "if your really, really careful..nothing bad (or good) will ever happen to you"

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    1. Tess, as a teacher I would not say I am overly careful. I would say I am vigilant. Thus, I am always asking myself---or someone else asking me---: Is that allowed?

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  5. i love this post! I want to comment on every Q and A, but I really have nothing to add because you said it all so well. I love this post!!!

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  6. This is so true because children totally would do all of theses things in which you have metioned above, its bound to happen! I feel as if you explained it all very well though. I like your blog!

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    1. Thanks, Tiff. Actually they are always coming up with things that I would never imagine.

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  7. Just discovered your blog. It's fascinating. I'm finishing my 4th year as a preschool teacher. This post is great. I'm learning to allow my students to explore in new ways, and I love your explanations. Thank you.

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    1. Thanks, Missy. You are ahead of the game. It took me many, many years to realize that I did not need to control everything in the classroom.

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