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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, January 3, 2015

CLASSROOM PHOTO OF THE YEAR

Last year I wrote a post I called My Classroom Picture of the Year.  One of the interesting aspects of that post was that it was taken in a different part of the room from the sand and water table area and presented a building project, not sand or water play.  This year, I am also posting a picture of a building project, but for this picture the building takes place next to the sensory table. Again, though, it has little to do with sand or water play.  It is a very simple picture of a child building a modest structure with the loose parts that are provisioned on shelves next to the sand table.  I call it: The Wondrous in the Everyday.

Why is this my classroom picture of the year?  The reason is that this picture represents so many layers of thought and concentration by this child.  He has failed to balance his structure once, but tries a second time to see if it will stand.  The picture captures the moment he cautiously lets go to see if it will stand this second time. You can see his whole body is poised in expectation. He is also gauging the structure's stability moment by moment as he lets go.   The amount of concentration is immediate, fluid and total.

Why did the child take these mundane loose parts---a plastic coffee container, a cardboard tube, a plastic measuring cup---and decide to build a structure?   Whatever the reason, it was quite generative.  Over the course of four weeks this child continued to build using a small variety of loose parts in multiple attempts to build various balanced structures.  Here is a sampling.



Is the structure seen in My Classroom Picture of the Year beautiful?  To be honest, not particularly.  That is not the type of beauty this classroom picture represents.  Rather, it represents a concrete idea that a child has the capacity to continually see possibilities is these most ordinary of materials.  At first it may be serendipity, but can and does become intentional with causation.  That's a different kind of beauty, a beauty that comes from deep inside and is able to be expressed with the found materials on hand in a highly individual way.

Here is the picture of the child showing his reaction to his success after his second attempt at balancing the structure.

This last picture would not be possible with out the first picture, my picture of the year.  That picture is really about how the mundane and ordinary are transformed into magic in a child's hands everyday in the classroom.

Happy New Year and and may you be lucky enough to celebrate the many wonders that happen every day in your classroom.

P.S. If you are interested in more context for this set of pictures, I wrote about this child's original building in a post called Agency.  What you will also find in that post is the mother's perspective and his own reactions to seeing himself build in a couple videos I took of him making his balancing structures.





2 comments:

  1. The beauty of Potential...
    Coming from an art background I am usually curious about this idea of "beauty"... How does this reveal itself in an Early Childhood context? With pleasing colour, texture and form? Sure but I actually like the everyday aesthetic of cardboard, plastic containers and ordinary objects...I know kids aren't making "art" in the way that we think of it existing in a gallery, but still there is a an ordinary beauty, a mundane or concrete beauty in the sculptural forms they create throughout the day. But then, you point to the real heart of the matter when you use words like generative, capacity and potential. These are the elusive qualities we enjoy seeing and sensing with the children, the qualities we strive for. Children do show us the beauty of capacity and potential in their faces and the things they do...good reminders as the year begins anew!

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    1. Thanks Aaron. You have some good queries and insights into to beauty in the EC classroom. What struck me about this child was the focus he exhibited as he investigated and modified his balancing structures. I did not write about the frustration, but he experienced that, too, when his structure did not balance. Also, what kind of understanding was he creating about how does this balancing operation work? And what happens if I add another element? And there seemed to be---at least at first---a real element of randomness: he used what was close at hand. It was like his actions were his thinking. His actions more than most have caused me to think about how a child creates something that takes on a life of its own and to see great value in that even though it is not extraordinary and will not be pinned virally across the internet.

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