Monday, January 31, 2011

Gender Identity

Do we instill gender specific behaviours and norms in children?
Yes, we do it right from the birth; we dress girls in pink and boys in blue; girls do dishes and boys cut the grass; boys play hockey; girls take ballet; these are all common gender roles and expectations. Even though we may not say these things aloud, children watch, listen, mimic behaviours and assume expected roles. We have made strides in breaking the molds set for us by our predecessors, but the majority of people are still bound to timeless traditions.

After they finished making their snowmen these two girls decided that they needed a personal touch.So off they went to their cubbies to retrieve their own hats and mittens. Once the hats were placed on the heads of the snowmen the girls changed the gender of their creations. They became snow girls.
"Why are they snow girls?" asked their teacher.
"Because they are wearing pink and white so that means they are girls!"
"And now they are ready for a snowy adventure!"

Sunday, January 30, 2011

It's Just A Thought!

For months I have been listening to the news and speaking to kindergarten teachers to learn the truth behind the media hype that earlier schooling is the answer to the educational woes of Ontario’s Children.

A caution to the wise. Don’t be fooled by the ads showing children happily building with blocks. Most kindergarten classes have none and many teachers are pumping out work sheets faster than a new found oil well. I am not criticizing teaching methods simply stating the facts as they have been shared with me.

About a year ago, I rummaged through a box of old treasures and came across my report cards dating as far back as senior kindergarten. I was pleasantly surprised to see that in the 1960’s we were not catalogued by marks but just by brief comments on our social skills and willingness to work. That system was not far off the mark in what should still be considered the most important element in the development of our youngest citizens; an eagerness to learn and form relationships.

What really caught my attention was the suggestion to my parents to read to me more frequently to improve my literacy skills. My parents were immigrants. They barely spoke English so how could they read to me or understand anything I read to them. Tutoring was not an option; even if it had been available my parents could not have afforded it. Was I destined to be illiterate because I was not reading in SK or barely by the end of grade 1? My own daughter did not start reading until she entered grade 2. Born on December 28th she was always the youngest in her class and her teachers fretted that she had learning disabilities. That was not the case. Today she is a university student who excels in literacy.

I am an Early Childhood Educator and have had the extreme honour of working with young children for the last thirty years. I have watched as the demands placed on children have crippled the very essence of childhood. We overload our children pushing them to do more in shorter amounts of time. From the cradle, we introduce sign language, toilet train before they walk, have them memorize alphabets and numbers as toddlers. We enroll them in sports, music, math program, little reader programs, swimming gymnastics, computer classes; need I add more. Their schedules are more regimented than that of their working parents. What are we hoping to gain by all of this?

And now on top of all this we add one more thing to their young lives; full day schooling as early as JK & SK. Some children will be entering school as young as 3.8 years, just barely out of diapers, still needing an afternoon nap, someone to assist with their physical needs, ensure they eat a good warm lunch and healthy snacks, someone to clean their noses and wipe away tears.

First and foremost our children need tender loving care; the foundations for building good social relationships. They need to run and play, to explore and be inquisitive, to ask open ended questions and to work in conjunction with educators who believe that, “Education is not the filling of a pail but the lighting of a fire.” (William Butler Yates)

Childhood researchers such as Piaget, Vigotsky, and Maria Montessori, all identified that children must be in the right mindset to acquire definitive skills. Introducing them earlier will not produce better learners just overburdened children. So what’s the rush?

What do our children need to be better learners?

Environments that engage, challenge and honor childhood in conjunction with educators who believe that children, even very young ones, are capable of generating their own interests. Like adults, when children pursue that which fascinates them they are more apt to be intrigued, eager to learn and participate. The Reggio Approach is a philosophy that honors this mind set. Originating from Reggio Emilia in Italy this unique system has produced the best preschools in the world. Perhaps our government should use this model as a guideline to understanding what best serves our youngest citizens. Institutionalizing them earlier is not the answer.

Our fondest memories of school are not the ones that taught us the facts of history, algebra and trigonometry, 85 percent of those facts were forgotten moments after the test. The sweetest memories, those that shape us into the people that we become, are the memories of field trips, sports events, extra curricular activities and friendships.

To every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose. (King James Bible) Let our children enjoy theirs.

Send me your comments.

Friday, January 28, 2011

The children test their theory- Shadows Move when the Sun Moves

This group of children had a clever idea to determine if an object's shadow shifts with the moving sun.
"Let's build the CN Tower outside and see where the shadow goes!"
When they were finished building the tower, the teacher posed an interesting question.
"How will you know if the shadow moves from now until this afternoon."
"Let's fill it in," replied one of the young girls.
Using loose materials, the children filled  in the shadow of the tower as it fell at noon.
They returned to the playground at 3:00 p.m. and found that the shadow had indeed moved!

The children looked and noticed that the shadow had indeed shifted.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Even at A Young age we feel an Affinity for Certain People

Why are we drawn to certain people more than others? It is because we see in them an image of ourselves? These two young girls sat on either side of the transparent easel and began to comment of their facial features.
"You have a nose, just like me!'
"Yes and you have two eyes just like me!"
The exchange went on for awhile before they decided to make a likeness of each other using colored clay and loose materials.  When they were done the hug they exchanged was a confirmation of their budding friendship. If only life could be so simple for everyone. What a wonderful world it would be!

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

The Group of Seven

The Group of Seven was comprised of  Canadian landscape artists dating back to the 1920's. They were best known for their abilities to capture the rawness of nature most often associated with Canada.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Pebbles and Bark

This little boy came upon a large grooved rock. Wiggling his fingers into the pores, he pulled out the pebbles that were nestled inside. He looked up at the tree. He stood up, rubbed his hand along the bark and discovered that it too had tiny grooves like the rock. He inserted his fingers into the tiny spaces. An idea formed. He took the tiny pebbles and inserted them into the tree bark. "I put it back!' he declared proudly.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

The Garden

The garden is a magical place where children watch tiny seeds give way to plump tasty vegetables and herbs.  There is much to be said about the educational value of keeping a garden in the school playground. Children observe the cycle of growth, learn that sun and water are needed for healthy plants, use math language as they measure and graph, and their taste buds explode with the rich flavours of tomatoes, carrots, celery and much more. The herbs in this picture were ground and used to bake tasty foccaccia bread!

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Lauren, Angelo and the Dragon

Meet Thomas DD Dragon
The wonderful world of imagination; the place where dreams come true.
"The theoretician believes in logic and believes that he despises dreams, intuition, and poetry. He does not recognize that these three fairies have only disguised themselves in order to dazzle him.... He does not know that he owes his greatest discoveries to them. ~Antoine de Saint-Exupéry, Wartime Writings 1939-1944, translated from French by Norah Purcell
Yet the child sees them and has no fear in asking for the impossible. 

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

"Even in the montains you can find a city!"

On a cold December morning, nestled in the mountains, this city waits for its inhabitants to begin their busy day!

Monday, January 3, 2011

Are there Cities Everywhere?

Many years ago a child's world was limited to school, home and the immediate community. This is no longer the case as many children have become seasoned travellers; they vacation with their families, travel overseas to visit relatives or enjoy homes on different continents.
These little voyagers have an interesting perspective on life andwhen they return to school they are always  full of stories about their many adventures.
During a class project on cities and communities one of the children took a trip to Mexico. Upon her return to school she  made an interesting contribution to the project by supplying her classmates with photographs of the city she explored on her trip.
"Don't you know, " she said with exasperation, "there are cities everywhere but they are different than our city. In some cities there are apartments and in some cities there are houses with flags!"