Friday, March 30, 2012

Blocks - Easter Style

Something quite extraordinary happened today, but then that isn't really that extraordinary in my world.

After we had an egg hunt with some little plastic eggs we returned inside where the children chose to build with the table top blocks. As I was packing the eggs away I figured it might be interesting to add them to the blocks and see what happens.

Initially the children simply pulled them apart and put them back together, mixing up the colours, but engaging with them separately to the blocks.

But it didn't take long for them to combine the two materials and they did this in a multitude of ways. Placing halves on top as kind of domes. Balancing whole eggs on top which required quite a bit of trial and error to get the positioning right.

What was even more amazing was the collaboration and communication that was going on. One conversation between two boys in particular caught my attention. A short argument over who should have a certain block ended quickly when one of them offered, "Why don't we work together and build a big house?" The response, "That's a great idea!" It then continued thustly. "We could put the eggs inside and they could be the people." "Yeah, but we need a dog too."

There was also one girl who made a fantastic discovery. By placing one half on each end of a cylinder it became something completely different - a rolling toy. She was so excited she wanted to demonstrate it to the others.

During that demonstration one end of one of her new toys came off, causing it to turn sharply instead of roll in a straight line. Quite by accident she had discovered the difference between symmetrical objects and asymmetrical.

A simple Easter linked experience turned into so much more. Children constantly remind us that the boundaries of their learning mainly occur in OUR minds, the educators and parents.

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

The Other Side of the Gender Imbalance Argument

I was contacted by someone who has developed a graphic representation of the imbalance within the mathematical, scientific, engineering and technology fields. I could simply reply with my own thoughts, but wanted to open this up to anyone willing to contribute their own thoughts. As I have been posting recently on the imbalance within the early childhood field, one of the few in which men are actually the vast minority, I thought it was appropriate that I provide a viewpoint from the other end of the spectrum.

If you would like to take a look at this visual and leave your comments on it I will alert the member of the creating team who contacted me so they can collect your feedback and respond to any questions you might pose.

Please find the link to the piece here.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012


I'm not usually one to make emotional posts, especially when they are not directly related to my work with children or the world of males in early childhood education. This is however, a time when I feel compelled to voice my anger and concern.

In recent week several of my blogging buddies have discovered something quite disturbing and alarming. That their wonderful and inspiring work has been hijacked by others with little, or in most cases no reference to the original authors or their blogs. Furthermore, they almost always claim such work as their own. Some may well be simply naïve about blogging protocol, but the sad truth is that the vast majority of these (I almost hate calling them) people know exactly what they are doing and plan their actions very meticulously, trolling the blogosphere for posts that they can use.

As terrible as this act is in itself, what is worse is that there are posts among these that refer to personal moments in the blogger's life. Also, there are photos of children that have been published by the thief without any regard privacy of those in the photos. Most bloggers gain clearance to publish photos of individuals, but that does not give any Tom, Dick or Harry to right to use those same photos.

The sad thing is many of us who blog about how work in the early childhood education field work very hard to provide informative, inspirational and useful posts that others, whether they be fellow educators or parents. When someone steals this work and passes it off as their own they not only forgo the work that goes into creating such posts, but they are also misleading the public.

These people are thieves and pathetically cowardly thieves at that. I am not naming these people or their sites as I hope they will be taken down or blocked. I also don't want to mention the blogs that were affected as there have been quite a few and I would hate to miss out someone, appearing to favour some over others.

To anyone who has plagiarised or is thinking of plagiarising the work of others let's just say, "Piss off back to your hole! You will never be worth the dirt under the fingernails of the marvellous professionals and parents who put their heart and soul into their posts."

I want it known that I could've been much more severe with my attack on these low lifes, but my professionalism and integrity keep me from publicly saying what I truly want to. I think you all get the gist of where I stand on this  and I hope you share in my disgust.

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Non Typical Gender Play

I recently posted about gender stereotypes. In that post I demonstrated how we can create environments that provide opportunities for children to engage in play that may not have been historically considered typical for their gender.

The other day something remarkable and quite unforeseen occurred with my preschool children. They spontaneously divided into groups containing entirely one gender, either all boys or all girls.

What was even more amazing that each group gravitated toward areas and experiences that some would consider non-typical for their genders. The boys made their way to home corner where they role played being in a Chinese restaurant, passing food items and the like to each other. Meanwhile the girls worked together to create an elaborate building with the wooden blocks.

The boys then surprised me further as they discovered the handbags hanging on the rack nearby. After draping them over their shoulders they began a sort of fashion parade, strutting their stuff like true catwalk models.

Which then turned into a dance contest. What a bunch of showoffs!

Meanwhile the girls remained very busy helping each other with this construction. As you may notice, one girl positioned herself and took it upon herself to responsible for one particular section of the building while one of the other girls passed her blocks as she needed them.

In both cases the children played cooperatively and were engaged in their respective experiences for quite a lengthy period. The boys' experience moved and changed as their focus and interest changed, yet remained centred in home corner. The girls' experience meanwhile was more of a project in the making.

Either way, these children demonstrated their capability of owning their own learning and taking it in directions they want, not some adult overseeing them. I merely observed them and recorded the episodes on a camera. My role was diminished as their independence grew.

Once again I find myself saying (without too much boasting I hope) that what I am teaching these children is that they are their own best teachers and that I am there for support, encouragement and even a spectator as often as not. It might sound like my job is easy, but for those in the know they would realise that this is because I have put the hard yards in with these children is that have the confidence and independence to flourish without me.

Sunday, March 4, 2012

Pay it Forward

YAY! We received our special package from Kierna Corr and her class in Northern Ireland as part of the Pay it Forward initiative that has been doing the rounds of the blogosphere. We were excited to find a book, which we were eager to read during group time.

There was also a packet of Irish wildflower seeds which we will be planting in the near future, a calendar depicting picturesque settings around Northern Ireland, some maps to show us exactly where they are and a wonderful new friend - Finnegan, King of the Leprechauns.

I left all these items out afterwards, including the packaging, for the children to explore them more closely.

This was a wonderful experience on so many levels for the children. We will be revisiting and exploring them further from now on. Thank you Kierna for such wonderful and thoughtful gifts.

Now it is my turn to share the love. So I am calling for anyone interested in receiving a surprise package from Greg's group of children in NSW, Australia then please let me know in the comments section below this post. I will be choosing 3 names out of a hat to determine who will be the recipients. You have until April 27th to let me know if you are interested. I'll be drawing the names then.

Thursday, March 1, 2012

Adding to Blocks

Everyone has had experience with the humble block. So much can be achieved using this simple, yet effective open-ended resource. However, we can extend this experience by adding all sorts of items to the construction area.

In the past I have added animals, figurines, natural materials such as shells, pebbles and branches. Recently though, I brought in some carpet samples I had given to me by a local carpet store.

As you can see, the children immediately went to work. Initially they used the carpet strips alone.

But soon they had integrated them with the blocks in some interesting ways. First of all it was to make ramps. At which point I also introduces some vehicles.
However, it wasn't long before they were constructing a garage for the vehicles to stay in.
The carpet wasn't all that sturdy, but that didn't stop our intrepid engineers. Just take a look at this masterful piece of ingenuity. Imagine the thought processes involved in working out that placing two strips of carpet on either side would strengthen their integrity and enable them to sustain more weight.
Maths, science, collaboration, problem-solving and even language skills. There's so much going on here. More to the point, both boys and girls were engaged in this worthwhile experience. All I did as a teacher was to provide them with the materials. They did the rest themselves. As a teacher that is often the best thing I can do for them.