“Education is not the filling of a pail, but the lighting of a fire.”
-William Butler Yeats
Jeffery was one of my larger kindergarteners, blonde, gentle, sweetheart, but like so many others struggled to sit still in our group lessons-I kept them short, I was entertaining, and most onlookers would see them as engaged . . . for me I wasn’t just looking for engaged I wanted to see them inspired. It was my second year teaching, I was dedicated and navigating through the unknown as a teaching degree really amounts to the quality of the teachers you had. Thankfully I had a handful of teachers who challenged me to think outside the box but not once did I observe a teacher teaching that way in an early childhood classroom. So, cut to my own classroom–feeling my way somewhat blindly I listened a lot to my heart and tried to let the children guide me . . . but there was always that box.
My solution for each child was different in how I helped them focus but for JT it was I let him move, we agreed as long as he was listening I would let him move around the area we were working in and it worked for him, but take a class of 30 (5 year olds) and that’s a lot of adaptions . . . I felt there had to be a better way.
The founder of a completely outdoor forest kindergarten called Cedar Song spurred this memory recently as I read her quoted . . . ”Children cannot bounce off the walls if we take away the walls.” A NY Times article just published described the growing trend of schools without walls, schools that spend the majority of their time, no matter the weather, out in nature.
“When children come into contact with nature, they reveal their strength.”
As I read a little more on the subject I found that these schools are in fact not new but just new to the west. In Denmark “forest kindergartens” as they are called have been around since the 50’s.
This reminded me of a Ted Talk I saw a few months back that highlighted the work of an architect named, Takaharu Tezuka and his custom kindergarten that encourages outdoor experiences and active play. His love of children and keen observation of their behavior guided his design entirely and the results are inspiring.
And most recently, I have been studying a Reggio approach to teaching in which inquiry, art, creation and an atelier are key components. An atelier is a studio to create, a collaborative and collective studio that integrates creation throughout the academic journey. I am admiring a teacher in Ohio through social media and learning how to make what is in my head, a collection of the truths woven through these experiences a reality in my classroom. You can see her classroom @darlamyersclass on instagram and I recommend you do. When I saw her feed it fed my heart.
“It isn’t how much a child covers that matters most, but how much a child cares.”
For me this is a work in progress but one key component I had right from the start was…let the children guide you. They are thirsting to interact with the world, to use their hands and their heads to find out how the world works and what do most classrooms do, we put them in a box and show them imitations of the world and a very narrow view of seeing it.
Let’s break out of the box, it’s happening collectively as an industry little by little in pockets, we have to take these examples seriously, especially in Early Education (birth-age 8) and start acting. Not coining them as “flashes in the pan” or great ideas if we had resources but acting, being fearless as our children are, letting our students, our children, be exactly that, children. Creating an environment that is for them rather than making them fit into our grown up box (how many of us really like the box anyway?).
Lets create homes and schools that empower children through creativity and allow them to show us their world of learning. Their world, which has been there all along and provides far greater results than we could ever duplicate.
We had our first day back since Christmas and I had assessment on the menu as well as more academic focused endeavors. But I put some of it on hold and just let the focus be play . . . what happened? My students learned and we had a wonderfully successful day. That Box . . . it’s breaking.