The Environment as the Third Teacher is a guiding principle in the Reggio Emilia philosophy. Today one of Richland’s Senior Kindergarten teachers, Mrs. Kate Daniel, would like to share her recent insights on this topic.
Today I really understood, at a deeper level, the importance of the environment as a third teacher. My teaching partner and I have always put much thought and care into the design and purpose for the learning spaces within our classroom. We were curious as to how this would impact the children’s learning.Following a strong interest from the children, “To experiment, just like scientists,” we created an area where the children could participate in some simple experiments. In that area today were two identical shaped ice blocks. Sugar could be added to one, and salt to the other. The children predicted which block would melt first, and then began to experiment.In the middle of documenting the children’s ideas and theories, I was stopped by one of the children. “May I document?”, she asked. I passed the paper and pencil over to her, and not only did she begin to write down what was being said, but she also began to ask the other child, “Why do you think that?” Observing the children’s interactions, I came to the sudden realisation that so much of what we do as teachers impacts children in ways we could never imagine.Having created an environment which offers many opportunities to explore, create, think, question and imagine, and documenting their learning process on a daily basis, these children have begun to take on this way of thinking and building understanding themselves.
What is implicitly communicated in their environment has begun to play out in these children’s deep engagement and ways of making meaning in their world. The room has indeed become a place of many possibilities, and is supporting the children in their learning in ways we had never anticipated.
One of Richland’s SK teachers, Mrs. Daniel and one of Richland’s PK teachers, Miss Howe, enjoyed a wonderful morning at Havergal Junior School. They were able to spend the morning in Havergal’s Reggio Inspired classrooms, which like Richland’s, reflect an innovative approach to education. The classrooms were full of rich documentation, making visible the learning processes of the children, and reflective of the children’s interests and understandings.
Upon entering the school, we admired the brightness and the warmth felt within. There were many smiling, friendly faces and the faculty was more than happy to help out the visitors in any way possible.
We were free to roam the school throughout the morning. We very much enjoyed the documentation panels and variety of learning spaces.
There were a few significant realizations during our day at Havergal Junior School:
1. Using natural light to your advantage. By placing your easel directly by the window, or using the window to showcase beautiful art pieces, the natural light enhances and highlights the beauty and quality of work.
2. Including Curriculum Expectations on documentation panels. Educators include curriculum expectations met during investigations to make visible the learning process for parents and fellow educators.3. Lack of a ‘Home Centre’. Instead of a limiting ‘home centre’, there was a Drama area, which was bare except for a floor-length mirror, a coat rack with a few scarves, a box of plastic food and plates, and some empty boxes. Having an open and simple Drama area allows the students to use their own creativity and imagine their own setting or scenario. The conversations around what is being created within the Drama centre are richer, and provide more insight into the interests of the child.4. “Mess can sometimes be a good thing.” Not only as teachers, but as individuals, we are quick to say that ‘mess is bad’. We think classrooms should always be tidy. Of course there is a time and place for this, but we should also take a step back and allow children to engage with many different materials, to take resources from one Learning Space to another, and to have fun without restriction. When I first saw the mess being created in the JK classroom, I was quick to judge it as chaos. Upon discussion with Kate Daniel and my own reflection, I realized that this was just creative chaos. Students were breaking down boundaries and using their vast imagination to try new things. As Pablo Picasso once said, “An act of art begins as an act of destruction”.Much dialogue took place between teachers from both schools, and ideas were shared and relationships strengthened. Mrs. Daniel and Miss Howe were also able to explore the Grade 1 to 6 classrooms, which take the same inquiry based approach to learning as Richland Academy. It was interesting to see the many similarities between both schools in their progressive approach to deepening their student’s understanding and learning. We cannot wait to see how our experiences at Havergal will influence our own classrooms in the coming months.
Inquiring Minds brings you inside Richland Academy’s Prekindergarten classroom to discover how these young students connect with technology. Thank you to Mrs. Abreu and Ms. Howe for sharing their insights.
The PK children at Richland are deeply engaged in technology within our classroom on a weekly basis. We are learning to print our first names on the Epson Board; exploring our alphabet and sounds with the Letterland Software; developing our artistic skills with drawing; and investigating the concept of math through the iPads and the Epson Board. We love to view our ‘Photo of the Day’ and ‘Flipagram’, and our favourite, reading Richland’s Inquiring Minds Blog and RA Facebook page.Experiences with technology can pave the way for unprecedented learning opportunities.
“Technology is best able to support learning when children use it to expand their knowledge in hands-on, engaging, and empowering ways.” (NAEYC, Young Children, May 2012)Technology gives children the opportunity to explore and manipulate a variety of materials. When technology is balanced with outdoor play and interactive hands-on experiences, it becomes a valuable part of the Preschool experience. Young children learn best in this way of teaching. Careful thought and planning of computer and technology use lets children explore and investigate new opportunities. “Technology is one of the most rapidly changing tools of education I have explored during my teaching career. It opens up a world of possibilities for our children.” (Mrs. Abreu)
Inquiring Minds wanted to share this link from Michelle Hiebert with you, because we could truly relate to the content. We know how critical early learning is at Richland, and this piece from Ms. Hiebert does an excellent job of explaining D.E.E.P. thinking, and the associated skills, attitudes, and experiences Richland students benefit from.
“Everything has to start somewhere and in Kindergarten we develop the building blocks of knowledge, skills and attitudes that children will demonstrate in higher grades.” ~ Michelle Hiebert
We hope you found this insightful. As always, we welcome your feedback.
“It’s important for parents to become exceedingly self-aware of their words and actions when interacting with their children, or with others when their children are nearby. Care enough to train them, not merely treat them to a good life. Coach them, more than coddle.” ~ Dr. Tim Elmore
Inquiring Minds wanted to share this insightful link to Forbes by Kathy Caprino entitled, 7 Crippling Parenting Behaviours That Keep Children From Growing Into Leaders. It gave us pause for thought, and we think it will do the same for you. Ms. Caprino’s insights from leadership expert, Dr. Tim Elmore, really drive home the importance of allowing children to experience risk, and to learn from mistakes.
1. Talk over the issues you wish you would’ve known about adulthood.
2. Allow them to attempt things that stretch them and even let them fail.
3. Discuss future consequences if they fail to master certain disciplines.
4. Aid them in matching their strengths to real-world problems.
5. Furnish projects that require patience, so they learn to delay gratification.
6. Teach them that life is about choices and trade-offs; they can’t do everything.
7. Initiate (or simulate) adult tasks like paying bills or making business deals.
8. Introduce them to potential mentors from your network.
9. Help them envision a fulfilling future, and then discuss the steps to get there.
10. Celebrate progress they make toward autonomy and responsibility.
Together, as parents and educators, we can support children into becoming the leaders they are so capable of being through consciously guiding them along this path.
As always, we welcome your feedback.
An integral part of Reggio-Inspired learning is engaging with the community, as well as inviting experts into our learning journeys. These connections create authentic learning opportunities for students, and provide them with genuine occasions to apply their skills and engage with others meaningfully.
Recently, Richland’s 5/6 Classroom was a gathering place for experts and guests, coming to share their expertise with our students. It was such a wonderful thing to see the in awe of a poet, politician and business woman, respectively. Needless to say, we had a set of star struck children!
In Literacy, the Grade 5/6 Students continued their poetry unit and welcomed guest, Truth Is… an acclaimed slam poet that works to write poetry for equality and social justice. The students were wowed by her performances, and were inspired to then write their own. Truth challenged the students to write about a social justice issue. This work is heavily tied to the idea the students are exploring of “utopia” or perfect worlds, as it encourages the students to imagine a better world – free of crime, hate, war, violence and discrimination. Students picked a wide array of topics including standing up to bullies, the Syrian War, domestic violence and climate change. Truth returned again to Richland to help our young poets further hone their ideas and begin developing a poem. The students are looking forward to presenting them in Richland’s Third Annual Poetry Slam. Stay tuned!The students also had the unique opportunity work with Liberal Party Member Seeking Candidacy, Mr. Brian Chamberlain, through their Investigative Research. He visited the 5/6 classroom to kick off their Mock Election Project, explaining the ingredients of political campaigning, and answered a variety of burning questions! The group was blown away by Mr. Chamberlain’s passion for creating a better world, and were inspired by his words. Through this authentic community connection, it was wonderful to see the students’ deep interest and passion in the topic – it reminded me that our future will be in good hands. Students are inspired to develop their message and begin their campaigns!The students welcomed another guest through Richmond Hill’s Small Business Enterprise Centre. Ms. Nanofski from the SBEC came in to help jump start their business projects. She challenged them to think about what makes a good entrepreneur, and encouraged them to build the character traits necessary to become successful. She also shared some resources that real entrepreneurs in Richmond Hill use to start real business ventures. The 5/6 students look forward to continuing their collaboration with the SBEC as they work towards the Business Tradeshow in May.These experiences are vital to creating impactful opportunities for our students. Inquiring Minds looks forward to sharing future posts that capture the voice of our students, and their learning reflections throughout the process. If you would like to know more about the power of community involvement and education, please refer to this link.