A collaboration between the fun and fancy! Carmelina Di Grigoli @justletmeplay and the fancy infamous Alexandria Pellegrino @cakeoperaco created the most dreamy first birthday celebration a la Waldorf and Reggio Emilia inspired. This birthday smash took a turn for the fancy when the intention was to co create a piece of art with the atelierista (cake designer) and decorate Vava's own birthday cake with artful details.
This invitation for learning style photography session was inspired by my love for playful art, fine details, and the masterpieces of Cake Opera Co. I wanted this experience to fully engage my daughter in an authentic hands-on learning playful approach. This luxurious sensory exploration included fresh floral, lavender, sprinkles, pearls and the most beautiful palette of delicious butter creams. For the pièce de résistance, a live sketch of her face on her cake!
At one year old, children are constantly observing and imitating every around them. That is just want she did with Alexandrina's brush strokes, paint palettes and yummy buttercream application techniques. I will be sharing more in the coming weeks! For now, see more on my Instagram account @justletmeplay
This term, I am back into my graduate work and trying to navigate my way around balancing my educational Reggio Emilia and Waldorf teaching practices into my professional practice and research. This term, one of my M.Ed courses explores digital tools for constructing knowledge using PBL as a teaching approach (slightly different than a project based approach which is heavily part of the Reggio Emilia practice).
I hope to explore more about PBL and inquiry based learning models, specifically, using or limiting (screen time) however, purposefully using digital tools to foster deeper learning. In our classrooms, using technology is part of an essential foundation for learning beginning in the early years. How might this impact our programs and where do we go from here? I will be sure to keep you posted.
How do you use digital tools in the classroom?
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As an educator, our kindergarten classrooms are transforming. Our learning environments are inspired by the world of natural beauty. Materials are naturally derived, set in beautiful baskets, where wooden shelves embrace the beauty of the open ended materials, which are meant to capture the whole imagination of the child and foster deeper play and learning.
The walls of the classroom extend to the local play yard, ravine, creek, or shaded tree areas. The inside environment, is co-constructed by the children and mirror their learning, interests and wonders. Calming spaces graces the corner of the classrooms with materials to foster strong self-regulation skills and spark independent learning opportunities.
The question now is... how might we transfer these classroom like environments into the home?
The classroom is a learning extension of the child's home. In this case, the home is an extension of the child's interests, family, culture, everyday rhythms, and favourite toys/materials. A space where the child feels safe and secure. Where their imagination is open to bloom. Most importantly, an opportunity to play freely and explore. Trips to the local parks/conservation space is always a good idea! No toys can truly replace the exploration of nature.
Make learning authentic! Allow and welcome your child to see the everything routines, such as cooking, cleaning, healthy eating and my favourite, baking. In the Waldorf philosophy, daily bread/muffin making is part of a morning rhythm.
If you are setting up your child's playroom/outdoor space, consider keeping it neutral and simple (very well organized). There does not need to be many toys or materials in this space. A few favourites and a few rotated every week will keep things interesting. In my opinion, I love including a little bit of the magical world, fairy doors, small world play, and secret play gardens. The play space is only one part of a learning program at home for your child, ensure your child is spending lots of time outdoors and exploring their community safety with a caregiver/parent.
Consider toys/materials to be...
Over the holidays, share your standards for materials with your families and if they would like to purchase gifts for your child, you might consider...
Make Outdoor Environments the Primary Play Space
Picture above shows Miss V and myself exploring our summer herb garden. On one sunny morning, we observed 5 beautiful caterpillars eating our parsley. We documented our observations and created a learning story which is housed in our playroom library inquiry collection.
Reggio Emilia inspired? Consider the Waldorf practice as well...
My daughter and I are new members of the Waldorf community. As my family and I continue to learn how to become more connected to our spiritual family rhythms and use our daily activities as a foundation for learning and sharing traditions and values, we learn how to educate the whole child and family.
Waldorf classrooms are home-like, they are inviting and often welcome learners and their families with the smell of fresh baked goods (like the Waldorf banana muffins) or the sound of music. The classrooms are filled with natural light and are minimalistic. We were welcomed to sit around a beautiful handmade carpet with sheepskin rugs for the children on the floor. Materials are open ended and made of holistic natural materials. The space is limited in toys because of the importance of fostering the imagination of the child. The walls are dreamy - the walls are beautifully painted using soft watercolour. Silks, hand made puppets, poems and verses transition the group from one activity to the next.
As a kindergarten educator, I am inspired by these magical learning spaces and the simplistic nature of following a daily rhythm, which can also be referred to as The Flow of the Day. These spaces allow all learners to feel safe, calm and provide all to adapt to their learning at their own pace and need. I continue to research the great balance of these wonderful teaching practices.
Please continue to look back and follow our journey and our inspiration from Waldorf.
In my practice, I have always been inspired by outdoor classrooms and the opportunities it has to empower learners. Being a kindergarten teacher for most of my career, I have always ensured outdoor learning was the foundational part of our early learning program. Our learners over the years have greatly experienced the benefits of outdoor play first thing in the morning. With 30 plus students, ensuring students are entering the classroom calmer and more alert is most beneficial. Students were encouraged to play, jump, skip, build, read, or garden among the elements... rain or shine! Parents were aware of our policy and continued to ensure students were sent to school with the proper outer wear (and us educators always have extras on hand). Mud suits are highly recommended! For educators too!
As a mama, I am excited to share these experiences with my child. She is currently 7 months, and we are always eager to start our days off at the park or hike the nearby trails. There is something so magical about playing in the leaves or under a giant tree that is self soothing and mystical. As an educator, I am inspired by Reggio Emilia practices and the school of Waldorf. Combining the two of them for me, allows the child to explore the magical world of nature and the world of natural wonder and curiosity.
As parents, caregivers and educators, allowing our learners at any age to explore nature and use nature as our materials, while thinking of outdoor exploration as an extension of our classrooms, is a step in the most positive direction! This past weekend, our family joined EarlyON for Family Day Forest Play - and to be honest, baby Valentina was not the only who returned home full of mud and a big smile!
Here are some photographs of our forest play !
As school rolls in and classes are busy becoming the magical spaces that they are, I get to work along educators in their spaces and work on my own learning space for my infant. This year, what has inspired me most is the only the natural materials we include in our spaces, but the DLY ones. My daughter and are involved in many play groups and programs ( I learn so much from speaking to parents in this setting). The DIY materials such as drums, shakers, light tables, sensory explorations and musical walls are just beautiful and children are so drawn to their own collaboration and efforts. Why not start our classrooms in this way? The classroom as a blank canvas where the learners create all the materials with materials families have and continue to collect throughout the year. This begins as infants, those fancy toys can be great too - however, there is something special about those home made fabric boxes and sensory walls too!
Keynote speaker John Hattie explores the impact of assessment, feedback and practice. As educators, who best to ask for feedback on our practice than our students? The effects of our impact is determined by what our students see learning as in our classrooms. As a MEd student researching more about the transition to grade 1, I've learned that research suggests that the impact of a program whether it be play based or called inquiry etc... depends on the expertise or more so the ability of the educators to be different and include their learners by being an active listener and moving away from "best practice' because there is no one "right" or "best" way.
As a kindergarten teacher, I am proud to give students the voice in the program and allow our program to transform differently every year. It is essential for children to be encouraged to think aloud. Although we may have large class sizes or a test to prepare students for ( all grades), it isn't about which program you follow or how perfect it may look, it's the way we as educators create an environment with high expectations, less lecturing, more inclusion, and lessons which are not derived from content direct questions, but opportunities to explore, play, investigate, diversify, and make mistakes. Kindergarten teachers have referred to this has play based and connect it with a theory i.e Reggio, Montessori, Waldorf etc... grade educators may refer to it as inquiry, collaboration, STEM... at the end of the day, we are here for our students and need to support their needs and move toward 21c learning opportunities.
"Kids need to be their own teachers"
"It is about teaching skills"
" How do we teach kids to deliberately practice?" - John Hattie
This year, I was delighted to be invited to the Visible Learning Conference this month located downtown Toronto at the Hilton. I was excited to learn that educator, professor and researcher John Hattie would be delivering the keynote. My 5 month old daughter joined me for her first educational conference! John Hattie himself could not resist how involved she was and came to personal engage in a meet and greet (he now is a grandfather himself). For those of you familiar with his work or the work of Mindframes and Visible Learning programs, he delivers decades of research into his work and discusses achievement and assessment from k to 12. As Canadians, we are proud he began his work here in Toronto.
As a kindergarten educator, we are well versed in the importance of the environment for learning, listening to students' interests, and the importance of life long professional learning. The conference was full of admin teams eager to start their year off with motivational team planning, professional learning and tips on how to encourage staff to NOT practice "the best practice" because there is no one right way of teaching something a learner. Instead, the conference was full of inspirational discusses about how to continue to continue educators to take risks, continue to analyze student data and transform learning to fit the child.
John Hattie was clear when he discussed that his research reflected that engaged way key for the learner and interest ranked one of the most important in achievement results (UK, USA, Europe, Australia).
His main question... What works best to support student learning? Active listening, professional learning, differentiation, and inclusiveness etc...
Corwin Press/Nelson is one of those names we see on children's textbooks, however, have we really looked deep into this names to learn more about the people who stand behind me and the quality of their researcher? More importantly, the authenticity? I fell in awe of these wonderful resources because of their ability to unite a team to learn together and develop unity and a positive learning environment.
Infant Sensory Provocations
Valentina is now 5 months (22 weeks). She loves to explore and is very curious about the world around her. She is sitting up, crawling, and is beginning to sign "more" "up" and learn to signal for more "milk". She and I have been attending various play groups indoors and outdoors and we really are enjoying the cooler summer days for outdoor story times! This month, Valentina and I are attending EarlyON Busy Babies program and we are just so happy to meet so many other wonderful families and friends!
As many of you know, I document Valentina's learning and milestones using her hand written journal along with a learning portfolio ( just like the one I would use in my kinder classes). Here is a sample of one of her favourite provocations and learning stories.
1. shallow water tub
2. tearless bath soap
3. hollowed fruit frozen (cut in half, save the middle, and put water into the halves and freeze) with water over night (try oranges, lemons, limes, grapefruit, watermelons) be cautious of safety (no small pieces of fruit or ice, safe non toxic soap, food allergies)
4. 1/4 of water into the tub
Sensory: Valentina explores frozen fruit
Valentina crawls up to the water tub and looks at the outside of the tub and observes the other child exploring the space. Mommy is behind her watching her interactions.
Valentina is eager to hear the splash of the water! She crawls up to the water tub and quickly dips her hand into the cold water. She notices the bubbles and starts to kick her legs with excitement!
Mommy and Valentina begin to explore the materials in the water. Mommy picks up the grapefruit and Valentina instantly notices the bright colour and touches the inside. Mommy repeats the words grapefruit, wet, and ice.
Mommy puts the grapefruit to Valentina's nose to smell. She puts her nose closer and wants to grab it. She is beginning to realize the use of her senses - and her nose was used to smell the fruit and the soap! At this point, she is very wet and heads into the water tub!
Valentina grabbed the grapefruit and put it in her mouth (using her own grasp). She made a squishy face. I guess it tasted like soap! Next steps, we are going to change the temperature of the water and or try lemons and limes!
Valentina is 4 months old. I am in the middle of creating a play space which adapts to her learning and development. Many of you have asked for some infant learning inspiration which can help you and your child bond, develop and practice those milestones.
As a strong supporter for play based learning, I am a passionate Reggio Emilia inspired educator. I adore creating beautiful learning environments which foster wonder and curiosity. As an educator, sparking the imagination is essential in my spaces, which lead many of my classroom designs to exploring the world of Waldorf practices. Upon visiting the school and enrolling myself and Valentina into Joyful Beginnings, I am so eager to combine both into my professional and personal practice.
As a new mama and passionate kindergarten educator, the place space is something I have been eager to get going between feedings, cleaning, moving, and instructing! Leave the cleaning for later - and play!
As my husband and I began to transform the main floor of our home into an atelier for baby Valentina, safety came first. Consider the soft flooring (wood like form mats from Wal-Mart), shelving that is safe and secure, cozy corners, crawling space, and of course lots and lots of natural lighting! The main floor is directly in front of our green space and when she's a little older, her play space can extend into the outdoors.
When selecting materials, my husband and I opt for natural non toxic materials, such as Grimms wooden materials made in Germany. These Waldorf materials are open ended and crafted by hand - they really are heirloom pieces. The beautiful colours complement the neutral space.
Literature is easily accessible within all corners of our home. There are baskets with literature that reflects the season and stimulates her senses. There are many texture books, puppets, and some with sounds! Her favourite book at the moment is Eric Carle's Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You See?