Google+ bakers and astronauts: 12.11

30 December 2011

Weekend Links

There have been what seems like dozens of repins from @pediastaff on pinterest.  There are hundreds of pins on their boards - definitely worth looking through!  And while you're there, you can follow me on pinterest, too.

There is a new edition of Early Childhood Research and Practice out; I'm looking forward to that reading this weekend.

We are starting jobs in the classroom in January, and I have been thinking about this article from Teaching Young Children about a "Problem Solver" job.  We would have to work together and discuss the role before implementing it, but I see the potential for some children.

I got to visit family on the east coast for the holidays, and my three-year-old niece has become a book lover.  I got to hear her "reading" The Night Before Christmas; we read Pete the Cat together and then watched the video; and I gave her and her sister two of my favorites: Lost and Found and Hattie and the Fox.

Lastly, I have a few ideas up my sleeve for the new year, and I hope to be posting regularly.  I do, however, plan to put most of my energy towards this final semester of my Master's program.  I hope you'll continue to visit and share your thoughts in 2012!  Happy New Year!

29 December 2011

Images from Boulder Journey School

I have been looking at some beautiful images from the Boulder Journey School in Boulder, Colorado, as I've been thinking about the changes in our classroom environment, and I thought I might share a few here.

Our new space is very large, and balancing that is a bit tricky.  We need to create different "parts" of the room, and I'd like to do that without necessarily having labeled areas that restrict how the children want to work and play.

I mentioned the alcove in my earlier post today, and this image makes me think about how different elements of light could work together, perhaps with the addition of a sensory element, like shallow trays on a table

Hanging items from the ceiling!  Need I say more?

It is easy to look at photos and imagine different things in our new classroom environment, but it is important to remember the needs of the environment you are in.  I have to remember to envision the children in the space.

A New Space

What is it about a new space that makes it so exciting?  I am always excited by space - especially when it is a blank slate for something new.  After some back and forth and negotiation, we are adding another room to our school, and the preschool room is moving down the hall.

This morning was spent moving things out of the room and cleaning, and tomorrow morning will be spent arranging the new space.  I have arranged and rearranged many a room in my time, but I have never walked into an empty room.  There are no clues about where a sensory table might be put; there are no hints to tell me how to draw children into work and play as they enter the room each day.  Part of me feels a bit rushed; but I know that I will question some of the decisions I made once the children come into the room.  It is a space that is used, and as many ideas as I can have when the children are not in the room, their presence is what will drive the layout of the space.

We still have big, beautiful windows that look out over Young's Bay, letting in enough natural light that  even the cloudy days seem light.  The shelves in the first picture are begging to display materials in the style of a mini-atelier, and the alcove in the fifth picture has so much potential - as a dark corner for light exploration, the quieter, comfortable part of the space, or perhaps dramatic play.  I have an evening of research and browsing and sketching and writing ahead of me!

22 December 2011

Happy Holidays!

I probably will not be posting between now and the New Year- between holiday traveling, family fun, and reading lots of novels, how can I even find the time?

Thank you so much for reading the blog, for coming back day after day, and for being enthusiastic about early childhood education!

Happy Holidays!

16 December 2011

The Baby Project

As I continue to think about a project that has something to do with babies,  I have been gathering inspirations and ideas.

A comment on a post here suggested the children writing lullabies, and that stuck me as something the children may be interested in.  A few times over the course of the last week, we have sat together as a group and children have ad the opportunity to sing into a toy microphone.  This allows me to gauge whether or not the children will sing in front of others - seeing their comfort level, really.  Some whisper, some are eager and sing loudly; some do not want to sing at all.  But I think the experience of singing in front of others will prepare us for the possibility of singing to the babies, where there may be adults.others watching as well.  We talked in a small group about lullabies and what they are and what they are for, and it lead to a spontaneous performance of "Rockabye Baby" and some thoughts on why people sing lullabies to babies; listen to that here.

I read a post from the Yokohama Early Learning Center about children working with young visitors, and deciding to make a gift for them.  They chose to "make a movie of singing and music".  Its a really lovely post; head over for more of the children's words.  I appreciate how the teachers reflected on the children's interest in the visitors and promoted a child-centered idea that they could support as they children executed the most creative and thoughtful aspects.  The idea of making/creating a gift for the babies is interesting, and this allows us to do what is most important: extend the children's thinking and work beyond the suface level interest.  The children have been interested in lullabies, and they have also been drawing pictures of babies and drawing pictures for the babes and giving them to them.  We have a jumping off point.

Since thinking about the children's work from this aspect helped give me a new perspective on the potential of this project.  There are a lot of possibilities, and I'm looking forward to sharing them here as the project emerges!

15 December 2011

no words necessary.

Self Portraits in our Sketchbooks

I had made a note to myself to do self portraits with the children again at some point - we have not done them since August - but I always found a reason not to do them on a certain day, or to push it back.  In this setting, it is sometimes hard to find the time, and our days can be a little unexpected.

A lightbulb went off in my head, though, when I realized we could try them in our sketchbooks.  We have "free draw" at last twice a week, and on those days, the children can finish work they've done before or start something new.  I've realized that if I am trying to give a specific prompt, I need to have the children find a specific page in their books using a visual cue (like the circles last year).  So, to go along with the verbal prompt of "draw a picture of you", I had drawn a large black rectangle on a page in each child's book.  And everyone did draw a picture of themselves.  I suppose I had envisioned the rectangle acting as a frame, but (as always) the children put their own spin on it.

I could not stop smiling when I saw the ones that used the rectangle as the body.

I think that when I present the prompt of making a self portrait again, we will be able to use a separate piece of paper, but maybe we won't bother.  The sketchbooks are a way to see the progression of children's work; and it is their own creative space.  Perhaps we need larger sketchbooks - I have always made them this size, and I'm not sure why!

Regardless of where we make them, I see the value in this work year after year. 

14 December 2011

bakers and astronauts on google+

In efforts to connect with early childhood educators and advocates in every way possible, Bakers and Astronauts now has a Google+ page!  Yet another way to connect and communicate!

I hope you'll visit and add us to your circles!

Children and Novelty

I spent some time this weekend reading an interview with Lella Gandini in the American Journal of Play. I definitely recommend it - it is for anyone who is an advocate for children's play, not just for advocates of the Reggio Approach.

Gandini touches on a few subjects that I feel I'd love to discuss here, but she talks about one episode in particular that I felt I can relate to, especially at this point in my career.  When asked if she could cite an example of a time when a teacher learned as much as a child, she said,

"Here is one I have told before.  The teachers decided early one morning to create a surprise for the twelve-month-old children by lining the whole infant room with packing paper and placing some large crayons here and there on the covered floor.  They were not sure what would happen, but certainly they expected great reactions and decided they would not interfere or prompt the children about the total change in their environment.  They kept the door closed until the whole group of little children arrived.  Then they opened the door, though quietly, to be ready to photograph the children's surprise.  The children came in...they moved into the room as if absolutely nothing had changed.  Some touched or pushed the crayons a bit as they moved on the paper next to them, but without paying much attention.  The teachers were ready with their cameras, ready to document the children's surprise.  The teachers waited and waited.  Nothing happened.  They were ready to pt away the cameras, but at a certain point, Francesco started to play with the end of one of the larger pieces of paper, and suddenly he tore it off with energy.  The paper, which had originally been tightly rolled up, recoiled back into a long tube.  Francesco looked at it and picked up the tube, exploring it with attention and pleasure.  Then he looked around and grabbed a crayon that was just close enough and inserted the crayon with care into the tube.  He seemed to be surprised that it had disappeared, and he looked toward the end of the tube.  No, it was not there.  He tried to unroll the paper tube looking for his crayon, but in doing so, the incline of the tube increased and the crayon rolled out...

The teachers were surprised and delighted by the discoveries of the new game Francesco had invented.  In reflecting about the experience, they first noted the skills and thoughtfulness that such a young child like Francesco could have.  They also reminded themselves how everything is so new for young children that the novelty of having a paper covering their entire floor was not something to make them particularly curious or surprised."  (Emphasis added.)

This episode touched me as a teacher, as a facilitator, and as a generally reflective person.  If I were to walk into my home and have the whole kitchen covered with paper, I would notice it.  And some children would notice that.  But they are making so many important discoveries for the first time every day that they will pay attention to what is most salient to them.  And we cannot expect it to be the same thing that is salient to us.  These teachers in this episode had certain expectations, and those expectations were not satisfied.  But they were patient, and they did not insist that Francesco put the paper down and draw on it.  I know we have all, metaphorically, told Francesco to put the paper down and suggest that he draw on it.  I have been challenged by that recently, feeling like something has been missing from what I offer to the children each day.  But I have to remember that the children might not approach the work like I expect.  And I have to watch even more carefully for those little moments, like Francesco's discovery - it is really easy for those to slip by without noticing.

13 December 2011


For the first time ever,  I am having children dictate stories in the classroom.  Everyday, when we sit down for our meeting, I take out the storytelling notebook and ask who would like to tell a story.  Out of the 10-12 children who at school by this time, most of them are eager to tell a story.

Some mornings get a bit hectic, and since I am alone in the preschool room most of the time, we don't always have a chance to tell stories.  But when we do, I approach the children who have signed up for storytelling and invite them to tell me their story.  I'll often ask a child who is in between activities rather than taking a child out of something they are really engaged with.

All sort of themes are shared and we touch upon just about every topic imaginable over the course of a week.  But the name of the game us typically repetition - at least right now it is.  Children tell the same stories day after day, or feature the same characters.  Take B's stories, for example.


Katie fell down.  And then she cried.  Then she bumped her head and then she cried.  Katie fell down.  The teacher came and she was happy!  And then she played with Chip Chip.  And then she cried.  The End.


Katie fell down.  And then she cried.  And then she bumped her head.  And then she cried.  And she fell down in the chair.  And then she cried.  Then she bumped her head!  And then she fell down on the chair.  The End.


Katie fell down.  And she bumped her head and then she cried.  And then she got up, and then she bumped her head.  And then she fell down on the chair.  And then she bumped…her…head.  And then she fell on the chair.  Then she bumped her head!  And then she cried.  Cry cry cry cry cry cry.  The End.


Katie fell down and she bumped her head and then she cried.  And she fell down on the chari, and then she fell down on the chair.  Then she bumped her head.  The End.


Katie fell down.  Mommy likes me.  And she does!  And then she bring me to school, and then she did.  The End.


Katie fell down and she bumped her head, and then she cried.  And then she fell down on the chair and she cried.  The End!

She continues to tell that story every time she tells me she has a story to tell. J usually tells me a story about Buzz Lightyear; G tells stories about things that happen at her house.  S retells Itchy Itchy Chicken Pox each time she dictates a story.  

What I love about storytelling this way is how children open up as they have these opportunities for oral language.  I love how excited they get when I read the stories from the day to the whole group, and the group claps for the author.

I have definitely been inspired by Vivian Gussin Paley's books, but I have not taken the plunge into the acting out of stories after they are written.  I feel like that is the next step, though.  Another way we can continue promoting storytelling is through pre-made books that children illustrate and then read to the class at a group time.  I have seen children get really into that form of storytelling, and that also promotes more mark-making, drawing, and writing.  I have documented many of the stories I've been told on video - here is one of my favorites.

It is important to remember that the children in my classroom now are significantly younger than the ones in my last class, but that makes it more exciting, perhaps - I'm not quite sure what to expect, and it is probably better that way!

Blocks and Pattern at Turtlewings

You can find me over at the Turtlewings blog today, talking about blocks and pattern.   hope you'll head over and have a read!

12 December 2011

Interview : Jess from The Architecture of Early Childhood

Today I'm sharing an interview that Jess, from The Architecture of Early Childhood, as kind enough to do with me!  I find her background and interest base fascinating, and she has a wonderful blog where she shares about the intersecting world of architecture, design, and early childhood education.  Please share your comments and questions here, and head over to Jess' blog for loads of inspirations and links that will entertain you for days!

You are working on your Masters in Architecture.  What inspired you to focus on early childhood environments for your thesis?

Well, I did a project last year re-designing/designing an addition to the Wellington Zoo, which included a circus and hotel - where I also designed a children’s camp experience (for schools, parties and holiday programmes). Here I began researching children’s play as I had also noticed a decline in children engaging in play in public spaces (my little brother being an example) and found a whole lot of research on this area and of its repercussions (for children’s health - mental, physical and social). I saw the zoo as being a perfect place for children to be once again immersed in nature - engaging with animals (and away from technology!) I also noted that there was a lack of research on the architecture for young children - and this led me to examining early learning (and care) environments.

What do you think is essential in an early childhood environment?

An environment that is both nurturing - using natural materials, soft colours, natural and varied lighting, rather than bright, artificial institutional lighting, space for children to be alone and to relax/contemplate and that is playful - engaging children in activity - this is where colour can come in (used sensitively), moving elements, ledges to jump off, steps to climb, ramps, paths, different textures...etc. Then the space should be designed to be flexible and to function well for the many activities for children to engage in freely uninhabited, as well as mediate sensitively between the indoors and outdoors (bringing nature in).

Is there anything that you prefer not to see in early childhood environments?

I see far too many contemporary examples that appear to be too institutional - with harsh lighting and artificial vinyl flooring. Children learn through doing and experiencing using all of their senses - and yet so often the environments appear cold and sterile.

Tell us about the architectural framework that you describe on your blog.

I’m currently designing a ‘framework’ which I hope will be useful in demonstrating the research I have conducted - so summarising the information I’ve stated above but in designed diagrams and drawings - showing how these ideas might be applied architecturally. 

There are a number of different early childhood approaches that put an emphasis on the environment.  Are you inspired by any one philosophy, by a few, or by many?

I’m inspired by them all - but differently! Reggio is inspiring for the way they have emphasised the environment as being integral to the curriculum from the beginning (where they see the environment as the “third teacher”). I like that they also often collaborate with designers and architects to “realise” their ambitions, and engage children in spatial experiments to better understand how they view their environments. I’ve also done a fair bit of research on Te Whariki - and appreciate its bi-cultural and holistic approach. I like the Scandinavian’s “forest schools” with their emphasis on outdoor learning, and in terms of architecture - I think the Japanese design really well utilising space and often think about children in their architecture (designing lofts, slides, ladders into their schemes).

I feel lucky that there seem to be more and more fantastic early childhood blogs everyday - ones that are about the whole child and more than just activities to do with children.  Do you consider yourself an education blogger, or an architecture blogger?

I guess I see myself as coming from a design background (I also am a graphic designer) - yet approaching the field of education with this view - as I’m not an expert in early childhood education, I've been careful to not be too opinionated - that is why I hope to learn and understand more through reading other early childhood blogs... like yours!

How has using a blog been an asset to your research?

I’ve noticed there is a gap between the knowledge that early childhood practitioners have about young children’s learning - through observing and working with children in their early learning spaces and between architects’ understanding for designing for young children. My mum used to manage a pre-school and expressed their exasperation working with an architect for his lack of understanding and experience designing for children. The blog has been a really great tool for engaging a sort of conversation - and for quickly archiving research as I find it. It has also kept me interested in the topic and a feeling of accomplishment.

Do you feel that you’ll continue blogging when your research is finished?

Yes! I very much hope to continue, I've been enjoying it immensely - and it’s so wonderful seeing the (increasing) views and getting comments and feedback - it makes me feel like I'm really making a difference (and I’m finding my writing is getting better too!)

What are your goals for when you finish your thesis?

I don’t know yet! I hope that I can continue to share my research/knowledge and expertise - perhaps Christchurch will need some new centres for it’s (post-earthquake) rebuild... I also hope to travel one day and work overseas for a wee while.

You’ve offered that people can contact you about your work and research.  What sorts of things do you hope to collaborate on?

Yes, I love that the internet allows for like-minded people to find each other - and share ideas/research. So I guess, rather than set out to find some answer to some particular question - I like the idea that the blog is open to any discussion or topic/issue... I hope when I start to post my designs that people might offer some feedback (a bit of critique).

What else would you like to share with Bakers and Astronauts readers?

Please do come and check out my blog - and feel free to add any comments that you may have :).

all images from The Architecture of Early Childhood; please visit there for the original sources.

09 December 2011

Weekend Links

One of my very favorite blogs has some new posts - Leaves and Branches, Trunk and Roots is sharing children's versions of three fairy tales.

I love this piece from Early Childhood Research and Practice called The Lights Pre-Project.  The term "pre-project" seems to have been coined in this article, and the concepts makes a lot of sense to me.  What do you think of the idea?

I've probably shared this before, but set aside an hour this weekend and watch this documentary on the Albany Free School.

A TED talk on the history of storytelling, and how we are always innovating and finding new ways to tell each other stories.

Next week, I'll be sharing some storytelling from the classroom, an interview with a new favorite blogger of mine, and hopefully more!

Happy Weekend!

08 December 2011

An Emerging Project, or a Dud?

So far in this school year, we have not been focusing on any one topic.  We have worked on building our community - an incredibly important aspect of the classroom - and establishing routines as we get to know each other.  We spend some time emphasizing language that supports our classroom community  "kind" being an important one.

Watching the children at play and work over the past few months, one theme comes back daily, day after day.  Babies.  I have spent time lingering over ideas, mapping out ways that I might support this interest.  I have also been thinking about a workshop that I took last year on guided inquiry:  what is the concept that we can focus on that encompasses this interest in babies?  The concept that I keep returning to is "care", and I am still thinking about how to promote the interest in babies without simply bombarding them with dolls and baby things.

We have been visiting the babies in the infant room in small groups; and I have found it challenging to figure out what the next step(s) should be.

I think I have mentioned here that I have been trying to promote writing and drawing - mark making, basically.  The children tend to engage in other parts of the room.  When I first thought about promoting a project on babies, we visited the room and the children drew pictures afterwards.  The baby was sleeping, and many of the groups walked around the room, looking at the baby things (which is a potential aspect of the project).  The second time I had time to take groups, I just took two girls - who are often engaged in "baby" play.  We brought the clipboards into the room with us, and when I suggested that we draw V, the baby, they were eager.  One of the girls who is drawing, B, rarely draws representationally.  They seemed motivated with the baby right in front of them!

There was also a clear interest in the baby things, from the automatic swing to the soft blocks and mirrors.

I have seen these girls, with others in the classroom, explore and experiment with showing affection to babies.  Singing lullabies, rocking them as they say "shhhhh", using gentle and affectionate touch as they play with babies in the baby room, and more.  There was an endearing moment last week when J lifted her baby doll high into the air and smiled big, bringing the baby down to her face to give it kisses and speak in motherese, using a high pitched voice and exaggerating her intonation.

So what does this mean for us as a whole class?  Where do we go from here?  We have an amazing resource for this interest in babies with a room full of them across the hall; but thinking about the concept of care might help find the real interest that lies underneath what we are seeing on the surface.

02 December 2011

Weekend Links

I need to think of a reason to use this temporary tattoo printer paper.  Drawing self portraits and making them into tattoos?   Making each child's favorite sketchbook picture into a tattoo?  I see no reason not to make temporary tattoos out of everything.

On the topic of temporary tattoos, Tattly is a source for interesting temporary tattoos.  Kids love temporary tattoos (sorry for the generalization) and I'd love to see more interesting ones.  Like watches, and rainbows on skateboards!

I saw some images of the Children's Library Discovery Center in Queens, and it looks really interesting - like a hybrid of a museum and a library.  

That is definitely my style - and I'd love to see it in person.  I'll be making a subway transfer near there in a few short weeks after landing at JFK...maybe I can convince my husband to take a detour to go to a children's library?  I'll start working on that now.

And I have to share the saddest thing I have seen in an educational catalog.  I am not a fan of education catalogs - I linger over the watercolor paints and the drawing pens and the small mirrors for self-portraits and the air dry clay and the giant bags of sand for discount prices, but then you see things like this:  the "no-mess indoor sandbox".

I will not release the source of that information because it makes me sad.  It is a product for adults who don't like sand messes.  The child has to touch the items with gloves on.  I think I've said enough - I probably could have let that photo speak for itself.

Happy weekend!  May it be filled with messes and sand on the floor!

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