Tuesday, March 27, 2012

~*~ My Philosophy ~*~

I've been thinking about my philosophy ... changing jobs will do that to ya! What is often one of the things that they ask you? Tell us about your philosophy!

When I was at Univeristy so many many years ago I had to write a philosophy and present it to the class ... I had an ingenious idea - to make a story book! So I did ... I used photos from the internet, my own photos, quotes, ideas etc and put them into an "old fashioned" scrap book (this is before the days of scrapbook popularity!). I then read the "story" to the class.

So I've been thinking about my philosophy today and how would I present it?

I came up with a montage of images that I've taken, resources I've made and I am creating a sort of picture book philosophy circa 2012 ...

So far I have two pages completed ...

I am going to do more ... adding to it ... I've just realised that the bottom image has a fault ... I'll fix it later ... its somewhat difficult with a 5kg kitten-cat sleeping on the desk in front of you leaning on the mouse and the keyboard ... I might even leave it there (fix it in another post) as homage to the little furry beast I love so much.

Breaking Bread ... & the EYLF

The Finished Product! A Scrummy Loaf of Warm Bread!!!
(a bit blurry but you get the idea!)
Well, the first batch of bread failed (the yeast didnt activate and I later realised that it was out of date!) ... So I bought more yeast and I bought a big giant bag of bakers flour which was way cheaper than buying the other stuff.

This time, because the weather wasnt very warm, I preheated my oven and then turned it off. I placed the plastic bag over the mixing bowl, and put it in the oven ... Whoah did the yeast activate or what! Then when I was making dinner, I remembered what an Italian friend said her mother did when making pizza - they'd cover the dough with the blankets and doonas from the beds ... So I put the bowl in my bed and covered it with my doona and pillows in a big mountain ... This really stayed warm and this is the result after a few hours:

After a few hours in the middle of my bed ...

The next morning
(I probably could have baked it last night b/c there wasnt much visible change from night to morning) 

I did as the recipe said, then formed a loaf shape ... then put it in the oven ...

 This is after the first bake with the lid on ...

And this is with the lid off and finished! YUMMO!!!

Bread will be devoured with home made vegetable soup ... my next project!

The awesome thing about this bread, is you dont have to work the dough ... you just mix, and let sit for a length time ... If you wanted to do this with kids (as I do with my next group) you could have a few of the steps on the go at one time ... You could make some in the morning or the afternoon, bake them early, or later (all depending upon your cook's schedule! Don't upset your cook!)  You could make  on Monday, bake and eat Tuesday, Make one Tuesday and bake and eat Wednesday etc. Or you could just bake traditional bread and get the kids to work the dough ... its all good, I just like this because its no-fuss and effective and it bakes the type of bread I like eating! I really like a chewy crust with a soft moist centre! You'd pay $4-$6 for a loaf like this at a boutique bakery! I should work out how much that cost me ... Not much at all ... So even if your services is on a tight budget - you use flour to make playdough? Well, all you'll need is some yeast - a portion of one packet, salt, flour, water ... done.

Now .. how does bread link to the Early Years Learning Framework

I think that cooking is such an important part of a curriculum. We ALL eat.  We don't all however cook. There would be some families who just re-heat and serve, so don't assume that all children will be exposed to cooking. Reheating is not cooking. So its your job to support children in learning about this. If children do cook at home, then if you cook at school you can involve those children to share their knowledge and experience - or involve the family either by sharing recipes, or having family members come in and help prepare if possible.

Cooking supports learning in so many different curriculum areas.

Here are some samples:
= science: how properties change - solid/liquid/hard/soft etc, ... also biology - yeasts, extend by making a sourdough starter culture? further extend by making yogurt?
= maths: measurement, addition, subtraction, weights, time ...
= health: nutrition - healthy foods to eat, healthy ways to prepare ...
= social: working together towards a common goal - bread! taking turns, sharing ...
= physical: hand-eye coordination, fine/gross motor (if you work the dough!) ...
= cultural: so many cultures make bread as a staple - explore all the different types (tortilla, chapati)
= literacy: reading a recipe, vocabulary relating to the recipe and cooking
= cognitive: following directions (what happens if you dont!?)

Ok that's just off the top of my head ... you get the idea ...

Cooking is a really great way to look at community. Think of social engagement as community. You gather your children and you have a community meeting about cooking ... what sorts of foods would they like to prepare? Why? If you ask them do they have any ideas of what healthy foods are vs unhealthy ones?

I remember once asking the kids this when I first started with them many years ago ... I got answers like pizza and MacDonalds ... not what I was hoping for ... I brought in my recipe books the next day and they went through the images and that really got their ideas flowing ...

Make a plan of action:

1. What would we like to prepare?
2. What CAN we prepare (i.e. what equipment do we have access to? what do we need to borrow or purchase?
3. What ingredients can we use? What do we already have? What do we need to buy? What allergies do we need to consider? (i.e. do we have children with egg allergies and can we use a substitute?)
4. When can we do it? (not wise to whip up a curry at 4pm or when the cook is preparing lunch either)
5. Who is interested in this? (remember some children might participate in the whole process, others might come and go and this is ok!)
6. Who will go shopping? Have you made a list? Money? (In a perfect world, the children could go to the local shop and buy what they need, but I know that not everyone can do this!)

I'd suggest you start simple and then complicate things ... that way there is more opportunity for success and less chance for failure! Then, you complicate things a little more and work your way up to other ideas and methods.

From a cultural perspective you can look at the socio-cultural groups of the room/service ... Just because someone is "white" doesn't mean they don't have culture ... They could be from any number of cultural groups. My old service was VERY multicultural ... in fact it was the most culturally diverse service I've ever worked in over 15 years of working in early education ... See what cultural resources you already have within your staff and go from there. Who likes cooking? Perhaps someone who works in the nursery section loves cooking, but the educators in the preschool aren't so experienced ... well, do a staff swap and have that educator share their skills with others (children AND educators).

I'd started a communal meal by asking the staff to bring a dish to share ... Some of my colleauges and myself were always sharing food and ideas at lunch ... It's a great way to bond and learn!  So for our staff meetings we'd bring something to share, Mexican dips, Indian rice and curries, tabouli, cakes, noodles and dumplings, pastries ... Everyone would bring something from their culture or something from another culture that they really enjoy eating/preparing! Maybe that is how you can weave some community into your team? And let it trickle down to the kids?

Cooking is awesome.

Cooking is curriculum.

Cooking is community.

Cooking is life.


Monday, March 26, 2012

Natural VS Commercial

So one of the big ideas I'm exploring is how to use what we have around us rather than ruining our earth by ordering things from companies ... I mean I do love rainbow matchsticks ... don't get me wrong, they are useful and vibrant and the like BUT they are trees that were cut down ... then they were processed to be little match stick shapes, then they were dyed, then they were packaged, then they were shipped to a warehouse, where they wait to be sold ... and again, shipped out ...

So as I was pottering around in my garden and checking out my giant pile of clippings and prunings etc and I was wondering about how it can be used (other than be chipped down and sold as mulch/compost by the company that buys the waste from council) ...

So why not mix it up? Just don't take away all the colour in one go ... but look at ways of incorporating natural materials which are FREE and local and easily made? I just grabbed some landscaping pebbles from my garden, used the May Bush twigs which were at hand, plus playdough with no dye added, glass beads as well as the coloured match sticks ... 

Here are some landscaping rocks from Bunnings, thicker branches or twigs from the May Bush, drift wood (which I'd had for some hermit crabs who have since passed away), different leaves, and the landscaping pebbles ... All of these things you can either buy quite inexpensively ($2.49 per bag for the rocks) or find around the place...

There are some awesomely interesting seed pods out there too ... these came from a fire wheel tree... I wore gloves and long sleeves to scrape out the seeds as they have little prickley hairs which were irritating to me - so this is not a project I'd do with the children. I wore jeans as well and shook everything out and then washed it! But the seed pods last a really long time in the room for play with blocks etc so they are worth the effort.

I've previously used gum nuts - there is a tree in front of my parents home which drops gum nuts all the time - easily swept up and placed along with the twigs, sticks, rocks, seed pods, and pebbles. I should go and harvest some more when its time!

I can't post any pictures of what my old kids did with the play dough and natural materials ... but I can describe what some of the ideas were ... some made animals using the sticks for legs, others flattened out the dough and made artistic patterns with the nuts on the outside. Some created balls of dough which they then placed on top of sticks were were then stick into a base of dough - flowers. Others made the ever famous cookies and cakes with the dough.

I've also put a display of natural materials in block corner where the kids used the large rocks in their play. Mainly as additions to their block work. I guess you could call them embellishments! I like that term, I think its one I will use more often!



Sunday, March 25, 2012

Play Dough VS Bread

Aaaaages ago, I made some of that no-knead bread ... and it was awesome. Now that I have more time on my hands, a house, and the weather is cooling nicely into Autumn I thought I might use the left over flour and give it a go ... Alot of the recipes I read before said  to use bread flour or strong flour ... last time I just used what I had in the cupboard ... So we'll see what happens! I have to of course wait until the morning before I can play with it some more!

Here's the link:


A colleague of mine did alot of bread making with her nursery children. They loved it. In fact, the whole centre smelled amazing with fresh bread! My children hovered like a flock of starving seagulls! So, my colleague kindly made bread with my guys which they of course wolfed down.

I had this dream a LONG time ago, where I thought it would be lovely to have a small "boutique" style service where you could bake bread daily with the children ... Where the children assisted in the preparation of their own meals, or at least the morning and afternoon teas. This didn't come to fruition .. it remains a dream that one day I'd like to see a reality.

Until then, I'm baking my own bread!


Play Dough Equipment on a Budget

Ok, so I just posted about dough which made me think of what I had purchased previously for the dough table ... I checked my archives and yes, I do have the photos! These materials lasted a long time and they weren't the tacky coloured plastic you normally buy from the toy catalogues. These were real products and the kids used them with great enthusiasm! So, here they are:

I also bought some ginger bread cut outs - male and female from another discount store, as well as a set of crayfish (I once had a child who loved crabs and sea creatures, so he was happy to have that set at the table!)

Rolling pins which can roll, but also be used to make circular shapes in the dough ...

Wooden spoons of so many different sizes.

There are just so many things you could use at the discount store ... seriously ... think outside the box of the toy store catalogues and see what is out there for often a great deal less. Also, see what families might donate or use containers from homes! Yoghurt tubs, fruit cups, dumpling trays ... there are so many "throw aways" that we can use to jazz up the dough experience with the children! 

Play Dough Rainbow Style!

So, two things are happening here ... one is I wanted some colourful playdough to photograph to use in my portfolio formats and I am looking after my neice next week after day care so I thought why not make some dough that won't go to waste! So I've made the dough using essentially the cream of tartar recipe on the back of the container. Instead of cooking it in a saucepan, I just use freshly boiled water and mix it with a woden spoon, then with my hands wearing gloves (helps with the heat!). It turns out pretty much the same. I've been making it this way for 8 years now. If you need to refresh it, just add a little boiling water and it comes good again. 

The materials I used - just inexpensive no-name stuff where I could

The finished product!
So after I was finished with the dough, I cut it into wedges ... 8 to be exact.

Then I added drops of food colouring to each section and mixed them individually.
This is blue + red + yellow to make dark green ...
I wore gloves because ... well, you can see what the gloves look like, I really didnt want my fingers to be the same!
So we have red, orange, yellow, light green, aqua, dark green, blue, purple, and plain ...

So, here is the dough in a dumpling tray that I'm re-using before I recycle it. I love using small containers from the kitchen at the playdough table. The kids always seem to cut up dough, make cookies, form balls or snakes etc. and this gives them a means of storing or displaying their efforts.

Actually, this reminds me of all the awesome things I once bought to use at the dough table ... I found them all at a discount store ... I'll have to hunt around and see if I have the photos ... That can be another post!

I love making. I love creating. I love colour.


Saturday, March 24, 2012

Where T.ink is At!

butterflies make me think of change and transformation ...

Now, where I’m at ...

I have resigned from my position as a teacher and now that I have some time on my hands I am really pondering where I wanted to go with the EYLF and my documentation practice. I have also been creating some resources in order to make this possible. I have been using my resource collection, borrowing a friends, purchasing inexpensive items and the like in order to make this idea of mine a possibility. This is what is going to take some time.
When I return to work, I will be doing casual teaching in a variety of settings and services.
This choice resulted from a number of different motivations. One of which was unpredictable travel towards the city. I want a better work/life balance and I can’t achieve that if I am sitting in a car for 3 hours a day. This took away precious time which could have been spent enjoying life or even simply taking care of my home and garden and pets.
I have also been at the service for a few years and it just felt it was time to move on. Sure, I could have stayed and explored some curriculum ideas I had in the works, but, really ... my heart wasn’t in it any longer. I want to explore my own ideas and OWN them as my own. They come from my brain, my thinking, my education (which I paid for!), my background and life experience as well as my own time spent at courses I chose or from reading books I purchased.
So I took a leap of faith and assumed that there would be a safety net at the bottom! Thankfully, it was a wise leap of faith and I've flown instead of fallen!
When you aren’t meant to be following a certain path it is difficult. There are just too many challenges and roadblocks along the way. When you stop fighting it, and you give up and decide to go off the path that you were familiar with, well, sometimes things just fall into place ... you find a gentler path. You see some beauty along the way. You find sustenance to nourish your body, your heart and your spirit. You start to realise that the path you thought was the =sensible= one was in fact the wrong one for you ... And now that you have finally made the choice, you have found the right place and the right time.
So gradually, this blog will evolve and my work will evolve and my ideas will come together in my reflective journal.
Thank you for your patience, understanding, and for reading what I just plonked onto the net over a year ago. It is much appreciated.


Ideas I've Been Playing with ...

This is what I've been playing with ...

Rainbow Table Skittles! I drank A LOT of soda water (being a perfectionista, the bottles had to match and be the same brand.) Water was filled to the line at the bottom, soap added along with food colouring. Tops were glued with my handy hot-glue-gun. I've used dogs tennis balls because they were colourful and cheap at the dollar store!

I love how the sun just shines through them! This experiences is great for wet weather - just make sure you don't have anything breakable behind the table (like a window) as some children can throw alot better than we think they might be able to! I had plans to put coloured labels on the bottles with numbers on them so the kids could keep score by counting the numbers and having the word of the colour for literacy, but I like being able to see the bubbles! So I have held off for now...

If you were to make these with the children as an experience you are doing more than  just filling bottles with water, soap and food colouring (use the small bottles that can be found in the baking section of the supermarket). By involving the children you are facilitating so much learning!

You and the children are exploring:
* numeracy: count the bottles , the other materials etc. i.e. how many colours do we need to choose?
* numeracy: counting out the numbers of drops that are needed
* problem solving: who decides which colours? who has a turn? (one can hold the bottle, another can do the colour drops, everyone can count!) 1:1 correspondence - how many colours for how many bottles?
* literacy - reading the directions on the chart at the back
* literacy: extending children's vocabulary - labelling other colours such as aqua and orchid
* fine-motor: getting those drops into the tiny hole of the soda water bottles!
* gross-motor: playing the game when its done!
* social-skills: taking turns, having 3 balls means three throws for each person - fair, and easily accounted for (i.e. no sneaky "I'll just throw one more because there are 5 balls in the basket!), cheering on your peers as they succeed or encouraging them to try again.

So there you have it!

Handy little tote from Kmart in a shopping bag! Everything fits in perfectly which means you can grab it and use it easily!

More to come later! Lots of edititing and reflecting to do!


Sunday, March 4, 2012

Updated Content Coming Soon!

The good news is that I will be more actively working on this blog, and adding more and more to it in the next coming months. I have made some decisions around employment which means I can more actively pursue these ideas and maintain ownership of them.

The way my brain and creativity work is though a balancing act of reflection and distance with active engagement. I am however pleased with the results! So, shortly there will be updates.

I am busily taking photos and putting images together for the formats that I was planning on using in 2012! I am also working through meanings in my head and documenting them.

I am also hoping to put together mock-portfolios for a 0-2 year old and a 2-3 year old. So situation permitting, I’ll be able to put those together.

I am excited about freedom and creativity!

Updates soon!!!