Tag Archives: learning environment

Fantastic!

I couldn’t think of a better title than that for this blog post.

My head is so full – millions of excited thoughts and ideas looking for a way out.  Things that had me pacing the floor last evening.  Things that kept me awake through the night.  So many things I want to do RIGHT NOW! 

I’m trying to do what she said…..b-r-e-a-t-h-e.

So why am I feeling like this and who is she?

Yesterday I attended an all day workshop presented by Lisa Murphy – the Ooey Gooey Lady.

I’ve known about her for a long time – I follow her on Twitter – and yesterday I got to see her in person.  She also has a Facebook page and a YouTube channel.

I have never laughed so hard or had so much fun at any workshop ever!  Her presentation could rival any comedy club performance but it also contained a serious message.  A message that everyone there already knew because she was “preaching to the choir – the people who needed to be there were also the people who were not willing to give up their Saturday to be there.”

Those people would be the ‘resident poopyfaces’ – the rule makers — the ones who constantly say ‘No!’ in response to developmentally appropriate behaviour.

She reminded us that we don’t have children with behaviour problems – we have environments with expectation problems.  Instead of trying to get the children to come to our programs we need to create environments for them to be who they are. We can’t control their behaviour but we can control the environment.

“Never underestimate the power of what you do – good or bad – crystallizing moments happen in the ‘right’ environment…..You can’t build the house of academics if there is no foundation and the foundation is built through PLAY……Facilitate don’t instigate.”

So we played.  We sang songs.  We created things.  We played with messy stuff.  We had FUN!

There were 140+ of us in a hotel conference room.  If we can do it there our children should be able to do it in our programs – if we provide the right environment.

So I am re-energized and ready to provide ‘organic enthusiasm’. Thank-you Lisa!

The History of Our Yard

Fourteen years ago when I first opened my childcare home this was what the backyard play area looked like;

There was also a ‘deck’ area – old pallets covered in plywood – that is not visible in the above photo.  You may also notice the lack of soft surface under the play structure but the cribbing is there because adding pea gravel under the play structure was something I had to do for licensing.

Back then my view of outdoor play was essentially unstructured, high energy, physical activity.  My own children had played here – two of them are in this picture.  They usually played outside by themselves for hours.  I rarely ventured out with them until ‘supervised outdoor play’ became part of my childcare program.  Then I regularly watched the children play – and I was afraid.

Seven years ago my yard looked like this;

There was a large deck area with riding toys and space to play organized games.  There were no toys in the gravel area – just the climbers. After all, someone might trip over a toy if it was buried in the gravel.  It was here in this playground that we had the only injury that required medical attention.  I pondered over the question on the incident report “Was there anything you could have done to prevent this injury?”   I had been three feet from the child that fell from a two foot high platform onto twelve inches of pea gravel.  Maybe I shouldn’t let them play outside.

Actually, the children probably wouldn’t have argued if I had decided to ban outdoor play from the program.  They didn’t like to play out here for long.  Often it took only about 15 minutes before someone asked if it was time to go inside yet.  I took a long look at the outdoor play space and started to see everything that was ‘missing’.  All the things they liked to do inside that they couldn’t do outside – and I’m not talking about TV and video games.

This is my yard today;

Places to climb and crawl;

Places to balance, jump and explore;

Places for science experiments and imagination;

Places for art, music, and sharing stories with friends;

And so much more.  It is a lot like indoors – only better.  Now we can’t wait to go outside.

The Makeover

I regularly make changes to our learning enivironment. Sometimes changes are necessary to address a problem we are having within one area.  Sometimes the changes are due to the addition of a new item.  Whatever the reason for the modification these little changes add up over time and occasionally an area looses its functionality and it is time for a complete makeover.

This was the case in our workshop area.  Originally it had been just for tools. The tool racks were pegboard doors from an old cabinet — I reuse/recycle whenever possible.  The size of these doors determined the height of the shelf for the piano keyboard.  The width and depth of this new storage area were determined by the size of the cots which are stored behind the tools/under the piano.  It always bothered me that there was unusable empty space above the cots.

Over time, the small musical instruments were moved here when the sunroom became the ‘quiet time’ area. The tools and musical instruments were combined in the same area.

Later, the large piano was replaced with a smaller one to make room for the indoor garden and home to our stick insects too.  What was once ‘the worshop’ had become ‘the worshop/music/science/garden area and everything was unorganized.  It was time to fix this.

During my ‘vacation’ I reorganized this area to make it more functional.  Now it looks like this;

Tools and musical instruments are separated.  The extra space between the cot storage and the science area became a shelf for the piano.  The pegboard hooks were rearranged to display the tools and musical instruments more efficiently.

In case you were wondering how I get those pegboard hooks to stay secured to the boards — I use plastic coated wire on the back of the boards like this;

Now everything is organized again — at least until the next time I change something 🙂