By: Diane Kashin, Ed.D, RECE. This spring, I shared the experience of spending two weeks in Adelaide, South Australia, with Cindy Green, my long time colleague and critical friend. The trip produced a few blog posts and many cherished memories of people we met and places we visited. Cindy wrote about touring some inspiring spaces. I wrote about reflections on the button and agate workshops that we presented. These posts were inspired by the amazing early childhood community in the wonderful place that is Adelaide. During our time “down under” Cindy and I were moved by example to start our own documentation books for visual reflection. One afternoon we sat in our lovely apartment/hotel and shared some of our thoughts and ideas. I shared that there were words swimming in my mind as I had been thinking of Reggio-inspired practice. I wrote some of these down – agency, autonomy, affordances – being, belonging and becoming – collaboration, capacity, connection – and realized that I was on my way to creating the ABCs of ECE! Weeks have passed and I have come back to my notes to finish the alphabet.
I decided to make a game of it! To play the game, here are the two simple steps:
- Decide on one word connected to early childhood education for each letter of the alphabet.
- Type the words into the comment box on this blog post. You might also be interested in creating a word cloud of your words. I used wordle for mine.
For some letters of the alphabet there is a plethora of possibilities. Part of the challenge is that you have to pick only one per letter. For some letters, coming up with just one word may be challenging. I am inviting you to accept the challenge and play! After all, challenging play is something that children love. It involves excitement and adventure. Children and adults need challenge in order to move forward in their development (Solly, 2015). If you are faced with a challenge to find a word, search the Internet for words beginning with that letter. Cindy, who created her own list of words in her documentation book, came up with the idea of asking our friends at Louise Kool and Galt to donate a prize to those who would like to play along.
To enter the draw for an amazing prize just post a comment with your words. You can also write a blog post with letters/links/photos and include the link to the blog in a comment to this post. In keeping with the theme of ABCs, Louise Kool and Galt has generously donated a set of wooden upper case letters and a set of lower case letters valued at $169.99 CAD each! Here is an image of the upper case letters.
For my list I also included links, photos or quotes. Here are my words!
A is for Agency. I heard this word a few times when we were in Adelaide. I was reminded of the importance of children and adults developing and maintaining a sense of agency. Why does agency matter? “We have a sense of ‘agency’ when we feel in control of things that happen around us; when we feel that we can influence events”. When children feel that someone is listening to their words and ideas and providing opportunities for them to make their own decisions then we are supporting the development of a sense of agency. I want this for children. I want this for early childhood educators.
B is for Belonging. In Ontario, it is the expectation of early learning programs to cultivate authentic, caring relationships and connections to create a sense of belonging among and between children, adults, and the world around them. This is how learning happens.
C is for Capacity. There are so many words that begin with C to choose from but for me the idea of capacity is vital. If we believe in the capacity of children, families and ourselves, we elevate images and possibilities.
“All people, and I mean scholars, researchers, and teachers, who, in any place have set themselves to study children seriously, have ended up by discovering not so much the limits and weaknesses of children, but rather their surprising and extraordinary strengths and capabilities, linked with an inexhaustible need for expression and realization.” ― Loris Malaguzzi
D is for Dewey. John Dewey, the great American educational theorist, died in 1952. His work and his words continue to inspire me.
E is for Emergent. My world changed when I discovered emergent curriculum. I am forever grateful to Elizabeth Jones for the work that has shaped my philosophy to teaching and learning in early childhood education.
F is for Frames. In Ontario, the Ministry of Education has just released the Kindergarten Program (2016), which has added four frames to the four foundations (Belonging, Well-Being, Expression, and Engagement) of How Does Learning Happen? (2014). The four frames align with the four foundational conditions needed for children, educators and families to grow and flourish. They are conditions that children naturally seek for themselves, and they apply regardless of age, ability, culture, language, geography, or setting.
G is for Grit. This is another word I heard in Adelaide that made me think and want to know more. It turns out that grit is one of the seven characteristics that Canadian-born journalist Paul Tough says are keys to success. The others are: curiosity, self-control, social intelligence, zest, optimism and gratitude.
H is for Holistic. Holistic education involves a head, heart and hands approach to learning. I am drawn to the work of Forest School Canada which owes much to the work of Johann Heinrich Pestalozzi as an example of holistic education.
J is for Joy. That one was easy! “Nothing without Joy!” ~ Loris Malaguzzi
K is for Kindness. “Wherever there is a human being, there is an opportunity for a kindness” ~ Lucius Annaeus Seneca
L is for Love. Love is Love.
M is for Metacognition. Thinking about thinking is so important for children and for early childhood educators. I look to the words of Jerome Bruner, the influential psychologist, who just recently passed away at 100 years of age.
N is for Nature. Children belong in nature; it is in their nature. Being able to play freely in and with nature is vital to children’s healthy development and supports their learning in wondrous ways. I am grateful for my work with the York Region Nature Collaborative, which affords me many opportunities to live by these words.
O is for Outdoors. Children need to be outdoors and to have ample time for unstructured play. I am excited to be working with on a research project with Okanagan College and the Canadian Child Care Federation to develop an online training program that will provide participants the opportunity to explore how children’s outdoor play is influenced by the adults and peers, space, places and materials such as loose parts.
P is for Play. Plain, and simple! Access to active play in nature and outdoors—with its risks—is essential for healthy child development. Children’s opportunities for self-directed play outdoors in all settings—at home, at school, in child care, the community and nature need to be increased.
Q is for Quiet. Listen and silent are spelled with the same letters. I have learned over time about the importance of listening not to respond but to truly hear. To do this I seek quiet.
R is for Reggio. It is the place called Reggio Emilia that has inspired me to continue on a journey of new paths and possibilities.
S is for Self-Regulation. I am learning from the work of Dr. Stuart Shanker about the importance of self-regulation and how it is different from self-control. I believe this is essential learning for all ECEs.
T is for Time. Give children the gift of time. Time to play. Large blocks of time for unstructured, freely chosen play.
“Children need the freedom and time to play. Play is not a luxury. Play is a necessity.” ~ Kay Redfield Jamison
U is for Utopia. When I engage in utopian thinking it leads me to “an awareness that another world is possible – that early childhood education, for instance, could be thought and done differently”. It provides an opportunity to vent “longings and desires for a better way of living and being” (Moss, 2015, p. 13).
V is for Vygotsky. There is so much to learn from Vygotsky.
W is for Words. Language matters in ECE. Again and again I find myself coming to terms with terms.
X is for Xenophile . Coming up with a word for the letter X wasn’t easy. I am a person who is interested in different cultures and customs. I am especially interested in learning about how others from around the world interpret Reggio-inspired practice. If this is you too, join me for this workshop with the York Region Nature Collaborative.
Y is for Young Children. Young Children with Rights.
Z is for the Zone of Proximal Development. Vygotsky saw the child as part of a social construct, actively experiencing and internalizing the environment, making meaning of it, and in turn, influencing the environment, just as the social situation influences the child. Vygotsky’s view of the way social and individual growth is intertwined gave rise to his idea of a creative area where learning happens most easily, terming it the zone of proximal development (ZPD). Through scaffolding, learners are able to cross the zone of proximal development.
I hope this blog post has encouraged you to cross your own zone of proximal development. Thank you for the generous donation of the upper and lower case letter sets from Louise Kool and Galt! Thank you to Cindy for continuing to be my critical friend and editor! Thank you for reading and please play along and join the challenge of the ABCs of ECE! Good luck and I hope you win the prize! The lower case letters are featured below.