Thursday, 14 May 2015

Images to support Listening workshop reflections May2015

The following images will help those people who have attended one of my workshops to reflect on the experience... there will be no words... (except a few links to previous posts I have written) - as the idea is that the images support individual thinking and reflection of the day and to hopefully deepen that by a second chance to see the images...

I am not even going to put them in the same order... as I want to shake it up a bit ... and some images cannot be shared online - I only have permission to use them in workshops...

 2015 - a year to listen

reföections on a project  how listening is woven into our daily routine

The importance of the spoken language   - a post about listening being more than words...

 The bubble game - here I wrote about how we play it...
 but it DOES keep developing...

 Listening and interpretation

 Together on the Square Project 

 The Together Painting
 Kandinsky inspired art

A hundred languages ...  a hundred ways to listen

 read Listen Dance for more information

for more information on this activity please see best position for listening

Well I hope this is enough for some good reflections... and please take the time to explore other posts here... there is lots on play - indoors and outdoors, philosophy and many more on listening... plenty of my Reggio journey, visits to other preschools, etc etc etc....

Saturday, 9 May 2015

more inspiration from Milan

Here are a few more images from Milan that have inspired me, so I thought I would share them with you...

I have always wanted a series of shelves with various seeds and spices etc in them.. side by side  for myself and children to be inspired by the colours and textures of nature. This image is from the shop of the future at Expo 2015.

 I loved the use of the mirrors in the ceiling and floor together with the flowers hanging down. It created such a sense of magic. But mirrors and reflections - and deceptions are always very intriguing... the feeling of endlessness - and the use of light together with the mirrors. The image is taken in the Morrocco Pavillion at Expo 2015
And yes, that is me and my husband...

This was taken in the Slow Foods area of Expo 2015... a simple food art - a table painted with blackboard paint, some chalks in a brown paper bag and a selection of beans, lentils and seeds to create with.

Not quite sure how this will be sorted every day though... on this large scale... but this could be doable on a small scale, as sorting the beans/lentils afterwards could be a part of the process.

This painting by Gino Severini, called La Chahuteuse (a dancer, who danced a more raucus version of the cancan) got me thinking about the portrait project I have been doing and will no doubt do again next year with those children who will begin their final year at preschool. I looked at this and wondered if it would be possible for the children to look at themselves through a kaleidascope and draw their self portrait as they saw... all defracted... and if I purchase a few different kinds then we could really get a few interesting ways of seeing themselves. I am all for one at introducing new ways of looking at things... and I am curious to see whether the children would draw themselves similar to this, or piece things toegther and draw as usual... and also what they would think about seeing themselves so different...

Anyway - these are just 4 images... I still need to get a whole load from my husbands phone... as I took too many films and things so I ran out of batteries before half the day was over... Not just to share on the blog, but to share with my children at home and at work... there are many different reasons to take photos and films...

Thursday, 7 May 2015

Me and my autism

 There is more and more research about autism available to read and to gain a better understanding of what autism is like.
Yesterday I linked up this post from Nursery World "How children with autism see the world"
as someone who has autism myself this makes so much sense... it has never been about just seeing details... even though detail has been clear... the problem has always been filtering out stuff...

I often think of Alison Gopnik when she wrote/said 

" Well if we want to think about a way of getting a taste of that kind of baby consciousness as adults, I think the best thing is think about cases where we're put in a new situation that we've never been in before -- when we fall in love with someone new, or when we're in a new city for the first time. And what happens then is not that our consciousness contracts, it expands, so that those three days in Paris seem to be more full of consciousness and experience than all the months of being a walking, talking, faculty meeting-attending zombie back home. And by the way, that coffee, that wonderful coffee you've been drinking downstairs, actually mimics the effect of those baby neurotransmitters. So what's it like to be a baby? It's like being in love in Paris for the first time after you've had three double-espressos. (Laughter) That's a fantastic way to be, but it does tend to leave you waking up crying at three o'clock in the morning. "

Alison Gopnik, TedTalk. How babies Think

It IS a great way to see the world... I see so much, feel so much all the time... and I have an ability to make the links between ideas... but it IS exhausting...

This is why rest time, being in small groups, often, even alone time fairly often, is important to recharge batteries. For the children I work with (whether or not they have autism) and also for myself.

My son with autism and ADHD shows this too... when school asked him to draw his home he could draw not only what was in our windows in our apartment building but also what was in everyone elses windows (along with extra crocodiles and lizards roaming the garden... imagination and reality have always gone hand in hand... as they have for me).

It wasn't until last summer that I made the connection that I had autism, but as soon as I did everything started making sense. Before I could never understand why when group decisions were made not everyone followed them - in some places I have worked I ended up being the only one following... I could never understand why people would agree to stuff they could not/would not do.
I could never understand why my husband could be so easy talking about things in the past... until I realised that when he remembered stuff he did not experience the same emotions as before... now this comes in handy as a preschool teacher, as I remember my childhood I experience the emotions I had then... it allows me to really understand children as a child with adult understanding - it really does not help when remembering stuff with negative emotions as reliving them is not always so fun. Big social dinners are awful because focussing on one dialogue when I can hear all of them is a nightmare... I actually have to work hard at listening... and I am exhausted by the end of it. It doesn't mean that I don't enjoy big social events... it just means I know I have to relax afterwards.

There is lots more I could write about as to why I realised I have autism... but I feel I don't want to really to go into detail here... but I will say it was like being freed when I found out... it was not so much a key to understand myself, but a key to understand everyone else... not so much my brain is wired differently (ie that I feel different), but that other people's brains are wired differently from mine (ie that they are different).

I feel I was lucky, I loved school, I could find my groove there... my son does not love school and, as yet, has not found the learning rhythm for him there.
I do remember that my teenage years were hard, trying to make sense of the social world, but I didn't know, then, that was what the problem was. I do have huge blanks between 15 and 21 where I don't remember events or people as a way of managing all the input.

Many people think that autistic children don't have empathy. It is certainly not the case for me, or my son... the problem tends to be there is too much empathy and to be able to "survive" sometimes you have to switch it off before you explode - or avoid certain situations. The older I get, though, the easier all of this is to manage. I remember my dad saying, when I was a child, that "The older we get the further we see" - and being able to see further has enabled me to have control over the now... many young children do not have control over the now (or feel worry over it) because they cannot see further down the line as to how it could be.

I feel the way my brain is wired is a gift. It allows me to be creative. It allows me to listen to children as both a child and an adult. it allows me to see the big picture... in great detail - and the support I have had in my life means I am able to put all of this to my advantage - to make connections. And support means I have always been given time... as a child I spent hours and hours daydreaming alone... and now as an adult I get regular child-free time at home to be on my own and recharge.

The purpose of this post?
Well, to share that autism is not a problem... it is everyone else that has the problem. Thinking differently is a gift to the world... it opens up possibilities, it allows us to see new perspectives. What people with autism need is the space and understanding to get on with their thinking... and that expecting them to always adapt and not everyone else adapting is not an inclusive world and means great wonders could be missed.

I have always been able to adapt... I feel lucky in that - and it is why I feel great sadness that my son is not finding it as easy to adapt... BUT I do know that things will turn out great for him when he his released from having to think in a specific way in school and allowed to use the full potential of his wonderful autistic mind.

Monday, 4 May 2015

Children Park... my reflections from Expo 2015 Milan

This weekend I visited Milan, Italy... a weekend away with my husband, and also a chance to check out the Children Park at Expo 2015 Milan that had been designed together with Reggio Children (a huge pull for me to visit).

I have to say I ended up being a bit disappointed by the Children Park - with all the money that had obviously been invested my overwhelming feeling was that Italian children must like lining up more than Swedish children... as this was a set up that required lots of waiting - and not a park that can be sauntered through and explored organically... but in a very fixed way with rather set outcomes - which surprised me enormously.

Each section or activity started with a sign - the first instruction ALWAYS being "queue up".
When we visited we were stopped by security... "no adults... only those with children" - a playworker there hurried over and welcomed us... NO-ONE was there... the reason for no adult without children is to give children priority - since there were no children (a few came later) we were allowed to come in... and the workers got a chance to put their training to the test.

The first session was smells... the bells cam down and you got to smell a herb, then you were released by the bell (not something to do if you feel claustophobic as those things do not go back up so fast and it feels like you wait a while inside them) - you went to the herb garen inside a perspex bov with round holes for touch and smell to see which of the three herbs was inside the bell... pressing the button of the one you thought it was... This was not so easy - two I got easily, one I could smell nothing inside the bell and the last I am convinced was wrong as it smelled of lemon verbena and not basil... two very distinctive smells.
This is an activity that can VERY easily be replicated without such pomp and in a more organic way.

The next activity was collecting water dripping out of tubes in the center of the flower/roof - at the sound of the beep you empty the water into a sink, the playworker than pressed a button and the surrounding flowers got steamed... I can imagine that this will feel lovely on a hot summer day...

The next activity was standing on a sensor and being weighed... a collective weight... and that it was the same as x number of squirrels etc... and then of how a squirrel eats, poops out a seed that grows and then provides the fruit that another squirrel eats and poops out. Loud in your face screen time.

The corner activity was a screen with seats for children to sit and watch films.

The next was my favourite where you wnet inside and your shadow on the screen started to grow into a tree. This was lots of fun.


The next activity was riding bikes - the more that pedalled at the same time the more water and music that was produced. I loved the trikes and different sized bikes and the fact there were opportunities for those in wheelchairs to pedal too with their arms/hands.

The last hands on session was the task of fishing up plastic balls with a magnetic rod (strong magnets that had a tendency to get entwined and stuck with each other when adults were fishing... I wonder what its going to be like with children???)
You then open the ball (hard to open) and there was a message inside. The idea was to keep the message/drawing created by a child and then go to the table and create a new drawing a message to put in the ball... before sealing in the ball the message could be scanned... and a few days later, after being censured by Expo authorities, it would be out up on the screen surrounding the ball pond. The sealed ball could then be put in the tube by the pool and it would be shot up into the air through a tube in the centre of the pool to land in the water.

You then left the arranged area of the park and could play on the giant fruits... for me this might not have the great impression that they were hoping for, as I libve right next door to a fruit park here in Stockholm with a banana slide and strawberry spinners... so these odd pastel fruits just seemed a bit odd... but it did not stop me testing them out. It would have been interesting to have seen children play on them.

In fact it would have been interesting to see how the entire park was used... and also to see if there is a cultural difference in waiting... but coming from the UK... land of great queuers... I still feel this is not a favourite past time of children.

So, yes, I was disappointed. I had hoped that the interactions would have been more about awakening curiosity rather than a funfair type of learning... if there was learning. But to be fair I did not get to see many children interact (just one family came later with 2 children... there were a few other adults as well) - and it is through the observation of children that you see where the learning is.

The staff here though were very good... and if one was to judge the Children Park of the staff then yes, Reggio Children did a FAR better job of those that trained the staff in the wine-tasting area of the Italian Pavillion - where they stood around and watched you rather than came and explained what the wines were and what sort of choices could be made... from this point of view more was invested in the children.

I do think that there were other areas of the Expo that suited my approach to children more... small pockets here and there that offered me inspiration - and very much so when I visited museums in the city during the rest of my stay.

More posts from Expo - the inspirations... and from my Milan trip will come in the coming weeks.

Sunday, 26 April 2015

Listening 7xTEDTalks

 Seven TEDtalks - one for each day of the coming week.... and all connected to listening.
I hope you take the time to listen and to be inspired.

5 Ways to Listen Better - Julien Treasure 
the importance of listening skills as part of communication.

Evelyn Glennie shows how to listen a wonderful TED talk about a deaf percussionist explaining how she listens.

Listening to Colour... Neil Harbisson what happens when a totally colourblind person uses technolgy to hear colour. Very interesting.

Want to help someone? Shut up and Listen - Ernesto Sirolli - how Ernesto talks about helping others can be a great approach as a teacher with children - to listen to each person.

Metaphor and Metacognition -Alise Shafer Ivey - one of my favourite TEDtalks - listening and creative thinking with young children.

The Linguistic Genius of Babies - Patricia Kuhl - a fascinating talk about how babies listen and learn language - and how important human interactions are for language learning...

Why architects need to use their ears - Julien Treasure - I had to share another by Julien Treasure as I feel this is so important... your third teacher should also be helping children (and you) with listening. How are the accoustics in your setting? Do they aid listening? Does the design enable focus to listen too?

Monday, 20 April 2015

Gingerbread house

As part of the Hansel and Gretel exploration we have been making a gingerbread house... (pepparkaka in Swedish)

Last week we measured and painted the paper brown... the children working out how to make brown... and then using their bodies to cover the paper. They also decided that there should be three windows... a circle, triangle and square.

Today it was backed with plastic, to give a little extra support and then attached to the wall... I am secretly quite pleased with the look of how the uneven wall makes it look like there is a chimney!! I have not mentioned anything to the children, as I wonder if they will make the same connection.

This week we will be making decorations to turn the pepparkaka house into a house of sweets! I have an idea of adding flavourings to the paints to give it the extra sensory painting experience...

The walls are supported by shelves - which the children can use inside of the house... so it is a bit like a den/hidey-hole. The house is in the same room as the forest that is developing/growing there - keep an eye out on my facebook page as I tend to leave a few extra photos there too...

I wonder how the children will play with this... will it be just for a witch... or will other play be inspired? Only time can tell. The children will no doubt use their creativity to invent the play inspired by the room.

Saturday, 18 April 2015


This evening I will be co-hosting another #ReggioPLC global twitterchat together with Diane Kashin who writes at Technology Rich Inquiry Based Research. (and this time last year I was packing my bags to visit Diane in Toronto - where we talked and talked and explored many areas of early childhood learning together, and she shared some settings in Ontario that opened themselves to me... sharing their journeys of discovery and learning with me with minds eager to learn about other perspectives of early childhood from Sweden. - AND I am also feeling excited by the fact that in a month's time Diane will be coming to Stockholm to continue this exchange of perspectives in real life and not just through facebook, twitter and blogs..)

Anyway back to this evening's chat about creativity

I think very often when we talk about creativity there is an automatic connection with the arts... but creativity is so much more than this... 
I have written several times about creativity and if you are interested and have the time then please check them out... there are in fact 181 posts (this will make 182) with a creativity connection... but the below posts are some of those that explore WHAT is creativity a little more

Listen with dance - yes there is art and dancing involved in this... but for me this is about the creativity of the teacher... about looking for ways to support children's learning and development in new and interesting ways.

Light Play - using the overhead - but more importantly time for me to play with the materials... if I am to be a creative teacher then I too need to have time to play.

Empty Spaces - explores how the third teacher/the setting can be a support to creativity... do we have too many things available, does that hinder creativity, does too few have the same effect?

Children learning together - this is another post from my trip to Iceland (like Empty Spaces) - and show's how children are creativ in their play... how they learn through testing things out - BY THEMSELVES - and that this is creativity as it is original thinking for them... even though as adults we know it has been discovered before. I think sometimes we forget just how much original thinking children have.

Light and Play Installation - another post that shows that we as teachers need time to be creative - and to dare to test this creativity. I had no idea whether or not this light installation would work... it was an experiment... which turned out not only beautiful, but there was so much learning.. for the children and myself.

The many hops of hopscotch - creativity can be as simple as children working out many different ways of hopping

Rainbow power - creativity is also having the confidence as a teacher to not plan everything... to listen and to respond to the children. In this sense creativty does require that you have a knowledge/idea bank filled with possibilities, waiting and ready - and to equally be able to pull these ideas apart and reassemble them in a way that is suitable to your own group of  children.

Traditions - reflections on them - creativity on the part of the teacher is also required in questioning traditions and why you do the things that you do. To find the right questions, to be open to all kinds of answers... to discover new ways of exploring traditions in order to make them more relevant and meaningful.

Does Boredom give birth to creativity? - and important question... what is creativity, what is boredom...

Paper Exploration - using materials in different ways from expected... allowing the children to explore mediums... giving children the potential to get creative in ways that we cannot imagine.

The Competent Child - by stepping back and giving children time, and believing in them allows them to be creative in their problem solving.

The importance of rest time on creativity - a post exploring how rest time is important for children/adults to be creative (rest and sleep will always be important for me as my husband is a sleep researcher and I have had the chance to learn a great deal from him on how the brain works and develops and the importance of sleep and rest in this process)

construction - there is always a great deal of creativity in construction... not only in the constructing process but also in the choice of materials presented and how they are presented.

Creativity and the artist - explring that creativity is so much more than art

What is creativity? a post written on my reflections of participating in Boulder Journey School summer conference in 2013

Sometimes I think we really do gives ourselves as educators far too little time to excerise our creative muscles... to play to "mess about" as David Hawkins recommended we do. I also think that sometimes we are so busy trying to encourage people to think outside the box that maybe we have missed the point... that young children have not yet been put in a box to need to think outside of... as my daughter said "I don't think outside of the box, because my box is bigger on the inside and travels through space and time". Of course my daughter loves Dr Who and this is a reference to that... but it got me thinking... we are so pre-occupied thing that everyone has the same box that we have not even considered the fact that all these boxes could be radically different from each other and also contribute to a collective creativity.
Of course I do understand what the phrase is referring to... but I am begiining to think more and more that this refers to us adults and to children conditioned by schooling to think in a specific way. As Loris Malaguzzi talked about the hundred languages (hundred meaning many, rather than specifically just a hundred) - may there are a hundred boxes of creativity to explore too... and that thinking outside the box means we might just be missing a whole load of creative potential that young children have in their unique boxes... before they are formed to the "one box" (one language) of school.

As teachers we are obviously adults that have been conditioned into the one box thinking - but maybe we should not be just thinking outside this box... but maybe rediscovering our own original box. A place of unique creative safety - and then start communicating with each other and sharing the contents from our creative boxes so that we can expand and grow.

How can we support educators (and I will write that rather than teachers... as we are many working in early childhood that are not official trained teachers, but are still part of the educational process)

How can we find our hundred languages, our hundred boxes of creativity, our hundred ways of listening ?
How are we given the time and play/messing about opportunity to reconnect with the creativity of our childhood?