Playground Heaven: Katanning All Ages Playground

There’s a playground in Katanning, Western Australia. But it’s no ordinary playground. I heard an excited boy yell: “LOOK!!! It’s full of GINORMOUS slides!!!” as he sprinted towards them.

He wasn’t wrong. The Katanning All Ages Playground is amazing! [Never heard of Katanning? Click here for map]

It’s like this:Spiral slide at Katanning All Ages PlaygroundIsn’t this spiral slide fantastic?!
[click images to view full size - feel free to Pin them to Pinterest]

And this:Merry-go-round roundabout  at Katanning All Ages PlaygroundThis merry-go-round is powered by running “up hill” so it spins in the opposite direction. Get it moving and it spins for ages.

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Outdoor Kindergarten Programs Melbourne Australia

Alec @ Child's Play Music:

I’ve never reblogged a post before but this post by Lu-Ann from The Life-long Learner deserves a wider audience. It’s a fantastic in-depth literature review of outdoor kindergartens, focussing on the Melbourne experience and placing them into the context of the history of outdoor education in relation to Kindergarten programs.

Lu-Ann traces outdoor kindergartens back to Froebel, the founder of the Kindergarten movement, notes the historical movement away from Froebel’s original emphasis on outdoor learning into a classroom-based pedagogy, and the recent re-emergence  of outdoor kindergartens. She explores the wider context of the re-connection of children to nature, the questions, concerns and controversies raised about outdoor education, and looks at the policy and political context specific to Australian outdoor kindergartens.

It is a wonderful document, full of insight, and it displays a true depth of both practical knowledge and academic expertise. Best of all, it is fully referenced to both the academic and the more general literature relevant to outdoor kindergartens, and to the whole issue of re-connecting children to playing & learning in the natural environment.

It’s not just relevant to Australian educators: this article is exceptionally useful to anyone, in any country, who is interested in outdoor education, and it is especially relevant to people (or any organisation or school) who are considering the idea of introducing outdoor kindergarten/outdoor education in their country.

Enjoy!

Originally posted on The Life-long Learner:

“Using the real world is the way learning has happened for 99.9% of human existence. Only in the last hundred years have we put it into a little box called a classroom”. Nixon, 1997:34

Introduction

As Tim Gill explains, initiatives embracing Forest Schools and outdoor kindergartens have increased considerably over the last few years (Gill, 2009).

This enquiry will explore the pedagogical beliefs behind outdoor programs and why they have emerged in Melbourne, Australia, looking at outdoor play and its “importance as a pedagogical space for children’s play, learning and development” (Moser & Martinsen, 2010).

IMG_2463My inquiry will be in the form of a literature review, exploring the history of outdoor education in relation to Kindergarten programs, and the current emergence of specific outdoor programs around Melbourne, Australia.

First I shall look at the connection between Kindergartens and learning outdoors, examining Froebel – the founder of Kindergartens – the subsequent…

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Make a Balloon Bassoon – a simple reed musical instrument

Make a balloon bassoon

Finding simple wind instruments suitable to make with very young children is hard, but the balloon bassoon is perfect. Easy to make and satisfying to play, children love this instrument, not least because it’s loud! In my early childhood education music incursion programs this is always one of the most popular instruments.

Balloon bassoons are also inexpensive – about A$4 if you use PVC pressure pipe, much less if you use cardboard tube.  It sounds like a very cheap saxophone, and it only plays one note. Technically it’s more like a sax or clarinet than a bassoon, but hey! The name was to good to pass up!

How easy is it to make? I can make one from scratch in less than 3 minutes, including measuring and cutting the pipe. I use this instrument in my program to show children how easy and quick it is to make a musical instrument (I pre-cut the pipe, but that’s all).

Children from about 4 and up can make it themselves with some adult assistance – you will have to cut the hose for them, and they will need assistance and close supervision if they are going to saw the PVC pipe.

Children as young as 3 can play it, although most 3 year olds will need to have the instrument held for them.  4 year olds and up can hold it for themselves, but learning the right way to hold it takes practice.

The full instructions are below, but if you prefer a visual guide watch this video:

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Not A Stick

Did you know that the humble stick has been inducted into the Toy Hall of Fame? Few toys have the open-ended possibilities of the stick, and yet in many schools and early childhood settings playing with sticks is forbidden.

I think that is a tragedy. Sticks are childhood, just as much as mud and puddles and cardboard boxes and sofa-cushion forts. To deny children stick-play is to deny them one of the most powerful tools of the imagination. A stick can be anything a child can imagine. Anything.

Recently my friend Karen from Flights of Whimsy challenged some of us ECE bloggers to write poems celebrating the stick as creative toy. Click here to read Karen’s powerful post, her own poem, and a poem by Candy (the talented writer of the Aunt Annie’s Childcare blog).

Here’s my own poem; it’s called:

Not A Stick

Hold this for me, Dad – it’s not a stick.
Really it’s a wizard’s staff,
And we will fight dragons together,
Heroes, side by side.

But wait, Dad – it’s not a wizard’s staff.
Really it’s a fishing rod,
And we will catch fish together,
And dangle our toes in the water.

No, no, you see, Dad – it’s not a fishing rod.
Really it’s a shining horse,
And we will ride races together,
As the earth shakes beneath our hooves.

Oh, I know, Dad – it’s not a shining horse.
Really it’s a hammer,
And we will build a house together
To keep us warm when the cold wind blows.

And the best thing, Dad – do you know the best thing?
Outside there are more sticks,
So many stories waiting to be told:
Let’s find out what they are.

We’ll write them together.

All images licensed under Creative Commons licenses. Mouse over each image for image credit and license details; click image to go to the original image source.

Building a PVC Frame for Scrap Metal Musical Instruments

In my last blog post I walked you through selecting scrap metal for making musical instruments; now it’s time to show you how I built a strong and easy to build PVC frame and turned some scrap aluminium castings into a bell tree. I use these instruments in my Child’s Play Music hands-on play-based music incursions with young children in all kinds of Early Childhood Education settings here in Perth.

You can use this frame design for many different instruments – even for hanging old pots and pans. I have 3 frames: for my stainless steel cymbals, my aluminium gongs, and now this one for my aluminium castings bell tree.

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Turn Scrap Metal into Musical Instruments: Sourcing and Choosing Metal

Making musical instruments from scrap metal

In my Child’s Play Music early childhood education incursion programs I tell children that they can make music from practically anything that makes a sound – and it’s true! And if you are looking for metal to make your own musical instruments you can’t beat a real old-fashioned ‘scrappie’, a scrap yard piled high with with all sort of interesting metal bits carefully sorted by type of metal.

Metal + imagination = musical instruments

I design my instruments to be simple, safe and tough, because I work with very young children in all kinds of early childhood education and care settings here in Perth. Wherever possible I use recycled materials; I get a real kick out of upcycling scrap metal to make great sounding instruments that children love to play, and I love to spread that message of sustainability.

Stainless steel cymbals - CRASH!

Stainless steel cymbals – CRASH!

In this post I’ll be sharing with you:

  • What kind of scrap metal dealer to look for
  • The best scrappie in Perth, WA!
  • The kinds of instruments you can make from scrap metal
  • Types of scrap metal, and what instruments they are best-suited to
  • How to test the scrap metal for its sonic qualities
  • My most recent scrap yard score :)

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Bike+time+trust = learning to fly

 Toddler on Tricycle

It all starts here. Image source: Philippe Put. CC by 2.0. Click image for original source.

I wish I had had my camera with me, because just the other day I saw something extraordinary. Something so rare that I thought it was almost extinct. I was, frankly, both shocked and excited!

What was this rarity, this amazing vision? Picture this: I’m walking back from my local cafe/shopping strip on Main St in Osborne Park. An  inner-city suburb in Perth, Western Australia. I’m walking down Hutton St, a very busy main suburban feeder road that leads directly to the Mitchell Freeway entries a kilometre away. It’s around 4.30pm, so the rush hour has started and Hutton St is packed with cars, heading for the Freeway and home.

And then I saw it! Or should I say saw him. A young boy on a dazzling chrome and electric blue BMX bike came whizzing down Hutton St. He’s keeping up with the packed traffic, but he’s pumping hard on the pedals, out of his seat, and going for it.

A quick glance left and right, over both shoulders; then he sits back down on the seat, expertly signals for a left turn, lays the bike over and turns hard into my own street, Edward St. He’s still flying, and now he’s back onto the pedals and pumping hard again, and that’s where I lost sight of him. Extraordinary!

What’s so odd about that, you may say. Kids ride bikes don’t they? Well, do they? Or do they any more? And do they do it on their own, without mum or dad, on busy roads? They used to – Lord knows, I did when I was this boy’s age. But I simply cannot recall the last time I saw a kid – of any age – on a bike on Hutton St.

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Swallows and Amazons – How Childhood Has Been Stolen From Our Children

For me, “Swallows and Amazons” is the greatest children’s adventure novel of all time.  But this is not exactly a review: it’s more about how our present generation of children has had their freedom and lives stolen from them by society’s excessive fears for their safety.  Swallows and Amazons is all about trusting young children to take sensible calculated risks – risks that children today are denied.

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“Better drowned than duffers if not duffers won’t drown.”

So reads the telegram that the Walker children have been waiting for, in Arthur Ransome’s 1930 children’s novel “Swallows and Amazons”.  It’s the tale of the perfect summer holiday; a summer the children spend sailing a small dinghy on ‘the lake’ in the English Lake District, camping on ‘Wild Cat Island’.

Swallows and Amazons cover

This image may be copyright. It is used under fair right provisions for educative purposes only.

That telegram is from their father, and it is a mark of trust. A trust that his children are not ‘duffers’.  That his children can be trusted to act sensibly and to take responsibility for their own actions.  Alone; without adults to tell them what to do or how to do it.  Adults exist in this book, but they are peripheral.  The children are the active agents: they are the ones calling the shots and making the decisions.

If I can think of one novel that has influenced me more than any other it is Swallows and Amazons.  It is a book I come back to, a book that bears repeated reading, a book that defines both me and how I view the world.  When I say ‘one novel’, I don’t mean ‘one children’s novel’.  I mean ‘one novel, period’.  This is the book.

It has profoundly affected my life – I’ve not done everything that happens in the book myself, but I’ve done a thousand similar things both as a child and as an adult that I attribute directly to the effect of this book.  I’ve camped in the wild as a child, I’ve fished for my dinner, and aged 10 I was sailing high-performance racing dinghies.

A little later I was doing serious rock-climbing and abseiling. And then surfing the massive waves of SW Australia.  I’ve kayaked in shark-infested waters (you haven’t lived until a shark longer than your kayak cruises slowly past and ignores you completely!)  And I’ve lain on my back in the remote deserts of Australia and marvelled at the glories of the night sky.

And I’ve done them all safely and responsibly, and I seriously doubt I would have done any of them without Swallows and Amazons, simply because the book tells children “you can do exciting stuff – so long as you are sensible about how you do it”.  And I took that message to heart, and it changed my life.

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The Future of Education is Play

There’s a lot of questioning now about “The Future of Education”.  But the answer is simple: The Future of Education is Play.

Images of children playing in natural environments

You can right click on this collage and select “view image” to see a larger version.

Image sources: let the children play; Irresistible Ideas For Play Based Learning;
Precious Childhood; Flights of Whimsy

I get a lot of emails from people all around the world about Child’s Play Music.  But this one touched a chord with me, because it’s about the Future of Play-Based Learning.  And to me that means it’s about the Future of Education, period.

It’s from Malissa Carey, a 20 year old student from Kansas, who is now studying at Concordia University.  Let me quote from the email and you’ll see why it means so much to me.

My name is Malissa Carey. I am from Princeton, Kansas but I attend school at Concordia University in Seward, Nebraska. I stumbled upon your website and have fallen in LOVE with your program. I am double majoring in Early Childhood and Special Education and will continue to get my Masters in Music Therapy and hopefully a Doctorate.  I would love to get to experience one of your classes but I don’t think that will ever get to happen, at least not in the near future.

I just wanted to tell you how much I appreciate what you are doing and how much I want to base my future classroom like what you have! I am so very passionate about children’s learning through play. In a time where most teachers are worried about teaching to the test and hitting standards it’s refreshing to be able to just experience play and something that God intended us to do… to just live.

Anyway, now that I have ranted and raved about how much I love what you’re doing I just want to simply say, THANK YOU!  Sincerely, Malissa Carey.

Now, it’s lovely that Malissa likes Child’s Play Music so much – I’m honoured and, indeed, humbled.  But what struck me most was Malissa’s passion for play-based learning.

I am so very passionate about children’s learning through play … it’s refreshing to be able to just experience play and something that God intended us to do… to just live.

I know only too well that play-based learning is under serious threat in the US (and to a lesser extent here in Australia too). As Malissa says, we are living “in a time where most teachers are worried about teaching to the test and hitting standards”.

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Music play is play!

I firmly believe that the best way for young children to learn music is through free, hands-on self-directed play.  Formal music lessons can be wonderful for older children but for young children nothing beats exploration and free play.

I made this poster about music play and I think it explains my beliefs about young children and music very well.  It got quite a few shares on Facebook and it seems to have struck a chord with people.

Poster about music play for children.

Let me expand a little on what I mean by “Music play is play!”:

Play is the fundamental way that children learn and make sense of their world, and music play is simply one of the many forms of play. But what is “play”?

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