Outdoor Kindergarten Programs Melbourne Australia

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!

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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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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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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A Defence Of Homework – The Kind That Works

“Ban homework before third grade; support children’s play”.  That was the banner headline from an article from The Christian Science Monitor that got quite a few shares recently on Facebook. And a fair amount of exposure through Twitter too.

Bored child doing homework with Alfie Kohn quote

How much learning is happening here?

Image source: Kelly Arnold of Better Learning Solutions

The article’s author, Bonnie Harris, makes a heartfelt plea to ban homework for young children because the ever-increasing load of homework is eating into the time that they have for that most vital of learning experiences, free play.  How much time less for free play, and how much time more for homework?  The figures are staggering:

A study done by Sandra Hofferth of the University of Maryland found that from 1981 to 1997, American kids ages six to eight spent 25 percent less time engaged in free play and 18 percent more time in the classroom. Their homework time increased by a shocking 145 percent. Her updated research in 2003 shows play time continuing to decline and study time increasing yet another 32 percent!

Free play is vital – it’s how children learn resilience, personal competency, social skills, problem solving and a myriad other things that research shows are the best predictors of future academic success.

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Let Me Play! (Trust Me, I’m Learning)

This poster exploded onto the early childhood pages on Facebook yesterday.  Within hours of Jeff from Explorations Early Learning, LLC posting it to his Wall shares hit the hundreds and as I write it’s been shared over 1,800 times (possibly much more – some Pages have been sharing the image without attribution to Jeff and his Page). [Update: it’s now been shared almost 5,000 times as at 3/10/12, and it’s also available for purchase from Jeff’s website]

I am 3 - let me play poster

Source: Explorations Early Learning, LLC

It seems to have struck a chord; the vast majority of comments have been along the lines of “I love this!”, “so true!”, “yay!”, “amen!”, “I want to give this to all the parents at my centre/preschool!” and “I want to give this to all the teachers at my child’s centre/preschool!”

And those last two comments are, of course, the point.  Because learning through play is something that is increasingly getting lost in the relentless drive towards academic programs for preschoolers, and unrealistic expectations of children’s behaviour and needs.  More so in the US (where Jeff is based) than here in Australia, but even here many preschool programs are less play-based than they used to be.

There is a tendency to push the curriculum downwards – what would previously have been expected of Year One students is now increasingly being taught in kindergarten, and what would have been taught in kindergarten is being taught in preschools. Worksheets and standardised testing are supplanting construction play and home corners.  Outdoor play is being replaced with desk time.  Children’s needs are being overruled by society’s demands.

And this goes against 100 years of solid research into child development and how children learn.  Academic preschool programs that focus on direct instruction are worse than useless: they are actively harmful to children’s development in both the short and long term.

Similarly, programs that have unreal expectations of children’s behaviour – programs that require 3 year olds to sit still, to keep their hands to themselves, to stand in line, to be patient – are setting children up for failure.  Children with perfectly age and developmentally appropriate behaviour are being labelled as problems.  Children are being punished with time-out or other aversive systems for behaviour that is not only normal – it is desirable!

Everything that children need to learn comes through play, and developmentally appropriate quality programs that provide extensive opportunities for learning through play provide the best environment for children to flourish.

Now understand: I am not arguing that preschool programs should be a free-for-all, in which children are merely left to play without adult support and guidance about behaviour. Again, the research is unequivocal – such laissez-faire programs are ineffective at best, and harmful at worst.

But unless we as a society recognise that young children need extensive opportunities to learn through play, that academic direct instruction models are harmful to them, and that their “undesirable” behaviour is normal and developmentally appropriate, we are are failing them.

The adverse outcomes will be felt for generations; we must not allow that to happen. Play and play-based learning must be nurtured, it must be at the heart of every educational program whether that is child care, preschool, kindergarten or school.  As professionals or parents we need to stand up and defend play; to capitulate to the forces that oppose play is to fail both our children and society.

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This post has been featured on It’s Playtime at let the children play

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Like this post? Make sure you check out the rest of my web site!

And you can find Child’s Play Music on Facebook

You might also like these blog posts:

The Best Playground in Perth – The Naturescape

Music in ECE: Yes, You Can! Part One

Water Play, Music Play & Children: A Natural Combination

14 Blokes Who Blog About Early Childhood – make that 27!

Males who work in the early childhood field are rare.  I mean, really rare.  Under 2% of the workforce seems to be the generally accepted figure. And males who blog about ECE and/or childhood seem to be even rarer.  When I started researching this post I knew of just 7.  Thanks to Donna and Sherry at Irresistible Ideas for Play Based Learning and Greg at Males in Early Childhood I now know of 14. Make that 29 blogs by 27 authors!

The standard is astonishingly high.  They range from classroom blogs to blogs about the nature of play & childhood to the politics of early childhood education to parenting and points in between.  There’s something to be learned from all of them.

This was originally going to be a really long post describing each blog, with links to favourite posts, & photos, bios, yada, yada.  All my blog posts seem to end up as major essays and this was no exception.  Time to fight back!

So here in random order are the 14 29 blogs (no, really random, I used this random list generator, at least for the first 14 – the rest are in the order I became aware of them).  Just go and read them, OK?

Males in Early Childhood

You can also find Greg on Facebook at his Males in Early Childhood Education Page.

ABC Does

You can also find Alistair on Facebook on his ABC Does Ltd Page.

Rethinking Childhood

You can also find Tim on Facebook on his Rethinking Childhood Page.

Brick by Brick

You can also find Scott on Facebook at his Brick by Brick Page.

Literacy, Families and Learning

You can also find Trevor on Facebook on his Literacy, Families & Learning Page

Marc Armitage

You can also find Marc on Facebook at his Marc Armitage at Play Page.

Identity crisis? No, I’m a male nursery teacher!

You can also find Mr Shrek on Facebook at his Mr Shrek Page.

The People Garden

You can also find Noah on Facebook at his The People Garden Page

Jeff’s Blog

You can also find Jeff on Facebook at his Explorations Early Learning LLC Page

Look At My Happy Rainbow

You can also find Matt on Facebook at his Look At My Happy Rainbow Page

Sand and Water Tables

You can also find Tom Bedard on Facebook at his Sand and Water Tables Page.

Rusty’s Blog

You can also find Rusty on Facebook on his EarthPlay Page

Teacher Tom

You can also find Tom on Facebook on his Teacher Tom Page

Hopkins’ Hoppin’ Happenings

You can also find Brian on Facebook on his Hopkins Hoppin Blog Page

crayons, wands, and building blocks **NEW**

You can also find Sergio on Facebook on his crayons, wands, and building blocks Page

Enabling Environments  **NEW**

Marc doesn’t appear to be on Facebook, but he’s on Twitter @marc_faulder

@ko **NEW**

This is an anonymous blog.

Enrique Feldman **NEW**

Enrique does a monthly blog post at PreK & K Sharing but does not currently have a regular blog of his own.

You can also find Enrique on Facebook on his Living Like a Child Group.

Former Child **NEW**

I don’t know if Dan Hodgins is on Facebook

Mr Forest Schools **NEW**

I don’t know if Mr Forest Schools is on Facebook

My Hullabaloo **NEW**

My Hullabaloo is no longer being updated, but is still up. Matt’s new blog can be found at mattBgomez

You can also find Matt Gomez on Facebook on his My Hullabaloo Page

Bill Corbett’s Blog **NEW**

You can also find Bill on Facebook on his Cooperative Kids Page

Not so much a blog as a website, but there are some great articles and information from Adam Buckingham, a man who does exactly what the website title says: turn trash into treasure in amazingly creative ways for early childhood settings.  I don’t know if Adam is on Facebook.

A Man in Child Care **NEW**

You can also find David Wright on Twitter @ Mr_Paintpots.  I don’t think he’s on Facebook.

Jim Gill’s Words on Play  **NEW**

You can also find Jim on Facebook on his Jim Gill Page

Lighting Some Fires **NEW**

This blog appears to have been removed. I’m not sure if Liam McNicholas is also on Facebook

childcaresurfboatcrossfitdad **NEW**

You can also find Tony on Facebook on his Tony Kee- Childcaresurfboatcrossfitdad Page.

If you know of more blogs about early childhood by males pop the link in a comment and I will add them to this post.  Thanks!

_________________________________________________________________

Like this post? Make sure you check out the rest of my web site!

And you can find Child’s Play Music on Facebook

You might also like these blog posts:

The Best Playground in Perth – The Naturescape

Music in ECE: Yes, You Can! Part One

Water Play, Music Play & Children: A Natural Combination

Music in ECE: Yes, You Can! Part 2: Singing

As an early childhood educator you are the single most important component of your children’s play & learning environment.

What you do – how you structure the environment, what program choices you make, what you value, how you interact with children – sets the tone for all the learning that takes place.  And that is equally true for music in early childhood.

But as I said in Part One, many early childhood educators feel less than competent when it comes to music.  I’m here to tell you that you ARE competent – but you may not FEEL competent.

So let’s get you feeling competent, because the research shows it’s your confidence that counts not your musical abilities.

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Music in ECE: Yes, You Can! Part One

Is anybody out there feeling a little less than totally confident about your own ability to provide a vibrant music program in early childhood settings?  Worried that you don’t sing well enough or you aren’t a good enough musician?  Not sure what a good music program looks like, let alone how to implement one?

I’m betting there are quite a few hands going up out there.  Because you are not alone: research shows that music is the single most-feared subject area for educators.  More than math, more than science – it’s music that we feel inadequate about.

So if you are one of the people bashfully raising your hand – this five-part series is for you.  I’m hoping to take you from:

I can’t to I can! 

From fear to fun!

How much fun?

This much fun!

Two girls having fun playing a metallophone

Looks like fun to me!

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Music – outdoors is where it’s at!

If you want to do a great play-based music program in early childhood settings, providing a music-rich environment is 90% of the battle.  But sometimes that can be difficult to achieve in a classroom – music play can be loud! Sometimes too loud!

Which is why your outdoor area is the best place for your music program – and why I’ve written a blog post for PreK + K Sharing with tips and tricks for taking the music outside.

From which of your “real” instruments work best & how to set them up, to building music stations and encouraging music to movement, it’s extensively illustrated and has a hands-on practical focus.

Outside is the place for music play!

Outside is the place for music play!

Check it out now at PreK + K Sharing, the cooperative early childhood blog.

PreK + K Sharing
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Water play, music play & children: a natural combination

Water play – it conjures up visions of children scooping and pouring, floating things and sinking them, measuring and washing and splashing and laughing.  Huge fun, and there are a thousand things to be learned at the water trough.  But water play … and music?  It doesn’t seem like a natural combination but it’s amazing what you can do with a few household items, some stuff from your garden shed and a water play trough!

Water play and music play with floating metal bowls

Make sure you have different sized bowls available

My first exposure to water and music wasn’t working in child care – it was watching the great percussionist Trilok Gurtu dipping gongs, bells, cymbals and sea-shell rattles into a bucket of water during a John McLaughlin Trio concert many years ago.  The unearthly tones he produced delighted me – shimmering waves of ever-changing tones that swooped up and down in pitch.

I have a very broad definition of music.  To me, music is sound organised in time.  All sounds can be music, and with water play we can explore:

  • rhythm
  • pattern
  • tempo
  • pitch
  • timbre (tone)

These are the building blocks of all music, and water offers a unique playground for exploring them.  It also offers a fantastic way to explore the science of sound in a way that is meaningful and understandable for young children.

We aren’t going to be creating songs (although singing may happen); we aren’t going to be creating performances (although that may happen too).  Instead this is about exploration and learning through the joy of free play.  It’s going to be loud, it’s going to be wet and it’s going to be fun.  Get your water play clothes on (budgie smugglers optional) and let’s get playing!

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