Explore the “Wonder of Learning” with Friends!

Explore the “Wonder of Learning” with Friends!

by Peggy Haack, WECA Outreach Coordinator

Have you seen the internationally acclaimed Reggio Emilia traveling exhibit, The Wonder of Learning, yet? It’s in Madison at the Central Library and the Overture Center for the Arts until May 1, 2019. You don’t want to miss it!  And it’s FREE.  The exhibit has been described as “a catalyst for far-reaching change in how societies value early learning as a tool for making the world a better place.”  To me, this sounds like our purpose.

If you want to explore the wonder of it all with friends, I invite you to one of our remaining “Days of Exploration.”  This is an opportunity to experience the exhibit with other professionals and engage in facilitated discussion about what you see… what you think… what makes you wonder… what would you like to try with the children in your care.  Sign up and join us for 3 hours of Registry credit on March 30 or April 27.

WOL Exhibit

Pictured here are the conveners of the first of three Days of Exploration, an event co-sponsored by Wisconsin Family Child Care Association, Satellite Family Child Care, and WECA:  Janell Moran, Leah Zastoupil, Peggy Haack, Emily Hefko, Brandee Crabb, and Amy Christiansen.

If you can’t make one of these days, here are some other ways to incorporate the exhibit into your professional development plans:

  • Stop by the beautiful Youth Services Room of the Central Public Library, 201 W. Mifflin Street, Madison and take the FREE self-guided tour. Check in with the librarian to get the Study Guide.  Don’t forget that a portion of the exhibit – a very cool portion – is next door at the Overture Center in the Playhouse Gallery.  Ask a librarian if you need directions. After viewing the exhibit, you can receive 1.5 hours of Registry credit on your own by responding to several reflective questions online.  More information on how to do this is at the library.
  • Gather some friends and make it an adult Field Trip to downtown Madison!  You can make a whole day of it by also visiting the near-by Children’s Museum and/or the State Capitol. If you come during Week of the Young Child (April 8-12) there will be a children’s art show in the Capitol in collaboration with Wonder of Learning called “Opening Doors to Early Learning.”
  • Can’t get to Madison, but want to know more about the Reggio Emilia approach?  Try a new online workshop: An Introduction to Reggio Emilia, approved by the Wisconsin Registry for 3 hours of Registry credit.  To register, visit https://kodo.learnupon.com and search “Reggio Emilia”.  No prior experience with Reggio-inspired practices is necessary. There is a $35 fee for this course.

 

Teaching in a New Era- What Do We Know About Using Technology in the Classroom?

by Paula Drew, WECA Conference Team and Former Executive Director at Discovery Center

Join us this year at the annual WECA Conference to hear from keynote speaker Lisa Guernsey as she gives insight into 21st century learning opportunities.

Kids with tabletBack when I was an early childhood educator, “technology” was used to refer to things like the classroom typewriter, boombox and disposable camera. These items were interactive by nature and students usually used them in collaboration with others. There wasn’t ever a time where my co-teacher and I had to think critically about if they played a valid role in our classroom.

Fast-forward a decade and as a director, this topic was much more complex in our field. The advancement of interactive screens posed a whole slew of unanswered questions for me: Can this technology help teach new concepts? How is it going to create or hinder relationship? What about creativity and risk taking? Does digital media encourage a sedentary learning environment? As my team and I worked through a decision to possibly purchase iPads for the classrooms, it was difficult to know where to begin. I brought our concerns to our licenser, our city accreditor and fellow directors in the area. In the end, I couldn’t gleam a consensus as to whether this was going to support learning or create havoc in our classrooms.

After months of debate, we took the plunge and purchased the iPads. To start out, we practiced caution and used the new device in ways that emulated older technology; we took photos, listened to music, wrote letters and drew pictures. Slowly we experimented with language apps to help communicate with new English language learners. We added a three-dimensional design game that utilized the camera technology to copy in real time what children were doing with tangrams in front of the screen and then added movement to it on the screen. Our teachers learned by experience that it was essential to experiment with a new game or app on their own before introducing it to the students (not everything out there is DAP or otherwise appropriate). Even though we could find some interesting activities to offer our students on the iPads, there were still a lot of concerns about the valuable time they ate up during the day, both teacher prep time and student engagement time.

By now electronic media has been around long enough that studies have been done to assess all types of ways that it can affect developing minds. Recently, the American Academy of Pediatrics released a report stating that excessive use of digital media can lead to an increase in body weight as well as sleep and cognitive delays in young children. They urge that children under the age of two only be exposed to screens while using video chatting with loved ones and for older children, a limit of an hour or less per day.[1]  Now that we know this, new questions arise. If children are experiencing screen-time at home, can we justify including it at school too? In addition, what we’re also learning is that time limits are not the only thing to keep in mind when using digital media.

UW native Chip Donohue and his colleague Roberta Schomburg write in the September issue of Young Children, Technology and Interactive Media in Early Childhood Programs that intentionality should be paramount to anything digital media related in the classroom. They suggest being mindful of the following ideas:

  • Not just time limits- it’s about the quality of the content and how it relates to your student’s life experiences.
  • Cooperation – using technology should bring students and educators together, not signal isolation for the child.
  • Think positive- use smartly vetted resources that can support healthy social emotional development.
  • Representation – it’s your duty to make sure that your choice of games, apps, digital stories etc. for your students show images that represent all your students. Your students will look to them for confirmation that who they are matters.
  • Encourage creativity- students can use media to document, tinker and develop new ideas.
  • Citizenship- remember to talk about safety rules when using on-line platforms. [2]
Lisa Guernsey

Lisa Guernsey, author of “Tap, Click, Read: Growing Readers in a World of Screens” and “Screen Time: How Electronic Media-From Baby Videos to Educational Software-Affects Your Young Children.”

This fall WECA welcomes Lisa Guernsey as the keynote speaker for the 2018 Wisconsin Early Childhood Association annual conference. She is the deputy director of the Education Policy program and director of the Learning Technologies project at New America. She has researched and written extensively about the use of digital media as an educational literacy tool, what she calls a “21st-century literacy opportunity” and has two thought-provoking books to show for this work.

Lisa’s work bridges the digital divide of do or don’t in the classroom and argues that it’s our duty to introduce the use of digital media to our students. She’s concerned about access of educational opportunities for all children. She rightly states that not all children can interact with digital media at home but will be required to know how to work with it for most of their lives. She also argues that the right type of media can help our DLL students continue to flourish in both languages while at home and at school. Lisa will help us create a greater understanding what Chip Donohue and Roberta Schomburg talked about in terms of intentionality and then she’ll pave a path of how to move forward with the vast array of e-books, apps and other multi-media options that can help to further a child’s learning at an individualized pace. [3]

I truly believe that quality early childhood education has the means of creating a more equitable and bright future for all children. Being an educator in the 21st century requires expertise in a vast array of developmental domains. We also must be able to collaborate with families, the greater community and additionally be aware of our social justice responsibilities. Part of this is asking those tough questions about anything introduced into the classroom and we need to have solid resources to guide these decisions. Please join us October 25-27th to go in-depth with concepts related to learning with digital media responsibly in your classroom.

You will have three opportunities to hear Lisa Guernsey speak:

Thursday, October 24th  at 7:00 pmScreen Time: How Electronic Media—From Baby Videos to Educational Software—Affects Your Young Child. This is a community-wide event and Lisa will speak through a parenting lens when addressing digital media and children.

Friday, October 25th 8:30 -9:30 am – Lisa will kick-off the 2018 Annual WECA Conference as our keynote with Tap, Click, Read: Growing Readers in a World of Screens.

Friday, October 25th 9:45 – 11:45 am – Go in-depth with Lisa Guernsey in this after-keynote breakout session.

Other tech-focused sessions to catch at the 2018 Annual WECA Conference

Friday, October 25th 9:45-11:45 am El Uso de la Tecnología, ¿Buena o Mala para el Aprendizaje de los Niños (Spanish) with Harry Salas, Maestro de Música y Movimiento y Tecnologia, Lighthouse Christian School

Friday, October 25th 12:45 – 2:15 pm Putting Technology to Work for Learning and Play with Heather Kirkorian, Associate Professor

Saturday, October 26th 12:45-2:15 pm Wired and Tired with Angel Stoddard, Instructor, UW-Milwaukee/Spark Early Learning

Saturday, October 26th 2:45-4:15 pm Wait! Wait! I Missed it! with Allison Kaplan, Faculty Associate, Information School, University of Wisconsin – Madison and Emmi Lohrentz

Resources:

What Educators Can Do

The Three C’s: Content, Context, and Your Child

How to Use Digital Media to Support Children’s Home Language


[1] Media and Young Minds. (2016). Pediatrics, 138(5). doi:10.1542/peds.2016-2591

[2] Donohue, C. & Schomburg, R. (2017, September). Technology and Interactive Media in Early Childhood Programs. Young Children, 72-78.

[3] Announcing a Tap, Click, Read Toolkit to Promote Early Literacy in a World of Screens. (2016, October 03). Retrieved July 16, 2018, from http://www.tapclickread.org/announcing-tap-click-read-toolkit-promote-early-literacy-world-screens/

Talking to Parents about the Value of Playing with Loose Parts

Wisconsin Early Childhood Association had some excellent workshop sessions and engagement in our Play Space at our Fall 2017 conference on the topic of “loose parts”.  To extend your learning, we’d like to introduce you to blogger Lakisha Reid and her site, Play Empowers.  She has some valuable insights to offer early childhood professionals and parents!  What follows is her blog post on loose parts play.

Let Loose!
By: Lakisha Reid

Bits and Pieces of Loose and Lost parts are all the rage right now at Discovery Early Learning Center.  Treasure hunting is what the children are calling it and it’s filled with imagination, detailed storylines, and loose parts as props to extend the narrative.

Let Loose: Loose PartsI have only noticed this way of play since I let go of providing invitations and displays of loose parts in themed baskets, trays or whatever way I was presenting the materials.

Loose parts are just that, LOOSE and they are found in all shapes, sizes holding a wealth of possibilities in every corner nook and cranny of our indoor and outdoor classroom.

Finding, collecting and gathering these materials is chalk full of whole child learning. When children hunt for materials they are mobile, actively engaged and working towards a goal, they assess materials for their value in their play. A game of shipwreck calls for loose parts that hold a certain set of characteristics while a game of house has a different loose parts agenda.

They use their large and small muscles to transport and collect materials building on to their script as they go. This sparks language and takes children into a sort of heightened state of imaginative play where they are embedded into the script in such a way that it feels so real.

Let Loose: Loose PartsThey sort, classify, and count materials, they think critically about the alternate uses for open-ended materials and extend their ability to play symbolically, holding fast to their ideas and points of view.

This process of collecting or “treasure hunting” seems to be vital to the building of their play. It’s like they build up to a climax where their reach that zone, the zone where they all buy into the storyline, they are fully in character and what seemed hard or challenging is now the possible, what seemed above their physical and developmental potential becomes second nature.

It takes time, it takes space, and it takes adults who do not feel the urge to over organize.

We can provide a pretty array of loose parts for children to play with and explore, or we can design spaces using the loose parts concept in all areas of the space allowing children to explore parts that are truly LOOSE.

So what does this mean? 

  • Allow children to mix and move materials from one area to another
  • Allow materials to travel from inside to outside
  • Provide creative tools for transporting (bags, boxes, buckets, baskets)
  • Don’t feel the need to arrange or display loose parts perfectly.
  • Let loose parts at play stay at play (no sorting at the end of each night)
  • Provide loose parts with a variety of properties ( size, shape, weight, purpose etc)
  • Replace closed-ended toys with open-ended loose parts.

The benefits outweigh the mess! 

  • Language development  While at play with loose parts children have to share their ideas, the uses and purpose of each part and how it works in their play scenario. They have to build the play script part by part as new materials are collected and introduced to the play.
  • Mathematical concepts As children gather a variety of loose parts they are having real life experience with “stuff”. This naturally supports sorting, counting, classifying by characteristics such as size, color, shape or purpose. Children embed mathematical ideas and data gathered from the hands-on experience with these materials.
  • Scientific concepts Large loose parts require creative ways of transporting. This often beckons scientific thinking, simple machine creation, and testing of ideas and theories. concepts such as gravity, balance, weight vs strength, textures and more!
  • Physical development Loose parts play is PHYSICAL running, digging, lugging, balancing, and sorting.   Children are active and a-buz as they collect and play with large and small loose parts.
  • Connection Loose parts seem to generate a hive mind type of play, a play where children are all collecting, piling, scripting and engaging in the same developing play scenario. This type of play develops a sense of connection and almost an unspoken agreement to keep the play alive. Large parts require many children to work together, share ideas and set plans as a group. After reaching their goal they rejoice as a group allowing their collective success to pull them closer as play partners.
  • Meeting natural urges in play Children’s natural urge to collect, connect, position, contain and transport are met through loose parts play.
  • Social concepts When children play with loose parts they are met with the task of sharing their ideas, contributing to the narrative and accepting the points of view and contributions of others. They have to compromise and negotiate.
  • Imaginative play Loose parts provide endless possibilities. Children play symbolically as blocks become telephones and boxes serve as spaceships. Loose parts come alive when met with the imagination of a child.

LOOSE PARTS IDEAS LIST: 

Shells are a perfect loose part for children.Here I have compiled a short list of loose parts to get you started! The possibilities are endless!

Natural Loose Parts 

Rocks
Bricks
Logs
Leaves
Sticks
Large branches
Dirt/sand/water
Shells
Pine cones
Bones
Corn
Corn cobs
Tree cookies
Small and large logs
Bamboo cutoffs
Seagrass
Mulch
Hay bales
Nuts
Seed pods
Sea glass

Sorting balls.Other Loose Parts 

Blocks
Wooden bits
Marbles
Tires
Large pieces of lumber
Buttons
Tubes
PVC pipes
Bottles, cups, jars, buckets
Boxes
Shoes
Rope
Balls
Bowls
Hose cut offs
Dominos
Board game parts
Bike parts
Keys

So let loose with LOOSE PARTS PLAY and watch as your children develop as players and people. 

Lakisha Reid is the owner and educator at Discovery Early Learning Center, co-host of Dirty Playologist Podcast, Keeping it Real with Kisha Podcast, and founder of Play Empowers.