What is cooperation?

During our free exploration one morning, a child worked together with another child to construct a collaborative collage. The word ‘cooperation’ was introduced to sensitize the two children to the concept of working together in harmony. At morning meeting after this observation, a question was posed to all the children: What is cooperation? Here are the voices of the children:





“Cooperation means make something…”
“…together”, adds another child.
“I will show you something what we made together, then we made like these all together”
“Cooperation means they help and they help us when they fall”
“…and if somebody needs help we going faster and help”
“You could help people play together”

The following day, Mrs. Cancemi reads the story “The Giant Jam Sandwich” (delightful story of how all the people in town work together to make the wasps go away from their town)

“…that would be hard (to make a giant sandwich by yourself), you have to do it together
Mrs. Cancemi: “They are cooperating and working…”
“If we was in the book (in the story), we would help out”
“We can all help together and we can play together, we can play together, we can draw together!”

After our discussion, the children were invited to draw their ideas on the meaning of cooperation. Please enjoy their thoughts refined through the language of drawing.

What is cooperation? from YIS ELC on Vimeo.

Can I ride the bike?

In the month of September, during outdoor exploration,the children have enjoyed discovering different ways of playing with some of our equipment such as the hula hoops, balls, and big construction blocks. When the shed is opened to distribute these resources, the children are always curious about the bikes and ask if they can play with them. It was our intention to leave the bikes for the first month because we wished for the children to discover the outdoor natural environment, together with their friends, to invent and reinvent games without too much equipment.


This week, during E1 time alone, the bikes were introduced to the children. Between thirteen children, only six bikes were put out. We wondered: How will the children share the bikes? And if tensions were to occur, what strategies would the children use to resolve them? Could this provocation be the beginning of our inquiry into ‘systems’ on our transdisciplinary theme of “How we organize ourselves”?

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Beautiful paintings


One painting caught my eye. It was in the beginning of the school year in August, at a time when all the children are adjusting into a new environment. There is a small paining corner in the Atelier, a space which fits one person. It’s been one of the favorite places in the Atelier from past years and an E1 child finished her first painting there. She’s been rather shy and quiet, but her painting spoke boldly to me in that moment. Her colorful brush strokes are both lively and peaceful. I was moved by her creation.

Since her first visit to the Atelier, she paints every now and then in this corner space. Her second piece has a different touch from the first one, however, her choice of color is always intentional. She also uses the space of paper designing the layout of her creation as she paints.

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I provided her a sketchbook so that she could keep her paintings in it to revisit her works. I’m sure she will fill the yet blank pages with her beautiful paintings with care over time.

A balloon family

The children never cease to surprise me with what they create in the Atelier. One morning, a child`s creation amazed me by its design of a combination of wire and dried flowers.

A child  showed her interest in wire. After exploring with it for a little while, she began to form shapes by bending and twisting this material. She created similar shapes one after another, placed them in an arc and told me they were a balloon family.  Each of them has a unique shape, skinny one, round one, small and big one just as people do.


Then she took dried flowers, of Crape Myrtle and Hydrangea from our ELC garden and placed them below the balloons with care.


By placing these flowers, they seem to add a lively atmosphere as if the balloons are floating in the air. I can see the smiling faces on each of the balloons!


Drawing as a powerful tool for thinking

In E1, when we framed the first question, ‘What is a friend?’, many of the children used the word ‘sharing’. We wished to know more about the children’s concept and understanding of what it means to share.
What does to share mean?

Sharing is called sharing like a camera
How do you share?
We share in English, you take turns
Share that means sharing to give it to you
You have to share and you have to if there is a lot of people a lot of kids and you don’t have a lot of toys you have to share, like sharing a cow

In E2, we wished to know more from the children their ideas and understanding of what ‘being kind’ means to them.

What does kind mean?

Kind means like its like giving candy or something like that
…or food

If you are in E1, you can’t put your dress on… you can help to wear a dress.

Being gentle, reading a book

Kind is helping each other

After the children’s verbal contributions, we ask the children to draw their ideas.

In our readings from Ursula Kolbe, we have been informed that children use drawing as a powerful tool for thinking. ‘In different ways and at different rates, they develop a range of mark-making skills and strategies and use drawing for various representational purposes in their quest to make sense of themselves and their world.’ (p. 7)
As we embark on our ‘Who we are’ transdisciplinary theme and our inquiry  into social and emotional characteristics, how people come to understand each other, and how we build lasting relationships, we wish to pursue this inquiry through also drawing as non-verbal communication which enhances and refines the children’s thinking.

Sep 15, 2015 2-HD (720p) from YIS ELC on Vimeo.

A box! continued

Revisiting the children’s voices, it is clear to the teachers that the children have the concept of sharing, and that everybody should have a turn. We wish to elevate the children’s thinking, ideas and learning to another level.

At this meeting, we decide to use the magnet pictures of each child for the children to visual see and understand their ideas and further the concept of a fair system.

Concept: Function – how does it work?

With the use of the magnet dolls, we re-enact and role-play each of the children’s ideas:





The children now can visualize that the ideas are not fair

Natalie: Oh, the boys go first and the girls go second because we have three boys
Martina:  Yes!

Mrs. Cancemi asks the three boys to line up in front
The girls begin to observe other factors.
Ashley:  They all have black hair…
Natalie:  They all don’t have black shirts…
Ashley: His eyes look handsome…

There is a decisive moment when Natalie seems to be measuring the boys’ height.

Mrs. Cancemi: Natalie, it looks like you have an idea, what are you doing?
Natalie: …like who is big, measuring…

The children decide that it is not fair if the boys go first and then the girls.  All the children stand up and line up by height.

It has been delightful to observe, listen and to learn with and through the children.
We realize their learning from E1 on sharing and belonging to a group, and now as E2, how they are able to enhance their learning, not just ‘my idea, or your idea, but a new idea’.
The aspect of measuring as a mathematical concept is one which we would also like to pursue further with the children.



Voice of the sea

One E2 child reached her hand pick up a seashell and held it to her ear.


“I hear the voice of the sea.”

Then she put the seashell to my ear so that I could also hear it.

 I always enjoy these incidental but significant moments shared with the children when they try to listen sensitively to seashells. On that day, I was especially touched by her poetic expression, the’ voice of the sea’, not the sound of the sea, as many people describe what they hear from seashells.

I was curious to know about the sea she sees through the voice of the sea. I asked her if she could show it through painting. She seated herself at her favorite painting corner and applied colors on paper. Her brush strokes of blended washed colors created calm and peaceful feelings inside of me. The beauty of her painting speaks ever more strongly as I look at it with her poetic expression, ‘I hear the voice of the sea’.


A box!

As a provocation that will stir the interest of the children, a box is presented with an element of surprise. The children wonder what is under the cloth eagerly waiting what the surprise will be…
What do you think is under the cloth?

This is the beginning of our learning which inquires into the need for and construction of a system that forms our Unit of Inquiry on ‘How we organize ourselves’.

Natalie: Toys
Lerah: Puzzle
Rain: Eyes
Yanchuan: Leaves
Ashley: Plants
Martina: Flowers
Ethan: Toys
Kaito: A box
Daniel: Toys
Mrs. Cancemi: Shall we have a look?
As Mrs. Cancemi unveils the cloth, a box appears…
Natalie: (To Kaito) You are right, it’s a box!

Let’s look inside!

Nothing…there’s something written inside the box…

After several attempts at decoding what the message may say, the children ask Mrs. Cancemi to read the message.  “One child will take the box home to fill it with five treasures to share during the week…”

Who will take it home first to fill it with toys and treasures?

“Meee….!” say a chorus of children

How can we decide who takes it home first?

The following are some initial ideas:

We can do eeny meeny miny moe

Yuri, because she is beautiful

If you are wearing a dress

We look forward to observing and listening to how the children’s ideas, thinking and learning will evolve as we continue with our discussion in the following days.






Treasure Sharing

On Monday, the E1 children experienced their first Treasure Sharing morning. We were both excited and curious to discover what sorts of treasures the children will bring in to school.

We wondered:

How will the children choose to show their treasure?
Will they allow other children to touch and feel it?
What sorts of things will they say about their treasure?

All thirteen children sat in a circle, patiently waiting for their turn as they listened to the child showing his/her treasure.  Some children were willing to pass their treasure, and others showed it walking around the circle and felt comfortable for their friends to touch and feel their treasure.  We look forward to observing how this time of sharing will evolve.


One E1 child visited the Atelier for the first time. She followed her sister who is in E2 and explored a new space. After a while, she felt secure/comfortable enough to try something she was interested in by herself. She curiously looked at what an E2 boy was creating with natural materials, such as wood blocks and stones. Then she also took some natural materials and began to place them on a board. She worked in a quiet manner and left her completed creation needing any attention  from anyone and moved to a painting corner.

IMG_2334IMG_2341  “It’s jungle, she said.”  Her sister asked her about her creation in Spanish and later explained to me.


I looked at it from different angles. Her beautiful jungle stirred up my imagination and it made me want to crawl into or climb up her creation.


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