The children are excited to be back after the break. They have been sharing their adventures and reconnecting with their friends. With the change of season, our children are experiencing many new discoveries. We have spring colors in our mini-atelier. We have two beautiful sakura trees that give us sakura petals to play with this past week. The ants are working nonstop looking for food. We see earthworms crawling around in our garden. Strong wind let us play with our kites and catch sakura petals on the playground.
Our slideshow this week tries to capture these precious moments of childhood happiness when Spring has finally sprung.
“It’s Flower Season!” from YIS Academics on Vimeo.
The process of building a sense of community takes time. We are at the end of our second week of school and the children have already shown several hints that they are beginning to develop a sense of community, friendship and trust among each other. We have observed gentle gesture of kindness when someone is sad. A helping hand when someone needs support. A friend who invites others to join in a game. A question asked when other’s actions contradict what feels right. Sing a song to cheer up a friend. A child sharing a piece of fruit when there is none left on a plate.
In many cultures eating and enjoying food is considered a communal act, a shared pleasure for everyone involved. Here at our ELC, we strive to cultivate a sense of community; a larger community which consists of our ELC children and their families. Our snack time is just one of many opportunities for the children to experience larger community outside of their own immediate family. They are learning to socialize, to share, to take turns, to be considerate and to take responsibility as part of being in a community.
We must not forget that one of the most important links between people and food is the principle of pleasure: the pleasure that derives from using the senses but also the pleasure of discovery … pleasure of play and the pleasure of company, which at the table becomes conviviality. (from The Languages Of Food, Reggio Children)
Below is a video of how the ELC children, with the help of our parents, are developing their sense of community through snack time.
Fruit Snack Time from YIS ELC on Vimeo.
As we enter into a new school year, we wonder how we can begin to establish relationships with each other, both children and teachers, that helps us to find meaning of what we do, what we say, what we encounter, what we experience. Sharing our holiday memories has given us an opportunity to learn, to understand and to appreciate what is important and joyful to each child in his/her experiences outside of school with family and friends who he/she loves dearly. Whilst the experiences may be different, each holiday memory has sparked off some similar experience, and thus memory, in the lives of the children, which helps them to make connections and find similarities in their personal life with each other. We feel we have begun the path of coming to understand one another, with hope to build lasting relationships now and beyond.
“Hawaii, this is me…Mickey Mouse. I go with K. and my family, mama and papa. I go on a train, I look for pineapple and banana.”
“Rakhi celebration. Horse riding in India. It’s chocolate, it’s a gift. I celebrate Rakhi, my sister put on…”
“Fireworks. I go on an ocean boat. I go to Tokyo Tower. I go beach I was a baby. I was touching the fish, tiny fish.”
“The beach. This is the restaurant. These flowers are not real, these ones are.”
“I went there. Birthday. I’m tying a rope. This one is fly.”
We are seeing many children opening up to their peers through this sharing process. The children really show their enthusiasm and interest in their friends’ stories. Our discussions flow from one topic to another as pictures are passed around. A picture of a beach reminds a child of his beach holiday and he says, “I go to Hawaii.” Another child adds, “I go to Hawaii and Korea.” The next child joins into the conversation by saying, “I went to Thailand.” While one child remembers her previous holiday and added, “I went to Thailand too.” All willing and eager to find similar experiences in their lives to share and feel the sense of connectedness that is beginning to evolve.
Almost a year has gone by since we embarked on our ambitious project, In Dialogue with the Park. Today we celebrated the long-term project and brought to life each narration of the park that was translated into the children’s expressive languages. The children were so excited that their families were coming to see their projects, they were bouncing with joy. In the afternoon the Piazza, playground and even the park appeared transformed by the efforts of the children. The spaces opened up insights of knowledge into the strategies, creativity and imaginative qualities of the children by letting their fun-loving, playful, imaginative and passionate ways of seeing give direction to ours and amaze us. It was a remarkable afternoon as the children proudly shared with their parents all that they had achieved. Truly showing how much and in what ways creativity, play, expression and the aesthetic sense together with the times and rhythms of reflection and knowledge are capable of combining and transforming, of emotion and analysis, empathy and connection. Through out the year we have been deeply touched and amazed at capabilities of the children and this celebration was a splendid gathering of children, their families and teachers to acknowledge how we have come to understand ourselves and one another through our remarkable enriching relationship with the park that can be seen through the windows of the ELC.
Over this year the E2 children have collaborated on projects with their Grade 4 Buddies. This has proven to be a magical time of supportive and reciprocal relationships where all the children have been mindful to respect the intentions and actions of others, showing that multi-age groups can work together in partnership. This Thursday was the day of the project presentations. The ELC was filled with an irresistible atmosphere. This was a precious occasion on many levels. The E2 children were very proud of their projects and had been active participants from the start, so were delighted to be able to share their efforts with their E2 friends and the Grade 4 children. There was such a sense of support for each other, an acknowledgement of the difficulties, as it had not always been easy to work in groups of older and younger children and then satisfaction and pleasure in exhibiting their achievements. We hope that the connections, partnership and participation between ELC and Grade 4 will be an ongoing dialogue in the times ahead.
One Grade 4 child brought to our attention the value of documenting the process and took responsibility for filming the groups as they worked. His video is below…
We are fortunate to be able to observe the relationships the children cultivated with their surroundings, materials and tools in which they use and explore on a daily basis. Through careful observation, we can see these relationships develop throughout the year. The children seem to have an innate desire to explore new ways of understanding the world around them. A simple way in which to learn more about something is to be persistent (being persistent plays a major part in learning more about something.) We observe the children take such pleasure in newfound skills and tools to manipulate all sorts of materials. The beaming joy the children display when they accomplish something is remarkable to witness. Their motivation is purposeful, self-directed and self-gratified as their ability and understanding increase.
One of many great examples that we would like to share is about a child who comes into class one day with an idea in mind. She has been using clay and feels quite comfortable with it. She automatically chooses clay as her medium and begins to work on her creation. She starts with oil clay and creates her first model using all sorts of tools to explore boundaries of clay. After many attempts to form a freestanding sculpture, she realizes that oil clay does not offer the rigidity her creation needs. The next day she tries again with white clay then she adds small beads to her sculpture. Her sculpture does not flop; it stands up the way she molds them. She seems very happy with the outcome. The teacher tells her that it still needs to dry before she can paint it. She nods and puts her creation away to dry. Her willingness to wait shows that she is developing an understanding of clay property in both its moist and dry state.
This experience enriches the child’s ongoing relationship with clay; it increases her understanding about how clay works and how different tools can be used to manipulate clay to create something meaningful. The child is able to transform a conceptual idea into a physical form; expressing herself in a language that she is gradually becoming more fluent.
This week we asked the children what they would like to share with their families through the blog. The children made suggestions about personal and group projects they had embarked on this week and shared experiences such as Japanese calligraphy at the ICJC and visiting the park. All of these events had a common thread running through, that of relationships. The shared joy with which the children entered the ELC after the Winter break, the delight they felt in seeing dear friends again, playing together, being together.
We were also deeply touched by the ways in which the children greeted each other on Monday morning and exclaimed their pleasures in re-connecting. We observed gentle hugs and excited conversations as holiday experiences were shared. The room was filled with purposeful activity as the children deepened relationships with friends. It seems that their most important task is to build relationships with friends, trying to understand what friendship is, always in search of relationships. This reinforces our belief that relationships are central to the learning process and they have the power to shape, extend and challenge learning in multiple ways. As projects unfold this Semester, relationships will permeate all that we do, helping us to gain a better understanding of ourselves and each other.
The atmosphere in the ELC was one of great collaboration and purpose as children and adults worked together with a common goal of creating a most thoughtful gift for others. The E2 children had planned to make special books for the children of The Lady of Lourdes Baby Home. Books that would need to be written in both Japanese and English and would need an element of surprise, such as a pop up or lift up flaps, showing that they were deeply thinking about the desires of the children that they have only met once, yet showed an understanding of what might bring them pleasure.
It was wonderful to observe the relationships deepen between families as everyone shared this experience. We appreciate the parents taking time out of their busy daily lives to selflessly spend time with their children and without hurrying, completely surrender themselves to making a gift for others. We were deeply moved by the willingness of the parents to participate in what was a quite challenging task. The children had high expectations of their parents’ abilities in constructing pop up books and publishing stories. The parents showed us their talents and amazed us with skills in paper craft, writing in another language, patience, leadership and collaboration. The set of books are a fine collection of everybody’s energies and ideas, of valuing everybody’s contributions. The project did much for strengthening relationships between our own community of parents, children and teachers as well as, forging connections with the wider world.
How can we construct the dialogue with the park as a shared experience with the parents?
The teachers wish to establish a willingness to learn together, a joint construction of meanings, the sharing of values, and identification of possible new opportunities for the children. So this year in our declaration of intent, we have decided to inquire into what it means to be human through our dialogue with the park. The park will become our site for in depth study and research. It will be a project where nature and identity and culture are interwoven. Creativity, play, expression and the aesthetic sense will come together giving empathy.This broad theme will encompass field trips outdoors, many possible explorations and the diversified development of an ecological curiousity in children and teachers alike, resulting in a better understanding of ourselves and others.
We invited our families to a meeting at the start of our inquiry into the park, so the teachers could share their intentions and so as to co-construct our inquiry together. The parents were asked to consider their emotional connections with the park and the possibilities for exploring our identity and relationships through the park which offered insight into our ELC families’s points of view.
- What is the park?
- How do I feel about myself when I am in the park?
- What are the possibilities for developing our relationship with the park?
- What are the possibilities for using the park as a way to explore our identity?
The parents shared the significance of the park and the values that they place on nature and being outdoors, through observations they had made and the experiences that had shaped them and their desires for their own children.
The teachers were delighted that the parents enthusiastically and openly discussed their points of view and suggested ways in which they could become involved in our inquiry to make it a richer experience for the children. One salient point was the need to have opportunities to connect with nature and the value of simply being outside, freeing your imagination and joyfully marveling at the wonder the park beholds.
We are looking forward to making the parent’s suggestions a reality as we work together on this project over the year.