Session 1: Art and ICT
Rodger’s (2012) advocates outdoor learning as being a positive factor in promoting children’s confidence and overall well-being. During our first Art/ICT session in the woods we were able to explore independently and had the freedom to create our own story. We were able to experience first-hand how digital literacy can be used to support children’s learning and development. Using hats as a stimulus we created a story which could be developed and used as an activity with children. This could be further developed by adding sound or dialogues. It was a valuable experience in showing how liberating outdoor learning can be for young children. It was a particularly wet day but this did not hamper our spirit and certainly proved that there is no such thing as bad weather!
Thinking back over previous experiences, an excursion to Sweden profoundly impacted upon my view of practice and outdoor learning was. Sweden provides an exemplar of effective ECEC practice which is considered to be amongst the ‘most developed in the world’ (Melhuish and Petrogiannis, 2006: 2). This can be attributed to range of factors, such as professional development and training of practitioners, to socio-economic and cultural factors (Himmelstrand, 2011). Enshrined in Swedish practice is the notion of children ‘acquiring and developing knowledge and values’ (Ministry of Education and Science, 2010:3) Learning is interwoven with the care of young children and practice focuses on supporting children’s holistic development and there is a strong emphasis on outdoor experiences (Alvestad and Samuelsoon, 1999).
Situations which facilitated children’s social and emotional development were evident during the trip, to the local lake. Children were mainly engaged in child-initiated tasks and relationships between adults and children appeared to be mainly positive. Marfo and Biersteker (2011:81 ) state that young children ‘learn spontaneously and incidentally by attending, observing, imitating, creating, co-constructing, and participating in self driven or guided manner’. When children are provided with opportunities to freely choose activities their learning is more meaningful and memorable and this is something I hope to emulate in my own practice (Bennett et al. 1997).
Reflecting back on Sweden and our own excursion into the woods has made me question who benefits from the experiences I provide for young children? Is it because the EYFS guides practitioners? Or is it about power and control? Visiting settings in Sweden reaffirmed my belief and understanding of how important it is to value and respect children, which sometimes I think is lacking in our own education system. Whilst I do in some respect agree with Fisher (2002) who argues that transferring practice between cultures is not always affective due to cultural differences and values it is important to consider other possibilities. The EYFS is open to misinterpretation as I have observed or I may have myself done in practice. Moyles (2001) argues that whilst teachers and early year practitioners should have the autonomy to put into practice what they believe to be right for children, they should take into account guidance provided by prescribed curriculums or frameworks, such as the EYFS. Ultimately practitioners should do so by applying their knowledge of child development, research and practice thus highlighting the need for continuity in training, practitioner qualification and continual professional development as identified by Nutbrown (2012).
My ‘take away message’ from this session is of the importance of stepping out of the classroom. To develop children’s creativity means taking a few risks and giving children the freedom to be let their imaginations run wild. We are fortunate that in this digital age this is becoming more possible.
Alvestad, M. and Samuelsson, I. (1999) A comparison of the national preschool curricula in Norway and Sweden. Early Childhood Research and Practice [online], 1 (2). Available from: http://ecrp.uiuc.edu/v1n2/alvestad.html#Utbildningsdepartementet98a
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Himmelstrand, J. (2011) Child well being and quality of childcare [online]. Brussels: Centre Borschette. Available from: http://europa.eu/epic/docs/the_childcare_transition_discussant_j__himmelstrand.pdf [Accessed: 7th April 2014].
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Ministry of Education and Science (2010) Curriculum for the preschool Lpfö 98 [online]. Stockholm: Fritzez. Available from http://www.harryda.se/download/18.56e5a6d8133f95ee485800012627/L%C3%A4roplan_f%C3%B6rskolan_eng_tillg_webb.pdf [Accessed: 1st April 2014].
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Nutbrown, C. (2012) Foundations for quality the independent review of early education and childcare qualifications: final report. London: DfE.
Rodger, R. (2012) Planning an appropriate curriculum in the early years. 3rd ed. London: Routledge.