Sunday, October 30, 2011

Weekly Favorites for Halloween 2011

Here are my favorite links that I've seen this year for Halloween. I hope you enjoy them.

Toddler Sensory Activity: Slimy Eyes
A neat sensory sun catcher.

We made paper plate pumpkin pies in preschool
A simple pumpkin themed art activity.

Exploring pumpkin seeds in the preschool classroom
Art, math, sensorial and play with pumpkin seeds.

The Colored Ghosts
A cute ghost story activity.

Golden Shimmer Cloud Dough
This isn't a Halloween activity, but I wanted to include it anyway. It's a sparkley version of cloud dough.

Glow Water
How to make water that glows.

Glow Dough
A glowing version of no cook play-dough.

Hammer Time Pumpkin Style
Hammering pumpkins!

Glow Bottle
A Halloween version of a discovery bottle.

Marble Spider Web and Handprint Spiders
A neat spider themed art activity.

Pumpkin Activities
A list of pumpkin themed activities.

I Spy Magnet Bottles
Here's another activity that isn't related to Halloween, but I thought it was a neat idea.

Halloween Sensory Box
A spooky sensory tub.

Colored & Glittered Pasta Pumpkins for Halloween
A creative pumpkin art activity.


Have a happy and safe Halloween!

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Assignment: Early Childhood Trends Final Entry

Three consequences of learning about the international early childhood field are:
1. I have gained an understanding of the early childhood field in other countries. Looking at how the early childhood education system works in other countries has helped me see things that don’t work in this country and need to be changed. On the other hand, there are things that already work well. I learned that most of us working in the early childhood field have the same concerns no matter where we live. We are all concerned about the well-being of children, we want adequate compensation and want to create and provide quality programs and services to children and families.
2. I have networked with professionals who are knowledgeable about the field and can continue to be a great resource in the future. Throughout this course, I have found other blogs which share things about the early childhood field in other parts of the world and they share tons of interesting and creative activities and ideas for the classroom.
3. My contacts believe in a play based approach. Kierna from Northern Ireland spends most of her time outside with the children. By talking to her, I have learned more about outdoor preschools and their benefits.
Here's a video with information about an outdoor preschool in Norway.
Click here. to see it.

The second half of this video from North Walsham Infant School & Nursery - The Creative & Forest School shows how they spend their time outdoors.
Click here to see it.
Here's a short clip of a forest preschool in the Pacific Northwest. I was surprised to find a program like this here in the US.

I think one important goal for the field is that early childhood teachers get recognized and appropriately compensated for the work that we do.

One goal for collegial relations related to the early childhood field is that more early childhood studies programs become available and to improve the quality of programs that currently exist.

I want to thank my international contacts for being so helpful and willing to share information with me.
I will be taking a break from the program until January so I may not be in classes with some of you again, but hopefully I will. Any of you can feel free to contact me through the blog. I wish all of you good luck and success in the future.

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Assignment: International Contacts Week 7

For the blog entry this week, I have not heard from Sherry from Australia, but I have gotten information from Kierna from Northern Ireland.
Here are her answers to the questions below.

1. What issues regarding quality and early childhood professionals are being discussed
where you live and work?
“At present there is a big debate as to whether qualified teachers are needed
in nursery classes. This is all about finances as it is would obviously be much cheaper to just have assistants who would be paid much less than teachers but be expected to do the same job. There are some teachers in nursery who are early years specialists & it is very hard to ensure that anyone who is teaching this age group has some sort of specialized training. In some cases children as young as 3 are being taken to whole school assemblies, eating meals in the main school with the rest of the primary children or doing time-table P.E (games) rather than having a holistic outdoor play experience. Assistants are not as well trained as they used to be - it used to take 2 years full time study, now you can be qualified in 6 months & there is too much paper work & not enough hands on experience.
I live in N. Ireland, it is part of the UK but we have our own parliament & education minister & a different system than the other parts of the UK. I work in a nursery class attached to a primary school, the children at the school are aged from 3 to 11.”

2. What opportunities and/or requirements for professional development exist?
“At present any professional development undertaken has to be funded by the individual e.g. any further studies have to be done at night, part-time & paid for by yourself. 1 module of a masters costs around £400 & you need 9 to gain a masters! There are lots of privately run conferences & courses & some funding is available from the teaching council. Most nursery teachers network among themselves, sharing ideas & good practice. At present the internet provides the best opportunities for PD - my practice has been greatly enriched by blogging & swapping ideas with colleagues around the world.”

3. What are some of your professional goals?
“I want to provide the best outdoor learning experiences for the children in my class, I want to become known for my outdoor approach. I believe that it is my role to be an advocate for all the young children who come into my class. I want to ensure they have the best experience in their year in my class.

4.. What are some of your professional hopes, dreams, and challenges?
I would love to eventually open an outdoor kindergarten. The biggest challenge for nursery teachers is to make sure that they are valued and
recognized by not only their colleagues but all parents, politicians and the wider community.”

What I’ve learned is that many parts of the early childhood systems in other countries are very similar to ours. Early childhood professionals are struggling to be valued and recognized for their work. In most cases, we need to fund our own studies or professional development opportunities. There are also concerns about what is developmentally appropriate. Children around the world do not get to play as much and are forced into learning they aren’t ready for at younger and younger ages. We also have similar concerns with budgeting and paying quality teachers what they deserve.
Talking to Sherry and Kierna throughout this course has been informative. I’ve learned a lot about the early childhood systems in Australia and Northern Ireland. Thank you Sherry and Kierna for your help with these blog assignments.

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Fall Favorites for October 16, 2011

The last few Sundays, I’ve been busy writing papers for class so I haven’t been able to post what I’ve found for the week. Here are some fall favorites I’ve found during this past month. I really hope I can get back to blogging regularly soon. I will be taking a break from school starting November 1st and won’t start school again until January. I am looking forward to it. I hope you enjoy the links.

Fun with Puffy Paint and Cupcakes in Preschool
A fun cupcake themed art activity.

Porridge Oats Playdough
A neat play-dough idea I had never seen before. It's perfect to go with the Goldilocks story.

Watermelon Play-dough
Another neat recipe for play-dough.

Glow Dough
Play-dough that glows!

Pumpkin Pie Play-dough
A great idea for a fall or Halloween theme.

Ghost in a Jar
A simple Halloween craft and decoration.

Halloween Globes
Another easy to make Halloween decoration.

Jack-O-Lantern Cups
A fun Halloween snack.

DIY Texture Magnets
A great way for kids to compare textures.

Autumn sensory tub with squirrels
An autumn themed sensory tub.

Preschool Pizza Box Games
Some creative uses for pizza boxes. They are great for math and fine motor skills.

Messy Play Snakes and Jelly
A great idea for sensory play.

Window Art
A creative art activity from Play at Home Mom.

The Pumpkin Process
A great post that shows how the process is more important than the product.

Beaded Pumpkin Jack O’ Lantern Ornaments
Cute ornaments for Halloween.

Friday, October 14, 2011

Assignment Sharing Web Resources Week 6

The first link I explored was called, Resource Themes this brought me to a page with links to topics such as school readiness, Being, Belonging and Becoming: The Early Years Learning Framework, Sustainability, global warming and climate change, Baby and toddler sleeping etc. I clicked on the school readiness tab. This brought me more links to outside resources. Here is a link to books and fact sheets about school readiness. I also found a journal article about a group of children from Singapore and their experience transitioning to school. The study compared experiences of students from Europe, Australia and Singapore. The results showed that, “Regardless of where the studies were undertaken, the majority of the children in Primary One or first grade reported being happy in school. Most were concerned about various routes to survival, such as finding their way in the large school buildings and grounds, knowing the school rules, making friends, and pleasing teachers and parents."

I also found links to an initiative called, Kids Matter Early childhood.
Their mission statement is "KidsMatter Early Childhood is a national early childhood mental health promotion, prevention and early intervention initiative specifically developed for early childhood services, including preschools and long day care. It involves the people who have a significant influence on young children’s lives parents, carers, families and early childhood professionals, along with a range of community and health professionals – in making a positive difference to young children’s mental health and wellbeing."

There are four components.
Component 1 is building a sense of community to promote feelings of belonging and connectedness between children, families and staff.
Component 2 is developing children’s social and emotional skills.
"Social and emotional development involves developing the ability to recognize and manage emotions, show care and concern for others, make responsible decisions, establish positive relationships, and handle challenging situations effectively."
Component 3 is working with parents and carers.
Component 4 is helping children who are experiencing mental health difficulties.

I did not find any further information about the topics of access, availability and affordability. I think the KidsMatter initiative is extremely important. There should be more organizations like this. It is important to intervene early when it comes to mental health issues because it has an impact on everything in that child’s life. Mental health issues can affect school performance, friendships, family relationships and future employment. In order to have the most productive members of society, we have to get them on the right track early. Too often, children’s mental health issues get misdiagnosed or completely overlooked. I feel this issue is just as if not more important as school readiness or developing early learning standards.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Last Day

Yesterday was my last day volunteering with the infants and toddlers. I spent part of the morning with the infants. I played with Baby L and Baby C. They’ve grown so much. They are both walking and Baby C even says some words. She always says hi to everyone when they walk in. At one point, she picked up one of those soft rings and brought it over to me. Crawling Baby thought it was funny when I put it on his head so I did the same thing to Baby L. Baby L and Baby C laughed. When she’d try to steady the ring on Baby L’s head, it would always fall off. After it fell, it’d role across the room. Baby L chased after it laughing and then brought it back to me to do over again. Then we played a game of peak-a-boo with me sitting behind a shelf which they had fun with, but I had to stop when they started throwing toys on the other side where Baby E was laying. One of the toys actually hit her, but she didn’t cry.

When they brought the babies outside, there wasn’t anything for me to do so I went into the toddler room for a while. I saw Crawling Baby for the first time since his transition. Well, he’s not a crawling baby at all anymore. He’s been walking for a while now and last week was his first full week in the toddler room. He seemed happy mostly playing by himself. Sometimes he’d try to get involved in what the other kids were doing, but since he’s so young, it doesn’t work. He either doesn’t understand what they are doing or they don’t want him to play. Most of the toddlers are ready for preschool so they are ahead of him. He thought it was neat to hold a bucket up to his face and talk into it. I think he liked the echo. Another toddler who I’ll call M came over and they started sharing the bucket. M is older than Crawling Baby and he talks a lot more, but he seems to like spending time with him. Crawling Baby and I walked around the room a few times and I brought out the bubbles which they all loved.

I also saw D. She has changed so much as well. She has small conversations now. When I first met her, she didn’t say any words. When she realized I was there, she ran over to give me a hug. Every few minutes while I was there, she came over and wanted to be picked up. She reaches her arms up and says, “Up up.” The problem is that she’s really heavy and when I want to put her down, she doesn’t want to get down. That happened recently when her grandmother was late picking her up and she wanted me to carry her around the whole time. She has a funny personality. She’s nice, but has an attitude too. I’ll miss her.

It was unusual, but the babies slept for most of the afternoon. When Baby C woke up, I spent some time with her, but then Little Guy and Baby E woke up. They both like to be held, but we got Baby E settled down on the floor. Little Guy really wanted to be held so I held him for a while and then put him in the squishy seat next to Baby E. He was okay for a while, but wanted to be held again. For the rest of the time, I sat holding Little Guy and watching Baby E talk to her toys. There was one toy she was trying to grab. When she couldn’t reach it, she would make a fussing sound like she was frustrated, but when she was able to grab a toy, she’d start laughing. Little Guy smiled while watching Baby E too. When I left, they were all playing and happy.

It was my last day with the babies because it looks like I’ll be taking a job with them maybe next month. I’m not sure of the details, but it’s with one of their preschool rooms. Only a couple toddlers were ready to move up so they haven’t opened the room yet. Now there will be enough kids so they offered me a job in that room. The good thing is I will already know some of the kids. I will miss the infants and toddlers though, but sometimes, I can stop in to see them on my breaks and who knows. Maybe I’ll get to work with this age group again in the future.

Saturday, October 8, 2011

Assignment: Excellence and Inequity

Some of the issues surrounding excellence in Australia are the new standards they have put into place. One of them is national
Curriculum framework.

One issue this framework focuses on is the importance of play. Educators must promote learning through play. Activities must be child oriented and initiated, but there is still intentional teaching.
Australia now has something called universal access which states that all children must have fifteen hours of preschool per week. My contact told me it used to be ten hours.
Australia's government has implemented National Quality Standards which are divided into seven areas that contribute to the quality of early childhood education and care. These areas have been identified by research and are:
1.Educational program and practice
2.Children’s health and safety
3.Physical environment
4.Staffing arrangements (including the number of staff looking after children)
5.Relationships with children
6.Collaborative partnerships with families and communities
7.Leadership and service management
This means that for the first time there will be consistency all across Australia in the Early Childhood sector.

Many of the issues of inequity in Australia are similar to the US. For example, there is the issue of low wages for early childhood educators and a high turn over rate. An article called, Crisis in Childcare Industry explains the situation. “Attending Saturday's crisis summit, Ballina Childcare worker Lisa Cheal said she can barely afford to pay her own car rego, but still buys supplies for the young children in her care. "I live week by week on the wages of a childcare worker," she said. Ms Cheal estimates she's spent $850 out of her own pocket this year for basic supplies such as craft materials, books and cushions for her young class and most childcare workers do the same. "I've been working with children for 15 years, and my family is always telling me to leave," Ms Cheal said. "They can't understand why I stay. I'm studying for my early childhood teaching degree, and if I did leave for a primary school I'd get $60,000 - but I love the infants,” she said. "It's a constant emotional battle.”” Click here to read more.
There is also an achievement gap between students from higher and lower income families. This article, written in 2007 describes the achievement gap and the reasons behind it. Australia has made some changes in their educational system since this article was written. With their recent implementation of quality standards across Australia, the achievement gap may decrease.

In the UK, there is an organization called the British Association for Early Childhood Education which is similar to NAEYC. Participation with them is voluntary, but they provide support, advice and information on best practice for everyone concerned with the education and care of young children. This organization represents England, Scotland, Whales and Northern Ireland.
One project I learned about which helps one disadvantaged group in Northern Ireland is The Toy Box Project which helps The Travellers. They are one of the most disadvantaged groups in Northern Ireland. “Travellers are a distinct ethnic group within Irish society. Their lifestyle and culture, based on a nomadic tradition, sets them apart from the settled population.” A support worker goes to travellers homes with a toy box full of toys, art supplies, books and natural materials. The support worker encourages children to learn through play, builds positive relationships with each family, supports parents in enrolling their children in preschool and helps parents build confidence to engage positively with preschools to support their child’s education. This project was created to reduce inequality and to increase enrolment in early childhood programs and primary school.

Saturday, October 1, 2011

Assignment Sharing Web Resources #2

The website that I’ve been looking at is Early Childhood Australia. This week, I took a look at their Everyday Learning series. They had topics ranging from play, friendships, dealing with anger to going green. These articles are meant for parents or anyone who cares for children. However, you have to pay for the articles. Next, I explored the link called Child Development, Family, Health, and Education Research. which brought me to a list of topics and ages. I clicked on infants to see what was available and then clicked on play. This brought me to a list of websites sharing articles about the importance of play. I will bookmark this page for future reference.

The next link I clicked on was called supporting best practice. This led to more lists of topics and fact sheets from other websites. Some useful links are babies, Toddlers, early childhood practices, Diversity and inclusion, and assessment and evaluation.

I didn’t come across anything I thought was controversial. Many of their standards for quality care are similar to ours here in the US. I found an article under the link, "Every Child Magazine" called Cultural competence - ensuring individuality is integral to equity, fairness and
social justice.

Australia has recently implemented universal quality standards. This approach is partly an economic investment, but this article expresses the importance of individual children and families and respecting their strengths and diverse backgrounds. “In finalizing the logistics of National Quality Framework implementation (and what
a major initiative and achievement!) we must keep ‘deep understandings’ about children, development and learning in the early years at the top of our ‘to do’ lists. Regulations, rating and results are important, but at the core of quality programs are children and their relations with others.” I thought this quote and the full article were interesting because our discussions were about the perspectives of economists and politicians and the unintended consequences of looking at early childhood programs as strictly a financial investment.

Other than implementing universal standards, I did not find any other information about trends that are different from the US. In both countries early childhood professionals care about high quality, inclusion and diversity, ending the cycle of poverty, professional development, inequality etc. This website has many resources, but a lot of them are for members only or you have to buy individual articles. I wish more of the resources were free, but there are still some links I haven’t explored. The resources I was able to view show a commitment to the well-being of young children.
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