Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Our ceiling space

hey all:
in addition to imagining uses for our floor and wall spaces - both organizational/practical and creative/imaginative - i mentioned at our last meeting the idea of installing some kind of hanging mechanism in our space to make better use of the high ceilings we have.

i believe the addition should be fun and playful, but I also want to make sure that things we hang in the space are secure and safe, and out of reach of the kids - i don't know for sure, but i think this would mean that we drill anchors into the ceiling (rather than, say, applying adhesive), and use hardware that we know the rating of (e.g. how much weight it can hold, etc.), as well as hang stuff clear of electrical fixtures and heat sources (i'm thinking of radiators, which we don't have, but vents might be a concern) I don't know about these things, so perhaps we could talk to Doug about SA's concerns, determine costs and proceed to establishing a budget, etc. if we're all game. (i think it simplifies things since we don't want to run electricity through anything.)

In the meantime, I wanted to share some pie-in-the-sky ideas about what we might do if we gain access to such space. My first thought was a seasonal/monthly group co-op project: in addition to the individual work kids do, we also occasionally do collaborative stuff (I'm thinking of the rainbow Airin and Meg devised) - it would be great to have a sculptural space to attach this to; perhaps like an Alexander Calder mobile.

photo by Herbert Matter

We could get real artsy like this (below; and see link)
installation by Regine Ramseier
and/or we could (carefully) bind together materials we find on outings - lighter things like fallen branches, leaves in netting, etc. - or stick paper creations together on some kind of simple structure - cut-paper snowflakes or butterflies, food-colored coffee filters, feathers, balloons, etc.

It could also be cool to have a few simple structures we could use at various times, like a rectangular/octangular/circular frame with clear netting, a long stick/broom-handle drilled with holes and/or hooks and/or eyelets, a bunch of flexible/reusable wire... Anyway, food for thought. and here's some more stuff below.

by Miquel Barcel√≥

installation by Teresa Leung

Dale Chihuly Ceiling Installation
image by Murray Fredericks

Sunday, September 18, 2011

On Photographic "Family Books"

I was very energized by today's meeting; a great many of my anxieties, fears, and frustrations were addressed today (as a parent, as a duty-parent, as a co-op member), and I'm optimistic that we can use the very positive and creative energy to move forward, together, in wonderful and unexpected new ways.

I mentioned the idea of photo books that each of our kids brings in and keeps updated; this comes from Mary Hartzell and Becky Zlotoff's chapter, Parents as Partners, in Joanne Hendrick's Next Steps to Teaching the Reggio Way: Accepting the Challenge to Change (2004). Here's an excerpt from that chapter:
[Referring to transitioning from home to school, the authors state:] 
The teachers also take photographs of the parents and children working together in the classroom. These photographs become part of a panel that welcomes the families to school in the fall. Connections are also made through the "family books." Each child receives a notebook that contains a welcoming letter from the teachers along with their picture. It also has blank pages with questions designed to give children and parents a way to tell their family's story. There are pages to tell about relatives, pets, family activities, and celebrations. These family books begin a strong connection between home and school. The parents understand, from the start, that their voices are valued. It is an acknowledgment that parents are children's primary teachers and that we, as new teachers of these children, can learn a great deal from the parents.
On the first day of school, there is a special place in the room for the family books. The pictures of their family and familiar activities help children to feel more comfortable in their new environment. It gives them something tangible to hold on to when they are thinking about their parents. These books also give the children a way of making connections with each other. For example, one day during the first few weeks of school, Emma, a 3-year-old, was on the rug looking at her family book. Keith, another 3-year-old, walked by and saw a picture of her dogs. He ran to the shelf and got out his family book. He brought it over to Emma and showed her a picture of his dog. They talked about big dogs and little dogs. The next day, building on the connection they had made through their family books, Emma and Keith played in the house together, pretending to be dogs. These interactions served as the foundation of a deeper relationship between these children and made it easier for them to initiate relationships with other children in the class. Through reading the family books, the teachers get ideas about family experiences, traditions, and cultures that can be incorporated into the life of the classroom with the support of the parents. Showing respect for and interest in the families helps everyone-children, parents, and teachers develop trust in each other and in this new experience.
I hope this idea takes off; as I said, I think some insight into the interests and ideas of all our kids in care might be had through such a project. And I don't doubt that new insight into our own kids opinions and beliefs would also follow from constructing one of these with the family! I for one am looking forward to the results.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Book Review: No Fear: Growing up in a risk averse society

i've been meaning to share this for a while, because it addresses things that i've been struggling with as i've watched Hollis go from slightly mobile to increasingly adventurous and brave. while it's a little on the academic side because it was commissioned as a monograph to inform public policy, Tim Gill's No Fear: Growing up in a risk averse society is nevertheless a readable and informative text for parents vaguely suspicious of the predominance of helicopter parenting. (The previous link, incidentally, connects you with a PDF download of the entire book, completely free of charge.)

reading Shel Silverstein's The Giving Tree to Hollis for the first time several months ago, I recall being struck by the moment where the young boy climbs the tree. my first thoughts ("why that's dangerous!") quickly evaporated to a more reflective question: how could it be any more dangerous today than it was then?

certainly the relative bone-density of today's children is roughly the same - no major evolutionary change has gone on during the last 30-odd years, and we're just as durable and/or fragile now as we were then.

i concluded a little simplistically at the time that what was going on was social and moral: pressures from different sources (like an increasingly sensationalized media) were contributing to convincing us parents that ensuring a more protective zone is a necessity in an increasingly uncertain world. drawing on this conclusion, and upon my own beliefs in emancipatory educational thinking (the work of Paulo Freire mostly), i vowed to be more conscious of my hovering, to step back more often, and to resist the urge to protect; to see this urge as rather another way to obscure from my child a vision of freedom and justice.

Gill's book helps clarify this rather vague set of premises. His understanding and categorization of different levels of risk, the long-term consequences (or side effects) of structuring acts based on risk-aversion (such as risk-compensation), and his anecdotes of extremely inappropriate (though, fortunately, just as extremely rare) responses to seemingly risky behaviours are interesting and useful. His notions of a child's resilience are especially interesting to ponder, and echo strongly for me of the thinking of Loris Malaguzzi and the Reggio philosophy - in particular, our responsibility to have faith in the abilities and capacities (cognitive as well as physical-spatial) of our children as we plan our encounters with them in and beyond the classroom.

Most interestingly, perhaps, is the purpose of the book: it's not self-help parenting, but a policy book, guided to community change. As such, the focus is not merely on changing parental behaviour, but on changing social structures more broadly. Gill's suggestion is to shift from philosophies of protection to those of resilience, in all manner of social and public institutions: child care settings, urban planning, municipal or regional children's services organizations, state legislation, and so on.

Gill is unabashed about declaring such change as fundamentally radical throughout his text. In an age of (supposed) austerity, demands for change - possibly costly change - may make some feel uncomfortable, but should hopefully pose a challenge to us all to consider how creating a world in which we will want to live - a more just, egalitarian, and inclusive world - will rest principally upon those who will inherit that world.

The challenge, in my mind, is to focus less on responding to the risk our individual children face, and more on the social and cultural situations that expose our children to risk in the first place. To address social failings as social, and not as personal, requires a radical but necessary shift. To demonstrate that we, as parents, are capable of making that shift is an important first lesson for achieving that world. Gill's book gives us a good grasp of the language and tactics for putting such a lesson into practice.

Monday, June 27, 2011

Gender Bias Fought At Egalia Preschool In Stockholm, Sweden

STOCKHOLM — At the "Egalia" preschool, staff avoid using words like "him" or "her" and address the 33 kids as "friends" rather than girls and boys.

read the full article at Huffington Post

Monday, April 18, 2011

Child's play!

Some fun ideas of creative play at home or at daycare that I found in this article on the Globe & Mail website...

Adventure Play

- Draw and colour a map of your bedroom. Where are all of your things?
- Make a treasure hunt! Find things around the house - a book, a pencil, an apple.

Construction Play

- Construct a “cereal box” city. How many different style of building can you build.? How high can they go?
- Lay a toy on the floor and figure out a way to build a bridge over the toy with blocks.

Physical Play

- Create a Simon Says game at home. Take turns being Simon!
- Ask your parents to teach you games they played when they were kids.

Creative Play

- Create a telescope out of paper towel and toilet paper rolls.
- Make a face out of outdoor materials like logs, nuts and leaves - make the face sad, happy, silly!

Music and Dance Play

- Anything can be a drum. Turn over a plastic bucket and start to bang out a rhythm.
- Mirror-dancing: get a partner and take turns following everything your partner does.

Make-Believe Play

- Make-believe you are a wild animal. What animal are you? How do you sound?
- Pretend you are making the most delicious soup. What’s in it?

Technology Play

- With help from an adult, pick a few small items in your kitchen like a spoon, a measuring cup, a straw and a toothpick. Have your parent fill a bowl of water. Which object will float? Why do you think so? Now, test your hypothesis!

Language Play

- Create an ABC book on a favourite subject. For example: My hometown, family, pets, plants and trees in my city, or favourite characters from books you’ve read together.
- Put on a show! Make up a story and perform it. Create your own actions and words to tell the story.

From the Ultimate Block Party Playbook. www.ultimateblockparty.org

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Mark Morey on Nature, Children and Extended Family

Mark Morey gave a talk at OISE recently about mentoring and how children learn, in relation to reconnecting with nature. Here's the video of the talk:

Nature Culture and Community Resilience

Friday, April 15, 2011

In Praise of Marx by Terry Eagleton (The Chronicle of Higher Ed)

Not directly educational, but a good read by a brilliant author with an interesting comment on cooperatives:
[To] achieve true self-fulfillment, human beings for Marx must find it in and through one another. It is not just a question of each doing his or her own thing in grand isolation from others. That would not even be possible. The other must become the ground of one's own self-realization, at the same time as he or she provides the condition for one's own. At the interpersonal level, this is known as love. At the political level, it is known as socialism. Socialism for Marx would be simply whatever set of institutions would allow this reciprocity to happen to the greatest possible extent. Think of the difference between a capitalist company, in which the majority work for the benefit of the few, and a socialist cooperative, in which my own participation in the project augments the welfare of all the others, and vice versa. This is not a question of some saintly self-sacrifice. The process is built into the structure of the institution.
Full text at: http://chronicle.com/article/In-Praise-of-Marx/127027/

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Rainbow songs Lyrics database

in case you want to expand your song repertoire (you'll know when "Wheels on the Bus" goes stale for a toddler), Rainbow Songs has a database of all the various songs their teachers/performers sing during their sessions. ("Zoom, zoom, zoom..." is a big hit as a pre-lunch song.)


Sunday, April 3, 2011

Winter Project: Snow Jewels

A project idea from Nancy this past winter!

Attached is an image of a snow sculpture that was in the hood a few weeks back. I showed it to Meaghan and she thinks it would be fun to do with the kids.

So we need everyone's help:

1. collect plastic containers with lids suitable for freezing coloured water and bring them into the co-op

2. maybe make some of your own frozen coloured blocks (with your kid) and bring them into the co-op and put them in the freezer

3. hope for snow to make the sculpture

Monday, March 28, 2011

Spring Project: Fastelavenris

From Active Kids Club

You'll need:
Pipe cleaners or steel wire

Head out and look for buds and pick a branch, traditionally it should be birch. Put different kinds of feathers on the branch; use pipe cleaners for young kids. If your child is older you can use florist wire for binding the feathers to the branch. Put the branches in water and watch it grow leaves.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Howard Gardner of The Multiple Intelligence Theory

Ken Robinson: Changing Education Paradigms

TED Talk: Ken Robinson says schools kill creativity

The purpose of this blog

Hi Dandies!

This blog is a forum for discussion for us Dandelion parents who want to explore what education is all about for our kids. We can post ideas, questions, videos, and resources to help us navigate our way through the philosophies of education and the current institutions/options/lack of options available for our kids.

Meaghan is keen on forming part of this discussion and can bring valuable insight and ideas to this exciting and important part of our lives.

Bring it!