We had a bee hive at kinder.
A beekeeper from Surrey Hills brought his hive, and some honey. He has spread a hive out and put it behind glass so we could watch the bees working. Where the queen bee is, it is busy and hot. We could see them making wax, and looking after the baby grubs, and feeding the queen. We could see the queen laying eggs. We got to taste honey – two different kinds from different flowers.
He showed us all the things that bees make – not just honey and wax, but broccoli and carrots and apples and almonds. Forty percent of our diet depends on pollination by bees. They take 120,000 hives to Shepparton to pollinate the Victorian almond crop. The teachers and parents were just as fascinated as the children.
The children are learning to tell the difference between a bee – ape – and a wasp – vespa. We have a collection of insects preserved in hand sanitiser so the children can have a good look. We know the bees are our friends – they won’t sting us if we don’t make them scared. If a bee comes near, the best thing to do is stand still until it flies away.
We celebrated Mother’s Day at kinder, inviting all* the mothers to visit to hear us sing and receive some gifts we had made. La Festa della Mamma is big in the Italian community. This is what we did for this celebration, and some of the curriculum we see in these activities:
Impiantare una patata
Siobhan collected enough Illy coffee tins for each child in the group. (Repurposing for sustainability). Anna worked with the children to turn these into planters. First they made holes in the base with a hammer and nail. (Risk taking, hand eye coordination, craft skills, one on one interaction.) They mixed up some rotted down tanbark and soil to make potting mix, and filled the pots. (Understanding soil, using tools, conservation of volume.) They planted a couple of freesia bulbs in the pot, and put it outside to get some cold and rain. (Caring for plants, seasonality.)
We asked families to collect Easter egg wrappers. We used these for decoration of heart shaped cards. (Cut for us by Rose’s daughter – links to community.) Rose worked with each child to create a card with a photo of the mother and child, the child’s signature, and auguri to Mum, and decoration. (Visual art, recycled materials, writing, Italian language.)
Ritratto della mamma
Siobhan worked with each child to do a drawing of mamma. (Planned assessment – human figure representation.) She asked each child to answer the question ‘perche vuoi bene alla mamma? / why do you love your Mum?’. The picture and the child’s answer were mounted to be gifted to Mum. (Communication, expressing emotion.)
We asked each mother and child pair to work together to make a set of paper balloons we can use as props for singing cinque palloni. (Tracing or freehand drawing of circles, cutting, scaffolding.)
All the mothers were invited to come to kinder for a visit to receive their gifts and hear us sing for them. We sang
Ciao buon giorno
(Italian language, greeting sequence, colour words, family members, tomato bottling vocabulary, singing, performance, giving, music, culture)
*Before going ahead with this, we checked that every child would be included.
We have two apple trees in the garden at kinder. One of them was planted for the millenium. It sets fruit every year, but they always fall before they ripen. We spent an hour one day finding little wizened apples and counting them and carting them around in toy trucks.
The other apple tree is still very small. We planted it to be a climbing tree. We want a lower one that younger children can climb. But it will be a while before it is ready for that. In the meantime, this year this tiny tree set three apples – it is a Granny Smith. I watched them carefully, hoping they would survive on the tree long enough to ripen.
So one day, we picked it, cut it very very thin, and let each child have a taste.
They loved it. Best apple they had ever tasted.
We have been making passata di pomodoro at Italian kinder ever since the first time we ran the program, some 20 years ago. It provides such a strong connection with Italo-Australian culture.
We have refined the process over time, and have improved the tools. We have a great machine to put the tomatoes through to separate the skin and seeds from the passata. We have some padded toy tomatoes made by one of the mums one year that we can play with. These days we have kiddie kutter knives that cut tomatoes but not fingers. We have a song to sing to bed down the language. We have a book we made in class. We have a veggie patch where we can grow tomatoes.
I make passata at home with my family too. This year I guessed which weekend we might be doing it at home, and we planned to do it at work the following week – that would mean I could get some tomatoes from home to use at work.
It turned out to be a bad year for tomatoes. Shortages everywhere. My husband pulled out all his Calabrian connections to score 16 cases of best roma tomatoes – we were all set. At the end of our long Sunday, as I was putting my tomato drenched clothes in the wash I remembered I had forgotten to put aside the half case for kinder.
On Monday morning, I went to Safeway at 7.00 am only to discover they don’t stock sauce tomatoes. I had to wait until it was almost time to be at work for La Manna to open. I started filling a bag with roma tomatoes – luckily my husband had come too. He pointed out that the ones I was getting were not ripe enough. He was bold enough to go and ask the management if we could have some ripe ones for sauce, for the kids at kinder.
We made passata for another year.
Learning song lyrics is considered an effective way to memorise new language. Many people are able to learn lyrics in a language they do not know at all. At Italian kindergarten we often sing together and use songs to support language learning, including songs I have written to fit the program.
However, it is possible for lyrics in an unknown language to stay a string of sounds without meaning. To really make the transition to language learning, we have to break the lyrics out of the song, and bring them to life as spoken language.
This year, we have been starting each morning meeting (riunione) by singing Ciao Buon Giorno. This well known song is a comforting entry point into Italian for the children who are not used to hearing it. It is also an appropriate morning song, since the lyrics are the language of greetings.
One of the lines of the song is ‘buon giorno’. As a step in moving from lyric to language, I have now started to go around the group during riunione saying ‘buon giorno’ to each of them in turn, and providing an opportunity for them to reply the same to me. For many of the children this is well established knowledge. For some it is new. Then there are those who well know what buon giorno means, and when you are supposed to say it, but are used to leaving taller people to communicate on their behalf. And some for whom speaking up in a group is a challenge.
We are all participating in this social routine, but the learning involved for each child can be different.
I have discovered a new super cool thing to do in my teaching – solar dyeing.
We were making felt, so we had some white wool tops. Then I stumbled across a whole lot of online chat about solar dyeing in a wool enthusiasts group. I asked about it, and a helpful person posted the instructions (see below).
We decided to give a go. We got the children to mix up colours with edicol dye. We added vinegar, and put the coloured water and wool in ziplock bags, so we did not have to worry about broken glass. We taped them to a window in the sun – and enjoyed the stained glass effect from inside. The weather promptly turned cold, so it took longer. But after two weeks, when we had a look, lo and behold, the dye had indeed ‘exhausted’. We rinsed them out (we just used cold water) and we had brightly coloured wool.
This was so easy. We already had the wool and the other materials were things we already had around. It is safe. The colours are gorgeous. Though I suppose we will find out eventually if it is colourfast.
We did it with wool tops for felting, but you could probably do it with knitting yarn as long as it is pure wool.
Basically what you should do is soak the fibre you want to dye in a tepid/hand warm vinegar/water solution before you put it in the jars. Make sure the Fiber is saturated, and no air pockets remain within the fibre (you can usually see them)
Once that’s done, gently wring them out taking care not to rub them or vigorously smoosh them together.
Get your jars half filled with tepid/handwarm water and add your food dye, ( I would say about 1/4 of a bottle of queens food dye) and give them a good stir. Add a good slurp of vinegar (I would say for about a 500gm jar you would need about 50ml (approx) BUT to be honest I just put a good glug in. You will have problems if you don’t put in enough, but putting in too much is not an issue apart from a vinegary smell. I don’t measure amounts too much with food dyes.
Layer your fibre into the half filled jar, the more room in the fibre has in there, the more saturated and consistent the colour will be. But if you like a little bit of a semi solid look then chuck a bit more in there. I tend to pack my jars out, because I like the variation.
Top the rest of the jar up with more water (same temperature) fill it right to the top, so that when you put the lid on there is very little or no air left in the jar.
Set them outside in an area that gets sun for most of the day!
Temps generally need to be in excess of 30deg for a good 8 -12 hrs for the colour to fully exhaust. If the weather is not as hot as that, then leave them out a few days.
You can test the jars to see if the dye has exhausted, by opening the jar, and using a white plastic spoon to sample the fluid in the jar, if there is no pigment in the fluid in the spoon you sampled, then the dye has exhausted and your ready to rinse the tops and hang out to dry!
Remember that the jars can become reaaaaly hot especially is your using thick walled mason or preserving jars.
Take them inside open the lids and let them cool, tip out the contents into your laundry tub and them them completely cool.
Once cold, rinse in water the same temp as the tops. (If you are seeing dye washing out of the fibre, stop rinsing, and make a bath of vinegar and water (same temp) to fix the dye.
Hang up to dry and viola ! Food coloured dyed fibres!!!!”
I have been teaching for over 15 years. One of the things that struck me this week is how it doesn’t actually get easier.
My first task of the year is to get to know the children and their families. This involves being organised and strategic about how to make sure we quickly make everyone feel safe and secure. It also involves emotional work – reaching out to create connections and forge relationships with a bunch of strangers.
We learn from experience. I think we can get better at this job. I am certainly happy to be able to draw on a depth of experience about how children behave, about what helps them settle, about when to counsel a parent to stay and when to encourage them to leave.
But I also find that the emotional task of reaching out to connect to new people is new every time. I don’t think it is something we can get used to. Perhaps we can withdraw and teach in a less emotionally available way. But when we set out to create a new meaningful relationship, we have to make ourselves emotionally open.
This process does not form callouses. It is new and fresh every time. It does not get easier, because each experience is wholly new. It is not a repeat of a past relationship. So the fact that I have done it many times before with other children and other mothers, and fathers, and aunts and nonni does not really count.
This is a new person. A completely unique new person. And we are going to get to know each other. For the first time.
It can be pretty demanding. I can find myself exhausted at this time of year, avoiding friends and cursing when the phone rings. My energy for people is absorbed in getting to know these new people in my life.
I have been doing this for a long time, and I have learnt a lot. One of the things I have learnt is that this does not actually get easier.
This year, I have decided to try something new with my pedagogical documentation.
That, in itself, is not new. I don’t think I know a single educator who is satisfied with how they do their documentation. We are all always looking for that Holy Grail: the perfect way to document.
Perhaps we are asking for too much. We want it to be rich and meaningful and holistic and thorough and presentable and up to date. For each child we are teaching. Small wonder we are still searching.
Anyway, I have decided for this year that I want to use this blog as part of my documentation suite. I have pulled it out of moth balls, and plan to tell some of my 2015 teaching story in this medium.
In my long hiatus from blogging, I have been involved in the more dialogic world of facebook groups. There was a massive explosion of ECE onto facebook and there have been some fascinating groups appear. I have learnt so much about the situations and thoughts of other educators around Australia. These conversations often give me food for thought.
But we seem to have come full circle in parts. I am seeing the same topics crop up. The same questions asked. I know they are new to those posters, but I can’t find the energy to retype my views all over again. So I am coming back here.
One of the conclusions I have come to over the last year is that it is good to share more of my thoughts about teaching with parents. They need to understand where I am coming from. I am also heeding advice to do less documentation, but try to make it more meaningful.
In this site, I speak as an educator and my imagined audience is other educators. But I have now decided that the families I work with should be able to see me in that guise as well. So I plan to consider this blog part of my suite of documentation – up the reflective practitioner end of things – and invite parents in the group to read it if they like.