Sunday, March 4, 2012

Pilgrimage

As noted in the previous post 3 of my senior staff and I went to conference in Seattle on Saturday.  We actually went down Friday morning and visited a child care centre on the way. 

We are really seeking to move our curriculum in our early childhood centres to one that is more child focused and respectful of the inherent ability we believe every child brings to the centre.  We want to provide beautiful, inspiring and creative spaces in which this work can happen and we want to involve families and document the work done by the children with caring and enthusiastic adults. 

Hilltop Children's Centre  in Seattle has been and continues to be a leader in this type of curriculum.  Inspired by the schools and approach of Reggio Emilia in Italy they understand that the learning environment is the "third teacher" and that we need to protect and nourish children's childhoods.

This notion of protecting childhood and allowing children to fully explore their worlds with all their senses and giving children time to see, time to explore, time to think and wonder and have theories about how things work seems so basic and yet in this time of extreme pressure to get children "ready for school" at earlier and earlier ages we are literally losing childhood.  The educators at Hilltop (and in many other early childhood centres including the ones I oversee) seek to facilitate children's thinking, to work alongside children as they wonder about how things work and why......they provoke the children to test their hypotheses and to deepen their thinking. They offer the children tools and many art mediums to express their thinking and they document this work to share with other teachers, with the parents and to show the children that their work is honourable and of great value.

We spent yesterday in the beautiful yet not perfect space at Hilltop - full of constraints that the building gives and yet fully embracing it's full potential.  They had the children come in and we watched the teachers work with the children.  They offered many ways to connect with all the different aspects of this work and gave us time to drink it all in.  It was truly a banquet of gifts throughout the day.....gifts that changed our lives.

It was provocative and overwhelming and yet inspiring and energising and also affirming.  Every part of the day gave us something of lasting value.

We tried not to focus on what we needed to do when we got home, and not to be overwhelmed that this centre has been on this journey for 20 years and we are only 4 years into our journey.  We tried to just take it all in.

And when we got  in the car to drive home we processed and talked and hoped and dreamed.  Farida made a speech that I will never forget that had both Jen and I in tears.....she has a fire in her belly that will not be put out and as she said "Today I will not accept obstacles, give me a rock in my path and I will kick it away......today we need to start this change, not tomorrow and if it is my legacy I will see that change happen in my centre because we will be true to our values about children...we will do this important work together" .

I am still processing all that happened - all we saw and heard, the deeper bonds between us and what to do next...... oh man.... I wish I knew what the first next step should be so that we do move forward, not just the 4 of us but all our staff, our families, the Board of Directors. 

THIS work is my heart work, my passion......we will offer children rich and creative childhoods and we will hold back the "readiness" tidal wave and protect their time and their space to become active and engaged learners.... for that is what the world needs.

I have been to the MountainHilltop and I am deeply deeply grateful for the gifts I was given and I will hold that trust and go on from here a new and renewed person and educator.




1 comment:

  1. Nicky, it sounds incredible. Looking forward to hearing more.

    Lora

    ReplyDelete