Something that we are constantly working towards in our Shale community is having a responsive environment. In early learning, the environment is often referred to as the third teacher and is a crucial part of our planning and the children’s development. The Curriculum Framework for Alberta talks about how a responsive environment involves time, space, materials and participation. Cassi and Sarah have been attending a four-part Community of Learners Workshop Series put on by MacEwan University that gathers early learning educators from across the province to discuss the Alberta Curriculum Framework and our journeys with it. During their first workshop, the discussion was about responsive environments. It has inspired us to re-evaluate our environment regarding its time, space, materials and participation.
“Time for play, inquiry, for thinking, and for pursuing an interest alone or with peers and educators is important if learning is to become meaningful for the learner.”
(PPP, Page 68)
Time is one of the points that we really connected with. We asked if our environment was flexible enough to respond to the children as learners and citizens? Are all of our transitions necessary throughout our day? Through discussion, we realized that we were lacking in pure, uninterrupted play. As a beginning step to working towards more uninterrupted play time, we made a few adaptations to our regular routine. One of the things we began to work through was open diaper times. Previously, as you all know from our diaper charts, on top of consistently checking diapers, we did scheduled diaper changes at specific times. Now, we change diapers on an as-needed basis, to mimic their routine at home. This does involve us constantly checking to make sure the children are not too soiled throughout the day, but it also provides an opportunity for the children to have ample uninterrupted play – which is the foundation of early learning!
Another step we took to encourage more uninterrupted time, was to smoothen out our transition to lunch. Previously, all of the children sat at the same time for lunch, which meant they were waiting to wash hands, waiting to sit with a bib, and waiting for their food. You can imagine this caused much chaos and disruption to the calmness of our peers and environment. It was the most rushed part of our day. After our reflection of time, we decided that change was needed – we were going to create an “open” lunch. Morning snack and afternoon snack are already “open”, meaning that the children can continue play until they are ready to sit and eat. This can give them and opportunity to make the decision to end play and join snack on their own which is very empowering to a toddler and instils a calm environment. Now for lunch, we all clean up together and sit for our morning gathering. While some educators sing songs and read together, other educators prep the tables and meal. Slowly the children notice that lunch is ready and filter to the table organically. This decision to change the way we approach lunch has effected the flow and feel of our environment drastically for the better. The children and the educators feel calm and empowered together when tackling this usually chaotic time. Lunch is now one of our favourite parts of the day.
What does your natural routine look like at home?
Do you have suggestions on how we can make our routine reflect your child’s natural routine at home?
Sarah, Michelle, Young and Cassi