Our day revolves around the principle that children can develop profound capabilities when their views and ideas are respected and when adults find appropriate ways to work with them, enabling them to reach their full potential. We try to give the children longer blocks of time, so not breaking the day up into too many separate disconnected lessons. Also giving the children time to pause, to stop for a moment and reflect can often mean giving quality to the learning that takes place and the relationships that are formed.
When the children arrive, they often have a sense of urgency to talk, to share things and to make plans. They are able to greet their friends and have conversations to set the tone for the day and to discuss multiple ideas to explore. There is ample time throughout the day when the children move around, occupying different spaces, following their own lines of inquiry. The children are encouraged to develop their own ideas and take control over their own learning. They have the freedom to deepen their understanding of those things that interest them. This autonomy is the foundation for successful life-long learning. Some children like to be by themselves, so there are smaller spaces where the children can seek out this sense of ‘being’. We hope that our environments offer many possibilities and that the materials elicit a desire to experiment and explore. The space is a studio for exploration, examination and exchange.
As the children explore we carefully observe, listen, take notes, and photograph the learning. As well as interacting with and supporting the children, we observe the children at play in order to be better informed about how the children are developing. We use our observations to support and extend the play by planning and resourcing a challenging environment which caters for the different needs of the children.
The children have opportunities to engage in projects. The project work experiences will have a focus on a particular area of learning , such as visual or performing arts, physical development, developing scientific theories, language or mathematical development; have a unit of inquiry focus or pick up on any particular needs or interests we have observed in the children. Our projects are extended in-depth investigations, which help the children make deeper and fuller sense of phenomenon in their own environment and experiences that are worthy of their attention. Projects provide the part of the curriculum in which children are encouraged to make their own decisions and choices - in consultation with their teachers , about the work to be undertaken. Such work increases children’s confidence in their own intellectual powers, and strengthens their dispositions to continue learning.
At various points during the day the children come together in groups for meetings. The meetings have different purposes depending on the particular focus. Sometimes it is a time to reflect upon learning that has taken place. Sometimes a proposal is discussed. Sometimes a particular thread is discussed and developed over many successive meetings as an idea is developed and the thinking delves deeper. The children’s ideas and contributions are valued and listened to. In articulating their thinking the children are reorganising their ideas to develop their thinking further. They listen to each other and build on each others ideas. It is wonderful to be a part of a meeting where the children are really learning with and through each other. The meeting can be a place of dialogue, listening, conflict, and a platform to arrive at agreements.
Of course reading, writing and mathematical development are important areas of learning and are at times explicitly taught and also interwoven throughout our daily life at school within authentic contexts.
Most important of all is the time we allow for play and exploration. Through their explorations of the environment, the materials and the people, the children’s research and thinking become richer, interweaving the experiences they have. Through the projects and challenges that the children embark on we observe an interweaving of thought, planning and action. There is a pleasure in the work from sustained thinking and an attention to possibilities and new lines of investigation. We are reminded by Erika Christakis,
“Play is the fundamental building block of human cognition, emotional health and social behaviour.”
(p.146, The Importance of Being Little, 2016)