Building Fires with a Purpose.

Building Fires with a Purpose.

The discussion about building fires in child care programs is growing as ECE’s are trying to spend more time outside as a way of dealing with Covid. The general idea is that a fire will give kids and adults a chance to warm up while being outside for long periods of time in the cold weather. I think we need to go further with this idea. I learned about fires in a child care program, not as a way to warm up, but as a skill and knowledge to expose kids to; how to build a fire, what the purpose of fire is, and how to respect and be safe around fire. I was first introduced to the concept through Gill Robertson who was a family child care provider at the time. She then connected me with Niki Buchan who shared the concept of lab fires. These are not large bonfires for the sake of having a fire. They are small fires build in a small metal bowl/caldron and used to teach children about fire. This was the first time I had ever used a fire steel. My own skills were growing. I had such a sense of accomplishment when I finally got my little fire going! As most of you already know I operate a family child care program for infants to school age as well as a forest and nature school program. I offer fire building opportunities in both these programs. If I want children to respect and understand the power of fire, I need to offer these opportunities. We don’t just ‘have’ a fire, we have conversations about fire; fire being a tool that we use for heat, cooking, light, safety. I know some people are thinking,  “There is no way I would ever be comfortable with a fire around the children I care for!” We have very strict rules and procedures around this whole process. We go over and review the rules each time; how we behave around the fire, how we move around the fire area and where we sit to be safe. There is always an adult at the fire pit when starting a fire and while the fire is burning. We start at the very beginning and explore how to start a fire. We talk about what we need and why; cotton balls, petroleum jelly, small kindling, and the flint and steel. I demonstrate how it works and then anyone who wants a chance to try, is able to. The kids can tell me the rules and what we need after their first time being exposed to these tools. The absolute joy on the kids faces when they are able to create...

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The Most Beautiful Christmas Tree!

The Most Beautiful Christmas Tree!

I love December and all the traditions we have created in my child care program over the years. We all talk about how busy it is this time of year, but for me it is a busy I enjoy. I find myself making the ornaments the kids can paint, getting the Graham Cracker ‘gingerbread’ houses ready for decorating and  gathering the supplies for the Reindeer Munchies.  These are just a few of the activities that bring me joy. Some of the kids remembered what we have done in previous years and wanted to make some paper chains. One of the children asked if we were going to make treats again for the garbage collectors. It touched my heart that he remembered this tradition of sharing with others in our community. We do this throughout the year but make it extra festive at this time of year. With Covid and being in code red at the moment I explained I needed to look into the rules about this and what we could do. Another of our traditions in putting up the tree. It is a little tree that comes in two parts. It slides together and is done. Together we add the lights which are very durable and then the kids are in charge of the rest of the decorations. They have garlands and they can make ornaments; add and rearrange as much as they want. We are a multi-age program and so we have children one year old to five years old. They all can look at and touch the tree. Yes, it has gotten knocked over several times already. We just stand it back up and carry on. The little ones love to look at the lights and gently touch them. Almost daily the older kids love to rearrange the garland and decorations. Last year one of the kindergarten kids stated our tree needed a star. He promptly headed off to the construction paper and cut out a star from a yellow piece of paper, added a pipe cleaner and hung it on the tree. That star never left the top of the tree all last December.   Is it the grandest tree you ever saw? It just might be because it is theirs. Theirs to decorate and redecorate how they like. They are in control of how it looks and how it is cared for. It is part of their world that they can be in charge of. In all these uncertain days, this is one little piece of their world that they know is theirs....

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Where did the ‘care’ go from child care?

Where did the ‘care’ go from child care?

Child Care vs. Early Learning Education; this has been on my mind for awhile, especially with all the talk about essential workers lately. What is the difference? How do they fit together? Do they fit together? This internal fight began years ago. When I graduated first from Child Care Services (which is what Early Childhood Education was called 32 years ago), I began working in a daycare. I really struggled with the idea that what I was dong was not important. I felt that what I was doing was little more than… dare I say it… babysitting. I was caring for other peoples children while they were at work. I looked around and thought I need to work in a nursery school program to be valued (or for me to see value in what I was doing). It has school in the title and so they must be doing more important work in those programs…. they must be ‘teaching’. I had this feeling that the ‘care’ was not valuable but teaching was. I needed to teach! Many years have passed since those days and I must admit I do fall back into that fear every once in awhile when I am faced with those days when the outside opinions seep in through social media and I am being faced with public opinion that what I am doing is not valuable; we are just caring for children until they go to school to be taught by real teachers. I was listening to an older podcast session on  That Early Childhood Nerd Podcast yesterday. Heather Bernt-Santy was interviewing Carol Garboden Murray; Caring is Honourable with Carol Murray and I started thinking again about how important care is to the work we do as Early Childhood “Educators”. One of my kinder-kids in my program was telling me last week that he learns when he goes to kindergarten (but not when he is here). I will admit that hit right to the core. Now I bet you are wondering how I reacted. I had to take a deep breath and step back in my brain. I felt I needed to defend his time with me. If a five year old felt like this, how many adults feel it too but just don’t say it? Maybe it is a good thing that he doesn’t see all the learning he does here… I work hard at making this a play based program. If he thinks all he does is play, is that not my goal? I can go on at length about all the learning and growing he has done since he (and all the others) began my program. I can talk about developmental domains,...

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Has Children’s play changed due to Covid-19?

Has Children’s play changed due to Covid-19?

Has children’s play changed during these (what I call) weird times called Coronavirus? Do they play differently? Has their play taken on a new ‘tone’ or manner of play? Some Background Early into this, around the end of March, the majority of the families attending my program decided to hunker down at home. We were being told to stay home, limit our exposure to people outside our bubble. As everyone well remembers schools were closed, many business were closed or greatly changing the way they did business, and people were embracing this call to action and we were flattening the curve in Manitoba. I was happy and relieved to be operating a small program. I was able to stay open and with discussion with my husband who is in the EMS field, I decided to offer care to essential service workers. I had very few children needing care which was interesting as we were told so many families were in desperate need. By June we were pretty much back up to full capacity, spending the vast majority of our time outside enjoying being back together. We did all this while helping to flatten our curve, maintaining quality and not having to wear a mask as we were told we were low risk. All was happy in my world until September hit! We have to WHAT? Our province now had raising covid numbers, many people seemed to be not following the rules, and the curve was very far from flat! Word came down that staff in child care programs and children 9 years and older are to wear a mask inside. To say I took this news with grace would be incorrect. Oh, I had a hissy fit, I swore, I ranted and raved, I cried, I swore some more… and I put on the darn mask. It has taken a few days (actually weeks) but I am adjusting more and more. I still have some tough times like when trying to get shoes on a child, I have an age related heat surge and I work up a sweat and get all hot inside that mask! It’s a challenge to keep the frustration at bay.  I am glad this didn’t come into effect in the heat of the summer. Has Play Changed? So… back to my original question; has children’s play changed due to Covid-19? I really have not seen any here. They are still playing the same types of games and pretend play they engaged in before; horses, puppies, science type experiments, caring for babies, Zombies, catch the bad guys, etc. The themes have not included talk or play around ‘the virus’ and it hasn’t involved wearing masks....

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We have really been Growing Wild! (the story of our first Forest and Nature School Adventure)

We have really been Growing Wild! (the story of our first Forest and Nature School Adventure)

I have had a dream for a while now. My dream was to be able to run a forest and nature school program, to be able to completely embrace the pillars and principles. For ECE’s who are already child-led, inquiry based, this is a natural extension. The concepts are really a way of thinking, a mind set. In June 2019 I started my journey to become a Forest and Nature School Practitioner. I took the 1 week, hands on course with an ECE friend. We had such a good time and were inspired by 2 wonderful facilitators. From that week until this summer I had assignments to complete and I was so excited when I was notified that I was DONE!! Then the planning began.     For the 2 weeks, this summer, I was able to create and offer Growing Wild Forest & Nature School for children 5 to 10 year olds. It was a fantastic experience. With low ratios (1:5) we offered real tools to build with. The kids had access to hammers, nails, hand drills, saws. We practiced our fire starting skills. So much great ‘risky’ play and so many great conversations about assessing those risks.     The kids embraced the experience! We would begin with a gathering circle around the fire pit and learning about the land we were on and the people that were here first through land acknowledgment. Desiray taught us a bit about her culture and lead us in smudging.       When the kids went off, I was able to observe all that they were exploring, the challenges the successes, the new friendships and the rekindling of old ones. They helped each other and cheered each other on! We were building a FNS community in 4 short sessions.       It was so sad to have to have it all end. For me, it gave me a chance to put my FNS skills into action and leave the world of pandemics aside. I like to think it was the same for the children and their families who attended.     What is next? I am already thinking about what I want will be my next Growing Wild venture … Stay tuned!     until then… Go Be Wild and...

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