Tag Archives: co-learning

My grandfather and I when I was two.

My mentor

My grandfather and Helaina in 2010.

A couple years ago my husband and I drove my grandfather back from another emergency visit to the o.r. in Victoria to his home in Campbell River. Upon arriving we were greeted by the local home care nurse, who wanted to go over grandpa’s medicines and care. She sat across from my grandfather and said “Well Mervyn we need to come up with a plan for you.”

“Plan, I don’t like that word.” He said.

The nurse sat there looking confused.

“You see” he continued “When I was a social worker I didn’t like coming up with plans for the people I worked with. Plans imply there is something wrong and we have to work on it. What I tried to do was find out what that persons strengths were and I nurtured them.”

I silently chuckled to myself as he continued to school the nurse in strength based practice. My grandfather is the reason I hate checklists, assessments  and learning goals.  See my grandfather schooled me as well.

When I lived up island every week I would make the trek from Courtenay to Campbell River to have tea with my grandfather. We would talk about social justice, equal rights, race, pain, children and love. My grandfather and I would often joke that we were solving the worlds problem’s in an afternoon. We couldn’t understand why they weren’t listening to us. Often at the end of my visit he would hand me a book to read. Don Quixote, Winnie the Pooh, Life of Pi, Jude the Obscure, the list could go on.  My grandfather would share such wisdom during those visits. He didn’t do it by saying Danielle this is the way to do it. He would tell me stories from his days as a social worker. The stories he shared stemmed from questions I was having about my own practice, need for advocacy and life.

When I moved to Victoria my visits were less frequent but in times of questioning I would call him and we would talk for hours.

Saturday I visited my grandfather at the nursing home. I walked into the room and found a frail man, who couldn’t talk. He was happy to see me. He wouldn’t stop kissing my hand. So I pulled up a chair and told him what was happening in the world. I told him about Idle no more, Chief Theresa Spense’s hunger strike, I told him about Helaina starting preschool, I told him about the work Kim and I were doing, I told him about Christmas with seven small children. I rambled on about my belief that change is happening. I told him I talked to his friend Peter. I cried as I told him that I lost a baby just before Christmas and how his son(my father) doted on me. I told him how I wished the world would realize how amazing my dad was. I told him everything I could think of and I tried not to be sad that he couldn’t share a story with me.

Most girls have a box of old love letters tucked away somewhere in the back of their closet, I don’t. I have a box of cards and letters my grandfather wrote me.  From time to time I go through those letters, sometimes they make me smile, sometimes they make me cry, they always make me think, So much wisdom. Today I am thankful for those letters, his wisdom, the tea shared and the school of Mervyn Davis.

“How lucky I am to have something that makes saying goodbye so hard.”

A.A. Milne, Winnie-the-Pooh

My grandfather and I when I was two.
My grandfather and I when I was two.
baking soda

One Provocation, Two Ideas


When the children arrived at preschool this morning I had a provocation waiting for them. I had placed two pie plates lined with baking soda. Beside each plate I had placed a jar of coloured water with an eye dropper and a bottle of coloured vinager with an eye dropper. It was my idea that the children would explore the different reactions each liquid produced when combined with the baking soda. Julian and Beth gravitated instantly to this project, as did Asha and Eunice. Each bottle had different colours. This invited the children to negotiate which colour they wanted. Some coaching was needed in the beginning but then we were hearing a lot of “please can I have the red”  “Oh Asha can I have the blue please” ‘yes can I have the green” 

The collaborative investigating went on for some time.

 Then Taya joined the group to watch what they were doing.  I watched as she noticed the bubbling of the vinegar when added to the baking soda and I saw her eyes light up. She then went and grabbed a jar and started to undo the lid. When she undid the lid she removed the eyedropper and dumped the whole bottle into the pie plate. There was no reaction from the liquid, it just made a big wet puddle in the centre of the plate. So she dumped the next bottle in, it fizzed a little and then stopped. So she dumped the next one in, soon she had dumped all of the bottles into the pie plate.

 Taya then started to swirl her fingers through the baking soda and liquid.

 “It’s a swirly rainbow.” She said

 Once all the bottles were dumped the other children lost interest in the provocation. Taya saw this as an opportunity and moved the other pie plate over and started mixing the liquids from her pie plate into it. She swirled her fingers in the plate, leaned down and gave it a smell.

 “Oh it’s a delicious apple pie.” She said


 She smoothed out the goop that was in the plates and announced “I need to put these in the freezer.” She went and created a freezer on the counter by the sink by moving the the dish rack over and then placing some materials parallel to the dish rack. She placed the pie plates between. “Okay they are in the freezer now.”

 Taya continued to play with the pies for some time. Here is the thing I find interesting about this. I had an idea for the children and how they would use it. Taya had an idea too. Both ideas were about transformation and reaction. Each idea approached it differently though. There was a time in my career where I might of shut down Taya’s exploration because I wanted to ensure each child got a turn and had some liquid. I might of shut down the play for fear of conflict. Here is the thing the children weren’t upset that Taya took a different approach. Not all the children wanted to play with the provocation either. They were happy to move on and play something else. I am glad I didn’t shut it down because Taya was clearly invested in her idea and she thought outside my thinking.


Musing on Play

My good friend Sarah and I had lunch today and as always we had a lively discussion about children, their interests, theories and competencies. We talked about play, what it is, what it is not, and what is our role as educators….we talked about values and how they influence what we do, and nuances, and relationships….(yes pretty much an entire 2 hours of conversation, ECE nerds or what?!)

 As I drove home I continued to muse, What IS play? What IS our role?

 In Reggio and elsewhere there is much talk of the pedagogy of listening, an idea, a hope, a way of being.  I began to wonder, how does the pedagogy of listening relate to play? What does it mean to us in our programs?

I think if we are listening to children (not just the words they say, but also to what they say without words) we will think differently. If we are listening we cannot tell them what to do in play. If we are listening we cannot create play spaces, decide on projects, create art areas and tell children what and how play in them. If we are listening, we will be doing ‘with’ rather than ‘for’.

The pedagogy of listening invites us, compels us, to be in a relationship with children, a relationship that embraces complexity, democracy and acceptance.

Listening… is a way of thinking and seeing ourselves in relationship with others and the world Carlina Rinaldi

So perhaps our role is about: “creating a context in which children’s curiosity, theories and research are legitimated and listened to, a context in which children feel comfortable and confident, and at the same time, to be able to widen and extend children’s horizons by creating complexity in the child’s environment and by introducing new theories, concepts, languages and materials, as tools for children’s theorizing and meaning making” (Dahlberg & Moss 2005 p. 103-104)

Thanks for the lunch conversation Sarah. Inspiring as usual.

Picture 3

Have you seen it?

Have you seen the Wonder of Learning Exhibit?

It is currently in Vancouver BC and I was lucky enough to go with a group of educators last week. My first impression was of lightness and space as the high windows filled the room with natural light. Comfortable chairs overlooked a view of tugboats and log booms working the Fraser river, and the mists floating over the mountains. There were beautiful artifacts to handle, low tables to compose the natural branches, stones and seed pods, books to peruse. The environment urged me to slow down, take notice, attend.

The exhibit meandered through the space, inviting me to pick up a thread of a story, follow it, pause, and then begin again. I read about children experimenting with light, measuring how far a beam would reflect, hypothesizing on why the beam faded away as it reached the trees.  I watched toddlers explore white paper, rolling it, tossing it, shaping it. I watched children run through an open space, embracing the sounds and the feeling of movement, but attending to one another, observing, connecting.

But there was so much I still need to see. In my two hours I absorbed a small sense of place, more a feeling than anything else. This space, this exhibit requires more from me, requires me to listen, to search for myself, and to lose myself to it.  I need to think with it longer, talk about it, argue and challenge and be challenged.

So I will be back.  I will return to find out what else it has to say to me, what else it will invite me to rethink, reconsider, recreate.

Thank you Laurie.

The art of research already exists in the hands of children acutely sensitive to the pleasure of surprise. The wonder of learning, of knowing, of understanding is one of the first, fundamental sensations each human being expects from experiences faced alone or with others. ~ Loris Malaguzzi

Picture 1

Hope For Education

Today’s typical classrooms do not reflect the outside world. If you placed a physician of 100 years ago into today’s operating room, she would be lost. However, if you place a teacher of 100 years ago into today’s classroom, he wouldn’t skip a beat.   Trish McNabb

Danielle and I talk frequently about schools as a political place, a place that reflects the values of a society. We reflect on the spaces that house childcare; basements, church halls, portables; places that not many others want. I tell the tale of my 30 years as an ECE in which I have never worked in a space that was purpose built, how I’ve had my fair share of silverfish (those tiny fish shaped insects….ugh!) invading all cupboards and drawers.  Schools fare somewhat better, but still reflect the above quote.  The teacher from 100 years ago would have no trouble identifying the classroom of today.

But here is an astounding exception.

Danielle and I were honoured to be invited to the Peace River North school district in BC to present to kindergarten teachers and ECE’s. We engaged in wonderful dialogue and reflection, had thoughtful discussion, great food, a snowstorm and a delayed flight.

We were also treated to a tour of the Energetic Learning Campus, a brilliant new satellite school for grade 10 students that defies traditional thinking. Look closely at the photo. The lockers? They all move. The tables and  chairs? They all move. The cool benches and low tables? They move too. The walls? Yup….they all move. The philosophy is revolutionary:

The ELC will foster student engagement by knowing students well, tapping into student experience and interests, and building a strong sense of community through an advisory program. All of the teachers will have shared preparation time where they will have the chance to reflect on and refine their day-to-day practice. This weekly shared-time will provide the occasion for powerful and productive discussion of the issues and needs that teachers identify in their work. 

Here is further food for thought;

I believe that if schools fail, kids lose and therefore society tends to stick to the safe ideas and traditional schooling, knowing the outcomes may not be amazing, but they are predictably mediocre at worst. I realize change is a difficult journey but to take education to the next level it is going to be hard. However, “difficult” or “hard” is no reason not to change.   Trish McNabb

Can we argue with that? Not likely. How about this?

For over 75 years the North American high school has followed three critical “operating instructions” that are so ingrained in the culture by now as to seem natural:

•    Segregate students by class, race, gender, language ability, or perceived academic ability.
•    Separate academic from technical teaching and learning.
•    Isolate adolescents from the adult world they are about to enter. 

Sheldon Steele 

 This is all about high school kids, but don’t these issues resonate for early childhood? Don’t we believe all areas of learning are overlapping, that one “subject” cannot be” taught” in isolation? That we fail to engage children in discussions of the real world? That class, gender and race still impact our programs?

It was wonderful to see a school district intent on exploding the myths of education.