Category Archives: learning

Infant Peer Learning- Five Essential Elements

 

When it comes to the research on peer learning, we don’t often think of infants. However, groups of young children together in a trusting environment demonstrate the earliest stages of this concept.

 

Babies together constructing their own understanding of their environment

Oftentimes, group providers miss these subtle learning interactions as we balance individual child physical care needs, governing regulatory obligations and parental requests and concerns. How can we trust that the child is learning without adult intervention?

In peer learning, students will engage themselves intellectuallyemotionally and socially in “constructive conversation” and learn by talking and questioning each other’s views and reaching consensus or dissent (Boud, 2001).

Here we observe a child struggling to place the lid on the bottom of a bowling pin. He’s noticed the similar circles of the two objects, but he’s become frustrated in trying to put the two together.

Peer Learning - Infant
Little Learners Lodge (David Vigliotti)

Sensitive to his friend’s distress, an infant moves close by with a lid of his own.

Peer Learning - Infant
Little Learners Lodge (David Vigliotti)

The first child relaxes almost immediately and offers the bowling pin to his peer. Their toes connect as one takes the pin in hand and the other lets go.

Peer Learning - Infant
Little Learners Lodge (David Vigliotti)

Holding the pin upright, the infant demonstrates what he has learned about lid positioning and balance while the first child looks on.

Yet, peer learning does not occur spontaneously. It requires planning, appreciation, and trusting the children to be self-learners. At the center, we’ve developed five essential elements to encourage infant peer learning.

Five Essential Elements to Encourage Infant Peer Learning in Group Care

  • Continuity of Care – Many recognize the value of Primary Care in group situation involving one adult primarily taking care of a small group’s physical and emotional needs. When it comes to being with babies, many hands do not make for light work. Rather, it’s the secure competent hands of a trusted adult. Continuity of Care takes this commitment a step further by ensuring that the relationships amongst this primary provider AND the relationship amongst the small group of babies under her care remain together over time. In a nutshell, children of like age and/or development stay together and transition together with their trusted adult for at least one or two years. There’s no graduating to the “creeper room” unless the group transitions together.

 

  • Physical and Emotional Needs Met – Primary Caregiving helps ensure that a child’s physical and emotional needs are met by encouraging one adult to build a long-standing and trusting relationship with a small group of children. During physical care, the adult is fully present with each individual child- giving the baby all the time he needs to be satisfied physically and emotionally. No other task at hand exists. As a result, when the child is outside physical care, she “wants nothing” and is free to explore and interact with her environment and peers.

 

  • Prepared Environment – The environment itself must be prepared to be physically safe, cognitively challenging, and emotionally nurturing with consistent and clearly defined limits and expectations to develop discipline. Appreciating the value self-directed play and learning, the adult is free to observe, set safety expectations, and prepare the environment for continued child development. The child is the curriculum and the lesson found in the environment.

 

  • Time for Uninterrupted Play – It’s not enough to simply allow for time to freely move, play and interact with the environment. Babies need this time to be uninterrupted. Interruptions in group care take many forms: photos for documentation, lesson plans, doors opening/closing as adults enter or leave the space, adults walking though the play space, tours and observers involving those outside the center community, and more…

and, of course-

  • Freedom to Explore and Interact with Other Infants – How close do you allow babies to come together in play without moving proximal and, thus, interfering with what may transpire. Do you allow them to pass toys? Can they crawl over each other? Can they mouth an item and then place it down? Knowing if, when, and how to intercede is a dance. Sometimes even the simple act of observing can distract an infant’s exploration when the adult enters her space.

Although important, being with babies is so much more than feeding, diapering, sleeping and reading stories. Being with Babies is about encouraging the next generation to enjoy, discover, and collaborate in peace with each other. We sometimes forget that given the pay and regard for childcare providers that it all starts here. Fortunately, we have the assistance from each other, from involved parents, and from our littlest ones in seeing this task successfully though.

Resources:

On peer learning

3 hour Video Training supporting Frontline Caregivers

The well-being of young children in institutions

Parent Resource in Raising Self-Confident Babies

 

 

 

Authentic Caregiving in Centers

Authenticity: authentic caregivers, authentic baby

The RIE® method is one that makes caregiving a pleasant experience for every party involved. One of the ways this concept is best demonstrated is through the belief and practice of authenticity that Beverly Kovach discusses in her video series, Being with Infants.

As caregivers, we understand that children are coming to school on their good days as well as their bad days. For the most part, we are able to keep our expectations for them at an appropriate level. That means that we don’t expect the children to just stop being tired, stop being upset, or do anything to repress their mood on their own.

The Greeting

In my experience in centers, most adults feel the complete opposite way when it concerns themselves. Perhaps they didn’t sleep well the night before. Perhaps they are going through a situation that is causing them emotional turmoil. Despite the way they are feeling, they feel they must put on a happy face in order to be with the children.

Children can easily feel the tension in our bodies and have insight to what we are feeling – even if we don’t want to admit our feelings! Having a tensed and stressed body while having a smiling face can be confusing to any child and send them mixed messages. Wouldn’t it be so much easier to be honest with the children you are caring for? This not only helps the caregivers by being honest with her emotions, but also teaches the children about their emotions and empathy for others.

DSC_0852

In Magda Gerber’s book, Your Self-Confident Baby, she tells a story about a mother who learned to be authentic with her daughter. When the daughter was sick, of course the mother cared for her. When the mother got sick, she was honest with her daughter from the start. “I hear you crying, I want to give you what you need, but right now I don’t feel well.” The mother said the daughter was less demanding than she was ordinarily!

Children understand more than most caregivers might think they do. We can be authentic and honest with them.

Note: Thank you, Ms. Rebekah for sharing your thoughts on Authenticity: authentic caregivers, authentic baby. Ms. Rebekah began working with infants at the center May 2017

Sources:

Being with Infants Video Guide

Your Self Confident Baby

Cooking with Kids @the Center (with video)

Each day at the center, we involve the children, from young toddlers through Kindergarten, in the process of creating the daily bread which will nourish the community throughout the day for snack.

Challenged by Dr. Angeline Lillard in 2007 to make our Practical Life Area more practical, we seized the opportunity to utilize the young child’s budding independence, order, coordination, self-confidence and love of learning in a way that would fuel all developmental planes.

Regardless of age, race, gender or ability- you will find children gravitating towards the Slow Food Inspired Cooking Curriculum which links not only the program’s gardening, but also the areas of Math and Cultural Studies. Each child has the opportunity to cook every day, throughout the day, as long as an apron is available. If one is not, the child is welcome to watch the process nearby.

Cooking together can become much more than getting a bite to eat- watch as Ms. Jaime begins the morning bread baking routine:

In making bread together, we see evidence of all Eight Principles of Optimal Education described in Dr. Lillard’s research.

According her findings, learning occurs best when:

1. movement is linked with cognition,
2. children are interested in the topic,
3. extrinsic rewards are left out of the mix,
4. choice and control are offered to the child,
5. it is situated in meaningful contexts,
6. children are grouped in blended ages amongst their peers,
7. the environment is orderly with consistent routines and rituals, &
8. the adult guides in a firm and warm manner.

“The direction in which education starts a man will determine his future in life.”
Plato

GOOD Magazine chooses Ms. Megan!

Ms. Megan makes the TOP TEN GATO finalist as a nationally recognized innovator in the classroom! The formal announcement and voting begins March 4th. http://www.good.is/great-american-teach-off
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We are excited to announce that Megan Nordoff, of Montessori of Mount Pleasant, has been selected as a finalist for GOOD Magazine’s Innovative Teacher Award.  You already know Ms. Megan’s commitment advocating for innovation during the first stage of development and her support in ensuring that children reach their fullest potential across all planes of development.  We now have an opportunity to share our work on a larger platform- and we are asking for your help.
If you aren’t already a fan, please LIKE our page on Facebook:  http://www.facebook.com/pages/Montessori-School-of-Mount-Pleasant/121505131043?fref=ts
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We’ll be making announcement regarding voting and updates on Megan’s status via this social media outlet.  We will also send out general information via email and Google Group.
Why VOTE (each day, and every day) –
* An opportunity to feature South Carolina as an INNOVATOR in the field of education
* Highlight progressive models of education including MONTESSORI, RIE (www.rie.org), ORTON GILLINGHAM, Richard Louv’s Nature Education, Slow Food, Agriculture and Gardening to early literacy, Reggio inspired environments and more!
* Bring a national spotlight on the work being done at the EARLY CHILDHOOD level (birth – six years) and the impact a quality early childhood experience has on school readiness and innovation at Kindergarten
* Show the nation that there’s more to the Charleston community then a happening tourist destination- it’s a wonderful place to live and raise your children!
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What will we do if we win the 10K grant?
We have an idea concept in place for a MOBILE FARM CLASSROOM modeled after the Montessori (Grammar) Farm built to a Tiny House scale.  The 10K will get this project off the ground.  It is our intent to build “sister-school” relationships outside the walls of our facility and extend the mobile farm classroom to other South Carolinian schools.  If you are interested in participating as a sponsor with the design of this GOODInnovation Idea, we are very happy to welcome your efforts and contributions.
“Whatever you are, be a good one.”
– Abraham Lincoln

The Large Bead Stair

The construction of the large bead stair began as a problem to be solved in our outdoor classroom.  Each morning the children help open and set up the cognitive materials on the porch.  The Montessori bead stair is a quintessential math material which helps with one to one correspondence, links quantity to symbol and is used in higher end math materials, such as the teen boards, short and long chains, and operations.  Day after day pieces of the bead stair would get accidently dropped through the floor slats of the porch.  As a result, much of our time in the morning was spent replacing the missing beads.
Hanging Bead Stair
Hanging Bead Stair
One day a child remarked, “Oh!  I wish these beads were not so small!”  We started brainstorming a weather-proof, porch-proof bead stair.  It would need to be inexpensive and involve the children as much as possible in its construction.  We also wanted it to highlight the small Montessori bead stair located inside in the classroom rather than take its place.
Large Bead Stair
Large Bead Stair
It has been a beautiful point of interest for both the Toddler and Primary children as they walk by the material on the way to the playground and a valued addition to our math curriculum for the outside classroom.
 How to Make the Large Bead Stair:
Materials:
55 golf balls
2 tomato cages
white primer spraypaint
9 permanent markers or paint pens (red, green, pikn, yellow, light blue, purple, brown, dark blue, and gold)
Tools:
electric drill
wire cutters
needlenose pliers
Large Bead Stair
Large Bead Stair

 

Directions:
1. Wash and prime golf balls
2. Drill a hole through each one
3. Cut cages into 10 strips (3 inch, 5 inch, 7 inch……..up to 21 inch)
4. Bend a loop at each end and thread golf balls onto wires.
5. Add color to golf balls to match the small bead stair.
Once the tools came out the boys were all ready and willing to help!…drill the holes, cut the wire, and string the balls on in 1-10 sequence. When we were ready to add color, the girls arrived and organized themselves to apply color to the balls to match the small bead stair.   Kindergarteners checked in periodically to supervise and make suggestions (they have been working with the bead stair for years and are well-versed in managing others and chiming in with their expertise at this point in the year)…..
Community Building
Community Building

…and voila!  We finished and presented the large bead stair as complete and available to use!  It has shown to be quite inviting and enticing due to its appearance and location.  It has even called to young children who do not have a developed pincer grip yet but who are able to exercise a 4-finger grasp and strengthen their one to one correspondence.

As a larger indirect benefit, we have watched the primary children pass by and comment (as they always do after community projects) that they helped make that!