Child led learning.
The premise is simple; observe the children at play, follow up on what they are interested in, extend the learning by providing appropriate materials, and/or locations. But, throw in a little unpredictable Mother Nature and this gets infinitely more difficult.
Wonderful play that involved digging and building in the deep snow, as well as following animal tracks and discussing what animal it could be, is suddenly sidelined by a day of rain, followed by a deep freeze! No tracks to be found, digging not possible and we can walk (carefully! ) pretty much anywhere!
And so, the play changes.
As a teacher trying to plan the day, this leads to many challenges- no longer able to follow up on the previous day’s fun, many winter activities no longer possible, oh my, what can we do?
Herein lies the beauty of child- led learning. The children will always find something to do and the learning naturally follows.
The other day, we were playing at our favorite snow hills. The snow was hard and icy, sliding wasn’t very fun as the hill had frozen into ruts and bumps and was so hard it could not be molded smooth. Nonetheless, the children were busy exploring, learning about this new transformation of their hill , climbing and jumping , and reaching deep into the lands of their imagination.
Then, a child found a plastic purple horseshoe…
Hmm. With this one simple prop the play changed. We looked at it, discussed it, what could it be? A horseshoe? It doesn’t look like a shoe. We tried it on our feet. A voice quietly piped up, “No, No, you need a stick. Then you throw this at the stick and try to get close” The teachers exchanged glances- ah! this 4 year old knows how to play horseshoes! In no time at all, the children had found a stick (not an easy task in this barren, icy snow landscape), figured out how to get it stuck in the icy snow and formed themselves into a line to have a turn throwing the horseshoe at the stick. Everyone had their own technique on how to throw and we learned from each other which one worked best.
Then, another voice ” J’ai un autre jeu. C’est presque pareil… ” and a new game was invented, using 2 sticks and aiming the horseshoe between them..
Before we knew it, it was time to head inside for snack. A fun morning filled with learning had kept everyone happy – and it all came from the children.
Written by Michelle Hegge; Teaching Director – Chelsea Forest School.