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To examine Spaces and Places I am going to choose a venue for a group of children to visit and understand. I will explain how this visit can support learning.
There are a whole array of spaces and places where children can learn appropriately through first hand experience of a practical visit and carrying out relevant activities relating to the visit. Learning is complex and occurs in many places, children can develop a positive attitude to learning and encourage life long learning. Using this method children take control of their own learning and address their developing needs. Teachers need to plan and prepare appropriately to support the children's learning being mindful of promoting learning in a manner that delivers for the needs of all levels of children's abilities.
Children learn in a variety of ways, they need to be active learners, engaging with equipment mentally and physically to learn new skills and knowledge of how subject areas work. The context for the children needs to be real and meaningful. Teaching skills must be engaged and the initial approach should take into account what children can do and approach learning in a holistic manner using both indoors and outdoors to enhance the learning experience.
There is no restriction as to where children can learn, it can vary from parks, beaches, libraries, museums, mosques, castles and garden. There are endless opportunities to take children out in different environments to experience and learn new skills. To use the outdoors to advantage one needs to be enthusiastic and use imagination, have appropriate knowledge of the subject along with the use of the venue to provide children with different experiences to those that are experienced within a classroom. The outdoors allows the children to explore and have a sense of freedom that allows children to enjoy the space and engage their imagination, this enables children to be more interested and caring in their environment.
Children learn in many different ways, they include methods listed below:-
I have read the prescribed seven areas of learning within the Foundation Phase (3 - 7 year olds) outlined in the Welsh Government publication 'Foundation Phase Child Development Profile Guidance'
The seven areas of learning are:-
Personal and social development, well-being and cultural diversity.
Language, literacy and communication skills.
Welsh language development.
Knowledge and understanding of the world.
The seven areas of learning allow teachers to monitor the knowledge and development of individual children, in turn leading to evaluation of children's progress throughout their learning.
There are three schools of thought included in the learning process - behaviourism, constructivism and social constructivism. How children are taught and how they use resources can be recorded under three headings, first being a focused task where teaching is direct and modelled on what children need to do to achieve a learning outcome, in this way they become more confident and independent. The second is enhanced provision where the teacher enhances children's learning. Lastly, continuous provision - the teacher provides children with different learning opportunities.
Focused tasks include:-
Specific planned activities usually initiated / modelled led by the teacher.
High quality adult / child interaction.
Direct teaching where skills / concepts / knowledge are included, it is adult lead to enable children's learning.
Focused tasks can be delivered with a whole group, smaller groups, pairs or individuals and will vary according to the nature of the task.
Enhanced provisions include:-
Learning continuum, the introduction of new skills, concepts and knowledge.
Enhanced provisions where teacher adds to the continuous provisions to create additional / enhanced learning opportunities.
The simpler, cheaper, initiative for play can become a structured standard of play.
There is no limit to what resources can be used, the use of real life objects makes it more realistic for children.
Finally continuous provisions include:-
What can be provided for children every day within the teaching / learning environment.
Label items in Welsh and English (bilingual) and include photos of objects so that children know where items belong, the children are encouraged to become independent and tidy up for themselves.
Encourage children to think for themselves. The teacher only models, demonstrates and provides equipment.
There are many links that can be made with theorists about learning experiences.
Reggio Emilia quotes that 'Education must come to be recognised as the product of complex interactions, many of which can be realised when the environment is a fully participating element.' This shows that education is essential for children to interact and gain knowledge by experimenting in the environment, and the question that can be posed is, should a teacher spend all their time in the classroom teaching? From many theorists views they believe that the outdoors and the use of play should be used frequently in children's development throughout the Foundation Phase, not using the old school of thought of sitting at tables and listening to teacher provide information for the whole class.
From research on the internet, I have looked at Froebel who created the term 'kindergarten.' The term signifies locations where teachers can observe children and their interaction with nature. Professor Payne, 1874 says "there is substantial value in the exercises of the Kindergarten, which pleasurably bring out the active powers of the children - their powers of observation, judgement, and invention - and make them at once apt in doing as well as learning " this shows that the Kindergarten scheme Froebel had created was special in developing the first initial attempts at a cross curriculum approach. Froebel was the first person to emphasise the use of outdoors and the need for each individual child to be active and creative for their own development.
Other theorists, the McMillian sisters Rachel and Margaret, created an open air school that allowed children and adults to develop their knowledge. The classes were named 'open air' because they believed that the children and adults should be outside as much as possible. The sisters created these outdoor schools for young children to develop their knowledge more in preparation for growing up. The McMillians say 'To enable children and adults to develop as confident, happy, independent, able learners and to develop children's confidence, self esteem and self expression.' They created open air schools to enhance wider experiences and in turn provide a broader education for adults and children.
Isaacs was a true believer in using the outdoors to teach children. She thought the outdoors allowed exploration of the environment to take place. She said 'The child reveals himself in play,' this seems correct as one can observe and collect vital information while children play and are able to monitor how the child is physically progressing.
John Dewey in his book argues that neither 'traditional ' or 'progressive ' ideas are adequate. Dewey quoted 'Experience in Education' and is Dewey's most concise statement. He believed that the quality of experience is crucial within teaching to children and education needed to be clear and structured. He wanted to achieve a good standard for children to progress throughout their learning. In his findings he found that no two learners experience in the same way, whether it is due to different learning requirements or the environment that the child lives in.
Guy Claxton's book 'Wise Up: Learning to Live the Learning Life' He looked at the growing evidence for the idea that people could be helped to become more effective learners. He had created the magnificent 8 rules shown below:-
Sue Palmers website, titled 'the decline of outdoors' there seems to be a drastic decline in the use of outdoors. There are many proposals in place that are decreasing the use of outdoor play due to health and safety regulations increasing and parents becoming over protective of their child playing in the outdoor environment. Children's campaigner Lady Allen of Hurtwood said 'Better a broken bone than a broken spirit.' The outdoors may be dangerous but children learn from their mistakes. The outdoors offers many advantages and can develop a child's personality. The advantages of the outdoors are mentioned on Sue Palmers website. Sue Palmer has a five finger exercise that she believes develops the child.
Play is the main focus where it is implemented heavily in the Foundation phase in Wales. Sue Palmer says 'Real play is unstructured, preferably outdoors' Sue is trying to promote and encourage outdoor play because of the endless experiences on offer for children to thrive and develop.
Vygotsky investigated cognitive development. He considered the quality of the environment in education and gaining new life experiences. He believed that play was essential and collaboration was most effective, it allows teachers to mix children of different ability so they can learn from the more able. He developed the zone of proximal development but due to his untimely death he was interrupted with his trail of thought.
Piaget followed the same wave length as Vygotsky. His aim was to explore how knowledge grew within the children's development. He thought that children were thinking differently to adults. Piaget came to a conclusion and said 'children were born with basic building blocks to learn from.' Piaget had figured out that knowledge is constructed through practical experience and can influence the stages of development.
Piaget and Vygotsky both believed children are curious and actively involved in their own learning, children discover and develop new skills on their own. Vygotsky believed strongly that the community plays a central role in the process of 'making meaning.'
The habits of mind have an influence in children's learning. It is stated on the habits of mind website 'The Habits of Mind are defined as the dispositions that are skill fully and mindfully employed by characteristically successful people when confronted with problems, the solutions to which are not immediately apparent.' I have created a mind map of the habits of mind, shown below.
The venue:- The Orthodox Synagogue in Swansea
During lessons, children showed great knowledge and enthusiasm regarding a place of worship. This prompted the idea to visit a Synagogue in Swansea to develop the children's awareness of a Jewish place of worship. Education is about developing and expanding on their knowledge and understanding of the world. A visit to the Synagogue will cater for those skills mentioned above. Religion is very important, it is essential that children have opportunities to visit places of worship. The children will develop and appreciate the structure of the Synagogue and will understand citizenship and heritage within the Jewish culture.
There are methods of teaching that can be utilised to prepare children for their visit. They can explore symbols, traditions, shapes, patterns and listen to the cultural music played within the Synagogue.
What to do when making a visit
The synagogue will be a special place for those who worship there, it is vital that children respect others beliefs. Children need to respect both the place and people worshipping. The synagogue guide will help the children understand more about their religion, beliefs and practices.
Risk assessments are essential for a successful, safe visit. I will visit the synagogue to make a risk assessment before taking the children. I can ensure the children will be safe, secure and meets everyone's needs including disabled children. Issues of concern noted from the risk assessment should be addressed. Strategies will be put in place to mitigate issues. Parents need to be notified and grant permission for their child to visit the synagogue based on the risk assessment evaluation. Parents will be told about the appropriate clothing and footwear needed as well as written confirmation of the date and time of the visit. This informs parents of the times and structure of the day. To inform parents, an electronic message via e-mail or text message will be sent out as well as a hard copy to be taken home by the children. It will be stressed that a child will not be allowed to participate without their parents / guardians written consent.
Children will be told what is expected when they undertake the visit. I will have identified facilities for children to use, toilets and areas for food and drinks. I will also notify parents to suggest what their child should take.
The children need to be told clearly what the objective of the visit is and have some primed questions to ask the guide in the synagogue.
During the visit
It is essential to maintain a head count at all times, this ensures children are safe and secure, it eliminates the risk of children going missing during the visiting the.
Set tasks will be given out before the children leave. Children familiarise themselves with the tasks they are going to participate in. Topics set in the synagogue will consist of:-
Where are objects situated?
What are the objects for?
What books are used?
Who uses the building?
What interests you?
What questions do you want to ask?
How does it feel to sit here?
Is it similar to any other type of place of worship?
After the visit
After the visit focus would be on a cross curriculum approach, consisting of core and non core subjects. Children may discuss key questions about their experiences from the visit, they can be presented using circle maps or bubble maps. The children need to understand and take into consideration:-
Why are places of worship different?
What you found interesting?
What did you gain from the visit?
Did you learn anything that relates to your own life and experiences?
To allow continuity from the visit, children will write letters thanking the guides from the synagogue for letting them visit, the children can also explain what aspects of the visit interested them most. From developing literacy skills, art and design can be introduced. Children will plan, design and create a board to display images and facts from the visit within their classroom or school. This encourages other year groups to learn from the visit and gain knowledge of the Jewish place of worship from their own peers.
Attached below is an example of a parental consent form I have produced.
Photographs of Swansea Synagogue.
To conclude I have looked at how the outdoors and visits can be used to ones advantage for children to gain knowledge and understanding of the real outdoor world. Harnessing the children's interest in places of worship, a visit to a synagogue in Swansea was arranged. From researching the theory of outdoor play, this activity is productive as long as it is:
Not just used for play but for actual learning.
Used alongside other methods of learning, integrating the cross curriculum approach.
The children have had a first hand experience of the outdoors and to develop a better understanding of a place of worship. They gained knowledge and understanding of a synagogue. The children learned much during their visit, it was a beneficial experience for the children who participated on the trip. I would certainly use a place of worship for future visits.