Guest Blog by Alison Hawkins on our Conference; Gifts for our Future 10: Perspectives on Play

On 22nd September the Edinburgh Froebel Network held its 10th annual conference at the Assembly Rooms in Edinburgh. Thank you to Alison Hawkins for her guest blog.

In societies and communities birthdays are special: they unite family and friends and give cause for celebration, frequently demonstrated by gatherings to share quality time.
How fortunate was it therefore for the 550 delegates who descended on the sumptuous surroundings of the Assembly Rooms, Edinburgh that the Edinburgh Froebel Network chose to celebrate their tenth year of conference-holding in such a style?
On a crisp September Saturday morning, interested ‘educators’ from diverse national and international backgrounds were greeted with welcoming smiles, a Froebelian goodie bag and the aromatic smell of coffee, as they anticipated a day of growth and camaraderie.

Before I report on the content and success of the day, it is fitting to reflect for a moment on the stature of this ambitious enterprise. Conferences, in common with birthday parties, do not ‘just happen’ and an occasion such as this took much planning, imagination, organisation and sheer hard graft – proffered by the ‘team’ of nursery headteachers responsible for the setting up, ten years ago, of the aforementioned Edinburgh Froebel Network. Their dedication and endeavour over the decade has enthused, trained and inspired so many that a Froebelian ethos and approach is very visibly present in current settings and schools, and the interest and demand for further knowledge and understanding of principles reflects this.

From the outset of the morning, with an almost military precision – married with eager and considerate attendees – the day unfolded and progressed like clockwork.
Scores of people interacted and exchanged greetings as they wandered around imbibing the rich and informative wisdom of the academic posters, which served to explain practice and theory, ways forward and controversies.

The first speaker – greatly anticipated by those who have heard her talk previously, and by those who have enjoyed and learned from her many books – was Professor Tina Bruce who, in her inimitable manner explored play, touching on its numerous interpretations but cleverly guiding our thoughts to Froebelian play. By concentrating on the fundamental benefits of deep engagement, she led us to understand how first hand meaningful experiences build up a reservoir of ‘character’, knowledge, enterprise and creative thinking from which a person will draw in adult life.

Linked seamlessly to this, participants were next treated to a lecture delivered by Dr Sue Robson of The University of Roehampton, England, entitled ‘Play, Creativity and Creative Thinking’. Sue outlined her research which evidenced how when a child chooses and directs their own play, their involvement, articulation (of their learning) and sophistication of thought are all greater. She described how self-activity leads to self-regulation and allows a child to feel in control, to be flexible and forward moving in their ideas, to socialise, negotiate and interact with others and become creative problem-solvers. She challenged us to link our practice to these findings.

Once more, nourished by pastries and networking, the large audience settled to listen – this time to Dr Marjatta Kalliala from the University of Helsinki, Finland. Kept on the edge of our seats by awe at this delivery in a language not her first, and by the content, we visited (through the findings of her research) the hows and whys of changing culture and the decline of superior, engaging play. She reported on variation in cultural norms, and outlined how what is ‘acceptable’ has changed. She talked about the plethora of ‘play policies’ worldwide which would suggest play is seen as important, but questioned the depth of quality of some policies. She provided some interesting statistics about the positivity of rough and tumble and outdoor play, and reminded us ‘that a child does not distinguish between care and education’.

A delicious vegetarian lunch break afforded more time to meet and talk with ‘kent’ faces and people anew, or browse the quality products of Community Playthings, Froebel’s Gifts and the well-stocked book shop.

First slot after lunch always requires talented orators to keep an audience on track as the temptation to relax a little and let concentration drift can be high – replete as one is with food, knowledge and adrenaline.

We were not let down!
Tina gave a brief outline of the content and importance of the recently published “Routledge International Handbook of Froebel and Early Childhood Practice” and following that Dr Suzanne Flannery Quinn from Froebel College, the University of Roehampton explored ‘Locating Play Today’, advocating that if we wish to locate play we must first understand its complexity. She revisited play versus activity and addressed Froebel practice today with an interpretation of Froebel’s ‘Come let us live with our children…’ quote, unpicking our role as pedagogues in the capacity of companions, guides, guardians, placemakers and humans. She illustrated a journey of Frobelian thought and developing practice through a fascinating historic timeline.

Thanks all round, and a standing ovation to the organisers – marking not just a successful, thought-provoking conference but attributing this strengthening movement – concluded the day. As an interesting aside, for some hours post conference around the centre of town, people were to be seen sporting smart jute bags emblazoned with our Froebel lily – a fitting advert!

Now Froebelians do not rest on their laurels; building on last year’s conference workshop-sharing of practical experiences, complemented by this year’s academic insight to the relevance of Froebel’s principles today, plans are afoot for future delivery… and in addition Edinburgh looks forward to hosting the 2020 Froebel International Conference.

As they say from little acorns strong oak trees grow.

Alison J Hawkins
Wester Coates Nursery School
Edinburgh

Conference Reminder – Perspectives on Play

Our 10th conference will be taking place on Saturday 22nd September 2018, from 10am-4pm at the Assembly Rooms in Edinburgh’s George Street.

90% of tickets have now been sold and ticket sales close on the 8th of September.
If you are planning to come and have not yet purchased your ticket, please do so soon as it looks like we might sell out.

Tickets can be purchased through Eventbrite.

Eventbrite - Edinburgh Froebel Conference: Gifts for our Future 10: Perspectives on Play 

For more information on the conference speakers, see the post below.

Edinburgh Froebel Network Conference: Gifts for Our Future 10: Perspectives on Play

Saturday 22nd September 2018, 10am-4pm

We are excited to announce details of our tenth conference which will take place at the Assembly Rooms in Edinburgh’s George Street.

Perspectives on Play

‘At this age play is never trivial; it is serious and deeply significant.It needs to be cherished and encouraged by the parents for in his free choice of play a child reveals the future life of his mind to anyone who has insight into human nature’  Froebel in Lilley 1967:84

Conference welcome from Professor Tina Bruce CBE, Author and Early Years Specialist

Keynote speakers;

Creativity and Creative Thinking – Dr Sue Robson, Honorary Research Fellow, University of Roehampton Play

Play Culture in a Changing World re-visited – Marjatta Kalliala, Professor, University of Helsinki, Finland

Locating Play Today – Suzanne Flannery Quinn, Senior Lecturer of Early Childhood Studies, University of Roehampton, Froebel College

Eventbrite - Edinburgh Froebel Conference: Gifts for our Future 10: Perspectives on Play 

Calling all previous students of the Edinburgh Froebel Course

Dear Froebelians

As you may know, Jane (Whinnett) and I are involved in developing a Froebel Masters. We are currently putting the paperwork together for the University board; we wondered if you would be interested in writing a testimonial (you can decide on the word length) on the impact the Froebel Course has had on your practice and whether or not you would see any value in the development of a Froebel Masters.  Unfortunately time is of the essence as the University board sits quite soon -at this board (scheduled for the first week in March) they will decide whether to pursue the Froebel Masters or not.

Please send your testimonial to lynnjmcnair@hotmail.co.uk
Hope you can help

Lynn McNair (and Jane)

Froebel and the Occupation of Woodwork by Pete Moorhouse

Pete Moorhouse, who last year led an inspiring Saturday Seminar for the Network on the topic of woodwork, has kindly shared with us, this very interesting article that he has written about Froebel and the occupation of woodwork which you can download as a pdf.

His new book “Learning Through Woodwork; Introducing Creative Woodwork in the Early Years.” Is available now from all good booksellers.

Saturday Seminar 13th January 2018 – Players & Storytellers

Just a reminder that our Players & Storytellers Seminar takes place this Saturday (13th January 2018) at the Scottish Storytelling Centre. The day runs from 9:30 until 3:45 and costs £10.

There are only around 30 tickets left, so if you would like to attend, please book directly with the Storytelling Centre by phone, 0131 556 9579, or in person, 43-45 High Street, Edinburgh, EH1 1SR. Opening hours, Monday – Saturday 10am-6pm, Sunday 12-6pm.

For details of the programme please see the blog post below.

 

Saturday Seminar 13th January 2018: Players and Storytellers – Practitioner Research Projects

The Edinburgh Froebel Network Saturday Seminar, Players and Storytellers; practitioner research projects funded by the Froebel Trust and presented at our recent conference, will take place at the Scottish Storytelling Centre on Saturday 13th January 2018. The day runs from 9:30 until 3:45 and costs £10. Please book directly with the Scottish Storytelling Centre (details at the bottom of this post).


Seminar Programme

9:30-10:30

Sharon Imray – “Goldilocks eated the three bears … yuk!”

Chris McCormick and Shauna McIntosh – “The Story of our Stories” or “How Cameron House Climbed the Magic Beanstalk”

10:45-11:45

Alison Hawkins and Moira Whitelaw – “Stories Here, Stories There, Stories Actually Everywhere”

Rhian Ferguson – “Children’s Narratives: a look at the importance of listening to, facilitating and nurturing pretend play and storytelling in an early years setting to support children’s literacy development”.

12:00 – 1:00

Lynda Bardai – “A Bag Full of Stories – an Adventure with Props”

Rosemary Welensky and Lucy Macfarlane – “Woodland Stories and Adventures”

1:00-1:30 Break

 1:30-2:30

Elaine Fullerton – “Fix Fix Fix – Olav is Stuck – supporting children to tell the story that they really want to tell”

Deirdre Armstrong – “Superheroes and imaginative play: are we losing opportunities for our children?”

2:45-3:45

Catriona Gill – “Players and Storytellers: Supporting Writing in Primary One”

Teresa Bolger – “Rescue Knight Coming! …. And follow me, follow me and now we are out of the cage. Embodied Adventures Exploring the Literacy of Movement within a Wild Natural Place”

You will find more information on the content of the presentations here Saturday Seminar Programme Players & Storytellers 13th January 2018

 

Please book direct with the Storytelling Centre by phone, 0131 556 9579, or in person, 43-45 High Street, Edinburgh, EH1 1SR.

Opening hours, Monday – Saturday 10am-6pm, Sunday 12-6pm (Closed 24/25/26/27/31 December and 1/2 January)

Reflections on Dr Lynn McNair’s Keynote at Froebel: Gifts for Our Future 9 by John Dagger

Before hearing Lynn speak at the Gifts for Our Future conference, I had been pre-warned that the content of her presentation might be upsetting.  The title ‘Rules, Rules, Rules, and We’re Not Allowed to Skip’ had already set transition alarm bells ringing and I was not expecting to be uplifted!

Lynn began by grounding the audience in some important Froebelian principles, with ‘discipline being a non-issue in a well conceived educational programme’ jumping out at me in particular.  I have worked for many years in the early stages, and mostly in P1.  More recently I have been practicing in Nursery and the topics of discipline, rewards and self directions are ones I have discussed with colleagues often, especially those still in P1.

It wasn’t very long before Lynn was talking about Golden Time, and the sun and cloud charts that are used with this reward and sanctions system.  My heart sank.  I had used these in my classes.  I thought I had used them well.

I had read about Golden Time many, many years ago, and it had made sense to me at the time.  Everyone else was using it . . . but I had never taken the time to really ask myself “WHY?”  Why do I need this idea of punishment – of loss – of being ‘bad’ or ‘naughty?’  And, more importantly why didn’t the nursery need this system?

In my latter years in P1 I’d like to hope that the system wasn’t really being used – It was just ‘there’.  I had moved on to a much more play based curriculum and interdisciplinary method of teaching and learning.  But it was still there.  In the background.  Looming. . .

It upsets me to think of the pressure I had most likely and unwittingly placed upon my learners.  I have heard first hand, from ex pupils currently in P1 visiting my nursery of how they view the sun and the clouds.  One girl was telling me just a few weeks ago how she worries about a boy in her class who is always on the black cloud.  Knowing the wee lad in question makes me wonder how well he understands the rules of his new environment.  English is an additional language for him, and I suspect he may be finding new routines difficult to understand.

Lynn touched on EAL in her presentation mirroring my thoughts, before moving onto classification.

I made my peace with ‘PIPS’ many years ago (A baseline and end of year assessment tool used in every P1 in Scotland).  They had to be done.  Simple as that, so I made them a game.  I have never ‘taught to the test’ and agree with Lynn who noted that ‘this type of pedagogy celebrates rote learning, memorising and high-stakes testing, while it produces an atmosphere of child passivity and teacher routinisation.’  Froebelian practitioners embrace freedom from rote learning as it opens the door to understanding, and, as I have always championed, all learning has to start from where the learner is.

Lynn then turned her attention to how the curriculum is designed in many Primary settings.  How it can often be a ‘top down’ controlled system, closely aligned with corporate power and military values.  She shared with the audience the words of a P1 explaining how they felt about ‘groups’ and how good or bad a child is at learning in relation to these.  John Hattie’s research would certainly support the child’s question as to why they were even being grouped in the first place.  I was very lucky in my final year as a class teacher to have been in a school which recognised the power of mixed ability learning, of collaborative learning and of challenged based, skill focused learning.   In that last year I even took the plunge and had no groupings in my class.  Everyone made progress.  I was happier, and I hope the children were too.

Lynn concluded by focusing on the transition process and how children view their own school readiness.  Her words have made me reflect on the transition policy we have in place in my current setting, and as Lynn noted, it is probably well intended – but possibly not well enacted.

Lynn’s presentation has already caused much dialogue between myself and colleagues within and beyond my setting.

Lynn’s presentation, although difficult to hear, has held a mirror up to every practitioner involved in transition.

We have been challenged.

We have been challenged to consider new possibilities and to focus on play.

I plan on rising to the challenge.

 

John Dagger

Head Teacher,

Mount Esk Nursery School

Froebel: Gifts for Our Future 9 – Graphic Record

Those who attended the Froebel: Gifts for Our Future 9 Conference in October, may remember Albi Taylor, busily working away at the back of the hall creating a record of the proceedings.

We are delighted to be able to share this wonderful record of the day with you now.

FROEBEL Graphic

More about Albi’s work can be found on her website here.