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Through the looking glass

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Tuesday 23 October 2018

Take a moment, look out the window. What do you see? The trees are filled with autumn colours to warm your heart. Bursting with a rainbow of amber, gold, red and green. The rain drops are falling from the sky to glisten the grass with a glossy coat of moisture. The light begins to break, moving from the darkness into a hazy light. Children are arriving, dropping their coats and bags as they run in the door. People of all ages are passing by the window, some are on their daily walk to school, while others are in cars, or sitting on the top deck of the bus. At the same time the community is waking, with bin lorries, post vans, and milk drop offs happening. Spiders are building webs in the corner of the window, birds are flying past and dogs are on their morning walk. When you look out your window what do you see?

At this time of the year, many children are arriving in the dark mornings, and possibly leaving when the darkness has fallen again. When the child looks out the window what do they see? With many cultural celebrations such as Halloween and Christmas coming upon us, for many children, they are beginning to see paintwork of skeletons, pumpkins, Santa Claus or snowmen. Figures and symbols which are often not meaningful for the child. Painted by the adult, covering the full length of the window – corner to corner the glass is smeared with black, white and red paint. Outwards facing artwork which looks ‘nice’ for people arriving to the setting.

But what about for the child? The window of possibilities has been removed. The natural colours of the trees, people and community cannot be observed. The intrigued child in your room can no longer watch the post arrive at the door. The curious child can no longer see the spider in the corner of the window. And the unsettled child can no longer see their parent arriving to collect them.

As the adult, we often take what we know for granted. We place an assumption of ‘they see that at home’, ‘sure it is only the bin-lorry’ or ‘it is raining – what is there to see?’. Aistear (2009) views the child as the competent and confident learner. A curious child who is engaged in their surrounding environment. A child with rights. A right to have a voice, to have a choice and the right to play. However, where are the child’s rights in a darkened room filled with artificial light and surrounded by adult artwork?

Girl looking out the window - Through the looking glass

Take a moment and consider what it is the child would see from the window when they look out. Think about the change between the darkness in morning, and the light breaking at 7.30-8am. Children begin to create an understanding of cause and effect. What causes it to be dark? What causes the darkness to go away? Through this, they can begin to understand sequence, and logic. The logic of when the sun comes out, the darkness goes away, and vice-versa. Pre-numeracy skills, new words and new understandings of the world around them are evolving. Supporting a sense of exploring and thinking through developing new ideas and theories. And a sense of identity and belonging in the community which surrounds them. As professionals, we intentionally create learning opportunities for children. We sing songs, recite rhymes, and provide open-ended materials. We encourage questions, and scaffold children’s understandings. While at the same time, we are removing learning opportunities which naturally surround the child.

For many children, if they are with you for 8-9-10 hours of a day, these learning opportunities may not be accessible when they leave in the evening, or at the weekends. At the weekend or in the evening, many of these routines within the community are on hold until Monday from 9 until 5. What is it we can do? Consider why artwork is needed on the glass, and who is it there for? Asking the question, is it for you, the adult, or is it for the child?

Look out the window and see what you can see. And then, get to the child’s eye level, look out the window and see what you can see. Hopefully, you will see colours, textures, light and a community of wonder passing by. Using the child’s lens, you will see endless learning opportunities, questions and happenings on the other side of the glass.

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