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Together while apart

By: VERONIQUE DIDI

Monday 25 May 2020

Hello, my name is Veronique Didi and I am the owner manager of Piccolini Play & Learn preschool for the last 15 years. We operate from a community hall in Enniskerry, Co Wicklow. 

I thought that it would be important to stay in touch with the children of Piccolini during this terrible crisis.

I initially tried to give ‘homework’ to the children through our play-school WhatsApp group. The suggestion was: ‘Please tell a story of something that you really loved, that you did or that you saw during your day’, do a painting or a drawing of it and keep it for your scrap books. I had a few positive responses about it from a number of parents, but I wanted to develop it further.

With the help of a parent, I organised a conference call using the ‘GoToMeeting’ app and invited all the parents/children to be part of it. Everybody was thrilled about it. To reconnect together, I initially asked them about the above ‘homework’ and about what they did on that day.

A few interesting stories emerged and from that evolved our emergent curriculum as we do in playschool every day. One child had been in the woods and found a sheep jaw that she showed to everyone at the conference call.

Before closing the school, our most recent emergent curriculum had been ‘the dinosaurs’ and I thought to link her sheep jaw to a new learning programme. We had talked about herbivores and carnivores Dinosaurs in school, but we never talked about their teeth.

I prepared a learning programme about it and shared it with the children on the GoToMeeting app. At the end of the session I asked them to make, to draw, to paint a monster of their choice with a lot of teeth. At the next session the children showed their monsters to each other and were very proud to share their arts and crafts.

From there I developed a learning programme about omnivores and their teeth… which lead into food and what the children’s favourite food were. Their next suggestion was to make a plate with their favourite food using sand, playdough, paint. To cut and glue food from a magazine on a plate was another idea.

We did some science experiment using boiling water and red cabbage, vinegar, sodium bicarbonate and bleach solutions. The purple colour obtained from the red cabbage changed to blue, pink and yellow depending on the solution used.

Earlier in the year a grandmother gave me a sunflower head. We removed the seeds from it and March/April was the time to plant them. I placed a letterbox outside the playschool.  The parents were welcome to go and collect their envelope if they wanted. In each envelope were a few seeds for the children and their siblings. I asked the children to plant their seeds and we are monitoring how the flowers are doing during the Covid19 crisis.

The parents gave me feedback and one of them told me that her child would love to do a ’show and tell’ session. I scanned a book about ‘show and tell’ that I have in play school and read it to the children. It’s about a very shy pupil and the child who wants to do the ’show and tell’ session is extremely shy, so it helped her.

Initially I was a bit worried about these conference calls as they only last a short while, but it is actually absolutely feasible and the children (and their parents indeed) are truly enjoying the process.

I hope that this story will inspire some of you or that you will develop other ideas to inspire me on how to keep in touch by keeping our distance. 

Bio:

I am French and my name is Veronique Didi. Early years education is my second career. I had a craft business prior to my play-school which explains why I do a lot of art and craft with the children. I have a degree in early childhood education and I am the inclusion coordinator in our play school. 

I am passionate about children and enjoy helping them to develop their social skills, confidence, personalities and  self esteem. I highly value the role of play in which creativity, emotions and imagination thrive. 

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