Thursday, July 24, 2014

Children are competent learners - Building confidence and resilience in kids

One of the Five Big Ideas here at The Little School is The Reggio Emilia Approach which encourages viewing children "as competent, curious, full of knowledge, potential, and interested in connecting to the world around them."  This concept is celebrated at The Little School in many ways.  

One way that we see this is in our outdoor environment.  We purposefully create natural challenges and give encouragement and guidance as the children learn to climb the rocks on the playground or balance on the stumps or even just toddle over a log.  By creating an environment where it is safe, and in fact encouraged, to take risks, we teach kids life-skills that will help them thrive in the great wide world, wherever their journey may take them.
How does this idea fit into our actual daily experiences?  Take a look….

Pippa figures out the rock wall

When Pippa first started to climb the rock-climbing wall, she noticed it was slippery since it was wet from the rain earlier.  She looked to her teacher as she slipped a little.

Her teacher smiled and gave her a little encouragement.  "Yes, it's slippery when it's wet, isn't it?  Do you want to try again?"

Pippa replied, "Yes, I do!"  And began to try again.  She pulled and pushed with her arms.  Her feet kept slipping.  So she looked to her teacher again.  Using Conscious Discipline and praising her effort, Pippa's teacher commented, "You are working hard to figure out how to climb up that wall."  Reassured, Pippa continued to work at it.  Through a lot of effort and determination, Pippa eventually made it all the way to the top.  She was pretty excited but not overly enthusiastic.  What she did do was immediately come back down to try climbing the wall again,  and then again, and yet again.

As a teacher and a parent, it isn't easy to watch a child slip.  The
protective instinct kicks in to save her from hurting herself, to tell her to avoid the wall if it is wet and slippery.  But in teaching the child to learn to trust their own abilities, we are giving her the gifts of confidence, determination, and resilience.  Yes, the wall is slippery when it is wet.  But that creates a learning opportunity, a choice which teachers can point out to kids which will in turn help them to make safe choices in the future.  The choice is, "Can you climb it?  Do you feel safe?  Or would you feel better going up the other side on the tire-climbers?"  Sometimes the choice requires some initial attempts, some taking of that risk.  If the child tries, they can learn to gauge their ability.  If they can't climb the wall, they CAN choose another way up.

Even from a very young age, children can learn to assess a situation in terms of their own ability and confidence.  Another example of this occurs on the stumps on our Hillsborough campus toddler playground.  In Laura H.'s class, each child approaches the stumps differently.  Jack simply wants to jump off each and every stump.  Laney feels scared as she stands on one of the high stumps and asks for help.  Rue sticks to the stumps that are lower to the ground and gets excited each time she jumps off one onto the ground.  Teacher Laura H. watches and guides each child through their own process.  When Jack lands, she comments, "You did it, Jack.  You jumped onto the ground."  When Laney whimpers, Laura gives her encouragement and choices,  "Laney, try sitting down to get down."  Laney slowly lowers her body to sitting and is able to get down.  "I did it," she smiles.  What does Laney choose to do next?  You guessed it, she goes and gets right back up onto the stumps and works to figure out how to get down again.  Rue seems to know exactly where her abilities are and is just thrilled each time she jumps off a small stump.

Instilling this sense of competency can help kids indoors as well.  Many kids struggle as they learn self-help skills to feel confident in their abilities.  Learning to put shoes on is another challenge that kids of all ages work on here at The Little School.  With the same patience, encouragement and guidance, they will keep at it and eventually figure it out.  And then when they get a new pair of shoes, they will have to figure how to get them on and off again.  But each time, if they are encouraged to take the time to work it out themselves with support, they will have not only figured out how to put their shoes on, but they will become a little more confident in their own ability to solve problems.  And that's exactly what we want!  Someday we hope our little problem-solvers will become big problem-solvers!
Ms. Crystal patiently encourages Mattie as she puts on her own shoes!
Here are a few more photos of outdoor challenges the kids LOVE to "play" on...

Toddlers especially love trying different surfaces and varied gradations as they fine tune their mobility skills.
Madeleine walks
down while
holding the
Miles and Tere practice sliding down
the bridge on their bottoms!
Miles tries
walking down
the steep

Laney gauges her foot
positions carefully as she
crosses our playground riverbed.

Using her arms to balance, she
takes one slow step at a time!

No comments:

Post a Comment

Thanks for your comments. All comments are moderated so your comment may not appear immediately on the blog.