At Growing Places, we believe children are born curious and capable learners. Our role as educators is to harness this curiosity and support the journey of discovery and wonder.
This project was our first tentative dip into the waters of developing a more enquiry-based curriculum. A curriculum that was not pre-determined or planned by the adults, but one that enabled children to explore their own ideas further, to research alongside educators who listened to those ideas and supported the learning though careful posing of questions or setting up rich environments that supported the children’s enquiries. This project captured the minds of 15 3-4year old children and an originally sceptical educator, Bridie, in 2017.
Bridie McCarroll has worked with children for over 30 years and shares her love of growing, sewing, knitting, baking and creating with the children and adults. She originally worked with children who had additional needs for over 10 years, before joining us in Growing Places in 2005. She has touched so many children and adults lives with her positivity and sunshine and we wanted to say a huge thank you to her from the bottom of our hearts for all she has done for us and all of those families, by celebrating the success of one of her projects.
The Moon Project
The seed of an enquiry is sown.
This leads us onto the project itself ‘The Moon Project’.
One morning as the children were arriving to nursery two girls Maddisyn and Georgia were gazing out of the window.
Georgina: “The moon is still out”
Maddisyn: “yes it’s the moon and I think it followed me to nursery!”
Georgina: “it showed me the way to nursery this morning, it followed my Daddies car.”
What an interesting thought!
From a child’s perspective the moon was following them from when they walk out of their front door to when they get to nursery. Luckily, Bridie was there, notebook in hand ready to record this conversation. She found it significant and interesting, and the seed of an enquiry was sown!!
Key to the enquiry and offering endless possibilities, was Bridie noticing, valuing and documenting what the children said, acknowledging the importance of their thoughts and later that day sharing this with her colleagues.
The next step is always, what to do with this interesting statement, how do we acknowledge the children’s thoughts or questions and encourage them to explore it further or elaborate on their thinking and even sometimes challenge their thinking.
Bridie shared this small moment in time with her colleagues. They reflected on it sharing their own experiences and knowledge of these children and decided to pose a question to the children the next morning:
“did the moon follow you to nursery today?”
The children were unsure so wanted to go outside to ‘check’ if the moon was there. Bridie as an experienced educator, who knew this may be a possibility, was on hand with binoculars and ready to take the children out!
Initially they couldn’t see the moon so they walked around the nursery building until they spotted it. The binoculars enabled the children to look at the moon in much more detail. They noticed the ‘holes’ in the moon.
Eva “I love looking at the moon the moon has holes and salt too”.
Maddisyn “The Moon has got holes in it and it is moon rock. We have one moon; the other half is asleep that half is hiding behind the black clouds”.
Grace “The moon is pitch black, it’s a shame as the other side is bright.
As the children walked back from spotting the moon Grace noticed that Talia’s welly boot looked like the moon.
“Wow your welly is the same colour as the moon”.
Talia was wearing sparkly boots and the light reflected of the sparkles. Grace is able to make the link between the reflected light of the moon and the reflected light on the boot looking similar.
This simple act by Bridie of posing this question to the children the next morning sparked interest in the minds of more children, bringing them into the group connected by a now comment interest. There is an opportunity for rich dialogue between the children and, of course, Bridie is their camera and notebook in hand to capture this!
Again, Bridie shares this with her colleagues and they decide to create a space for the children to continue their enquiry, we call this space our ‘studio’ a space that allows children to be emersed in the enquiry with an abundance of resources for the children to use and access. The children and Bridie would inhibit this space every day over many months as the enquiry moved, evolved and developed. The children explored the moon, stars and the solar system their parents got involved and would bring in interesting objects from home to support this.
Bridie used reflection as a powerful tool to understand the children and their thinking. To ensure she did not lead the journey but supported the children’s exploration and questions. She always had her camera and notebook to document what was happening, and we are so grateful for this as we have these notes and photos. This enables us as educators to have a richer knowledge about the children, how they were learning and their enquiries. We have realised that this fascination with the moon was not just a single occurrence, but something that takes place during most autumn mornings, as the children make their way to nursery and notice the moon. Multiple times we have heard this same question from different children in different settings. We tend to tell children that the moon only comes out at night, but this is not true, and the children are fascinated by this.
Children have lots of questions about the world around them How? Why? When? Where? They are experiencing these things for the first time and want to understand and make sense of it, but it is too easy as adults to just give them the answers (we have lived on this earth much longer than them and know a lot, or at least we think we do! Remember we are the ones telling the children that the moon comes out at night!) but in doing this we limit their learning process. The journey may not end up answering the original question but the richness in the journey is what is important. The connections made, the shared understanding, the skills explored, theories tested and tried, resilience gained when things don’t go the way you had planned, learning to be researchful, that sometimes someone else has a different idea or opinion, learning to challenge that opinion without causing upset. Surely these are much richer life lessons for our children than knowing when I ask an adult something, they tell me the answer. So, slow down and listen to your children you never know what journey you may go on!
All of the children, team members and parents, shared the excitement of the Moon project that year and it started us on our own professional journey to find out more about how children learn, so that we can be the best facilitators for them.
“Where is the moon? What is an orbit? Why do we sometimes see it at night? We do we sometimes see it in the day? Being able to feed that imagination and that knowledge by letting them find these things out. Throughout this whole project the staff did a really good job of finding resources to give them something visual to keep them interested to find out what is out there. Emotionally my daughter was engaged with the project if they hadn’t wanted to do it, it wouldn’t have lasted nearly as long as it did and I think for them it was that joy of conversation and learning something new with friends, and the joy of telling your parents something they don’t know!
I think the learning process for any child, without a defined goal, with space, in general….. there are astrophysicists out there who are still asking questions, we don’t know the final answers and so the nice thing about this kind of project is that there doesn’t have to be an answer, but there can be more questions.
For me the project was a fantastic experience for all of the children involved, all the staff that had a hand in this; they know they shape the children, but I don’t think they realise the impact that they have on what these children are going to become. We are so proud of Georgina and all involved in this project, to make them something more and give them that sense of accomplishment for something that they didn’t realise they could learn”. Tom Father of Georgina aged 4 years.
We are so Grateful to Bridie for her time and commitment to this journey into a different style of pedagogy. For allowing our children to have these valuable experiences that they still talk about now 4 years on!
A poem that one of the children composed as part of the Project.
Maddisyn turned to Bridie and said: “I want to do some poet” and this is what she shared.
The stars glow white and say goodnight.
Stars shiver and make it night.
They twinkle until they make it night.
And then say goodnight.
By Maddisyn 4years