Determination and exploration

Focus ,determination, and a delightful sense of humour.

Today I had the privilege of spending time observing Grace setting about learning as many things as she could about her world in the Kina room. First of all, she explored the climbing rope ramp and what a delight to watch her. I was full of appreciation of how motivated and determined she was to master skill after skill after skill, whether it was fine motor skills, gross motor skills, language, relationships, or even the nature of humour! And not only this, but all these things came in such a complex and unpredictable package rather than in an organised tidy linear fashion!

I took a series of photos of Grace as she climbed that ramp and they capture the way she is so completely focussed on coordinating limbs and assessing distance and retrieving her balance. It is clear to me that Grace can manage this ramp pretty well and has deliberately chosen to tackle it while carrying a spoon and a bowl as well, just to add some spice to the complexity. Just at the end she dropped the spoon and being unable to reach it, Grace decided to follow the spoon, and so she had to get herself and the bowl off sideways. Which was pretty tricky as the ramp goes up at an angle and it was a big lift to get a leg up and out and over!

Later on, I had an enchanting exchange during which Grace was playing with a plastic bowl on her head and then saw me smiling at her and came closer and closer, playing with the bowl, and generously sharing the moment with me, with her eyes and her body language and her gorgeous smile. Grace’s determination to tackle challenges is such a driving force. During that one hour I saw her attempt about a dozen different and varied skills, many of which she created for herself. Once again, as when I met her last week, I noticed how single minded and focussed she can be. I shared a book of mine with her and Rubi and about 15 minutes later I asked Grace if she knew where it was. Off she went and I did not see where she went or where she looked but she found it and brought it to me. Her focus is quite outstanding, and her quiet, gentle demeanour with the other children is also very beautiful to watch. When I spend time with Grace it reminds me of how complex the world looks from a child’s point of view and how important it is that we give children, as Grace has clearly been given, the time and the respect to assess situations, consider options, weigh up their feelings and feel empowered to express their own perspective. Thank you, Grace.

(Recorded by Evelyn. May 2013) 

Welcome to the Kina Room aka Kurdistan!

Lachlan, this was the first day I met you and I was struck in the morning by how you
solemnly watched everything. Your eyes were wide open and watching, watching, watching.
When I checked with Mandy, I learned that you have been in the Kina room for only a short
time. In the afternoon I decided to take some time observing you as you explored this new
environment and the resources and people in it, and I was struck by the fact that it is
probably very hard for us adults to really appreciate how it might actually be for you.

It occurred to me that if I got dropped by parachute into Kurdistan (and that I have never
travelled abroad before in my life!), I might get a glimpse of what Lachlan experiences.
Imagine that this was an unanticipated event, that one cannot speak the language, that the
natives do not understand most of my sign language, that one knows nothing of the
customs, the social dynamics, the routines, the expectations, and there are numerous other
foreigners who do not share a common language, and some of whom are a bit distressed
and sometimes weepy.

I imagine that I too would simply solemnly stare, overwhelmed with the amount of stuff
that I am presented with and need to process; gathering data, noticing patterns, creating
working theories etc. I would definitely need a sense of belonging and wellbeing, before I
might consider exploring, playing, communicating and contributing. Or smiling much.
And this is why I trailed Lachlan with my camera, occasionally interacting and responding.
He became aware of my presence, my friendly interest in his activities and he increasingly
included me in his gaze and we shared some moments of playful pleasure. And by the time,
Dad came to pick you up and play for a while as well, Lachlan, you were clearly experiencing
a greater degree of wellbeing and connection, and I also felt I knew you a bit better.

It was an absolute pleasure to observe your earnest interest in the toys, the other children,
the building and driving challenges, and the way you explored various possible uses of
resources. I shared your pleasure too as you made a friendly connection with Kaeden, and I
empathised with you as you stared up at Kelvin, who must have looked huge and slightly
daunting from where you stood.

In all, my time ‘tracking’ and taking photos produced in me a feeling of awe with regards to
your resilience, your courage, your determination, your resourcefulness and your clear
instinct to find those things which you are nourished by……….play, connection, exploration,
friends, relationship, things with wheels, things you can pull, things to climb on to, and fall
off (but no tears!! ) playfulness, freedom to make choices ( make believe cooking or pulling
a vehicle? make believe cooking AND a vehicle ? ) and a feeling of belonging and well being.

It was only a 20 to 30 minute time frame but I felt I knew you so much better by the end of
that time (and it was a hard day in that it was raining all day and two other boys were
frequently expressing their lack of appreciation for being airlifted into Kurdistan
themselves). I take my hat off to you, Lachlan, and it was a privilege to observe you
managing your situation with such aplomb and dignity.
(Recorded by Evelyn. June 2013)

Learning through play

Witnessing this cameo of play, on my last day in the Paua Room, was a real highlight of my time there. One of my interests is to explore the role of play in a child’s learning journey, and investigate what role the teacher and the environment play in that process. A leading educationalist, Vygotksy, said,” In play, a child is always above his average age, above his daily behaviour; in play, it is as though he were a head taller than himself.”

Having never seen Brody participating in sociodramatic pretend play before, I was delighted to observe such linguistic, social, emotional and dispositional competence.

Brody, Max, Callum, Savanna and Sarah were playing underneath the climbing frames when I gently enquired as to ‘who’ they were and Brody went into a volley of explanations about who was whose brother and who was Spiderman and so forth. (It was very clear to him but, alas! I missed the fine details!) An ‘injury’ had occurred and I ran to get the play stethoscope for Brody, who gently used it as a plaster.

The game was complex and unspoken for the most part and involved many  journeys to and from ‘home’, much high speed running from Brody and Max, a few ‘injuries’ (healed with ‘plasters’/ leaves off the tree) and frequent urgent injunctions from Brody about the need to get home as fast as possible!

I noticed how Max (usually a powerful game initiator himself!) and Callum accepted Brody’s leadership. Sometimes they got confused as to whether they were being Brody’s henchmen or his opponents!- tempted by more predictable themes of conflict but Brody’s quiet consistency of purpose and his confident belief in his own unexpectedly collaborative play ideas won them back each time. The two, younger and quieter, girls clearly felt very comfortable in Brody’s ‘care’. With the language, gesture and actions of a tribal leader, a warrior, a doctor, a father, a provider and a protector, he was the inspiration and social glue of the game’s fabric.

I saw a heart-warming display of kindness, energy, imagination, social aptitude and language: Ok, we all have to go home. Come on! Let’s go!”  She needs a doctor. Here’s a plaster. “Afternoon tea with my big brothers. Mmm!! Spicy tea!”

When the game moved indoors, the whole whanau came too, with Brody still guiding the tone, the mood and the quality of social interactions around the table. He was full of warmth and enthusiasm, sharing the family corner and its props with imaginative and gentle collaboration.                                                                                                                                                                     Brody, I was thrilled to observe how you wove your life knowledge and your ability to imagine into your play, exploring and practising such powerful life skills and dispositions. What a treat to observe. Thank you! (Recorded by Evelyn. October 20th 2013)