I spent the whole night yesterday thinking about my ‘best’ learning experience. I looked through all the photos that I took during my previous professional experience at a child care centre but still could not decide which to reflect on. I came across with Miss Cee Cee’s best learning experience where she talked about her beliefs of a ‘best’ learning experience – “it needs to be flexible, interesting and involve different learning styles. Use of ICT, hands on and written/illustrations. Teaching pedagogy needs to be student centred, and depending on the year level and students themselves, somehow student initiated within boundaries, for example; instructions and teacher explanation and assistance.” As I was reading learning path 2 – about copyrights, to acknowledge the author of the blog, I have commented on Miss Cee Cee’s blog to let her know that I have included her ideas in my blog. Thanks to Miss Cee Cee, I was then able to decide which learning experience that I planned during my professional experience I think was the best.
The best learning experience that I planned and implemented was on my previous professional experience at a child care centre with my toddlers (15 months to 2 years old). My idea for this learning experience was from my observations of whole group of children playing at the home corner, children were so engaged in their pretend play – role playing having high tea, sitting down with friends and having cupcakes and teas, dumplings etc. To further children’s interest, I decided to continue with cooking theme. I wish to provide opportunities for children to involve in real cooking. As the children that I had were very young, most of them were still under 2 years old. I had to consider their ability to ‘cook’ and their attention span for the activity. So I came up with two different learning experiences.
The first learning experience – making play dough. We made our own play dough from scratch. With the assistance of my mentor teacher and assistant teacher, we gathered all children and sat down together around the table. I introduced all the ingredients we need to make play dough: Plain flour, salt, vegetable oil, cream of tartar, water, food colouring. Before we mix all the ingredients in the big bowl, to stimulates children’s senses: touch and smell, I invited the children to put their hands into the plain flour and salt, asking children “How does it feels like? Does it feels soft or hard?”; and smell the vegetable oil.
All children had turn of touching and feeling the texture of the plain flour and salt, and smelling the vegetable oil. The children also had turn to pour the ingredients into the big blue bowl, and mixed them together. The children decided to add yellow, green and red food colouring into our freshly made play dough! Rolling pins and shape cutters were provided for each child to investigate and manipulate the play dough. Collage materials such as straws, coloured match sticks, beans, and penne were also provided to encourage sensory play.
Messy play is important for young children, giving them endless ways to develop and learn. All types of play are essential for children’s development and early learning. Play helps children to develop and improve their gross and fine motor skills, co-ordination and concentration. Also how to work cooperatively and collaboratively, using all their senses to discover and develop their imagination, creative thinking and ability to problem solve and experiment with solutions.
Sensory Play is very important for young children as it helps them to integrate all their senses. Sensory play helps children process all the information the brain receives from touching, smelling, tasting, hearing and seeing. By providing opportunities for sensory play children have the opportunity to not only develop their senses but they also develop holistically. Children will develop their cognitive, physical, creative, literacy & numeracy, oral language and creativity skills.
This particular learning experience was to build foundations for the next learning experience – the actual learning experience that I wanted to introduce to my toddlers are baking cookies!!! I planned the learning experience this way because I wanted to build children’s knowledge in real baking – involve mixing, kneading, and shaping etc. I wanted the children to bring what they learnt in the ‘making play dough’ learning experience into the next ‘baking cookies’ learning experience. Another reason I planned the learning experiences this way is because I was using the Early Years Learning Framework. The EYLF encourages educators to plan and implement learning through play. According to EYLF, “play is a context for learning that allows for the expression of personality and uniqueness, enhances dispositions such as curiosity and creativity, enables children to make connections between prior experiences and new learning, assist children to develop relationships and concepts and stimulates a sense of wellbeing.” (DEEWR, 2009)
I prepared all the baking ingredients in the morning and asked the children to join in our baking class! My mentor teacher and I encouraged the children to wash our hands using soap before we start our baking class. We encouraged them to scrub their hands, rinse the soap off and dry their hands with paper towel. After our hands were cleaned, I introduced the ingredients we need to make the cookie: Plain flour, butter, baking powder, egg, honey, cinnamon and milk. We followed step by step touching and feeling the ingredients, smelling them, adding and mixing all together. All children had a small dough each, they kneaded and shaped it using their hands. After that, we decorated our cookies with a selections of toppings including sultanas, chopped apricot and desiccated shredded coconuts. Lastly, we laid them on the baking tray and sent it to the kitchen to be baked! The children’s eyes lit up when they saw the baked biscuits!!! “Mmmmm yummy!”. We all had a little taste for afternoon tea and sent one home for Mommies and Daddies.
Through these learning experiences, children developed dispositions for learning such as curiosity, cooperation, confidence, creativity, commitment, enthusiasm, persistence, imagination and reflexivity by showing keen interest in the process of making our cookies, as well as expressing their creativity through shaping and decorating their own cookie for mommy and daddy. Children also developed their emerging autonomy, inter-dependence, resilience and sense of agency as they working collaboratively with their friends and teachers. As well as building positive relationships with their friends through interacting with others with caring manners. Children’s fine motor skills were also enhanced through manipulation of the dough and the toppings provided.
Both learning experiences were implemented successfully. Although both learning experience did not involve the use of ICT, children were highly engaged in their learning (given that they were very young), which I believed mainly due to the learning experience (baking cookies) were connected to their prior experience (making play dough) and children were able to bring what they have learnt in the past to their present learning.
Following are some photos that I am able to share (without children’s faces or names):
Australian Government Department of Education, Employment and Workplace Relations. (2009). Belonging, being & becoming. The Early Years Learning Framework for Australia. Retrieved from https://docs.education.gov.au/system/files/doc/other/belonging_being_and_becoming_the_early_years_learning_framework_for_australia.pdf