Contribution by Elyssa Walsh, Kids ELC

Sometimes learning fits neatly into the boxes that shape our curriculum. Other times, learning bursts vibrantly out of those boxes. In some cases, it can be those very “boxes” that create the greatest limitations on our children and their learning.

Start with the child, not the outcome

When outcomes for learning begin with a box, rather than beginning with the child, we run the risk of robbing children of authenticity within their learning. We also risk limiting the opportunity for flexibility, creativity, wonder, magic, passion and genuine, meaningful inquiry.

How often do we diminish opportunities for learning by setting out first and foremost to “tick a box”? How often do we hold onto preconceived ideas of what learning “should” look like, jeopardising the very possibility for rich, authentic experiences? How many opportunities do we leave undiscovered? How many important questions are left unasked? How many exciting ideas unexplored?

When we start with the child, however, it’s as if the walls of those boxes magically melt away. The concepts once contained within the boxes seem to work in more unison, in more fluidity and with greater ease when the walls are removed and we see the child. Ironically, when putting the child before the “box”, the outcomes become more tangible, more accessible, and they are often covered more broadly and in greater depth. When we value the child and their contributions genuinely and we hear and walk with children sincerely, the rest has a more profound chance of aligning. This is something I know to be true, something I believe and something I have reflected upon time and time again.

Help to map the journey

When we follow children’s ideas, their learning will often take the scenic route rather than the linear. It is our job to be present as children collect their learning souvenirs and outcomes throughout their learning travels. In this way, both the destination and the journey alike are open-ended, if we as educators remain responsive and creative. These limitless opportunities and possibilities produce a special kind of magic, and this magic holds the power to remove the linear from the children’ s learning as they adventure outside of the box.

As we allow and plan for “thinking” in this way, how much more genuine in turn could our curriculum be? Our documentation, and our future planning as we walk alongside children within their learning rather than out ahead of them? It is then as educators we also step out of the box and take on the role of “learning detectives”.

We become true investigators and lifelong learners alongside children as we endeavour to uncover what it is that children truly want to know and what they already understand. The purpose of a learning detective is not to affirm what children already know; rather, it’s about recognising the birth of an idea or question, and passionately tracking the thinking in progress. The possibility then becomes to document experiences, thought processes and ideas in authenticity, rather than the more robotic parallel of planning for and documenting “activities” which simply keep children busy.

What a beautiful and unique journey to be a part of for children, educators, parents and the community. In this way, no two journeys could ever be the same. That is an exciting thought.

The magic is in our hands and that is “sacred business”. It is both our responsibility and our privilege, and I am inspired for the work that lies before us.

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