Enabling environments – beyond the physical resource

This month, in our ongoing collaboration with Edge Hill University curated by ALICIA BLANCO-BAYO, Early Years Lecturer and WTEY Programme Leader at the University’s Faculty of Education, we hear from LAURA GREGORY, Early Years Lecturer at the University, who explains the importance of enabling environments in an Early Years setting. “The wider the range of possibilities we offer children, the more intense will be their motivations and the richer their experiences.” – Loris Malaguzzi

“Development Matters in the Early Years Foundation Stage” (2012) states that children learn and develop well in enabling environments, in which their experiences respond to their individual needs and there is a strong partnership between practitioners and parents and carers. An enabling environment is so much more than the physical resources within it. Only when a child has made a meaningful and respectful relationship with their environment can they go on to engage in active learning, playing and exploring with physical resources and forming relationships with the adults and the children with whom they share the environment. Within the Reggio Emilia approach to early childhood education, the

environment is perceived to be the third teacher, but for children to have the ability to be involved in deeper level learning within the environment they must feel safe and secure in their relationship with it. We need to allow children time, space, access and opportunity to form a positive relationship with their environment. When supporting children to look at next steps in their learning, relationships and observation allow for the following of interests which give the opportunity for the use of objects of provocation. Your environment should foster an approach that allows children to challenge themselves and take risks. We have come a long way in early years with the recognition of the power

of open-ended resources, the development of calm, safe spaces and ensuring accessibility for all including the recommendations for continuous outdoor play. Children need the opportunity to be outdoors and connect with nature and the world around them. This presents them with opportunities and interactions that are far more valuable than physical resources. If we have one learning environment for several different children, we need to continue to ensure that through the environment we continue to value all people and all learning. We need to provide an environment that is inviting, inclusive and ignites a child’s intrinsic motivation to explore in a creative way. Cultivating a non-prescriptive environment which is open to personal

interpretation will inspire child-led learning. We need to ensure that the space is visually appealing, sparks imagination and promotes a culture of reflection for the child for them to engage in deeper level learning. Think about how you document children’s progress and thought processes. Are they a part of this? Is this documented and celebrated as part of the environment so that children can view and input into this working documentation? Perhaps next time you are reviewing how enabling your early years environment is you can take a step back and see the bigger picture. This should not be a tick list of resources that are required but should be a culture that is embedded within your environment which should flourish from your shared vision. Children are entitled to an enabling and nurturing environment which

stimulates a love of learning, that is built on respectful, communicative relationships where they are challenged, listened to and valued as experts in their own lives. Learning should be a process of co-construction where the children, the adults and the environment work together harmoniously.

18 Science through videos

In her regular column this month, STEMtastic founder KIRSTY BERTENSHAW lists some of her favourite education channels on YouTube.

During this time of social distancing, online lessons and home learning, science videos have been a fabulous way to motivate and enthuse students. They not only allow students to take ownership of their own leaning with the ability to pause and re-watch fun videos, but they also provide an interesting way to explore scientific concepts that cannot be explored through practical experiments. Using videos for teaching has fallen out of favour in recent years, but they are an accessible source of expert information! These are some of my favourite education channels available on YouTube. As with all videos, ensure you watch them to make sure they are suitable for the intended audience. TED-Ed These videos are produced by experts in collaboration with talented animators, and link to full lesson plans. There are videos for many areas of the national curriculum at secondary level, and these link to more videos that can expand the concept further. Biology topic areas are covered by many videos on channel, specifically those exploring the immune system. The videos start simply but can become quite complex, so be prepared to explain some areas again after the video. PBS Digital Studios – Physics Girl Some of these videos answer questions I’ve never considered, while others are useful. These don’t link to the curriculum but are fun to watch - more suitable for secondary school students. Minute Physics If you are searching for complex physics concepts explained in videos this is the channel for you. While some videos can explore the speed of light and how aeroplanes fly, there are a wealth of videos exploring space, gravity and the universe. For more complex ideas, try ‘quantum shape shifting: Neutrino oscillations’ or ‘How the Sun works: Fusion and Quantum Tunnelling.’ SciShow SciShow is a good all-rounder channel with useful and interesting videos that can easily be searched to find relevant content. For example, when teaching adaptations, try the video ‘where do camels store their water?’ or ‘why don’t penguins’ feet freeze?’. Kurzgesagt – in a nutshell If you are looking for interesting animated videos to explore more obscure concepts, then look no further than Kurzgesagt. These do not line up with the national curriculum, but they do spark an interest in learning. There are some interesting theoretical space videos, including those on wormholes, Dyson spheres and how the universe might end. SpanglerScienceTV There are two channels produced by Spangler science, from the famous Steve Spangler – TheSpanglerEffect and SickScience. The first channel listed gives explanations for fun science experiments that you might try at home or in school, whereas the SickScience channel is aimed at children to try experiments themselves at home. These are very child friendly and great fun to watch, even if you aren’t joining in. Popular Science While these don’t link to the national curriculum at all, there are some awesome videos available. Try ‘Five huge machines that changed science’. Designed for entertainment over education, the content does vary but the accidental learning from these videos shouldn’t be underestimated. The Royal Institution Almost every area of physics is explored on the channel, presented by experts in a fun and engaging way. New videos are released biweekly, and past Christmas lectures are available too on the archive channel. These videos are most suited to KS3-5, with fantastic scientific concepts made accessible to all abilities. NASA For historic videos on space exploration and amazing views of celestial objects, NASA is undeniably the best source. When students ask you how astronauts use the toilet or eat food on the ISS, this is where you can find the answers!

Kirsty is the founder of STEMtastic, an education consultancy with a focus on Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths

July/August 2020

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