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Early Childhood Studies @ Roehampton University London, UK

Thanks for joining me on my sabbatical adventure! 

 

These are some of the lovely images I had as I entered the Froebel Gage at Roehampton University.   Roehampton is home to the Frobel College and has both and undergraduate and graduate programs in Early Childhood Studies.

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My goal was to connect with the faculty of the Early Childhood Studies Program and  visit the Froebel Archive.   There was a bit of a twist as  within five minutes of arriving there was a fire alarm.  We needed to move outside very quickly….so we began introductions while standing outside waiting for the ‘all clear’.  Here are the first four faculty members I met:

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One of the most  striking things for me was the incredible international representation of both students and staff in  both the undergraduate and graduate programs  met with faculty from the UK, Portugal, Denmark, China, Italy and Columbia.

Another thing that was very striking to me was that we all on the ‘same page’ when it comes to key concepts such as the importance of play, attachment, early mental health.  There is also a shared concern about the pressure to engage in ‘schoolification’  and how this focus can devalue play as an essential learning mode.  I had the opportunity  to join Dr. Sophia Guimares (from Portugal)  in teaching her  module on on Babies and Toddlers are Partners.

The students in her course  are  in their fist year as  early childhood students. It was exciting to see how Dr. Guimaries approached the teaching of Attachment Theory.  As you can see the lecture hall is remarkably beautiful. It is in the Grove House which was acquired in 1900’s to become the home of the Froebel College.  The session took place in the  Portrait Room as it has many portraits on the beautiful wood walls accented by the high ceilings and chandeliers. It was an absolutely stunning room.

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lecture hall

Here is the description of the undergraduate program found on the Roehampton/Froebel website:

  • Roehampton is internationally renowned for its work in Early Childhood Studies. With a team of highly-regarded tutors who are experts in their specialism, you will learn from some of the best in the field.
  • This programme will empower you with the knowledge and skills, confidence and resilience to act as an advocate for babies, young children, their families and communities. You will develop an understanding of policy and practice and learn to engage in critical inquiry and problem solving around key issues in early childhood. Looking at the intellectual, emotional, physical, social and cultural experiences of young children, you will learn about promoting understanding and respect for young children and their families.

 

The Graduate School Program description:

  • Roehampton’s School of Education has a historical association with Froebel College which was founded in 1892. As a result, the programme is supported by the renowned Froebel Archive for Childhood Studies, and has developed an international reputation in the field attracting students at postgraduate level from around the world
  • Students become part of the early childhood research centre with its internationally highly respected research team.
  • Students graduate with a high level of knowledge and expertise in early childhood and strengthened confidence to contribute to, and advance in their chosen career.

In the evening I was invited to join, Dr. Sigrid Brogaard-Clausen  (from Denmark) in her graduate level  session on Professionalism, Leadership and Well-Being.  The students attending this class were literally  from all over the world. Columbia, El Salvador, China, Greece, Poland, Somalia and of course the United Kingdom.  The discussion were rich with perspectives.

Dr. Broogaard-Clausen’s lecture focused on her research in democratic living and well-being.  We reviewed summaries from various countries to note how well-being was defined.  Seligman’s  (2011) five  dimensional framework was referenced as a way to frame well-being:  positive emotions. engagement, relationships. meaning and accomplishment. As I found in Iceland, Norway and Ireland – concepts such as these were also linked back to the UN Rights of the Child is embedded in each countries early childhood framework . It is important to understand that the United States has not signed onto the the UN Rights of the Child.

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One of the activities was to discuss our personal principals in the field of early childhood education in small groups. This was the lead up to students submitting a written statement of principals. This was the wonderful small group I sat with during the evening – my group members were from the UK, Columbia, El Salvador and Saudi Arabia.

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I was fortunate to be at Roehampton for a special lecture by Dr. Maggie Haggerty from New Zealand.

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Dr. Haggerty presented her research on transitions.  She also addressed the concern of those in New Zealand of the move towards what she termed “learnification”. She showed video clips from her research demonstrating the importance of peer interactions and play alongside of support from teachers to have children explore, ask questions and engage in problem solving.

Thank you, thank you, thank you!

While on campus I was hosted by three wonderful, gracious  women who shared their offices with me and ensured I was introduced to the Early Childhood Studies team. Below you will see their pictures and bios.

 

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  • Dr Fengling Tang (from China)  is Senior Lecturer in Early Childhood Studies. Her research interests include childhood culture, early childhood curriculum and pedagogy, ethnicity and racial issues in education, technology with young children, Froebelian perspectives in early years, comparative research in early childhood, ethnographic research in education, EAL in early childhood, creativity in early childhood, and research in teacher training education.
  • Dr Sofia Guimarães(from Portugal)  is Senior Lecturer in Early Childhood Studies. Her current main research interests include bilingualism and multilingualism, literacy acquisition and children’s emotional wellbeing and learning.valera 3
  • Valeria Scacchi PhD Research Student (from Italy) is working on her dissertation research entitled: ‘Reconceptualising professional development in Early Childhood Education and Care’. She is also very interested in infants and toddlers so you can imagine we had good conversation.

I met briefly with Dr. Peter Elfer  one of the faculty team who is also  a member of World Association of Infant Mental Health.It was fascinating to learn about his research. Here is an overview of his work:   He is particularly interested in attachment and peer interaction in this setting and how psychoanalytical tools can be used to explore this relationship. His doctoral research concerned the nature of nursery cultures and their impact on individuals and interactions. The aim was to see whether particular patterns of management are associated with particular outcomes for children.research involved spending time in infant nurseries to understand the dynamics between the babies, their caregivers – and caregivers and parents. 

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Visiting the Froebel Archive

My final goal was realized when Kornelia hosted my visit to the Froebel Archive. Kornelia showed me samples of work done by the early students in the Froebel College and a very interesting Treasure Basket made by one of the students.  It was rewarding to talk with her about the value of the collection and the impact Froebel had on the education of young children all around the world. There is a link to all of the archive materials that have been digitized.  Here is the link:

http://urweb.roehampton.ac.uk/digital-collection/froebel-archive/

 

Finally, for those reading this blog who are involved in early childhood , I have a question.  How Froebelian are you in your practice?

As I reviewed  Froebels principles, I realized how much of an impact Froebel’s ideas have had on my own thinking and practice. I would love to hear how you view thee principles in relation to your own thinking and practice.  There is a very nice overview at this link sponsored by the British Association of Early Childhood Education.

https://www.early-education.org.uk/about-froebel

 

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Some Early Childhood Insights from Ireland

As I explored the Dublin Institute of Technology  campus I spent a bit of time in the library and found this  selection of Early Childhood Journals. The feature article in the International Early Years was written by faculty from Dublin City University and Dublin Institute of  Technology. Thus began my week in Ireland!

 

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I have spent a most exciting week in Dublin, Ireland meeting faculty from Dublin City University (DCU)  and the Dublin Institute of Technology (DIT). What I have learned is that in Ireland there have been recent, sweeping changes that moved teacher’s colleges into the universities. This has led to universities, such as DCU, to offer BA degrees in early childhood education.

My host at DCU  has Dr. Mathias Urban who is also leading the new International Early Childhood Research Center  at DCU. At DIT my hostess has been Dr. Dorit Derring.  DIT has been the institution that has the longest  history in offering  early childhood teacher preparation in Ireland and began by offering the first certificate program.   DCU will graduate it’s first co-hort of BA prepared early childhood teacher in the next year.  Here I am with both Dr. Urban and Dr. Deering outside of their offices.

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Much like the journey of early childhood teacher preparation in the  United States, the preparation of early childhood teachers in Ireland  has followed a different path from that of primary or elementary teacher preparation.  In Ireland the role of the teacher has been described to me as ‘sacred ground’ However the way this is conceptualized in Ireland does not extend to the role of the early childhood teacher ranks as being on equal par with teachers who work with older children.  I saw this poster in Dr. Urban’s office.  I think it sums up some of the common challenges faced in ECE by many of us.

 

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Dr. Urban had just returned from the Reconceptualizing Early Childhood Education Conference in Denmark the day before I arrived. I happened to note that he received a lifetime achievement reward at the conference in tandem Dr. Dahlberg  from Sweden. I asked permission to take a photo of his photo receiving the reward. Congratulations to both! To learn more about this organization go to this link:

http://www.receinternational.org/about.html#sthash.kYQbIojL.1XGLPIvB.dpbs

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Although the time was short, both Dr. Urban and Dr. Deering made it possible for me to meet a number of ‘movers and shakers’  in early childhood education in Ireland.  I have much to process from all of the interviews. What I tell you is that there was a great deal of experience, passion and commitment from everyone I met.

Dr. Deering has been asked to be on the board for the  Irish Infant Mental Health board. We met with two of the new board members. The board recently adopted the competencies from the USA that we use in our Minnesota IMH.   As part of the Irish IMH circle, Dr. Deering introduced me to  Diedra – who is an advanced nurse practioner. She has established mental health services for parents and babies in the Royal Maternity Hospital charting a course for a new type of professional position to address IMH.

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Pictured with Dr. Urban are Colette and Grainne.  Colette has done very interesting work in advocating for Travellers ( a group that is disadvantaged and discriminated against) families in Ireland. Grainne who is a a lecturer at DCU.

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The are but a few of the wonderful, passionate folks I met this past week. More to come! Grainne is not only a passionate early childhood teacher educator, but she is also a talented musician. She invited me to a pub to hear Irish music in  which she plays  the fiddle with a group of friends in a pub.  I got to sit on a ‘wee little chair’ right next to her and the banjo player.. It was so kind of her to invite me! I will leave you with this picture of Grainne tuning her fiddle and a link so you might also hear some authentic Irish music!  Enjoy!

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Norwegian support for little babies and their parents

The Norwegian Baby Sang – (in English, Baby Sing)

In Trondheim, I learned about a special program sponsored by churches for parents and very young babies.  Siri, my hostess at Queen Maud shared her experience attending Baby Sang when her son was very young. She wondered if I might want to visit a session? Of course!  Siri made arrangements for me (and my two friends who have been travelling with me) to attend the Baby Sang she had been a part of.

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It was so much like a baby class in our Minnesota Early Childhood Family Education classes….(Renee, you would have LOVED  this!)  Babies arrived in their buggies at church …. As saw in the first picture and gather around the altar.

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Parents and infants came forward and participated by sitting on mats in front of the altar. As the name implies, baby sang, there was singing.  Not just light  children’s songs but lullabies that were deep and meaningful

The woman leading the Baby Sang had an amazing voice and all of the parents joined in the singing but her voice could be heard above all.  On the mats were some items we that we use  in ECFE in Minnesota in baby classes such as light weight see-through scarves and bubbles, egg shakers used to for a back-ground rhythm and  a pure tone bar.  Here are are two  samples of the music in Baby Sang: One sample is of the lighter music and one more somber. The babies were fascinated by both types of music.

What was so striking to me was that not only where there some familiar activities (peek-a-boo with the scarves, a song in which babies were tickled at the end, another song in which parents raised the babies up high) but some of the songs had a very different melody and pitch than tradition songs for children. In addition the parents and babies moved as a group following  the leader from the front of the altar, to walking around the altar, to playing with bubbles at the communion rail and finally  making a circle around the candles that are often lit in memory of a loved one.

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The session ended with the babies back on the mats playing with one another and parents having coffee and good conversation. The Baby Sang leader spoke about the importance of the coffee and conversation for parents.

As I wrote about previously Parents take one year off when their child is born.  That is why the barnehagen programs begin at 1 year of age.  This program, Baby Sang ,serves to support parents during their leave by providing a positive experience with other parents and shared ideas about child development and learning.

The Baby Sang leader shared her philosophy in a written document (in Norwegian).  The translation  revealed the conceptual framework of this particular Baby Sang. I asked my high school classmate Walter Welo­­­ and his Norwegian wife, Bibbi,  for help in translating the document so I could gain a better understanding.

What has become more clear to me is not all words and concepts translate well into English – and perhaps it is because the concepts and ideas are routed in culture and not entirely able to be translated. ( Thank you Walter and Bibbi for your willingness to translate this ‘on the spot’ as part of my visit with your family.) For those reading this, please note that I am sharing some of what I gleaned through the translation by Walter and Bibbi as well as connecting it to my observation.  I want to learn more and hope to perhaps be able to discuss this with the Baby Sang leader who graciously allowed us to visit her class. Therefore, what is in italics indicates it is a rough translation.

What was revealed in the document through a quick translation is that:  (all words in italics are translations from the document)

  • Baby Sang time is like church for little ones.
  • It is meant to be ministry to the babies and their parents  – a way to embrace them as new members of the church family
  • Through the movements, song and experiences it is intended they become familiar with church rituals

The Baby Sang leader also wrote about the fact when one plays with small babies (all of these babies were under one year of age, not yet walking) you learn words are irrelevant and visual effects, touch, and creative movements are meaningful for babies. She wrote about the importance of repetition giving children a sense of belonging and security.

Because Baby Sang is done in the church itself, it gives the experience a different dimension. (I felt this dimension very keenly as I observed.)  Like a church service, Baby Sang is done with predictability. It is preparing children to participate in the rituals and routines in the church service.  

About the movements around the church, it was explained that – when receiving communion, we move towards the alter, we stand and we kneel to worship God we go away with standing up in the world.  In Baby Sang movements around the church are used as well. She wrote we use the room and all of our senses going here and going there, rocking the babies, swaying with the babies…through the Baby Sang  movements we are connecting them to the church liturgy.  In church we move in time and space with one another and we listen. The  church service  is created by making time and space for one another and God.  It is something -that we do together.  If you are not used to it it can be like a game….not knowing how to move a person becomes passive and feels foreign. (Baby Sang familiarizes both children and parents to these rituals)  

When parents come to Baby Sang they get a positive experience by meeting each other think  and find it is fun to do things together with their babies She described that one  must completely  enter Baby Sang with your  heart and your mind. …This experience for the baby can be beautiful and fascinating for a child.  (it was both!)   We have to practice our faith to learn our faith. 

I was so impressed with the music and the rituals. What a fabulous way for the church to welcome newborns and their parents.  It is another way the Norwegian culture supports families starting with the very youngest.

Norwegian Special Education Services  

 

On October 8 I was invited to join the International Students from Queen Maud to attend a presentation by Statped.  Statped  is the organization that oversees special education services for  all children from birth through their school years. It is a  national agency managed by the Norwegian Directorate for Education and Training. It is also a provider of special education services support  (reminded me of our ECSU model in Minnesota).   This is a picture of the building in which Statped is housed that has universal design making it accessible for all individuals and the opening slide of the first presentation by the director.

We traveled by bus – here you can see my two wonderful Queen Maud hosts – Rasmus (the only male in the photo)  and Siri (the woman with a red backpack) and the others are the International Students  from Australia, Slovakia, Spain, Italy and the United States. I enjoyed getting to know these young women and hearing what they planned to do upon graduating.

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The student from Slovakia actually holds a masters degree in education and came to Queen Maud to gain experience working with very young children. She hoped to be trained in ABA and would be only the 3rd person in her country to have this key training in working with students with autism. Each International Student had a background in working with children and was also assigned to a barnehagen site. 

In Norway, Declaration of the right of the children 1989(UN) changed the laws of Norway regarding childrens’ right to participate. These are some key points highlighted for us.

  • NORWEGIAN special education is grounded in the nation’s commitment to egalitarianism. Most special education takes place in regular schools, and kindergartens
  • One quarter of Norway’s teachers have additional training in special education. Cautions are given if advocacy for those with disabilities does not accompany normalization.

While we were at Statped, we were asked to ‘read braille’ use some signs (note the ones chosen!) and ‘listen’ to two presenters who communicated throughout their presentation through sign (with interpreters). It was a wonderful example of ‘walking your talk’ and giving us an experience of using alternative means of learning and communicating.

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Statped works in accordance with the Education Act and the Kindergarten Act to ensure: equivalent, adapted and inclusive education for everyone with special needs special education expertise in six specific areas:

  • deaf-blindness/dual visual and hearing impairment
  • acquired brain injury
  • hearing impairment
  • complex learning difficulties
  • speech and language impairment
  • visual impairment

There is also a national responsibility for services to Sami (Norways’ indigenous population). Sami children have the opportunity/right  to learn Sami.

There is a national early intervention outreach initiative that is in collaboration with the National Health Service, Norwegian Labor and Welfare organization, Universities and Governors and leaders in municipalities .

For example, all newborns have a hearing screening. If a problem is found, babies at as young as 1 month of age begin attending classes with their parents to work on alternative communication. This is also a chance for parents to process their experiences and feelings with. Parents do not pay any fees for these classes or services. In addition, siblings are offered the opportunity to learn sign. Parents are given time away from work to participate in being educated in how to work with their child. As children get older there are opportunities to go to special camps  to increase their skills. This intensive work with parents was very impressive.

This is an example of one of the posters used in outreach. So much like our Help Me Grow outreach work.

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On the bus ride back to Queen Maud, we discussed how impressed we all were with the support to the family and the very advanced use of technology to ensure all children can communicate and learn. Thank you to the Statped staff for an amazing presentation!

The Toddler Festival At Queen Maud: A special event for 1-2 year old children.

On October 18, 2018 the annual Toddler Festival will be hosted at Queen Maud University by the students.  This year 650 infants and toddlers (and their teachers) have been invited with an expectation that 550 or so will attend. When children travel with their teachers on ‘tours’ they always wear a bright vest – each barnhagen (preschool) has their own color. Here is a picture from the Toddler Festival website from 2017 showing children wearing their vests.

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For the Festival, the Queen Maud the entire outdoor  campus becomes a venue for the Toddler Festival.  Several indoor  are also transformed for the infants and toddlers to explore as well. This was an example of ab indoor activity from last year.

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In the Queen Maud Website it says:

“The main purpose of the annual Toddler Festival is to give the toddlers an outstanding opportunity to visualize themselves as the socially active and interesting people they are. 

At DMMH, the toddlers have their own festival where they can explore things at their own pace.  Large areas of the park around the college is filled with different activities.” 

Marit is one of the faculty members at Queen Maud who works with the International Students and coordinates the Toddler Festival. She is pictured here with an international student from Australia and one (of the many) male teachers I have met in barneghagens (preschools) I visited with Marit. Marit is very enthusiastic about infants and toddlers so she and I have had lively conversations.

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When she first described the Toddler Festival to me, I thought I surely I heard incorrectly…It began in 2001 and that year 850, one to two year olds came with their teachers. No, I did hear it correctly! HUNDREDS attend.  Rain or shine. Rain does not stop activities here in Norway. No bad weather, only bad clothes. 

Last week I was able to see the college students preparing for the Toddler Festival. As part of their course work, they design all of the activities.  (Marit said 240 junior students are responsible for the Festival this year). On the day of the Festival (Oct. 18th)  the college students will serve as hosts while the one and two year old children participate in a variety of activities with their teachers. I was able to snap a picture of the students at work on their project.

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Here you can see some of the outdoor activities that were created by college students this this week. It was so exciting for me to learn about this special event just for infants and toddlers as well as see the creativity of the college students.

 

 

Norwegian approach to sustainability

 

Use of loose parts to create inviting play/learning spaces while using recycled materials !

Yesterday I had the pleasure of visiting Vestlia Barnehage.   Barnehage is the Norwegian word for kindergarten.  Not to be confused with our kindergarten as Norwegians kindergartens serve children from 12 months of age up to age 6/7.  Parents spend the first year at home with their child on a paid leave, so that is why barnehages begin enrolling children at about 12 months instead of at younger ages.

What was very special about this visit is that two American students from the University of Washington are here at Queen Maud for one semester. They have been doing their field practice in this barnehage for several weeks.  Marit, their instructor from Queen Maud, asked them to give me a tour – so I had the opportunity to have them show and tell about their barnehage and what stood out to them.

This particular barnehagen had many ‘loose parts’ that were used to create inviting, interesting learning spaces and activities. Sustainability is highlighted in the Norwegian Barnehagen Framework, and these are examples of the re-use of materials. I observed many loose parts being used by the children. Just today, I forward my students at Bethel a great article on the value of using loose parts. It is worth reading.  It incorporates many concepts of what can be taught and learned both directly and indirectly from using re-cycled materials.  Here is a link:  https://ptaourchildren.org/loose-parts/

 

See this several artistic display  –mostly from found materials.

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 Risky Play: Both Kieran and Ryn noted that children are allow to move about freely – climbing, running, and jumping. To illustrate this, the picture below is one of the climbing structures on the playground. I asked Kieran and Ryn to be in the picture so you can get a perspective on the height of the structure.  As you can see, it is very high.  While it has some ‘sides’ to keep children from falling, in other places it has open areas.  Few accidents happen as children are have acquired both the motor skills and knowledge of how to approach these activities.

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The Outdoor Environment: Another outdoor feature was a climbing structure that could also serve as a shelter or play area for children.  Observed several little girls running up the steep sides, sitting on top and then sliding down the other side. It took strength and coordination to get up. Another example of the opportunity to develop physical skills through the opportunity to use challenging equipment.

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This barnehage also had small, round outdoor building.  This building is used to have outdoor groups – lunches, etc. This is a picture of the middle of the building, it is a fireplace (you can see the wood is stored under the benches). This allows the children to be more or less ‘outdoors’ and enjoy shelter and the warmth from the fire.  I was told (at the first school I visited) that sometimes the lunch is cooked and served outdoors in this little building. How cool is that?

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The Barnehagen (Kindergarten) Framework Plan (revised in 2017) has very specific language around incorporating nature into the curriculum. These ideas/values very powerful and I can imagine a better cared for environment worldwide if all preschools could incorporated these values. In part is says,

“Kindergartens shall foster the children’s ability to think critically, act ethically and show solidarity. Children shall be given opportunities to give care and to look after their surroundings and the natural environment….The children shall be given outdoor experiences and discover the diversity of the natural world, and kindergartens shall help the children to feel connectedness with nature.”

Connecting with nature means having the right clothing! Kieren and Ryn also pointed out the chart of clothing that children muse wear almost every day.  It always includes waterproof pants and boots…a fleece layer under the jacket, hats, mittens, socks, etc. It is a process in itself to get ready to go outside or come in. Children go out every day for significant periods of time. Again, I noted the babies taking their naps outdoors. When a child is, about three naps are taken indoors on a mat or a cot similar to what is typical in American preschools. These babies are outdoors taking naps in their stollers – which is done so that children get fresh air and rest well.

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Communication With Parents Another item pointed out to me was a newsletter created by the teachers that is sent to the parents.   In some schools, this is sent weekly in others a bit less frequently. On the wall you see below are the printed out pages from the most recent newsletter. (the letter is sent electronically to the parents)  The pages were printed out and displayed here so that the children themselves could see the pictures in the newsletter and it served as a conversation focus while the children dress/undress.  The teachers capture what happened during the week and include pictures of every child. Teachers encourage parents to talk about the news of the week with their children.

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An American Thanksgiving Art Project: During my visit, Kierin and Ryn were leading the children through an activity – making a turkey using an outline of the children’s hands. The children were very engaged and below you see some of the final products. Kiern and Ryn  are also planning on making some traditional American Thanksgiving dishes for the staff and children at this barnehagen. What made the final list? green bean casserole and mashed potatoes!

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