Back to School and HABA

Whilst enjoying the break over the summer holidays I am also busy preparing for the new school year. The website is nearly ready and the virtual shelves are being stocked with all manner of excellent and exciting handpicked resources.

The shop is coming together nicely and I am very pleased to have been approved as a distributor for HABA. They have an exquisite range of beautiful wooden toys and resources suitable for at home as well as for use in Child Care centres, pre schools and the early learning classroom.

My dear colleagues and critical readers have been busy checking over the lesson plans and units of work I am publishing and I have been delighted by their overwhelmingly positive feedback. The team of writers is growing and we are proud to be producing some innovative and differentiated units of work for 2012.

I’d love to send out some free samples of the units of work.

If you are teaching an Upper Primary class this year contact me for a great FREE unit on Antarctica. It ties in well with any study of Sustainability and is interdisciplinary as it brings together English, Science, History and Geography.

If you are teaching a Lower Primary class this year contact me for a great FREE unit on Procedure Writing using the fabulous book by Carol Goess and Tamsin Ainslie, ‘Can We Lick The Spoon Now?’.

Now, it’s off to the beach. Time to enjoy some more of the summer holidays while we can!

Inspired by Reggio Emilia


I am busy preparing to publish a series of lesson plans and units of work on my soon to launch website:

In preparing the work I was reflecting on the process a teacher goes through when designing a unit of study and I got to thinking about my experiences of Reggio Emilia.

A city called Reggio Emilia in Northern Italy has given rise to a whole movement in early childhood education known commonly as the “reggio approach”. Some years ago I was fortunate enough to visit that city and the centre which gave rise to this educational change in many Australian pre schools.

My visit to Reggio Emilia was one which has remained with me for many years and has certainly added a new dimension to the way I teach. At the very heart of Reggio Emilia and its approach to education is the absolute and profound belief in the potential of the child. The teacher and the parents become guides on the child’s journey and the environment is regarded as the third teacher. The interrelationship between child, parent, teacher and the environment is fundamental to the success of this approach.

The Child

The rights of the child are celebrated and appreciated. The child is viewed as being competent, capable and full of potential. In Reggio Emilia I saw children socialising, learning, growing, developing and constructing knowledge with the support of the adults in their lives. These children demonstrated creativity, sensitivity and awareness of the world around them.

The Parent

The presence of the parent in the child’s education is highly valued. Close collaboration between the parents and the school is believed to enable a broader and more complete picture of the child. Loris Malaguzzi of Reggio Emilia believes this is the best way to ensure a quality education.

The Teacher

The teacher in Reggio Emilia is a co-constructor of knowledge. Starting with the child’s own theories and questions it is the teacher’s task to challenge and provoke the child in order to facilitate new learning. The teacher at Reggio Emilia works alongside pedagogical coordinators and parent committees to ensure that educational content, standards and requirements are met. If the child shows an interest in a particular topic it is not simply the task of the teacher to assign it as a project for all students to complete. Rather, it is her/his job to discuss the topic with colleagues, explore its merits, map it against the educational outcomes and create a learning experience of value.

The Environment

In Reggio Emilia schools are viewed as living organisms. Their physical layout and structure is believed to have a great influence on the learning that takes place. Students need space to gather in small groups. They need space to move and be free. They require an array of materials with which to work. Reggio Emilia is a place where a feeling of belonging is essential for all – child, teacher and parent.

The Work

Schools adopting a reggio approach often engage in a lot of project work. Whilst projects are important they are part of a much greater and more complex system. It is actually documentation that is the key in Reggio Emilia. Teachers are looking for ‘moments of value’ and it explained as watching for “the ants instead of always waiting for the elephants” (Amelia Gambetti-Reggio Children).

A school claiming to be adopting a reggio approach will provide endless samples of conversations, interactions between teacher and student, notes, recordings, work samples, photographs, drawings and illustrations. But far more important than that is the expert insight into those records offered by the teachers. Reggio teachers are skilled at observing children and use those observations to analyse understanding.

Documentation is the primary research tool for examining the child’s learning processes. In Reggio Emilia documentation takes place daily and it gives meaning to the children’s work. It also determines future projects, creates a log of work done and generates momentum to get the project done.

The walls of the classrooms that I visited in Reggio Emilia were covered with documentation of the current work. The interactions, recordings, images and objects were present and served as a daily reminder of the learning goals and processes in the school. The learning was alive and dynamic. There weren’t pristine posters and instructional texts adorning the walls. Rather there were plans for a bird house scribbled on the back of an envelope with a long transcript pasted next to it outlining the conversation between the teacher and the child about the need for a bird house and his ideas for the design. Below were a collection of photographs and pictures ripped from magazines showing birds and their homes across the world. Seated on the floor in front of the wall was a group of small boys busily trying to reconstruct a nest using drinking straws and twine. The teacher was recording them on the video camera in order to capture their conversation and plan accordingly for tomorrow.

What does it mean for me?

I was completely inspired by my visit to Reggio Emilia and excited by the decision of many schools to adopt this approach for the early learning centres. I believe that it celebrates children and empowers them without removing responsibility for their education from their teachers and parents. I still refer back to my experiences in Reggio Emilia when planning units of work to ensure I remain focused on who my work is for. The interest of the child and their wonder about the world is always a driving force. So too is my innate awareness of the individual needs of students and the opportunity all children need to show what they can do in their own way.

A little note for parents:

In exploring options for my daughter and faced with the task of choosing a school I would welcome a school that was empathetic with the reggio approach and inspired by it. After all, the heart of this approach is to encourage educators to question the very purpose of education and the way they do it. However, I don’t believe there can be a reggio school anywhere but in Northern Italy in a little city called Reggio Emilia and I would question any school claiming to be a “Reggio School”.

This Much… Infant Drowning Awareness

This Much… Infant Drowning Facts and Tips

this much…

I recently received an email from Jo Butler at Platinum Media and Communications asking me to share this important message. She is part of a team working to reduce the number of babies and toddlers who drown or nearly drown at home in Australia each year by warning parents that an infant can drown in only the amount of water it takes to cover their two airways.

Most people know that young children can drown in the pool or at the beach. Few realise that babies and toddlers can drown just as easily at home. In the bath. In a paddling pool. In a nappy bucket. In a pond. In a puddle. In fact, in only as much water as it takes to cover both their mouth and nostrils.

The “This Much” Facebook page and video message have been created to help get this fact known.

By sharing the message, everyone can be part of this valuable effort. There is no money for advertising. There is only the power of the message and the power of social media. So, we are calling upon Australians to visit the Facebook page at, hit either “Share” or “Like”, post or mention the page in your blog, or just tell someone.

It’s not much to do, but it could make a real difference.

Who’s behind the campaign?

The campaign is a pure “goodwill” effort, with everyone involved donating their time, services and skills. Parents first and marketers second, Stuart Ghent and Nik Robinson of Sydney advertising agency, Cabana Boys, were moved to do something about the issue after a spate of infant drownings and near drownings earlier in the year.

Celebrity support has come from David Wenham, Amanda Keller, Kyle Sandilands, Jackie O, Jabba, Hayden Quinn, Shelley Craft, Georgie Gardner, and Peter Overton.

Medical specialists who have had to look after children and their families after drowning incidents have welcomed the chance to support this campaign. Such specialists include Prof. Danny Cass, Head of Trauma at The Children’s Hospital at Westmead, and specialists with CareFlight such as Dr Alan Garner, OAM and Dr. Andrew Weatherall, who also practices anaesthesia at The Children’s Hospital at Westmead.

The announcement was produced, filmed and edited by ex series producer of ABC’s Enough Rope, Harley Oliver.

Everyone involved -­‐ from the originators of the idea, to the featured celebrities, to the video crew, to the publicists, to the news teams, to the medical specialists consulted along the way -­‐ has done so without payment and with no wish for reward.


The Children’s Hospital at Westmead data

  • Since 2006, The Children’s Hospital at Westmead (CHW) has seen 88 kids after a drowning or near drowning. Nearly 1 in 6 of those kids dies (that’s 14 across those 51⁄2 years (or 16%), which still means another 5 kids had a near drowning for every 1 who died
  • There were 21 kids (that’s another 24%) in addition to those who died who needed to spend time within the intensive care unit on life support. So that’s 40% of the kids the hospital sees who either die or need a period of life support.
  • Almost as many the kids seen at CHW had an incident in the bath or another shallow body of water as had an incident in the public pool (14 post-­‐bath vs 15 from public pool). And all 14 of those incidents in baths or other small water areas have happened over the last 31⁄2 years
  • The CHW records show that almost any small body of water puts children at risk. Kids have come in after drowning, not just in pools, lakes and dams, but also:
    • In baths filled with as little as 15 cm of water
    • In inflatable pools
    • Backyard fishponds
    • When having a bath in a plastic bowl
    • The laundry tub
  • The NSW Institute of Trauma and Injury Management reports that in 2008, CHW saw 64 seriously injured kids after all forms of trauma, with three of those children dying. In the same year, two kids died from drowning (with 15 presentations after drowning). So three kids died after being severely injured in car accidents, being the pedestrian struck by a car, major falls, assault and all other forms of accident (< 5% of all kids presenting after sustaining severe injuries) in the same year that two kids died after drowning (13.3% of kids presenting after drowning). That means that drowning on its own killed almost as many children that year as all other forms of trauma put together.

2009/2010 Royal Life Saving National Drowning Report

  • The number of people drowning in Australia increased for the second year in a row.
  • Children, particularly those under five years of age are some of the most vulnerable people in our population. We as a community should be doing our utmost to ensure their safety. Child drowning is preventable, particularly in those under five years of age.
  • 0-­‐4 years stats: 15% of drownings occurred in bath and spa o 58% of drownings occurred in summer
  • Most drowning deaths of young children resulted from the child falling or wandering into water
  • There were 33 drowning deaths of young children (10% of all drowning deaths) in 2009/10, which is 7% higher than the 5 year average.
  • The 2009/10 year also lists children as having drowned in buckets, cattle dip and a spa demonstrating that anywhere there is water there is a potential hazard for children to drown2010/2011 Royal Life Saving National Drowning Report
  • The total number of drownings increased for the 3rd year in a row
  • The number of drownings in the under 5 age group fell for the 2010/2011 financial year (from 33 to 28). Although this is fantastic news, a lot of this reduction was from a drop in the number of drowning deaths in swimming pools. The number of drowning deaths occurring in spas and baths, for instance, changed minimallyRoyal Life Saving National Drowning Report Bath Time Fact Sheet
  • In Australia, on average, 5 children under the age of 5 drown and 47 are hospitalized due to bathtub drowning or near drowning incidents each year. One in four hospitalizations results in permanent injury such as brain damage.
  • The majority of bathtub drowning deaths occur when there is an interruption to the bathing routine such as the doorbell or phone ringing while a parent is bathing a child. The majority of bathtub drowning deaths in Australia are of children less than 2 years old.LIFE SAVING TIPS
  • Check around the house, throughout your day, to see how many times your kids are at risk around water and eliminate this risk
  • Empty out anything you’ve been using or playing with – eg inflatable pools, bowls, buckets, baby baths, eskies
  • Close the bathroom door
  • Let the other thing wait – it only takes seconds for a child to get into trouble
  • Older Kids aren’t carers -­‐ don’t leave your kids looking after each other. Even the most diligent and caring older child doesn’t have the capacity of an adult to prevent a drowning
  • Kids need close supervision around all collections of water. Supervision means eyesight, not earshot. You need to be able to reach your kid!Please take the time to share this important message on your Facebook page, blog, email or in any way you can. If it saves just one life then it has all been worthwhile.

    Visit the Facebook page:

School Readiness

As the year comes to an end for schools across Australia I have taken a moment to reflect on school readiness. Many parents will be currently holding serious talks with their families, friends and teachers trying to assess whether or not their baby is ready for school next year.

As it stands readiness for school has been and is currently assessed primarily on the age of the child. The NSW Department of Community Services discussion paper on School Readiness states that, “Prior to a specified age, children are generally considered to be ‘just playing’…and …all children in Australia, regardless of experience, and to a large extent genetic make-up, are deemed ready to start school at the age of five years (or even 4 years 7 months in some states). This is the age when children are regarded as being ‘ready to learn’.”

However, when we take a short tour of the globe we see that other countries of the world have differing views on the age at which students are ready to learn. The research on readiness for learning in the United States for example has shown that we need to accept that children are actually learning at an earlier age because their carers are actually educating them, not just babysitting.

So what do we need to look for to assess whether a young child is ready to start school? How do we know they are ready to learn?

Research shows that it’s not just a matter of mastering early literacy and numeracy skills. As well as this young children need certain social skills to effectively manage the nuance of the school environment. According to Hartup (1992) the “single best childhood predictor of adult adaptation is not school grades and classroom behaviour, but rather, the adequacy with which the child gets along with other children. Children who are generally disliked, who are aggressive an disruptive, who are unable to sustain close relationships with other children and who cannot establish a place for themselves in the peer culture are seriously at risk”.

It would seem the health, physical fitness and well being of a young child is also an important criteria for school readiness. Research has shown that being well nourished, well rested and physically healthy is an important precursor for success at school.

Cognitive ability, physical well being, social competence and the ability to abide by the rules are all important indicators for school readiness. But even if all that is neatly ticked on the checklist it is important for parents to remember that the move to formal schooling is a major life change for a young child. A change that needs to be well planned, managed and supported.

Talk to your child’s carer or pre school teacher and work with them to prepare your child for school. Spend time talking with your child’s new school too. Work with the school and become a part of the community as this will assist your child in making a smooth transition.