Pedagogical Statement

THE CONTEMPORARY AUSTRALIAN EDUCATIONAL CONTENT

Melbourne Declaration

The Melbourne Declaration on Educational Goals for Young Australians (MCEETYA 2008) recognises that critical and creative thinking are fundamental to students becoming successful learners.  Thinking that is productive, purposeful and intentional is at the centre of effective learning.  By applying a sequence of thinking skills, students develop an increasingly sophisticated understanding of the processes they can employ whenever they encounter problems, unfamiliar information and new ideas.  In addition, the progressive development of knowledge about thinking and the practice of using thinking strategies can increase students’ motivation for, and management of, their own learning.  They become more confident and autonomous problem-solvers and thinkers. The Melbourne Declaration sets the direction for all phases of learners through its goal:

“All young Australians to become successful learners, confident and creative individuals and active and informed citizens”. 

block play – Quality Learning Resources supporting multiple curriculum frameworks including

Australian Curriculum

Early Years Learning Framework (EYLF)

Science, Technology, Engineering, Mathematics (STEM)

Queensland Kindergarten Learning Guideline (QKLG)

National Quality Standards (NQS).

The Australian Curriculum

The Australian Curriculum supports the Melbourne Declaration’s vision that capability encompasses knowledge, skills, behaviours and dispositions. Students develop capability when they apply knowledge and skills confidently, effectively and appropriately in complex and changing circumstances, in their learning at school and in their lives outside school.

Responding to the challenges of the twenty-first century – with its complex environmental, social and economic pressures – requires young people to be creative, innovative, enterprising and adaptable, with the motivation, confidence and skills to use critical and creative thinking purposefully.

Australian Curriculum describes Disciplinary knowledge, skills and understanding for each year level F-10 in the eight learning areas of: English, Mathematics, Science, Health and Physical Education, Humanities and Social Sciences, The Arts, Technologies and Languages.

The Early Years Learning Framework

The Early Years Learning Framework assists educators to provide young children with opportunities to maximize their potential and develop a foundation for future success in learning.  In this way, the Early Years Learning Framework will contribute to realising the Melbourne Declaration’s vision for Young Australians to become successful learners, confident and creative individuals and active and informed citizens.

It assists educators to provide young children with opportunities to maximize their learning potential and to establish the fundamental basis for future success in learning.  The EYLF draws on conclusive international evidence that early childhood is a vital period in children’s learning and development.  The Framework forms the foundation for ensuring that children in all early childhood education and care settings throughout Australia experience quality teaching and learning.  It assists educators to provide young children with opportunities to maximize their learning potential and to establish the fundamental basis for future success in learning with a specific emphasis on play based learning.

Increasingly sophisticated neurobiological research shows that pathways set in the very early years of a child’s life program particular ways of learning. While genetics play an important role in this selective process, it is often a child’s early experiences that are crucial in determining how the brain will eventually be hard wired.

Educators can take advantage of block play learning resources to nurture young children’s developing conceptual understandings as well as providing quality learning opportunities that scaffold a child’s learning.  Young children can create, solve problems, experiment, test, adapt, collaborate and explain and thus can fully participate and engage in high quality, rich, challenging and hands on learning and intentional teaching experiences.

block play learning resources supports children as they learn and develop the essential skills of critical and creative thinking, literacy and numeracy, analytical problem solving, communication and collaboration needed for school and life.  Playing with building blocks engages and stimulates all areas of the brain to aid in the formation and development of information and processing pathways. 

block play learning resources provides the opportunity for children to learn elements of science and mathematics, like problem solving, counting, adding and subtracting, and helps them build both gross and fine motor skills.  block play learning resources also supports other key aspects of development, including language learning as children talk about the structures they built with the adults and children around them, creativity, imagination, self-esteem, and social and emotional growth.

Learning is an active process that must involve children’s engagement.  Play is essential for its ability to stimulate and integrate a wide range of children’s intellectual, physical, social and creative abilities. Active engagement with, and being attuned to children in their play extends and supports their learning.   Through block play learning resources, children are able to develop a deeper understanding of the following concepts:

STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Mathematics)

Children have long been recognised as scientific in their approach to exploring and trying to make sense of their environment and the world around them.  There are no greater natural scientists and engineers than young children.  Inquisitive learners learn STEM concepts through play.  High quality early learning environments provide children with the structure in which to build upon their natural inclination to explore, to build, and to question.

Australia has implemented the “National STEM School Education Strategy 2016-2026”. This has renewed national focus on STEM in education and how it is critical in ensuring that all young Australians are equipped with the necessary skills and knowledge that they will need to succeed.  It‘s goal is to “Ensure that students are inspired to take on more challenging STEM subjects”.

While the actions are largely focused on teaching and learning within the school environment, building and maintain student interest and aspiration in STEM cannot be achieved by schools alone.  Parents and the broader community are key educational partners.  Supporting a focus on STEM in early childhood education to build on early curiosity will develop science, technological and foundational numeracy skills in all children.

The STEM Building Block System™ designed by block play helps to create a culture where STEM is valued and programmed for, offering children high quality age appropriate, hands on experiences where the high expectations of children can be engaged to develop foundational understandings in meaningful, inquiry based and authentic experiences.

It supports young children to develop in

  • knowledge/understandings
  • skills
  • dispositions
  • feelings

as they engage in in-depth investigations of phenomena around them worthy of their knowledge and understandings.  The STEM Building Block System™ is an ideal and age appropriate learning resource that has been designed for educators to enable children to obtain a solid foundational understanding of the principles of mechanics, engineering, technology and artistic design before they progress to the more complex field of coding. 

Early childhood education possesses the potential for rich engineering and technology education, but this has gone largely unrecognised. The STEM Building Block System™ can support educators in integrating STEM into learning and education settings that is rigorous and relevant for early childhood students, respectful of the ideas and capabilities of young children and rich with the possibility of enhancing the education of the whole child.  The STEM Building Block System™ design process is defined as the engineer’s approach to be able to first identify and then solve a problem.  This approach is interactive, open to possibility of multiple solutions, a context for rich mathematical, scientific and technological conceptual development and an inspiration for systems thinking, modelling and analysis.

The STEM Building Block System™ promotes children to be able to create increasingly complex designs that work within the governing properties of physics.  It allows educators to extend the learning by selectively adding materials to inspire children to incorporate these into their constructions and explore such concepts as force and motion, speed, weight and cause and effect.  block play learning resources allow the children’s actions to reveal that they can construct beyond a visual representation to an actual structure.  Children are able to employ details of their physical environment.

Mathematical Learning

Mathematical experiences abound in block play learning resources.  Important concepts and skills are practiced and strengthened through block play, including length, measurement, comparison, number, estimation, symmetry, patterns and balance.  All areas of mathematical learning can be fun and meaningful using block play learning resources.  From beginning skills to more advanced learning, blocks play is an integral role in the learning and development of young children.  block play learning resources supports children’s mathematical understandings by investigating and communicating ideas about quantities and attributes of objectives, position, movement, patterns, directs and sequence.

block play learning resources support the mathematical concepts of:

Algebra

block play blocks of various attributes introduce and assess algebraic thinking such as matching, sorting and beginning patterning.  This can be accomplished with the use of shapes, sizes, etc. In addition, use blocks of various shapes to model AB patterns to start; increasing in difficulty as the child demonstrates mastery.  Blocks are the perfect tool for this conceptual  development.

Geometry

Using block play blocks of various shapes is a great way to plan for and assess early geometric play experiences.  Rectangles for example, lets children gain an understanding that no matter the size of the rectangle, they share the same basic properties, that they all have four sides and four corners.  Triangles for example, lets children gain an understanding that no matter the size of the triangles, they share the same basic properties, that they all have three sides and three points.

block play learning resources provide physical models of simple solid shapes, including cubes, cylinders, circles, square prisms, rectangular prisms, and triangular prisms as well as columns to allow for exploration with a wide variety of shapes.  Educators can take photos of pre-made structures and present them as models for the children to attempt to re-create.  This is a great way for them to explore the properties of spatial awareness.

Measurement

block play blocks can be used as units of measurement facilitating with mathematical language such as longer, shorter, more, less and equal.  Another way to explore measurement with blocks is to incorporate a balance scale.  Adding blocks to each side to see what happens is a way to make learning about measurement entertaining and meaningful.  It provides practice with the measurable attributes of weight and an opportunity to scaffold children’s knowledge of and skill in understanding mass.

Data Analysis & Probability

Estimating, graphing, collecting and displaying data can be a fun way to introduce data analysis and probability to young children.  Using block play learning resources children can build a large structure and estimate how many blocks are being used.  Confirming estimations by counting the blocks helps to reinforce the concept of 1-1 correspondence in a natural and meaningful way.  Children can develop a three-dimensional graph with the blocks by printing out and taping their pictures onto the side of the blocks.

Language Development

block play learning resources provides a rich context for using language for a variety of purposes as children negotiate, explain, take turns, listen closely to one another and search for the appropriate vocabulary to articulate what they desire to convey.   For children who have English as a second language, block play learning resources offers an excellent resource to assist children to map actions into words in an environment that is non-threatening and age appropriate.  It provides an authentic reason to record thinking and the opportunity for educators to model writing or engage children in communication processes and  technology  (e.g. photos, labelling, explanation, sequence)  to communicate their learnings and understandings.  Through children engaging with block play learning resources, scientific language, mathematical language, technological language and social and collaborative language can be developed.

Creative Thinking

Young children are capable and competent and are able to make sense of experience, to analyse, hypothesize and predict.  All children have a right to a program that is intellectually engaging or stimulating. A program where children can conduct investigations of significant objects and events around them for which they can develop and propose inquiry questions. A program that provokes intellectual understandings as they discover how things work, what things are made of, how people contribute to their own wellbeing, community and the global community.

block play learning resources allows children to be active and interactive learners rather than passive and receptive learners.  Children are involved in sustained investigations of aspects of their own environment and experiences worthy of their interest, knowledge and understanding. The block play design process in and of itself exemplifies creativity.  It provides a view in which possibilities and opportunities can be found in every challenge and an understanding that technology can be improved.  It provides a pathway for children to develop resilience, persistence and self-confidence in their abilities.  It supports children’s self-efficacy when they are faced with difficulties and learning challenges.  block play learning resources creates an environment where children are encouraged to use imagination and creativity to investigate, hypothesize and express themselves.

Social Learning

Neurological data emphasizes the positive role of early experiences that provoke self-regulation, initiative and social interaction with peers and educators rather than passively digesting isolated bits of information.  block play learning resources provide deeper, hands on understandings and meanings of real world and play based contexts.  Children experience the satisfaction that can come from overcoming obstacles and setbacks and solving problems with others. Independent and team work can be promoted and supported through block play learning resources.

Children are able to work collaboratively supporting the social construction of knowledge and understandings.  Children are able to offer suggestions to others and express appreciation of others; efforts and accomplishment.

Inquiry Based Learning

Contemporary Early Childhood education philosophy supports a pedagogy that addresses children’s innate curiosity so that they have frequent opportunities to be fully intellectually engaged in various investigations (child and adult initiated) as well as to engage in spontaneous play.  Children are able to initiate a range of learning experiences and accept responsibility and ownership for what is accomplished.

block play learning resources support the interactive, open-ended problem solving that underpins engineering design although the engineering process may not reveal itself as sequential components as is for older children.  Young children may not always stick to following through one question in the line of investigation. 

They often become intrigued by a peer’s work and abandon their original line of direction to work alongside or with their peers to solve a communal challenge. 

Children have somewhat of a mental picture of what they want to see happen and are eager to replicate their idea with the materials.  

This is important as while young children can think three-dimensionally, they have difficulty representing a three-dimensional mental image on a two-dimensional plane.  Thus the requirement to record their plan on paper demands a great deal of mental energy that is better spent on physically building their mental design.  Young children’s designs are dynamic and evolve as they work or build their creations.

block play learning resources allows children to improve their designs constantly as they grow in understanding of the constraints.  It allows for trial and error behaviours for young children to develop spatial knowledge, reasoning and a working understanding of physical science.  The open ended design of the block play learning resources means children can engage in the design process many times on a daily basis, giving them opportunities to develop multiple concepts.

Active Learning

block play learning resources supports the holistic perspective of learning and teaching that promotes social, emotional, physical and cognitive wellbeing through inclusive, integrated and interconnected learning.  When activities are combined that require movement, talking, and listening, it activates multiple areas of the brain.  One of the most important uses of manipulative’s in a classroom is to aid a learner to make connections from a tangible concrete object to its abstraction.  By emphasizing the effective use of manipulative’s, educators can explicitly connect and help children make meaning of abstract concepts.

block play learning resources provide opportunities for children to use as many of their senses as possible, since it is through the sensory pathways that the brain interprets and creates its knowledge structures.  block play learning resources supports educators to use a wide range of intentional interactions to scaffold and support children as they co-construct learning in play experiences. It encourages meaningful conversations and intentional interactions through the rearrangement of materials to ignite and extend on children’s interests.  block play learning resources challenges children’s thinking by providing a range of materials that vary in attributes (e.g. shape, size, and scale). 

Hands-on in its very nature is actively examining the universe through trial and error, or through physically testing theoretical hypotheses. In this sense, all human beings are scientists exploring the universe.  The first thing a child does in learning is pick up and manipulate objects.  It is both a means of running experiments to assess theories, and also through iteration, is the means by which children can find the limits within which theories can function.  Hands-on is when we examine the universe personally.

By Incorporating block play learning resources to facilitate hands-on or experiential learning into your program, educators can support children by:

Making the abstract concrete:  When children are able to physically manipulate materials, abstract concepts in mathematics, science, the arts and other subject areas become clearer and more concrete.

Lowering the linguistic demand:  Children can practice and show what they know using less language, relying on movement and manipulatives in addition to reading, writing, listening and speaking.

Encouraging active engagement: When children are using manipulatives or are involved in hands-on activities, they are often more highly engaged.  This type of engagement is visible as the teacher can observe the students’ involvement with the material and concepts.

Promoting creativity, collaboration and communication:  Depending on the particular activity, children can be encouraged to be creative with materials they are using, such as when they are building a model or creating an artistic representation of a concept.  If children are working in partners, teams or small groups, collaboration and communication are also involved.  Communication is also included when children write or speak about the activity.

Accessing differing areas of the brain:  As children use their hands to build, sort or otherwise manipulate materials, different areas of the brain are activated.  When educators add in numeracy, literacy, problem solving and collaborative skills, several of areas of the brain are stimulated and activated.

When educators combine young children’s curiosity about their world with an environment full of hands-on materials and experiences, they are helping to create lifelong learners. 

To achieve understanding, children need to handle and manipulate objects.  The open ended nature and sequenced complexity of block play learning resources allows them to be manipulated by children to support the learning at the various developmental ages.  These resources support children as they learn best through interactions, active exploration, experimentation and building positive dispositions to learning and themselves as learners.

Sustainability

block play manufactures to Australian/New Zealand Standard AS/NZS 8124 as well as ASTM F963+CPSIA and EN71 International Standards from sustainably sourced bamboo and beechwood. 

Why Bamboo?

  • Bamboo is a light, tough and durable natural resource
  • Bamboo grows up to 12 times faster than trees and can be re-harvested every 5-6 years
  • Bamboo needs only half the water than trees when growing
  • Bamboo needs no pesticides or fertilizers when growing
  • Bamboo absorbs up to 4 times more greenhouse gas than trees
  • Bamboo returns up to 35% more oxygen to the atmosphere than trees
  • Bamboo is unique with its own anti-bacterial, anti-fungal and anti-microbial properties
  • Bamboo is one of the world’s most sustainable natural resources

block play – Quality Learning Resources Supporting

Australian Curriculum

ENGLISH 

Strand:

LANGUAGE

  • Language for interaction
  • Language for social interactions
  • Evaluative language
  • Expressing and developing ideas
  • Sentences and clause level grammar
  • Visual language
  • Vocabulary

MATHEMATICS

Strands:

  • Number
  • Measurement
  • Geometry

Proficiency Strands:

  • Understanding
  • Problem solving
  • Reasoning

SCIENCE

Sub Strands:

  • Physical sciences
  • Science as a human endeavour

Inquiry Skills Sub Strand Strands:

  • Questioning and predicting
  • Planning and conducting
  • Representing data in meaningful and useful ways
  • Evaluating
  • Communicating

TECHNOLOGIES

Design and Technologies

  • Technologies and society
  • The use, development and impact of technologies in people’s lives

Technologies contexts:

  • Technologies and design across a range of technological contexts

Creating designed solutions by:

  • Investigating and defining
  • Generating and designing
  • Producing and implementing
  • Evaluating
  • Collaborating and managing

Australian Curriculum:  General Capabilities

LITERACY

  • Comprehending texts through listening, reading and viewing
  • Composing texts through speaking, writing and creating

NUMERACY

  • Estimating and calculating with whole numbers
  • Recognizing and using patterns and relationships
  • Using fractions, decimals, percentages, ratios and rates
  • Using spatial reasoning
  • Interpreting statistical information
  • Using measurement

CRITICAL AND CREATIVE THINKING

  • Inquiring – identifying, exploring and organizing information and ideas
  • Generating ideas, possibilities and actions
  • Reflecting on thinking and processes
  • Analyzing, synthesizing and evaluating, reasoning and procedures

PERSONAL AND SOCIAL CAPABILITY

  • Building positive relationships
  • Making responsible decisions
  • Working effectively in teams
  • Handling challenging situations and constructively developing leadership skills

Early Years Learning Framework (EYLF)

OUTCOME 1

Children have a strong sense of identity:

  • Children develop their emerging autonomy, inter-dependence, resilience and sense of agency

OUTCOME 2

Children are connected with and contribute to their world:

  • Children develop a sense of belonging to groups and communities and an understanding of the reciprocal rights and responsibilities necessary for active community participation

OUTCOME 3

Children have a strong sense of wellbeing:                                   

  • Children become strong in their social and emotional wellbeing 

OUTCOME 4

Children are confident and involved learners:           

  • Children develop dispositions for learning such as curiosity, co-operation, confidence, creativity, commitment, enthusiasm, persistence, imagination and reflexivity
  • Children develop a range of skills and processes such as problem solving, enquiry, experimentation, hypothesizing,    researching and investigating
  • Children transfer and adapt what they have learned from one context to another
  • Children resource their own learning through connecting with people, place, technologies and natural and          processed materials

OUTCOME 5  

Relationships with children:

  • Children interact verbally and non-verbally with others for a range of purposes
  • Children use information and communication technologies access information, investigate ideas and represent  their thinking

Queensland Kindergarten Learning Guideline (QKLG)

 IDENTITY

A kindergarten child who has a strong sense of identity:

  • Acts with increasing independence and perseverance
  • Has willingness to keep trying
  • Makes choices

CONNECTEDNESS

A kindergarten child who is connected with and contributes to their world:

  • Develops skills for connecting with and relating to others
  • Builds positive relationships with others 
  • Discovers ways to investigate and understand natural and built environments
  • Explores interactions between people and environments  
  • Shows increasing respect for environments 

WELLBEING

A kindergarten child who has a strong sense of wellbeing:

  • Delights in making decisions and choices (agency) 
  • Builds a sense of autonomy and wellbeing
  • Develops courage and resilience to manage change and challenges
  • Explores ways to show care and concern and interact positively with others
  • Shows interest in and desire to interact with others 
  • Explores ways to promote physical wellbeing
  • Improves control and strength for manipulating objects, tools and equipment

ACTIVE LEARNING

A kindergarten child who is a confident and involved learner: 

  • Has enthusiasm for learning and curiosity
  • Builds positive dispositions and approaches toward learning 
  • Is capable of problem solving and investigating
  • Shows increasing confidence and involvement in learning
  • Delights in applying and reflecting on learning
  • Engages in ways to be imaginative and creative
  • Has confidence, interest and involvement in learning
  • Explores tools, technologies and information and communication technologies (ICTs)
  • Uses tools and technologies in play and active learning
  • Makes choices and organizes resources for learning
  • Finds ways to contribute to learning conversations
  • Develops a sense of wonder, imagination and creativity
  • Invents ways to creatively represent ideas, feelings and experiences

COMMUNICATING

A kindergarten child who is an effective communicator: 

  • Develops age appropriate speech patterns, vocabulary and sentence structures
  • Explores and expands ways to use language
  • Uses language for a range of purpose
  • Explores and engages with numeracy in personally meaningful ways
  • Has confidence and interest in counting and exploring patterns and relationships 
  • Explores mathematical thinking, concepts and language

National Quality Standards (NQS)

QUALITY AREA 1

Educational program and practice:

  • QA1.1   The educational program enhances each child’s learning and development                                    
  • QA1.2  Educators facilitate and extend each child’s learning and development

QUALITY AREA 3

Physical environment:                                                            

  • QA3.2   The service environment is inclusive, promotes competence and supports exploration and play based learning

QUALITY AREA 5

Relationships with children:                                                 

  • QA5.2.1  Collaborative learning. 
  • Children are supported to collaborate, learn from and help each other

References and Supportive Readings

Australian Children’s Education and Care Quality Authority (ACECQA). Revised National Quality Standard and Other  Changes From 1 Feb 2018. Retrieved 22 September 2017, from

http://www.acecqa.gov.au

Australian Curriculum, Assessment and Reporting Authority (ACARA) (2011). The Shape of the Australian Curriculum. Retrieved 10 September , 2017, from

https://www.australiancurriculum.edu.au

Australian Government Department of Education, Employment and Workplace Relations for the Council of Australian Governments (2009). Belonging, Being and Becoming: The Early Years Learning Framework for Australia, Canberra

Education Council (2015). National STEM School Education Strategy 2016-2026. Retrieved 22 September 2017, from

http://www.educationcouncil.edu.au

Katz, Lilian G.  (2010). STEM in the Early Years. Early Childhood Research & Practice  Retrieved 21 September 2017, from

http://ecrp.uiuc.edu/beyond/seed/katz.html

Ministerial Council on Education, Employment, Training and Youth Affairs (MCEETYA) (2008). Melbourne Declaration on Educational Goals for Young Australians. Retrieved 10 April, 2012, from

http://www.curriculum.edu.au

Queensland Studies Authority (2010). Queensland Kindergarten Learning Guideline. Brisbane

Van Meeteren, B.  &  Zan, B. (2010). Revealing the Work of Young Engineers in Early Childhood Education. Early Childhood Research & Practice Retrieved 21 September 2017, from

http://www.ecrp.uiuc.edu/beyond/seed/zan.html

                                                                                                                                                                                                       

This document was developed by

Maureen Truasheim (Dip. Tech, B.Ed, GradDipEd(EC), M EdLead)

in collaboration with block play

(Maureen has been active in the educational sector for 35 years and has held the positions of Curriculum Education Officer and Curriculum Advisor in schooling and ECEC sectors over the last 15 years)

October 2017

                                                                                                     

Copyright © 2017 Steven Kidney-Brooke – block play  All Rights Reserved