the fairy project

18 May 2017, Posted by alanacherneck_0 in Uncategorized

Our girls have long had a fascination with fairies. So after reading Home, by Carson Ellis, a charming book that explores the idea of non-traditional dwellings, and the inhabitants that live within them; we decided to investigate homes for fairies, and explore ways to attract them.

The girls built an open-style teepee, wrapped with colourful fabric scraps. I had purchased bamboo garden poles from the Dollar Store for $1.25 each, and the girls carefully covered the poles to make them attractive to the fairies.

Next, I bound the poles together at the top to secure it.  The girls decided we needed “Fairy Traps” and “Fairy Bait” to attract the fairies to their new home.

We used wooden beads and wire to create inviting sculptures, and hung them all over the Fairy House.


Next, we brainstormed a list, and Emily used her “invented spelling” to generate a list of items that needed to be offered to the fairies. The list was very simple:

  • Food (carrots)
  • Bucket (for water)

Here is a printable writing prompt to use with your kids.  {Kids LOVE writing lists, and it’s a great way to promote writing}. I don’t force conventional spelling; instead I have them draw pictures {which I label}, or we use the beginning and ending sounds for emergent writers.

Emily also wrote a letter to the fairies, welcoming them to their new home.

That night, I sprinkled glitter all around the fairy house. Their reaction the next morning, when they confirmed that the fairies had indeed come, was PRICELESS.

The Fairy Project is an example of a mini-inquiry where Language Arts (reading and writing) and Science (structures) were woven into a magical exploration. When the girls are naturally intrigued and curious about something, I try to weave in learning concepts in an meaningful, connected and authentic way. In this way, learning is natural,  fun and exciting.  After all, don’t we ALL want to learn more about what we’re naturally curious about?

I invite you to share your thoughts on this mini-inquiry, and how you build writing into your child’s day. What are YOUR kids interested in that could lead to fun multi-dimensional projects?

the hair chair: girls’ hair done easy!

30 Mar 2017, Posted by alanacherneck_0 in Uncategorized

Moms of girls! Do you struggle with doing your girl’s hair every day? Do you have to chase your toddler/preschooler/school-age daughter around the house so that you can simply tie her hair in a presentable fashion before she leaves the house? This was a daily episode over here, x3. My middle child explains she has “golden locks” and that is why she is so sensitive to the brush (loathes having her hair done.) My oldest “just likes it this way” (aka in her eyes); and my youngest is like a whirling dervish, never to sit still for anything. Enter: THE HAIR CHAIR. For those of you lucky enough to have a home built in the 80’s with a built-in telephone desk (you know, the kind with room for a chair under it, and drawers for phone books?) I have the BEST solution.

I bought a rolling height-adjustable stool (moves up and down like in a salon).  This allows even my youngest to sit high enough so I don’t have to crouch down.

Next, you will need a laptop, iPad or other entertainment device. This is critical. If you want 5 minutes of uninterrupted, non-complaining hair-do time, you must give your child permission to PLUG IN. We love the odd video, PBS Kids video game, or YouTube blind-bag unveiling (the commercialism honestly make me sick to my stomach, but I allow it for the really rough knot-combing sessions).

Finally, desk-organizer storage. Available at the Dollar Store or Walmart, buy an organizer or some baskets that are slim enough to be placed in the drawers.

I have three baskets in my drawer.  1. BOWS, BARETTES, and BOBBY PINS. 2. BRUSHES + COMBS. 3. ELASTICS.

Stock + label these. I go to Dollarama every couple of months to restock these. The key is having a large supply.

You’re all set! Do you struggle with doing your kids’ hair? What are some of your tried + true strategies? I’d love to hear!

Art cards

In this post, I will share how our girls mass-produce these beautiful “Art Cards” which I keep handy for all the parties.

Every birthday party that rolls around, I feel like I’m scrambling. The gifts. The wrapping. The taxi-ing around to all the party locations. With three kids, we get invited to MANY parties.  I am trying to build my birthday “stock” (a dedicated shelf in our basement where I store all the great finds I got on sale… but the struggle to stay on top of it is real!) Usually, last minute, the girls are ALSO scrambling to make a card for their friend. And usually, this involves a sheet of construction paper (if we’re lucky), and a simple message and picture (if we have time!) in marker or crayon.  I absolutely HATE spending money on commercial cards. Not only are they incredibly expensive; they are so un-environmental and impersonal. I cannot justify paying $7.95 for a card with a message written by a STRANGER, that the recipient will probably just TOSS or RECYCLE the next week!

I started making handmade cards with the girls when they were very young (1.5 years old). While it was very much about “process,” I would take their work and cut+ arrange it charmingly on cardstock, including their name + date. Recipients were always so appreciative of the time + thought that went into these handmade cards, and would often keep them as mini art pieces. (My mom still has hers displayed on the fridge!)

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We’ve gotten a bit more creative with our art cards, but the process is basically the same. We mass-produce dozens at a time (in stages), and then we have a stock to choose from when birthday parties roll around.  I store them in the cupboard with my party-supplies (gift wrap, bows, etc.) so they’re ready to go when we are.

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Watch the video to see what our process looks like. {this is my FIRST video tutorial…bare with me! they can only get better, right?}

You will need:

  • watercolour paper
  • liquid watercolour
  • salt
  • paint brushes
  • water (to wet watercolour paper, and for rinsing brushes)
  • glue gun
  • colourful cardstock
  • embellishments (beads, buttons, sequins, gems…)

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  1. Tape your watercolour paper to workspace (frame around the outside, and then tape 6-8 “compartments.”
  2. Wet the paper (either a spray bottle, or a big brush).
  3. Add your watercolour and watch the colours dance!
  4. Sprinkle with a bit of salt (this is optional, but creates a really cool effect kids love)
  5. Allow to dry.
  6. Remove tape. This will give you a beautiful, crisp edge to your mini art cards.
  7. Add embellishments: buttons, sequins, gems…anything that sparkles or shines or adds interest. I allow the girls to use a low-temp hot glue gun, because I believe them to be strong, able and full of potential, and with proper instruction, capable of using a variety of “adult” tools.
  8. Cut your cards to size, and layer them over colourful cardstock. This adds another layer, and is your border. Mount the art pieces to a pre-folded white card (white cardstock works well).
  9. Have your child sign their creation.

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Watch the Video Tutorial:

 

 

dollhouse round-up

20 Feb 2017, Posted by alanacherneck_0 in Uncategorized

Dollhouses are a bit of an obsession around here. With three girls, we’ve had the opportunity to test-drive many different kinds. I’ve also worked with childcare organizations and teachers who have used these dollhouses in their practice.  The consensus: WOOD is GOOD!  The more open-ended the dollhouse, the better for the imagination.  Look for dollhouses that are “open-concept” and can be played with from a variety of sides (this encourages cooperative play).  Here are some of my favourites (and fall within a variety of budgets):

 

dollhouses for every budget

doll house round up

1. Plan Toys Chalet Dollhouse, $179.95   /  2. House Shadow Boxes, $12.99 – $29.99  /

3. Plan Toys Creative Play House, $169.99  /  4. Melissa and Doug Hi-Rise Dollhouse, $199.99  /

5. IKEA FLISAT Doll House, $29.99  /  6. Hape All Season Dollhouse, $199.95

 

Chalet dollhouse - at kids' level

Keep the dollhouse at children’s level to encourage long-lasting play

Kids love to play with dollhouses that are at their level, so try setting it up on a shelf (20″ high or so).

 

Creative dollhouse

I like to place a basket underneath to store wooden dolls, furniture and accessories.  This keeps things organized and inviting for children.

 

shadowbox dollhouses

Shadowboxes for open ended play

The great news is that you don’t need to spend a ton of money on dollhouses (although, I believe if you are going to invest in quality wooden pieces for your playroom, a dollhouse is at the top of the list!)  Shadowboxes make great open-ended “houses” for wooden dolls. These were purchased at Michael’s for under $20.00.

I’ve seen many creative hacks for dollhouses, but these IKEA KALLAX hacks have got to be my favourite:

IKEA KALLAX dollhouse hack

Via Mommodesign

IKEA KALLAX dollhouse hack

Via Zowieso

Whatever your budget, whatever your child’s interests (boy or girl), a dollhouse is a MUST for any playroom. Dollhouses encourage dramatic play, where children mimic all the activities that go on inside a home. From cooking, to cleaning, to caring for loved ones, to solving problems; children who pretend and engage in dramatic play actively experiment with the social roles in life.  Through dramatic play, children explore their own thoughts and feelings, and practice conflict resolution.  All children benefit from pretend play!

creative kids: art storage 7 ways

07 Feb 2017, Posted by alanacherneck_0 in Uncategorized

Staying organized in today’s busy world is getting harder and harder to do. Especially with kids. Staying organized with ART SUPPLIES is a whole different ballgame, and because of its inherently “messy” nature, many families shy away from art with their kids. In the Reggio-inspired world, art is a language with which kids first learn to communicate.

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Art holds tremendous power for kids – to express feelings, fears, dreams and ideas. Giving children tools, and presenting them in a thoughtful, organized and beautiful way, invites kids in to explore, and use this language in creative ways.

tools for creative kids

I believe that art supplies (and other toys/materials) should be VISIBLE, and within kids’ reach. This way, they can make independent choices and not feel thwarted by always having to ask permission. (always asking for help and permission can DEFINITELY hamper the creative process!) In a Reggio-Inspired vein, art supplies should be housed in transparent jars, so that children can “read” the media. They also provide wonderful punches of colour in a space.  Glass also has beautiful reflective qualities, so important in any Reggio environment.

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IKEA EKBY OSTEN shelf with Dollar Store glass jars, and baskets from Bed Bath & Beyond

Everyone has a different comfort level when it comes to art with kids. Where are YOU on the “art comfort continuum?”

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I’ve rounded up some ideas for art storage for those faint-of-heart, as well as for those of you ready to take it to a new level.  I’ve also shared a go-to list for items to include in your inventory. Some of these ideas come from my very favourite bloggers in the Reggio-inspired world, and I hope you’ll find them useful!

 

7 ways to store kids' art supplies

boon stash

Boon Stash Art Caddy

I love this caddy because it is simple and keeps everything organized and neat, and looks uber-modern. It is also dishwasher-friendly. Once it gets a little dingy-looking, just throw it in the dishwasher and it will come out looking brand new!

 

Grundtal storage

Grundtal storage

Grundtal IKEA

IKEA GRUNDTAL series

I like to use this set in designs, because it is an option for those with limited shelf space.  The canisters are removable, and you can customize it for the number of materials you have.

art caddies

Land of Nod Budding Artist Caddy

These are great because kids can independently carry the entire caddy to a nearby table.  The fun colours and design make it a sure-fire hit.

 

all in one art station

Chalk Wall with integrated art storage

Image Source:  BuzzFeed

I love this design (not my own!) but I have used variations of it. It is a one-stop-shop on a wall-surface, minimizing the need for added shelving.  I love chalk walls, and this is the perfect integration of both chalk-wall and art storage.

 

art cart

IKEA RASKOG Art Cart

Image Source: Tinkerlab  Check out Rachelle’s process for setting up an Art Cart! These are amazingly convenient for smaller spaces, and can house a good number of art goodies. The casters make moving it a breeze.  I’ve used these in child care settings, and they are always very popular.

 

Urbio modular storage

Urbio Magnetic Modular System

Image Source: The Art Pantry.  Check out how Megan uses this system so cleverly in her art studio!

I ADORE Megan’s use of the Urbio Modular system. It is so clean, simple and modern, and I love that you can change up the scheme depending on your kids’ needs, heights, and interests.  It’s so visually appealing (probably because of the white with pops of art-media colour!), and the options are truly endless.

 

Your collection of art media will range depending on your comfort level. Below is a list of some items to get you started. {You can pick + choose!}

Art Centre Supplies

IKEA KALLAX unit, with Dollar Store glass jars {my favourite!}

Do your kids have an Art Centre? What are YOUR strategies for keeping sane when messy art supplies are around? I would love to hear your ideas!

wall decor

06 Dec 2016, Posted by alanacherneck_0 in Uncategorized

Animal Heads by Fiona Walker

A nursery or bedroom can be so much fun to design + style.  Elements of whimsy + unexpected surprises can be integrated in ways not always possible in other rooms of the home. Etsy is an amazing source for wall decor, and has become my go-to resource for all things decor. A recent trend hitting nurseries and bedrooms are adorable wall busts: “faux taxidermy.”  And decor-enthusiasts have a love/hate relationship with the latest phenomenon:  we either LOVE it, or it just creeps us out. When done right, faux taxidermy can bring a fun and whimsical sensibility to your little one’s space. Mounted individually as a focal point, or within a gallery wall, there are so many options (and price points) to choose from.

Below, I’ve rounded up some of my favorite “friendlier” versions that won’t scare you (or your little one) out of the bedroom.

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1. Princess Swan. Happy Head Toys. Etsy $80.48 2. Rhino Trophy. Woodland ImportsWayfair. $98.99.  3. White Rabbit Felt Animal Head. Fiona Walker England. West Coast Kids. $139.99.  4.  Ram Felt Head. Fiona Walker England. Rosenberry Rooms$165 USD.  5. Unicorn Head Wall Decor. Pillowfort for Target. Target$19.44.  6. Unicorn Head. White Faux Taxidermy. Etsy$128.22.  7. Wicker Look White Elephant. Zeckos. Houzz. $79.99.  8. Deer Head Wall Decor. Near and Deer. Wayfair$158.99.

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And let us not forget the sultry + sweet deer head from the talented Tamar Mogendorff (a little out of my budget, but really and truly a work of art).

Where do you sit on the faux taxidermy continuum?  Do you love them or do they frighten you?  I’d love to hear!

 

are you swimming in stuffies?

20 Nov 2016, Posted by alanacherneck_0 in Uncategorized

Photo Credit: B2 Photography

Stuffies seem to be taking over a good portion of playroom real estate these days. From Beanie-babies (large + small) to teddy bears to plush snakes + tigers, we have the whole animal kingdom covered. But how many is TOO many, and how can you possibly organize them so they each get their share of cuddle time?

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Our girls PLAY with their stuffies. They take them for walks in the stroller, they tag along on car rides, or accompany reluctant passengers on ever-lasting school bus rides.  As a child, I don’t remember having many (are they a recent phenomenon perhaps?), perhaps a few favourites, but they really weren’t my thing. Our girls are especially drawn to the wide-eyed TY Beanies, and have acquired quite a collection.  I have to admit, some of them are pretty cute {did you know they even have names?}.

We have a bit of a system in our house. We bring about 10-12 small to medium sized stuffies out at a time, and store them in our red canvas baskets (labelled: “stuffies”). These get rotated every two weeks:  at the end of their playroom stay, they go back down to the play trunk (that is, a giant resin Costco deck box) in our basement that requires a serious high-powered flashlight to forage through.

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I’ve rounded up some possibilities for storage that are both practical AND stylish – from storage ottomans, to crates, to belly baskets + canvas cubes.  I hope you like them.  If you’re wondering a source, please ask in the comments below, and I will let you know.

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What about YOU? Are you bursting at the seams with plush paraphernalia? What are YOUR stuffy storage solutions?

 

wooden vs. plastic: the great toy debate

27 Oct 2016, Posted by alanacherneck_0 in Uncategorized

Wooden or plastic, that is the question.

I am a big fan of wooden toys for children. Does it mean I don’t own plastic toys for our girls? pfft! Heck no. We own more Babies + Barbie transport modes than Ken has hair styling products.

But I value wooden toys, and would spend double the amount (or more) on a quality wooden toy than plastic ANY day. There are so many reasons to invest in a set of quality wooden toys for your children.

  1.  They are open-ended:  wooden toys are typically more open ended than tradition plastic variety. Often plastic toys are accompanied by a disclaimer on the package:  “batteries not included.” look, mamas: if your toy needs batteries, who is doing all the work? Certainly not your child’s brain! Wooden toys invite open-ended play with limitless possibilities.  Wooden toys are often less “descript” and more open-ended, leaving so much for the child to imagine + create.  Imagination, critical thinking, creativity, problem solving: these are high level thinking skills we want to foster and develop for our 21st century learners.  Wooden toys were created because they were made from readily available material, using very simple tools. There is something so romantic and beautiful about that simplicity.  Children are naturally drawn to wooden toys, and tend to care for and respect wooden toys differently. What a wonderful thing, to learn responsibility + care for our materials.

 

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Melissa and Doug Dolls with Plan Toys Dollhouse Furniture

 

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Wooden Beads with Wire

 

  1. They are better for the environment:  wooden toys are more durable and last longer than their plastic counterparts. This equals less waste. Think about all of the drive-through toys you’ve accumulated? Where do they end up? Wood is a recyclable, replenishable resource, much gentler on the earth.

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Grimm’s Wooden Cave Arch

 

  1. They embrace the sensory components of play: play is a full-body experience. Play involves all senses – sight, sound, touch, smell, and even taste (think about how your youngest would mouth things – this is a form of making meaning of her world!) wooden toys fire up all the senses. Think about the smell of a fresh wooden toy. The feel of it. I love how nostalgic I feel when I hold these toys in my hands. Wood BEGS to be touched. Smelled. Explored. When children engage more than one sense, they are creating MANY connections in the brain. When a child uses an iPad or Tablet – they are using at most, two senses. On the contrary, plastic electronic toys can OVER-stimulate the brain, providing too much feedback. Children construct understanding of their world through concrete experiences that involve all of our senses. It’s how we were wired. One Instagram follower of mine posted about the “visual noise” factor.  It’s so true. Visual noise produces visual clutter. There is so much research on clutter and it’s adverse effect on thinking and learning. Why bring more visual noise in to a space where you want your child to play, grow AND learn?

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PlanToys Water Blocks (Photo credit: B2 Photography)

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Melissa and Doug Natural Wooden Blocks 

{for fun: try mixing in scraps of material or fabric with your blocks and watch the possibilities unfold! Pat Furman of SSCY’s Robertson Early Enrichment Program shared this one with me!}

 

  1. Durability:  to quote Roland Barthes, philosopher + French literary theorist:  wood “is a familiar and poetic substance, which does not sever the child from close contact with the tree, the table, the floor. Wood does not wound or break down; it does not shatter, it wears out, it can last a long time.” wow. Yes.

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PlanToys Creative Dollhouse (Photo Credit: B2 Photography)

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Manny and Simon Wooden Stroller Push Cart (Photo Credit: B2 Photography)

 

  1. Nostalgia factor: think about the most classic toy that ever was. Wooden alphabet blocks. We all owned them. There was a simplicity + timelessness to them that was incomparable to any other toy. What kinds of toys will YOU hand down to grandchildren? Our wooden toys will definitely top my list. I am a minimalist, but one thing I will hold onto for sure is our Grimm’s wooden stacking toys. And our wooden blocks. And our wooden dollhouses. For the number of hours our girls have played with and engaged with these toys – it is amazing how new they still look. they are truly gems in our toy collection.

 

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Plan Toys Chalet Dollhouse

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Grimm’s Rainbow Stacker (Photo Credit: B2 Photography)

 

My top five reasons for embracing wooden toys in the playroom come with some drawbacks, and the cost factor would be at the top of the list. Wooden toys (especially the hand-crafted variety) are more expensive than plastic. It’s true. But when you weigh the pros + cons, and adopt a “less is more” attitude, you can get more mileage out of the fewer wooden toys than all the plastic at a Toy’s R Us. Think about it.

What about you? Where do you sit on the wooden ………….. > plastic spectrum? I would love to hear your thoughts!

 

 

image of the child + SSCY

19 Oct 2016, Posted by alanacherneck_0 in Uncategorized

Robertson Early Enrichment Program

SSCY Center, Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada

Written by Alana Chernecki in collaboration with Pat Furman

Photographed by Becky Radtke, B2 Photography

 

Walk through the doors of Robertson Early Enrichment Program, and one is immediately awestruck by an environment that is not only beautiful, but thoughtfully curated with the child at the centre.

The foyer, furnished with a beautiful console, comfortable chairs and enticing children’s literature, has been thoughtfully designed for parents and children entering the childcare centre for the first time. Here, you will find pens, pencils, notecards and the Hundred Languages of Children by Loris Malaguzzi, prominently displayed as a reminder of the caring and child-centered way the Centre does business.

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At Robertson Early Enrichment Program, children are respected and supported as investigators, researchers, thinkers, and communicators. The Centre works hard to provide children with a multitude of experiences that encourage children to be leaders in discovery, to construct understanding of the world around them and to express their understanding in a variety of ways.

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Because environment has such a great impact on children’s learning, behaviour, and development, it is the rationale for the attention to detail exhibited in the beautifully designed programme and environment at the Centre. Alana Chernecki, interior stylist and curator for the space, notes that, “Today, children spend a great deal of time in childcare programs and school. Brain research tells us that a stimulating, engaging environment creates more connections in the brain. Most of the “wiring” of the brain’s neurons comes after birth, and depends on the quality of experiences infants and children have. Thus, the environment, plays a critical role in the developing brain.”

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Each room at the Centre has been thoughtfully designed and furnished with the child in mind. A mix of organic, modern, calm, colourful, and comfortable furniture and equipment, suited to both adults and children, has been carefully selected for the space, and sourced from a variety of vendors. For example, the reading nook, filled with natural light from the Centre’s windows, is outfitted with a child-sized teepee resting on a soft plush rug, and surrounded by comfortable cushions and poufs, as well as a giant plush giraffe.

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The atelier, the art area of the Centre, is equipped with a variety of interesting materials and resources, all displayed at children’s eye level and reach, and housed in glass jars that allow children to “read” the media. Children are taught from the moment they walk through the doors to be responsible and respectful when handling all materials, so glass jars are treated with care. “In our programme, children are viewed as capable, competent, curious, and full of knowledge and potential. We strive to reflect that in the environment and materials we choose,” explains Executive Director Pat Furman.

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The selection and presentation of toys, materials and children’s literature was not an exercise that was taken lightly. Both Director Pat Furman, and interior stylist and curator Alana Chernecki felt that toys should be of the highest quality, open-ended enough to engage children, open the imagination, and drive exploration and deep thinking. Toys and materials are as natural as possible, and mainly constructed of wood. The Centre is also abundant with beautiful collections of “loose parts” – materials and objects that can be moved around, designed and redesigned, tinkered with and reconstructed, in order to engage children’s creative thinking. “You won’t find any blinking, flashy, beeping plastic toys in here!” proclaims Director Pat Furman. Instead, scarves, blocks, authentic musical instruments, quality children’s literature, felt foods and real cookware provide opportunities for open-ended exploration for children.

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“We believe the environment reflects our image of the child. We’ve created a space that we are proud of and love to work in. We know that the children who attend here daily will be excited, motivated and engaged in the programme. Our environment provides a message to all those who enter – children, parents, educators and service staff – that children are worthy of a beautiful environment, and that they thrive in a beautiful environment.”

 

Brillante Logo

 

 

 

my story.

06 Oct 2016, Posted by alanacherneck_0 in Uncategorized

People love a good story. Stories are the literary fibres that connect us as human beings. I have never thought of myself as a superb storyteller, but I try. And my kids always forgive me.

Once upon a time, I was a teacher. It so happened, that our school was bursting at the seams, and we needed to open up another Nursery/Kindergarten classroom. But we had no space. The only room available in the school was a dingy-old former staffroom {with remnants from the days when teachers were allowed to smoke in there!}. The walls were stained, the flooring was in rough shape and the windows were covered with metal bars. It was the dullest and most depressing room in the entire building.

I should preface the story with the fact that I’ve always loved dabbling in design. From the youngest I can remember, I would arrange, then rearrange my room in a myriad of furniture permutations until it felt “just right” and then I’d do it all over again the following month.

Having the yuckiest room in the school presented a clear challenge. But, as a resourceful, young, hip, passionate educator, I knew I would meet this challenge head-on, and surpass everyone’s expectations – especially the tiniest students.

I used my resourcefulness to acquire donations from across Winnipeg (I also faced many “no’s” as well). Beanbag chairs, little coffee tables, floor cushions, even beautiful textural rugs were gifted by local businesses. (Big shout-out to EQ3 here).  I also used my handy-ness to craft some creative storage solutions. I looked for discounts EVERYWHERE. And finally, after a coat of paint to freshen things up, the room came alive.

I witnessed firsthand, the transformative power of the environment. Being in the Inner City, my students came from a variety of home settings, but sadly, many were underprivileged and faced enormous life obstacles.  I wanted to create a beautiful space for these young children – who were about to embark on the beginning of their educational path – a space where they felt welcomed, at peace, invited to participate in constructing their own learning journey.

Rewind the story a bit here, please. Years earlier, I was introduced to to the Reggio Emilia approach to early childhood education. The approach immediately struck a chord with me, and I felt each tenet resonate profoundly with me as an educator. Reggio-inspired educators hold an image of the child as creative, capable, strong, responsible – full of knowledge and wonder. Their curriculum is child-led, that is, children learn what they are naturally curious about.  Reggio educators believe that children communicate in a multitude of ways, and give them a variety of tools to help them communicate their understanding of the world.  (This is why you will so often see art media housed in transparent jars – so that children can make choices about how they will represent their knowledge).  Reggio educators believe that children have three teachers: the parent, the teacher and the environment.  (yes, other children are teachers as well…a little theory called the social construction of knowledge). This notion, the environment as a participant in the education process, was the theory I was testing with my new students that year, in their newly transformed classroom. Great attention was given to lighting, windows, pathways, materials selection and organization, and colour and texture choices as well as flexible seating arrangements. I believed my students deserved a beautiful environment and that they would thrive in this space.

Fast forward a few months, and I immediately began to see changes. These children – who were only two generations removed from residential schools – were excited to come to school, excited to learn, amongst friends, in a space that was as inviting as the coziest tea house.  Students’ learning flourished, as we explored, through inquiry, big ideas that mattered to them. Parents wanted to volunteer and “hang out,” and I absolutely loved teaching and spending time in my classroom. I believe the beautiful environment I created made me a better teacher that year.

We had a wonderful year together, and in bittersweet fashion, concluded my career as an educator in the public system. I was nine months pregnant with our first child and I had always wanted to stay home with our children, so I said goodbye to an era.

*Brillante is an intersection of the three worlds I am most passionate about:  education, children and design.  I fiercely believe in what I do. I hope this little story helped you to understand how it all began.

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