Friends of Rachel Keeling, Step Out Arts came to help us welcome the Chinese New Year in. We welcomed the year of the dog with ribbon dancing, lion dancing and percussion music and we also enjoyed some beautiful Chinese music and handling real Chinese artefacts. It is always a day we look forward to. The children show great interest in the session and are able to sustain concentration. They actively get involved and responded to the music and huge lion with confidence and joy!
We rounded off the day with a procession through the garden with our own smaller lion. The dancing continued throughout the week and children were also involved in making and sharing tea together.
At Rachel Keeling we are lucky enough to have staff with a wide range of gifts and skills. One particular staff member is musically gifted and naturally passes this onto children through her teaching. Children have ongoing access to a wide range of percussion and pitched instruments. They also have opportunities to listen to a range of music through our new iPods and speakers across the nursery across the day, including lunchtime. Children sing regularly and some children begin to look at musical notation when they are ready.
Over the past few weeks, an interest in music has been supported with the introduction of the pitched bells. Children explored the different pitched sound that each bell made and talked about the sounds. They were supported to organise the bells into the order of pitch from high to low. Next they worked with Lize to learn how to play as an ensemble. Fatimasahra learnt to play Twinkle Twinkle and performed it for the whole school at our weekly Whole School Music session. She then supported her peers to try to play this too and children were motivated and sustained concentration for some time.
During the summer term we plan to continue with our ukulele group for children who are interested and show particular musicality.
Last Thursday morning we threw open the doors early and welcomed families and friends of Rachel Keeling Nursery School to celebrate our Book Breakfast.
Children brought along their favourite books and we enjoyed two dozen Brick Lane bagels (or beigels if you prefer) that Pam kindly carried in for us.
It was interesting to see the books children chose: many were classics like 'Not Now Bernard' and 'The Hungry Caterpillar' but some were personal favourites that often we, as adults, cannot work out why they are popular. These are often the books that get requested at bedtime and want to be heard multiple times in a row. These are also the books that if you try to abridge or skip a page, the children will immediately rumble you. We encourage our children to see themselves as readers and many of them do. Some children are at the developmental stage to begin to recognise some letters, sounds and words. Reading aloud for pleasure is something we should not neglect. So whatever the age of your loved one, why not share a book, newspaper article or some poetry with a loved one this Valentine's Day.
Linus Pauling said "The best way to have an idea is to have lots of ideas." All it often takes is one good idea and then lots of people come together. "I've had an idea!" and "That's a great idea!" are two phrases I often hear children and practitioners saying at Rachel Keeling.
Recently children worked collaboratively on their ideas when building imaginatively in the garden. There were castles, houses, dens, airplanes, cars and trains created. Children were observed sharing their ideas and listening to each other, negotiating their points of view: finding props, problem solving and exploring ideas (sometimes unsuccessfully). Groups of children returned to this play each day over the course of the week and new friendships were discovered on "the underground". Children created their own props, Oyster cards and readers - many children sharing experiences from home and family outings.
Children tidied away their creations each day and were happy to rebuild the following day, often bigger and more successfully than the day before.
Children truly engage in play in the moment. If we as practitioners do the same, we can witness this beautiful play and recognise the skills involved which relate to life.
As part of our continued focus on deeper learning and science (see our School Development Plan 2017-18) practitioners have been supporting children in developing knowledge and understanding about electricity. Asking the children what they know is always a revealing and useful assessment tool: Mohammed "It turns off", Luka "Electricity goes round in cables", Romy "It goes around the whole planet", Fatimasahra "It's like fireworks, it goes on loud" and Ana "Electricity can hurts". Children were then given plenty of time and opportunity to explore electrical items (hairdryers, telephones, hard drives and printers. They deconstructed them using screwdrivers. This took a sustained amount of concentration and perseverance but the joy was evident once complete. Children explored components and discussed with friends and practitioners what they found and thought. They referred to information books about electricity. Children discussed Luka's understanding of electricity travelling through cables. Circuit boards were then introduced to some children who used their knowledge about creating pathways for the electricity to travel along. They successfully made light bulbs come on. buzzers buzz and propellers whirr! Ana, who designed and made a sailing boat from a milk carton, straw and paper sail has been given the task to add a motor or a light to it! It's so exciting to see the scientists, engineers and designers of tomorrow busy building their ideas, bravely exploring and making mistakes today.
Today families and children were fortunate enough to be joined by local architect, Harry Paticus to talk about the Bethnal Green Memorial he worked tirelessly to establish.
On the night of 3 March 1943 local cinemas were emptying out and two packed number 8 buses were approaching Bethnal Green air raid shelter (the unfinished underground station) when, at 8.17pm, the air raid siren went off. At the same time an anti-aircraft battery gun performed an unannounced test. Fearing it was an air raid people made their way to the air raid shelter where they had sought safety many times previously. Due to the 'black out' across London, the streets were very dark and with the steps wet from the rain, no handrail on the staircase and no white paint to mark each step, a woman carrying a baby fell, pulling another man on top of her. Before they could get back on their feet, others fell on top of them; and in the darkness, within minutes 173 people (including 62 children) had been crushed to death.Following the disaster, the families of the victims were prohibited from speaking out because of wartime secrecy. It has taken nearly 75 years to honour those who died. East London suffered many heavy casualties during the second world war but this was the greatest. At a time when other preventable tragedies are fresh in the minds of Londoners, the memorial also highlights the fact that innocent people all over the world are still casualties of war.
Harry spoke to families, staff and children about the 12 year journey he has been on, working with survivors and families of the victims, local residents and politicians. The moving story: including photographs of some of the victims were shared and children looked at the architectural drawings and model of the memorial. Harry shared the story and then kindly accompanied us to the memorial on this freezing Friday morning. The rain stopped and we were able to take in the full size replica of the tube's staircase, suspended in the air with the family names of the victims carved into the steps. Other plaques tell the survivor's story and incredibly Harry worked with a typographer to create a new font called Bethnal Green in which the names and ages of the 173 victims are remembered. Harry shared with us the small touches which were carefully thought out. There are 173 carved holes in the roof which, during spring and summer, will allow the rising sun to shine through and project 173 rays of light onto the steps down to Bethnal Green underground. It was a very moving experience and lovely for the children to share their responses to the structure.
So please if you walk past Bethnal Green tube station, please stop, pause, look up and remember our neighbours who died tragically.
This week is one of my favourite times of the term. This excitement is not shared by all members of staff at Rachel Keeling though: it's performance management observations week.
All teaching staff are observed in a range of learning experiences across the week. We then meet and engage in reflective professional dialogue: discussing the experience children were involved in, the learning intentions, process and evaluating its effectiveness and next steps.
We do not judge performance solely on one experience observed - we gather information all the time, as we teach alongside each other, through daily evaluation meetings and weekly planning meetings, regular professional conversations as well as recounts over lunch in the staff room (or the "laughing room" as one child referred to it as). Staff also have the opportunity to observe each other and engage in Learning Conversations, a triangulated model of sharing good practice. This sits alongside Peer Reviews, ECERS and Leuven audits which we at Rachel Keeling are involved in cyclically.
During the week I have observed children baking collaboratively, learning to thread needles and sew, develop independence in serving themselves lunch and supporting each other, being taught to master the process of making hot chocolate on a freezing day, developing confidence and skill in playing pitched bells and developing and understanding of musical notation, experiencing the unbridled joy of mastering the two wheeler pedal bikes and having their ideas and understanding of our Rachel Keeling Values shared with Jamal, one of our Persona Dolls. Within every single experience the learning was boundless and children's ideas and thoughts were valued and skills and knowledge was developed. The uniqueness of each practitioner's style was evident yet the consistency of the quality was equally high: children were engaged in purposeful learning.
My favourite moment though was during a baking experience where Aminah asked me "What are you writing Becky?" I explained I was writing down all the learning the children were engaged in. Confused, Aminah looked me straight in the eye and said "We're not learning, we're cooking!"
Therein is the key, children are constantly learning but through experiences which are meaningful and relevant.