Finding Our Way—Our Documentation Process at Niwasa EarlyON Centre

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child's hand on a projector

Niwasa EarlyON staff believe that play is the key to a child’s understanding of the world. Play gives children the opportunity to hypothesize, test, and repeat their theories, apply that knowledge to the world around them, draw relationships between things, people and the larger world, and experience community, delight, frustration and success.

Our roles as educators is to notice the moments when this happens. We construct our environment, opportunities, invitations and provocations all with this in mind – the ability to practice, repeat, move, build, create, destroy, uncover and discover the magic of the world. As educators we value the opportunities we have to witness, document, and celebrate these moments with children.

display with photos and sticky notes posted onto the wall.

Initially, educators watch for moments that make us wonder; things we cannot explain, repetitive movements, obstacles to be negotiated or something that grabs our attention. We have begun to get into the habit of snapping a few pictures of that process and jotting down quick notes. Later we combine these things together and place it on our process wall for consideration. Any thoughts, questions, considerations or comments are invited from other educators, staff, families and children.

display with photos and sticky notes posted onto the wall.

Each one is added with post it notes onto the board. We believe that learning does not happen in isolation, but as a collaboration between children, the environment, the community and the natural world. There are many ways of knowing, many kinds of knowledge, and many types of    sharing. We invite the community to share those with us, to offer different perspectives, theories, ideas, and experiences to learning and growth.

a succession of photos showing different motions of a young girl dancing with a scarf
Morgan asks Emma to drum for her. “Like this,” she says, tapping a medium rhythm on the drum. Emma begins drumming and Morgan moves around the carpet. “Faster!” Like that! Yes.” she yells, moving faster around around the carpet, swirling, her scarf in the air, laughing.

In the next step, we synthesize the ideas and theories into a narrative, and place it together with the photographs into one   document. We place these in the areas where the learning occurred, or as close by as possible, at the level of the children. We delight when children notice them, and we have the opportunity to revisit the experience again. For children with expressive  language, it is also an opportunity to be sure that we have         captured what they’ve said, or meant – and this is reflected in the documentation. We then add this document to the process wall, again for consideration from the community.

toddler exploring shapes on a projector
Aubrielle approaches the projector now that it had been moved to the floor. There are some shapes already on the glass. Aubrielle adds to them, and spends considerable time adjusting and evaluating her design.

Post it notes are    offered for those wanting to participate in the meaning-making process. This is often a time of negotiation of meaning – in some cases changing the narrative to reflect other perspectives, the     order or grouping of photographs, or in some cases, the removal of text completely. In some cases, pictures can speak a thousand words. We needed to learn when NOT to tell the whole story.

a succession of photos that depicts two boys sitting on their mother's lap
Oliver sis with his mother and brother on the carpet. They are listening to Mother Goose poems. Gunnar begins to cry, and Oliver looks over with a concerned look. He reaches over, puts his arm around his little brother and gives him a hug and a kiss.

These documentations stay up for a period of time, in the chance that more learning in that area occurs. When it does, we document that and add it alongside the others.   If, over time, nothing further occurs, we may plan a provocation to spark that interest again. As new documentations arise, older ones are placed in a binder for families and children to access.

When a documentation occurs and continues to occur – then we are managing a sustained interest. We document and make notes over a longer period of time, and in the end compile those documentations into one long narrative. Our Ukulele and Infants documentation spread ten feet long and spanned over six months! We display the narrative in the classroom, and children revisit those learning experiences again
and again.

Binder of learning experiences documentation at Niwasa Kendaaswin Teg
infant revisiting a learning experience; touching and observing a documentation poster

Documentations are always in flux, interpreted and re-interpreted by the children, educators and community that view them. We believe that knowledge is a  collaboration, that the community possesses many knowledge gifts if given the opportunity to share them. We learn as a collective – and make meaning together to inspire children’s learning.

With thanks from Niwasa EarlyON Team: Amanda, Emma, Shooma and Heather

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