Last year I had the pleasure of visiting an awesome colleague, kindergarten teacher Heidi Echternacht, at her class in Princeton, New Jersey, USA. Heidi explained that kindergarten children in the US are aged five to six – equivalent to our Year One.
What was amazing about Heidi’s class was how much she valued play and allowed the children to be themselves. When I arrived, they had just come back in from a mid-morning break. Heidi introduced me to the class and I had a long conversation with the children about London and Paddington Bear!
They didn’t settle down to do maths or English.
Oh no, we went for a walk in the woods!
Heidi informed her class: “Right, time to go for a walk! Let’s go. G.O!” “Yes, Ms Echternacht!” they replied.
How wonderful it was to observe five and six-year-olds being able to be themselves through play, casually walking, observing the autumnal changes, collecting and balancing – assessing their own risks.
I also collected a stone and promised the children that I would take a photograph of it with my other ‘goodies’ that I’ve collected from around the world and email it for Ms Echternacht to show them.
I asked Heidi what her head teacher’s stance is regarding her play-based approach. “I was observed yesterday, all positive comments and all of my children are always ‘ready’ for their next class.”
What a wonderful example of a positive outcome approach, rather than a harsh perspective approach.
To me, this demonstrates a head teacher who trusts her teachers and that children’s well-being and welfare is top of the tree and their right to play and explore is not compromised.
Heidi also leads the popular weekly chat on Twitter, #Kinderchat. Monday nights from 8:30pm GMT.
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