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Let’s G.O!

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.

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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!

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They didn’t settle down to do maths or English.

Oh no, we went for a walk in the woods!

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Heidi informed her class: “Right, time to go for a walk! Let’s go. G.O!” “Yes, Ms Echternacht!” they replied.

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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.

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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.

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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.”

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What a wonderful example of a positive outcome approach, rather than a harsh perspective approach.

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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.

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Heidi also leads the popular weekly chat on Twitter, #Kinderchat. Monday nights from 8:30pm GMT.

With this in mind, I’m supporting Keeping Early Years Unique’s petitions to extend the EYFS to Year One.

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  • Jutta Hepworth

    Laura, this sounds just like our German system children, where children are in Kindergarten until they are six and then go on to school into year 1. Kindergarten is always together with the early years programme and not attached to a primary school. We too have a play-based curriculum that provides children with plenty of time to absorb the world around them, play, talk, observe, get muddy, experiment……………

  • Sanjay

    Very much like the Forest School approach. We are sometimes very insular in our thinking and not letting children be free. Real education is not in the classroom!

  • Ali McClure

    So refreshing! The way it should be. Today I observed a student teaching subordinate clauses to 6 and 7 year olds. Most could do it but I felt sad that their precious childhood years are being spent on the structure and analysis of language rather than loving learning through play. Subordinate clauses can come later, childhood can’t.
    I think our children are being factory farmed and many educators feel pressured to toe the line.
    Don’t get me wrong, I want children to achieve the best they can but in ways that match their stage of development and leave them eager to learn more.

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