Spark Insight Journal – Spark Play Flow -Page 7- Part 2

Diving into the Spark Play further in this journal entry, we introduce you to the tail end of Spark Play, when everything comes together. 

  • Clean Up- The children are notified with a bell five minutes prior to clean-up to signal them that they have 5 more minutes of playtime. The second bell then helps them get into the cleaning mode. The children, at the beginning of each week, have designated areas that they are in charge of. During the process, the guides play the freeze game, throwing in a “freeze” as they are cleaning up to make clean-up fun. Once the areas are clean and ready; they wash their hands and go into the studio.
  • Play Stories- In the studio, the children find their play journals and bring their outdoor experiences on paper. They illustrate and use words to share their experiences from the outside onto paper. They also draw emotions on faces – like a smile, frown, pointing down eyebrows (for anger). This “journaling” works allows the learners to practice communicating their thoughts and feelings on paper. 
  • Reflection Circle- This is the last part of their Spark Play experience and brings everything together. Led Socratically, the questions posed help them narrate their play stories and expand on their experiences and is also the only time in their day when technology is used. Their play journals and photos/videos of their Play activities taken outside are screen-shared on the television as the basis of reflection. Aside from building vocabulary and narration/storytelling skills, they also learn to share their biggest feelings and ideas and solutions to their experiences outdoors. 

 In addition to complimenting our Montessori environment, Spark Play prepares our learners for the next stage of our learners’ journey in the Discovery Studio. 

The Spark Play learning design involves communication development through reflection.  Looking ahead to Discovery for a moment, our aim through our Writers’ Workshops is for learners to see themselves as writers and to be confident getting their thoughts on paper. The precursor to this stage is for learners to develop the confidence to simply get their thoughts out and be confident in their communication.  This practice is built into the Spark Play model, as guides take photos and videos of the children at play, to be reflected upon after clean-up to end the day together. Play-stories and play-reflections, and sometimes play-plans created with drawings and writing help the learners begin to piece together the sequence of their choices, supporting their communication development. 

 

 

 

Spark Insight Journal – Page 6 – Spark Play Flow – Part 1

Spark Play at Ascent is a loose parts-play model that consists of unprescribed parts such as wooden blocks, large tubes, barrels, tires, planks, tarps, scarves, milk crates, wooden stumps, sandpit tools, sandbags, and much more. Landscaping components such as the hills, tunnels, the A-frame, the gaga ball pit, sandpit, water tank, and pumps are used regularly to facilitate play.

Post lunch, the learners head outdoors and start Play which is usually around 12 noon. They choose to play amongst these many areas available to them, often also hopping from one to another, or choosing to stay immersed in one with their group of friends or by themselves. They still follow their inner rhythms, seasons, and calls, just as the self-driven morning work cycle. They get over an hour (about 1.40 hours) of Play every afternoon. 

 A great benefit of Spark Play is that it gives learners daily opportunities to practice building the muscle of cooperative play (shifting out from co-play).  This often breeds conflict as the young heroes practice communicating their ideas and plans, practice sharing, and navigate interpersonal disagreements. At Spark Play, guides continuously model and facilitate conflict resolution with the children who in turn practice using powerful and empowering language repeatedly. 

This post will be followed by Part 2 of the flow to dive deeper and get more insight into this part of the day of the learners. Until then, enjoy the pictures and this quote from Dr. Maria Montessori –

Play is the work of the child.

 

 

 

 

Spark Insight Journal – Page 5 – The Beauty of Mixed Age Group

Observing our mix of kind helpers and keen observers on a daily is a heartwarming experience. Witnessing an older child (often a veteran) showing a younger one how to complete an activity, as the younger child is fascinated by watching his older friend accomplish what s/he can’t yet do.

Older learners having a sense of studio ownership, find opportunities to become mentors to their younger friends, while learning and practicing important leadership skills. A young learner watching an older learner exploring and focusing on their work, builds the growth mindset muscle, thinking to him/herself, “If they can do that, someday I will as well!” They find many incredible chances to absorb new information around them. 

More so, spending three years in the same environment also helps the learners to not rush through the process of learning, as, this setting perfectly provides the learners more time to follow their growth trajectory in the studio before moving onto the next adventure in their journey; the Discovery studio, which only furthers this experience by providing a realistic representation of the world beyond the studio walls. A mixed-aged environment truly offers so many wonderful moments of growth, learning, and change.

 

Spark Insight Journal – Page 4 – Mindfulness Area

Mindfulness definitely needs no introduction with it being such a buzzword this decade. So many of you were also intrigued by the ‘how and what’ of our Spark Mindfulness Area, so let’s jump straight into what mindfulness looks like for the Spark Learners. 

Mindfulness for us is to find our calm, reset our bodies, take a step back, and pause. It can be a break or a calming strategy outlet. It looks like all of the below. 

  • Reading a book in the library to take a pause. 
  • Using the tangible breathing prompts – Star, Box, and Palm Breathing when BIG feelings visit us, when we are tired, or when we just need to pause. Oh! and also Blow on the Pinwheel for an elongated exhale that is ever so calming…
  • Using the calming strategies jar- to help us choose a strategy and take a brain break. Some of these include- counting to 10, looking outside, taking a walk, drawing a picture, taking 3 belly breaths, etc. 
  • Paint a picture in the painting area- to bring us back to the present moment and also see the interplay of colors and let loose our imagination. Switching to our left brain for a bit.
  • Using the meditation pillow to close our eyes and find stillness. 
  • Using the mindfulness desk to look at the Grace and Courtesy book, to stare at a candle or at the hourglass to bring us back at the moment. 
  • Relevant books, circle time discussions, and In-studio & Spark Play experiences also add to this area on a daily.

 

We know that habits formed early in life will inform behaviors in adulthood, and with mindfulness, we have the opportunity to give our learners the tools for being peaceful, kind, and accepting. We also speak of how our tiny neurons help our brain grow and learn to integrate a growth mindset and tie it into mindfulness even further. Our mindfulness area has visitors by the minute, and all we know is it truly completes our experience in the studio. 

 

Spark Insight Journal – Page 3 – Circle Time Discussions

Circle time in the studio is a crucial time for our young learners to develop their listening skills, learn new vocabulary, practice language skills, practice following directions, build self-confidence, learn group and grace and courtesy lessons, and learn about being a member of a community, often indirectly through discussions, stories, play, and practice.

This is done differently in different environments and at different times. Most guides begin their day with a circle, some end their day with a circle, some do it during transitions- between work cycle and lunch, lunch and play, etc. In our current schedule at Ascent Spark, we have a full-studio circle at 8 a.m. and a small circle time to transition into lunch at 11.30 a.m. We play games, practice mindful breathing, practice grace and courtesy lessons, read books, sing songs, have discussions, and more. In the afternoon, Mr. Tom leads an end-of-day circle whereupon he socratically discusses the learners’ experiences outdoors and their reflections from their play journal, which they write/draw in, post-Spark Playtime.  

With today’s post, we want to share reflections from a discussion we had during our morning circle time focused on the question, “What does it mean to be a part of a community?” The brief discussion included what a community means, what different communities look like, and that we are indeed part of so many communities. As the culmination of the discussion, the learners shared their answers to the anchor question. Please enjoy their responses: 

  • Samantha -“If people were hurt and wanted to go to the hospital, I can help.”
  • Grace- “Help mom, clean the house, my brother too. And help our neighbor to clean up her house with her so that the rats don’t come.”
  • Max- “Be kind to the little person so they don’t get sad and be nice to them. You can hurt your feelings if someone hits you. If the person doesn’t want to play, he can hit you and that’s not very nice”. 
  • Dezmond- “Being nice to my dad, because he is working really hard.”
  • Ruben- “Being nice around others.”
  • Anay- “Being kind around each other.” 
  • Colin- “Picking litter to be a good member of the Earth.”
  • Sawyer- “Ask if people need help.” 
  • Koa- “Ask if they were okay if they got hurt.”
  • Aero- “I will be nice to my sister.”
  • Ayla- “Being nice to people and helping them when they are sad.”
  • Saylor- “Being nice to everyone.”
  • Remy- “Picking trash from the ground to be a community member of the Earth.”
  • Zinnia- “Help when they are hurt.”
  • Abby- “Being nice to my mom because she has a lot of work, so help with the house and help with the chores list.”

These discussions from these sprouting minds will turn into larger discussions upon their foray into the Discovery Studio, and the world at large; as they evolve into the various roles they play and eventually become a part of the community-Earth. 

 

Spark Insight Journal – Page 2 – Spark Play Highlight – Sand Pit Area

With today’s post, we share a peek into our Spark Playtime of the day. Spark Play is an integral part of our learners’ time in their space. They choose from small loose parts play, large parts (think- large planks, blocks, ladders), sandpit area, other in-built structures like the stumps, swinging ropes, tunnels, hills, and the orchard. Each area comes with a particular focus in mind in that they are more and less conducive to different types of play.  We often think of that in reference to play that encourages ‘feet on the floor’ vs ‘feet off the floor’, gross motor vs fine motor movement, etc. Today we highlight – the Sand Pit Area!

Since the introduction of the sandpit this year, it has definitely been a place of action and learning. Guides are strategically placing themselves outside the sandpit to hear and note the great growth in communication that happens while learners communicate critical thoughts.  The water from the pipe runs down on the hill course until it reaches the sandpit, allowing gravity to create another fascinating object for the children’s observations… On most days, on average, there are around four-five parallel plays going on in the sandpit area, with four-five different groups. Some days the members within the groups change and some groups have had the same members for weeks. We’ve not only witnessed some interesting decision-making, conversations, and conflicts but also, so much of creative-thinking and strategizing. Learners have banded together in various ways for their creations; From building dams and digging tunnels to making canals for the gushing water. They make sand-castles and dig until they reach the bottom of the pit. They are experimenting with using the white strips you see below as pipes and making courses for the water. Their experiences have ranged from wanting the same equipment to not wanting water in their section, to, also wanting water in their section!  They bring in the math and the science, engineering, and technology, language, and love all at once, all so powerfully through hands-on learning. They make sure to fill this daily experience with some heated moments, heartbreaks, tough conversations, and buckets and buckets of fun. This is why, they flock there again the next day, and the next, and every day, without a doubt.



With grateful hearts, 

Spark Guides.

Spark Insight Journal – Page 1 – Gratitude

Welcome to the Spark Insight Journal! This journal is our attempt to share the beauty and the magic, the highlights and the lowlights, our stories of successes and failures, moments of joy and peace and other big feelings; largely, a peek into our Spark world. What you can expect is a bi-weekly post to bring you into our world in small bites. We hope that these little posts of ours can fill your heart with amazement and joy.