“黑森林”中的学习与探索之旅 | 彻底解决儿童分离焦虑
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A journey of learning and discovery
in the 'dark forest'
First, let's hear from the children:
During my observations and meetings with the class teachers of the EY2A class at Huili Nursery Hangzhou, something caught my attention. I noticed that children were interested in covering their hands and arms fully in paint until they could not see their skin anymore. Some children were also covering their drawings with many layers of other materials, while others loved to wrap things in fabric or hide things in the class or again find little corners to hide themselves. In that moment, I could recognise in the play of these children the enveloping schema.
But what is a schema?
Jean Piaget, the famous Swiss child psychologist, described schemas as "cohesive, repeatable action sequences possessing component actions that are tightly interconnected and governed by a core meaning." In other words, schemas are patterns or repeated behaviours that allow children to understand how the world and things work. The more the child goes deep into this behaviour exploration, the more they learn, create hypotheses, and build their knowledge through trial and error by taking action with their body and observing the effects.
The enveloping schema is the pattern that the children in this class seem to be working on.
When children envelop things, they are exploring the idea of object permanence, which is the idea that things exist even after they have disappeared from view. They are assimilating the idea that things go away and come back.
On a symbolic level, play schemas are correlated with the attachment theory. Their game starts building symbolically as the child applies the theory they learned in their schemas to other aspects of theirlife.
For example, in the case of the enveloping schema, while the child is learning about the existence of things even if we don't see them, they are also working on their attachment, for example, with the family. In the morning when parents leave the child to go to school, if they have had enough play and knowledge that if they do not see you, you will not disappear, the child will be more confident to go to school by themself, knowing that you will not abandon them and that you will be there waiting for them again later.
For this reason, together with the class teachers, we discuss the idea of taking this already ongoing learning of the children in the class to a deeper level by incorporating separation games into the class project. This will help to extend their learning and promote good attachment, leading to confident and safe children.
Based on our representation of children's play, we found a key theme emerged- "hide and seek" - which may help us unravel the hidden connections between separation emotions and mischievous behaviour.
Consequently, we let the children enter into an unwritten narrative, imagining there is a group of friends who love to play hide-and-seek in the mysterious dark forest. Children enthusiastically envisioned and marked the places where the imaginary monsters hid on the map.
Drawing inspiration from the children's specific descriptions, we provided burlap, branches, and boxes of different sizes, encouraging children to design their own hide-and-seek scenarios. In the repeated play, children used different hiding methods to test their surrounding classmates, noting who would spot them first, and how quickly. They also watched their own reactions to their peers, identifying those who drew their attention and those in need of it. From this process, children better understand themselves and their surrounding peers.
To deepen the children's engagement with hide-and-seek play, we encouraged them to create their own monster masks. Some children crafted frightening masks with big teeth and red eyes, some created brightly coloured, sparkling mask for dancing, while some created quiet and small ones. Each mask was unique, and children projected their individual characteristics in the creative process, as well as exploring the concepts of "hiding" and "seeking". By wearing their own monster masks, children could switch roles between pursuers and hiders. Between each wait and search, children overcame their fears and established a sense of security, which made them more confident. Gradually, children began to also understand that parental separation during the school period was temporary, and even in their absence, parents would reliably appear at the agreed time.
In reality, when children enter a new environment, parents also undergo a "transition period". Therefore, we invited parents into the nursery to engage in hide-and-seek play with their children. In the process of searching and hiding, parents can reconnect and respond to their children's needs.
Lastly, let's hear the sentiments of parents as they reunite with their children.
At Huili Nursery Hangzhou, we put children at the centre of our educational universe through a combination of comprehensive Early Years research, evaluation and strategic planning. Utilising proven methods to implement an innovative and customised approach to inspire children to be the best version of themselves, take pride in their origins and become the positive change they aspire to see in the world.