Home' Capricornus Quarterly : Dec14Jan15 Contents 1616
“Children are loved here’’ are the
words that sum up Bronwyn Thomson’s
outlook on the students learning
experience at The Rockhampton
Grammar School Primary School.
“We have beautiful children and
supportive families which means as
teachers we can really think about
what teaching and learning is. We
can follow through on [our ideas],”
explains Prep teacher Mrs Thomson.
“We focus on the individual child and
how we can make this experience one in
which they can truly learn and grow.”
In her recently published research,
The Connections Project: A Prep project
exploring identity, relationships and
place, featured in the latest edition of
The Challenge magazine, a publication
of the Reggio Emilia Australia
Information Exchange, Mrs Thomson
explores children’s understandings of
relationships and how relationships grow
and change during their Prep year.
School, says Mrs Thomson, is a place
where “we are sharing, discovering,
inventing and truly participating.
A place to grow a childhood we
will love to remember.’’
In Prep T children are encouraged to
research, investigate and explore whether
that is through play with blocks or clay,
drawing, painting, dancing, writing,
numbers or taking photographs to express
feelings and represent ideas. It is where
young children actively use their social
relationships to “construct knowledge”
according to the early years specialist.
“As teachers we encourage the
relationship connections that build our
youngest children’s sense of security and
place in the RGS community. Children
form an understanding of themselves
and their place in the world through
their interactions with others.”
In Prep buddies, form seniors and
visiting experts from the School and
wider community are actively sought out
and quickly become active participants
in the Prep’s teaching and learning.
The following are abstracts from
Bronwyn Thomson’s research,
The Connections Project:
I have often wondered about the ways
in which the relationships of young
children - connections to people,
places, times and processes shape their
experience of school. I have watched
with interest new cohorts of children
and parents arrive each January for the
Prep year. Over time I have also watched
these children transition socially and
emotionally into the world and to a new
place that is inclusive of their family group
but is also something more. Making
a positive start is so important. As an
early years teacher I am interested in
the adult dialogue around transitions
and providing for continuity between
pre-school and school experience. I also
wondered about the ways in which the
children saw the experience of school and
the ways in which they found their own
sense of place within this larger learning
environment. During the Connections
project the following questions
became the focus of my research:
What are the children’s understandings
of relationships? How do young
children relate to school as place and
how do these relationships grow and
change during their Prep year?
Over the period of the project I noticed
that the photographs expressed the
unique individuality of each child and
I began to see these subjectivities very
clearly. I wondered about the space we
make for individuality in large group
contexts such as school. It seems to me
that each child has the right to find
and make a space that is their own, and
that this is a personal and continuing
journey of self awareness. My research
focus expanded to include identity
and ways in which children’s identities
grow through the dynamic process of
living and interacting together. This
includes the right for children to be
visible in the school context. The voice
of the young child provides a unique
perspective and brings richness of
experience to the whole school. Here
are some examples from my students:
“Connections means helping. You make
a decision to help. You feel kind inside
before and after the helping” – Cameron.
“When we connect we have some
things that are the same. But we can
change to connect.’’ – Sebastian.
“A feeling is a way of knowing about the
world through your heart.’’ – Alexander.
“Love feels like happiness. I feel it in my
heart and it is brilliant.’’ – Mackenzie.
“The feelings of a song can change you.
The song comes out of someone’s voice
and goes everywhere. The song connects
the people. The song is filling up the
space and going all around.’’ – Sienna.
“Love is when you really know
someone and you really want to
see them again.’’ – Luce.
“If you are lost you need to be
protected. It means that someone
will always stay with you.’’ – Riley.
“Happiness is about friends and
things that combine.’’ – Alex.
“Sadness is when tears come out of
your eyes and sadness is felt in your
heart. When I worry about something
that could happen and then it does
then that’s sadness.’’ – Charlotte.
“I have a laughing connection with my
friends. We laugh when we are climbing
and when we hang upside down it feels
like we are walking on the sky.’’ – Annie.
“I am a writer. Writing helps us to
learn. I’m learning how to spell words
that I didn’t know before.’’ – Alexis.
Concepts of self and other are
inextricably linked. The relationship
between the individual and the group
is similarly dynamic. The connections
are intricate and wonderful.
Editor’s note: In 2015 Mrs Bronwyn Thomson will
continue her research and teach in Brisbane. The
RGS community is richer for having had Bronwyn as a
teacher. We thank you Bronwyn for the “connections”
you have made here and wish you the best.
TEACHERS AS RESEARCHERS
Prep as a place of identity,
relationships and place
Bronwyn Thomson, Prep Teacher
The experienced early learning years teacher, whose research appears in
The Challenge, gives an insight into children’s understandings of relationships
and how relationships grow and change during their Prep year.
We focus on the individual
child and how we can make
this experience one in which
they can truly learn and grow.
Wow! Mount Archer! I loved it and would
happily do it again and again. During the
Mount Archer walk I learnt that if you
believe in yourself and have a positive
mind frame you can achieve anything.
At Ritamada, our group listened to two
motivational speakers, Row and Ash. Ash
talked to us about how to dare to be different,
dare to be beautiful, dare to dream big and
dare to be you. We learnt about how to beat
negative thinking, identify what personality
type we are, who we are, our strengths, what
we admire in people, our goals and what
we love about ourselves. Some inspiring
quotes that I love to share include:
• Why compare yourself to others,
no one in the entire world can do
a better job of being you;
• Be in love with your life every minute of it;
• I’m in charge of how I feel and
today I’m choosing happiness;
• Believe in yourself and your halfway there;
• Be yourself because everyone else is taken.
We challenged ourselves in many other
activities including the high ropes, team
building, yoga and the Capricorn Caves.
All these activities lead us to realising that
enduring challenges and accepting our
mistakes helps us to become a better person.
We have learnt so many new things. My
form teacher Ms Higlett told us that you never
fail, and it’s true. You are either learning or
succeeding for the rest of your life. So when
you’re not succeeding you’re not learning, and
when you’re not learning you’re succeeding!
The power of positive thinking can help us
strive in day to day life, so why don’t we all
rise up and attack the day with enthusiasm!
A great man once said, “Shoot for the moon.
Even if you miss, you land with the stars.”
Another great man also said, “Shoot for the
moon, even if you miss you will land on Uranus.”
Now, this may not be the best way to sum up
What About Me?, but it sure does it humorously.
I believe that the quote that sums up the
majority of the program successfully is, “It
doesn’t matter how hard you can hit, it is
about how hard you can get hit and get back
up. During this programme we were given
challenges, and it was our job as young
men, to overcome these challenges.
We talked with Mr Peckett about being an
authentic bloke. We overcame challenges set
by Mr Petrie. We learnt self-defence with Mr
Moore. We learnt how to deal with stress with
Mrs Byrne. We spoke with Mr Lachlan Wells
about how to maximise our physical potential.
At Ritamada we learnt that we cannot let
negative thoughts consume our mind. If life
knocks us down, we can’t just sulk about
it and stay down. We need to work to our
advantages and get back up. And the first
way to do this is through positive thinking.
The session on team building
with Mr Petrie [which] instilled in us
communication, trust and teamwork.
The final obstacle was to climb 14 km, up
Mt Archer, a “ginormous” challenge. The walk,
although tiring, was fun and it taught us that
although it may seem impossible, anything can
happen. We had to have a good mental outlook
on the climb if we truly wanted to enjoy it.
I believe that this philosophy can be applied
to life. If you have a negative outlook on
life, you won’t enjoy yourself, and life will be
boring and uninteresting. But if you think
positively, you can and will reach the moon.
Individually, we are one drop. Together, we
are an ocean. During this term, I believe Year
9’s became a mighty ocean [by] participating
in the What About Me? programme.
Together, we conquered Mount Archer, each
step seeming harder than the last. If I tried to
climb Mount Archer alone, I probably couldn’t
have. But together, and with the support of
each other, each and every one of us reached
the top and achieved our personal goal.
Our comfort zones were challenged when
we “roughed it” in our tents and awoke to
Ritamada’s cool morning air. Personally, I
think our teamwork skills were perfected,
when together we organised ourselves
and successfully slept six teenage girls,
in a three-man tent. A little cosy!
Together we participated in various physical
activities such as the high ropes course,
gymnasium workouts, Zumba, yoga, caving
adventures and many more, all of which
took us on personal journeys. Together,
we built communication and trust.
On a personal level, What About Me? has
allowed me to push myself, achieve goals
and build lifelong relationships. I believe
the programme has provided me tools
and skills I need to become a responsible,
assertive, caring young adult.
I would like to thank all of those involved,
in particular Mr Kelly for organising and
coordinating the activities; Mr Boicos for
ensuring our stay at Ritamada was safe and
enjoyable; all the teachers and staff who ran
our sessions and to everyone else involved.
Fellow students, as we continue our
educational journey together, I would like
[share with] you with some wise words once
said by Helen Keller: “Alone we can do so
little; together, we can do so much.’
On the trail to self-discovery
Three Year 9 students reflect on their participation in the Middle
School’s annual personal development prog ramme, What About Me?
Georgia, Amy and Jeremy’s remarks are adapted from speeches made to parents, friends and teachers at the programme’s conclusion.
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