In December 2015, during the Orientation process for Foundation Year 2016 the young children were given a pot with a sunflower seedling planted in it and they were asked to look after it over the Christmas holidays. We were hoping that each plant would flourish and grow tall and strong so the children could see just how much they had grown and were ready to begin their primary schooling.
Seeing photos of one of our foundation students with her strong, tall sunflower in full bloom made me think of a connection between home and school that we do not often think about.
When we plant a seed or seedling we have great hope that it will grow and flourish into an excellent plant, flower or vegetable. We ensure that we provide the right conditions for it to grow. The correct soil type and right texture for the plant’s drainage. We place it in a suitable position, we water it and make sure it is protected from damaging winds or too much sun or rain.
It is the same when we bring a precious child into the world. We make sure that everything is perfect for them and provide an environment where they will develop and grow into the wonderful children we hope they will be.
They begin their life journey in a beautifully appointed nursery and as they grow and start to walk they have the freedom of the home in which they live, inside and out. To ensure their safety, boundaries are set. We do not shut them away in just one room for hours but provide open spaces for them to move freely about and discover the things that are around them. When they venture off to day care and kindergarten it is the same open space they explore, interacting with others and learning to share and play together.
Our homes are more open and habitable than ever before. They are light and airy with open kitchens and living rooms. There are endless television shows describing the ‘modern’ way of living and showing us how to knock down walls in older homes to open up the living spaces for a more favourable way to live.
When it is time to commence their formal education in their primary years why then is it desirable to place our children in one room and tell them to stay put in their seat at their table? Why do we tend to put up barriers? This is quashing their natural spirit to feel ‘free’ and not hemmed in.
Like home and kindergarten St. Brigid’s has established flexible spaces with indoor and outdoor spaces to enhance their development – to give them a feeling of freedom with the necessary guidelines, rules and expectations to ensure their safety and continued growth and learning. It is an extension of what they are used to at home. In a more relaxed environment children are nurtured and given opportunities to develop in a natural setting.
We encourage our students to explore and be curious about what is around them. We want them to learn more about their world and how to live in it. We give them some freedom to sit where they are comfortable for the particular tasks they are working on and direct our teaching to their specific needs. In this way they respond by being more engaged and actively participate. Students take more responsibility for their own learning. They are more readily able to adapt and accept change.
Tending to its needs, watering, giving it the right environment, makes the plant take root and flourish producing a wonderful bloom. Just like the sunflower, it is hoped that caring and nurturing the child at school, they too, will take comfort in their surroundings and be open to producing wonderful expressions of their learning and blossoming into active participants in our society.
Thanks again to one of our Foundation students for providing us with the lovely photos of her and the beautiful sunflower. I would also like to acknowledge our very active and capable Social and Fundraising Committee for their fantastic idea and bringing it to fruition. I am sure our new Foundation students have enjoyed seeing their little seedling grow into magnificent sunflowers.