Learning About Pets through the Arts While waiting for their parents to pick them up from the centre one day, the class of four-year old children saw Ellen’s mother walking a dog outside of our center garden to the gate. The children gathered on the other side of the fence and close the dog and asked Ellen’s mother so many questions about the dog like “How come he is so furry?…
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This went on the following day when I noticed Rob drawing a dog on a leash and a bird on a cage. When I asked about his picture, Rob answered, “I just looove animals!” In the playground, Gina, Michelle and Jason were on their fours, trying to catch each other. I later learned that they were pretending to be a pack of dogs. When the parents came for their children that afternoon, I asked if they had pets at home. Rob’s mother said he had a canary bird. Gina’s and Jason’s mothers said they had dogs at home, and Jason’s mother said he was given a turtle by his aunt for his birthday. I recognized that tapping this interest in pets when planning their learning experiences in the arts would be a good move on my part. Young children enjoy the arts. It is an experience where they can express themselves. During their free play, the arts may play an active role in the curriculum because it holds is essentially interesting and fun for them, so this may be the best time that teachers can observe them to gather information on what they enjoy doing and learning from. Since early childhood education should be based on the child’s interests and abilities, the arts can serve as the gateway that allows educators to enter and know about their world from their own perspective. As McArdle says (2008), “the arts can enable children to make their thinking visible, and provide teachers and researchers with rich data and information about young children” (p. 372). Since they delight music, dance, visual arts and drama as observed from their behaviours in these areas, engaging them in such experiences will guide the teacher to plan others which they may also enjoy while honing their skills. Wright (1997) asserts that because the arts involve non-verbal, symbolic ways of knowing, thinking and communicating, it becomes a powerful means of promoting learning for young children especially since their language skills have not yet been mastered (Wright, 2012). Aside from taking the children’s interests in consideration, the early childhood curriculum should also adhere to Te Whariki’s principles of empowerment, holistic development, family and community and relationships as well as the strands and goals that fall under each (Ministry of Education, 1996). Outcomes of Nga Toi or The Arts include the development of abilities in identifying their own emotional responses and those of others and representing these in their art (Mana Atua); understanding links between their early childhood settings and the real world as well as they discover unfamiliar people, images, objects, languages, sounds, smells and tastes which are far different from the ones they know (Mana Whenua); developing abilities and interests in a wide variety of domains that build their skills and strengths (Mana Tangata); experiencing stories and symbols of their own culture and discovering and developing different ways to be creative/ expressive (Mana Reo); building confidence and a repertoire for symbolic, pretend or dramatic play; coming up with strategies for exploring their worlds with their bodies, tools and materials in order to extend their skills; building confidence in movement activities; and representing these discoveries with creative and expressive media and technology (Mana Aoturoa) (Ministry of Educ
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