This is a book we worked on many years ago and is particularly special, certainly all the children at Mairtown have really enjoyed investigating this book this term. As the weeks have gone by I have sat with many, sometimes one-on-one, other times in small groups and we have looked at the children’s illustrations, guessing what the story of each persons ‘happy place’ is, before I read them out. In doing so, naturally we began to discuss happy places for ourselves. I told the children a happy place for me is spending time with my family when we are all together in one place. As our thoughts and stories flowed I asked the children to ponder on the question ‘What makes your heart feel happy and joyful – where is your happy place?’. The stories each child told me have been beautiful, and I can tell each one has truly thought long and hard about a special moment in time, or a family ritual that brings them happiness in their memories.
As the children each shared their own personal and uniquely different stories of their own ‘happy places’ I encouraged them to draw their ideas. As they drew we further discussed their happy place and their stories became more detailed. It was then that I realised just how reflective yet honest each child was being. It was through this process that each child has been able to bring to the forefront, the things that matter most to them, their memories, passions, people, the places that gives them joy, makes their hearts full and is their own special ‘Happy Place’.
In early childhood education we must also remain committed to promoting broader thinking abilities. They are the foundation upon which children learn to make decisions, regulate their own behaviour, meet complex challenges, and take responsibility for their actions…[and] that metacognition—higher-level thinking and problem-solving skills—develops when children are encouraged to reflect (Epstein, 2003).
Lucas: My happy place is to go and shop and get groceries. I sit in the trolley and mummy pushes the trolley, it’s just me and mummy. I like to get the surprise eggs at times.
Ezra: My happy place is being in my bedroom reading books and getting lollypops. Mummy reads me books and I sit on her lap when I go to bed. I like that, that makes me happy.
Charlize: My happy place is playing in the sandpit. Here are mummy and Rosie cat. I make castles cause that makes me happy.
McKenzie: My happy place is going to the beach. I swim in the water, I play with Holly. Mummy and daddy and me go to the beach.
Archie: My happy place is going to the zoo. Luke and Jessica and Teddie and Jake all went to the zoo. I didn’t see the hippo, because the hippo died, but I saw a rhino do a poo (it was very funny!) and a monkey in a tree. And I saw through a window spiders and I saw snakes. We got up when it was dark, it was adventure. The day made me feel happy.
‘Play and the creative arts in early childhood programmes are essential ways children communicate, think, feel and express themselves…Children succeed when they are surrounded by adults who see and believe in the creative competence of all children and are committed to their success in expressing themselves…Given these optimum circumstances, children surprise and delight us – they create structures and thoughts no one has seen or heard before’ (Drew and Rankin, 2004).
As time went on, many more children approached me to create more happy place pictures, whilst some children transferred their knowledge into clay 3-dimensional sculptures. In Oliver’s words ‘I have to keep drawing because I have so many happy places to tell, not just one’.
Supporting children to revisit and revise their work and ideas is essential for thinking and learning. It is through these experiences of repetition, that children engage in their work and play in a meaningful and absorbing manner, whilst also promoting higher level thinking as children are able to recall and make connections to what has been done previously, to plan ahead and to review and evaluate their thinking along the way (NQS-PLP, 2012).
Oliver: My happy place is the beach and it’s because you can make sand castles (but not at the nature programme, there you throw rocks at the water). When I go to the beach it’s sunny and I go with mummy and daddy and Lachlie and Abbey. I love building sandcastles. First, I get a bucket that looks like a castle, put it on the ground and give it a knock with a spade and take the bucket off and it’s a sand castle! It’s always sunny at the beach.
Isla: My happy place is my bedroom cause I sleep in there. It has a bed and a toy chest. I love my bedroom so much.
Drawing is a communication tool which children use to express ideas, not only in externalising their own thoughts but as a means of clarifying for others what it is they are thinking (Schiller, 2004)
Now many weeks later, as I write this blog, we are reaching the end of our happy place stories (well, just for now). And today I was able to take a small group of our children who had created their pictures and/or sculptures to the Whangarei Central Library where they have been on display for the library ‘big day in’ last weekend. Any trip is exciting, but the underlying theme of this visit was the empowerment the children received as they saw their work on display, being admired and valued by members of our community. The feedback we have received from the public about their talents and skills is very special indeed. Making public the children’s work and processes behind their pieces also acts as a form of communication to our local community, highlighting what we as teachers (and our children) value about children’s learning and of course the importance of creativity, the arts and the stories we each share.
‘By exploring art, revisiting ideas and providing a range of media, a child’s skill in the arts increases, this in turn extends communication, vocabulary and critical thinking skills.’
(Ann Pelo, 2007)