Shining the Light in Early Childhood Education

By: Diane Kashin, EdD, RECE.

One of the joys of being an early childhood educator is that we get to look at the world through the eyes of a child, every single day.

Look at everything as though you are seeing it for the first time, with eyes of a child, fresh with wonder ~ Joseph Cornell

Children are always looking at the world as if it was for the first time in their lives. So, we should always look to the world with the eyes of a child. I am not saying be naïve, I am saying be innocent in the sense of discovering things ~ Paulo Coelho

Children see the world with eyes filled with wonder and awe. It propels discovery and engagement in the world around them. It is through the eyes of the child we can see how they play as we respond to the experiences, we offer them. My family has been in the optical business for over fifty years. I have been an early childhood educator for almost as long. The term optical relates to sight, especially in relationship to the physical action of light. Light is a loose part. While creating an active professional learning experience with my professional friend, Rosalba Bortolotti we have been exploring the big ideas of light!

Rosalba is a featured friend in my new book, Cultivating Professional Friendships in Early Childhood Education and I have learned so much with and from her. I love her aesthetic approach to materials. I am in awe of her ability to create environments that reflect the third teacher. Light exploration offers an experience full of wonder and awe that produces light bulb moments of learning. So, what was the big idea for this learning session? Big ideas are abstract concepts that help children to discover the wonders of the world. To bring the big ideas of light to light we need to light up the world for the educators attending. On each table, we offer a centrepiece reflecting one of the following big ideas of light:

  • Translucency
  • Transparency
  • Opaqueness
  • Shadow
  • Balance
  • Transformation
  • Colour
  • Projection
  • Perspective
  • Refraction
  • Reflection

These big ideas provide a parallel process of reflection as we consider them as sources to shine the light on the experiences we offer children, they also provide a prompt for reflection on practice. It is an opportunity to reflect on reflection from our own eyes, and the eyes of a child. After many texts, emails, and phone calls we finally got together for coffee, muffins, and light play to plan the workshop. We generated ten big ideas to focus on. Later we added refraction for a total of eleven big ideas in honour of the Kashin family business, The Eyeglass Factory. Rosalba went home and continued to play with materials applying her aesthetic design gift to the centrepieces, sending photos to me along the way that captured the light. Can you tell which featured big idea is reflected in the centrepieces depicted in this gallery of light?

I created a handout for the participants to support the learning on the big ideas of light. When I set out with this goal in mind, I started to search the Internet to learn about what I did not know about optics (which is a lot). I was frustrated with the process until I decided to use ChatGPT. I know the use of Artificial Intelligence (AI) is sparking a global debate in many sectors including education. There is still so much to learn and experience while we cautiously move forward. In this case, chatting with my AI friend, helped me learn. I was not a passive recipient of knowledge as our conversation was sparked by my questions and prompts. Yet, chatting with my AI friend was not nearly as much fun or joyful as generating ideas with my real friend, Rosalba. It was however, an effective way to generate content that might support others in learning about light as a bright source of experience for children. Let’s shine the light!

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