National winners The Professor Lynn Corcoran Early Learning Centre: FROEBEL Parkville have been recognised for their project “It takes a 100 years to grow a tree” which saw children aged between naught and six years working with their educators to learn more about time through multiple strands of inquiry, as part of a project which included children and educators from Melbourne, Sydney and Berlin.
“While supporting a sister centre in Germany who were setting up a STEM program, we decided to launch a joint project about time,” Laura Kerr from FROEBEL Parkville explained.
After building a baseline of understanding, educators began the learning journey with the question “What is time?” taking children on an inquiry journey which included a time machine, twilight kinder, time and routines, observing time on Country, linking Dreamtime stories to observations in nature, shadows over time, making sundials, and even a connection with OZGrav to pose astrophysical questions.
Briefly explain how the project was sparked. How did you and the children get started with the project?
We were contacted by a sister center in Germany, asking for support in developing their STEM program. They were looking at dinosaurs and were interested in looking at time difference and seasons in different parts of the world. We wanted to work in parallel with them and decided to look at something that was internationally significant. We read a journal article explained that children start developing a sense of time in primary school but we wanted to know what the children’s sense of time was like in the early years. What do they experience and understand before that time? We posed the question to the kinder children: “What is time?” We were blown away by their notions of time and their expressions of their experiences of time. Based on their responses, we launched an emergent inquiry project on time.
We were floored by children’s existing knowledge and understanding of complex topics –
Cameron – “Light is the fastest thing.”
Neils – “Is it faster than a racing car?”
Cameron – “Yes, because when people start a racing car, light is already there.”
We were impressed by children’s capacity to understand that moving gravity could change time after a small demonstration using a pillow, a teacher and a ball.
Ashton hypothesized: “If we moved the planets would time change?”
We were blown away by the children’s poetic expressions on how they perceive and understand time Tim – “My time is slow, it’s always slow.”
Cameron – “Growing takes time”
Camille – “Plants are slower than us”
Ashton’s comprehension of how to create a sun dial without having the prior knowledge that a sun dial is an existing technology was incredible.
The Nursery continue to frequently repeat their milk swirl pipette experiment over a year later.
The project highlighted the similarities and differences between STEM education in Australian setting and German settings. We were amazed at how different educators and groups approach the same topic in different ways: time through dinosaurs (Germany), time through calendars/birthdays (Sydney) and abstract concepts of time (Parkville).
Judges described the winning project as “enormously interesting” and “a sophisticated, supported exploration of an everyday topic,” praising the service for engaging with international and interstate services, broadening the scope and reach of the learning.
This topic is interesting to people in different ways and different perspectives – time was examined as something experienced on different scales (minutes, days, seasons, years, routines and rituals), using different tools (sundials, shadows, clocks) supported with rich exploration of language and intercultural understanding.
A particular mark of originality was the engagement with sister centres in another country (Germany) and another state (NSW) which was novel and imaginative. The collaboration with other centres supported broad discussion with the opportunity to explore similarities and differences of others’ involved in the project.
The service discussion of ‘Children’s right to time’ and exploration of time and space as it related to the children showed depth and recognition of the STEM topic in the context of the child and their life and learning as a whole.