Christy-Lee Antonas is a bachelor-educated teacher at Hensman Street Elementary, WA, with 24 years of experience in early childhood education. She has attended almost all Little Scientists workshops plus a number of other professional development opportunities, including loose parts and nature play.
Christy-Lee strongly advocates for the quality of learning that can occur when educators and children learn together. To encourage other educators to explore STEM with the children, she would introduce the Inquiry Cycle and other aspects of the Little Scientists program, including some of the website resources to inspire educators.
She believes that, “the way in which children learn is unique. However, evidence-based research has proven that learning environments are optimised when teachers create opportunities for students to learn by doing and to actively engage with materials and people. It is important therefore to design physical and social environments that maximise instructional time balanced with ample [time] to play, experiment and explore and support learning in STEAM.”
Describe a moment that captures your own and the children’s wonder and joy of spotting STEM in the everyday.
A simple statement form a four year old child at the end of the year captured my joy of teaching in a child-led, inquiry rich classroom. The child had found a Lady bird in the garden, bought it to me and said “let’s investigate this lady bug, just like we did with the bees.” As a reflective teacher I unpacked this, later and discovered how rich her choice of words were. She used “let’s”, let us! She was inviting me to join her on this learning, a presentation or proposal, an exquisite example of child-led learning. Then “like we did with the bees”, she was linking her learning of a past inquiry project, that took ten weeks of exploration and discovery, and linked it to the way in which she desired to learn about lady birds. She was using self reflection tools on her own learning process and wanted to learn again in such a way. This highlights to me that her past 4 of 5 learning was meaningful, purposeful and provided her with the skills to continue to learning in this way and extraordinarily the empowerment to do something concrete about her own wonders and curiosities. The be part of this depth of learning is why I teach with enthusiasm, energy and passion, along side children. I am able to release myself from being the director of learning and carry the knowledge of the curriculum, “in my pocket” so to say. It is my job to discover which deep concepts children are exploring and create learning experiences whereby children can play, work, theorise and discover with their own interests remaining central to all planning. To contribute to the future of children with the skill to be able to create, innovate and think deeply, is an absolute honour.
Embracing her role as a guide through the children’s learning, Christy-Lee has learned that nature is the best teacher, not only from a neuroscience and brain development point of view but also from a sustainable, environmental and economic point of view. She loves using the natural environment as the third teacher and sharing her passion for the beauty and richness found in nature with the children. She believes that her strong knowledge of the curriculum allows her to release the control and pass on the direction of learning to the child. To be authentically child-led is not always an easy path, according to Christy-Lee as it requires energy, passion and educational capabilities to wholeheartedly embrace inquiry learning with the child at the centre.
What the judges said
I was inspired by Christy-Lee’s knowledge, intention, professionalism and leadership as an educator and a STEM leader.
STEM Advocacy is a significant strength of Christy-Lee’s pedagogy. The educational leadership Christy-Lee shows will definitely encourage others to explore STEM. She aims to provide a culture and language, the material resources and relationships required to grow a community of inquiry and to promote scientific problem solving.
Children’s rights are central to Christy-Lee’s work within her centre community. The interweaving of theory and practice ensures her STEM work is based on rights, sustainability, advocacy and agency. The work Christy-Lee has done in helping children understand and interpret their own learning (the rock concept) puts children firmly in charge of their own inquiry and critical reflection.
Documentation through floor books also embeds democratic practice in consulting and sharing knowledge.
STEM and inquiry-based models of learning are not an ‘event’ in Christy-Lee’s work–those elements are the foundation of her work and she wants to share this knowledge with others.