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 workshops on 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 colleagues to explore STEM with the children in their service, 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.”
A four-year-old child found a ladybird, brought it to Christy-Lee, and said, “Let’s investigate this ladybug, just like we did with the bees.” Christy-Lee says that this simple statement captured her joy of teaching in a child-led, inquiry-rich classroom. When she reflected on it, she discovered how rich the child’s choice of words was. By using “let’s” the child invited her educator to learn together while also connecting the request with a previous inquiry project on bees. Christy-Lee concludes that, “her past learning was meaningful and purposeful. [It] provided her with the skills to continue […] learning in this way and the empowerment to do something concrete about her own wonders and curiosities.”
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 sustainability and economics point of view. She loves using the natural environment as the third teacher and sharing her passion for nature’s beauty and richness with the children. She believes that her strong knowledge of the curriculum allows her to release 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.