Valuing children's capabilities – a reflective look
One early afternoon in June, the air is cold and fresh but the winter sun has peaked and is providing the perfect amount of warmth and light to enjoy the garden spaces.
A teacher observes a group of children admiring the lemons and leaves on the trees. She approaches them in silence and begins to capture their experience with a camera. Before long, one of the children notices her presence, approaches the teacher and gestures towards the camera in her hand.
“You’ve noticed my camera. I’m using it to take photos of you and your friends as you explore the lemon tree.”
The teacher provides an acknowledgement of the child’s interest and a potential answer to the curiosity she displays. The child moves closer stepping into the embrace of the teacher and reaches out to touch the camera; she is clearly captivated and sees the potential for this interesting piece of technology.
The teacher continues to capture photographs providing a running commentary for the children about what she sees and why she values it enough to take a picture. In time, the children who were exploring the tree move on but the child who had become the photographer’s assistant remains. The teacher, skilled in her knowledge that this is a moment worth seizing, turns the camera over to the child.
She smiles and says “You can have a close look at the camera now.”
The child turns the camera over in her hands and examines it thoroughly making vocalisations and eye contact to communicate the discoveries she makes. She uses fine motor skills to locate the buttons and continues to explore cause and effect by pressing the shutter, hearing the sound, and seeing the results. She shares the depth of knowledge she has about this cultural tool by practicing a smile one can always associate with having their picture taken by a loving friend or family member.
An observing adult from across the garden asks “Is that a real camera?”
The teacher nods in response and the observer looks on in disbelief. The teacher continues to support the child’s respectful exploration of the camera, safe in the knowledge that this curious and determined child deserves the opportunity to become a capable and competent learner through real life experiences.
If we are to expect children to develop an understanding of how things work, what significance technology and tools have within a culture, and how to care for precious and fragile things, then we must first offer them a supportive environment in which to encounter these items. We value our children and their capacity for knowledge. We trust them and aspire to create an environment where they can gain an understanding of the value of the resources made available to them.