An Evening with The Curiosity Approach in Ireland
Sleepy Hollow and our journey with The Curiosity Approach
Diane, Bronagh and Amy have all been very fortunate to attend International Study Conferences in Reggio Emilia. As such we all share such a passion for this vision which we feel you can almost only have when you have visited the wonderful NIDO’s out in Reggio itself.
Each of us have returned with a vision which is hard to put into words and share with our colleagues. We have changed the environments, written our own new planning and evaluation documents, held training sessions but still felt we were the key drivers behind our new approaches when we desperately needed our colleagues to be driving these changes. After all it is our colleagues who work most closely with the children and we need to take our cues and directions from the children themselves in a Reggio Inspired setting … right?
Professional Development days – invaluable training events!
Bronagh and I then began a series of journeys around Professional Development days in the rest of UK to see how they were implementing similar pedagogies in their settings. We were wowed by them all to be honest – each unique and each beautiful. We kept going back however to the ideas of the Curiosity Approach which was the first PD day we attended. We were able to send two of our managers on further training and when we embarked on the accreditation programme this was just what we needed to turn our vision into our staff teams vision. We used the modules which came out every second month as a work tool. We mapped where we were – where each group wanted to be – we changed, we evaluated, we reflected … until we all shared an equal understanding. In fact we have learned through this accreditation that we will always be evolving – as each new child joins us, as each group of new children come into settings and rooms, as each season brings new opportunities, as each training programme we undertake becomes embedded in practice. The accreditation has given us the toolkit and the know how to do this as a team.
Hosting the evening.
So after several comments left on social media inviting the founders over to NI and offering to host a workshop or ‘evening with’ we were delighted when they reached out to ask for a zoom meeting with us. We weren’t at all expecting it to take the direction it did – there are a lot of exciting times ahead in our partnership which we are currently forming with Lyndsey and Stephanie (but that’s a post for another time – its all going on behind the scenes as I write). Needless to say we have very much a shared vision and respect of the work of such inspiring individuals.
So we jumped at the chance and agreed a date to host the founders just three weeks after our initial discussion. It was our intention to hold it at our Early Childhood Centre – in close proximity to the International Airport for them to fly over and we reckoned we could host between 40-45 easily in one room. In the final week before the event the ticket sales were more than double what was anticipated so we quickly changed the venue to our wraparound facility at Crumlin IPS which was perfect. The posters around the school about individuality and change were fitting tributes to the ethos shared by the founders.
The day itself
Bronagh and I were excited on our trip to the airport, and somewhat nervous (well I was – Bronagh is rarely nervous!). We went for a quick lunch and by the time the hour was over (in blistering heat in the conservatory of the Ballyrobin Lodge) not only were we ‘boiled’ by the winter sunshine we had enjoyed quite a few laughs!
A brief tour of our setting followed where the staff were proud to showcase the work they have been doing and where Dennis the donkey gave a good Irish Welcome!
It was all systems go then getting ready for the evening. Including our own staff team there were over 100 people mostly from across NI but also a few from border counties.
An evening with ….
Following a brief introduction and welcome all delegates sat in awe for two hours – the expressions of some of those in the audience were amazing (I wish I had captured some on camera!). Working in both unseemly and cohesive partnership Lyndsey and Stephanie (the epitome of a double act) walked us through their modern day pedagogy which is based on influences from Reggio, Steiner, Te Whariki and Montessori. They took us through three key elements
- Creating awe and wonder in our settings – being curious, being mindful of how we are speaking with children – I think we could all relate to Stephanie’s hilarious re-enactment of Tidy Up time! So we all came away with the key message about ‘putting things back where they belong’. This is something we have been doing very effectively in our setting since we were over at the PD day – it makes total sense (when you have been told about it!!)
- The environment – obviously in Sleepy Hollow we have particularly followed the Reggio Influences of Curiosity Approach. The environment plays a huge part in this approach as it does within Reggio. Its not all about crates and fairly lights explained the founders – you need to know what you are doing and why you are doing it. That’s the beautiful part of the accreditation journey is that its individual to your own setting and the influences that inspire you. So long as your evidence is mapped you aren’t directed how you need to implement it. Its flexible and adaptable to all ages and all settings.
- Getting your staff team on the bus. This final part of the evening could have been awarded a BAFTA had it been televised. Again hilarious but the message is so true —- as employers, committees, managers and practitioners – parents are paying us 100% of the fees we ask of them; employees are being paid 100% salary and we have a duty to provide 100% effort when we are in work. ‘Your vibe attracts your tribe’ and ‘children get your vibe before you speak’ were two of the most powerful quotes of the night.
Lyndsey then was able to share with the participants a one off special work pack specialising on getting your team on the bus with all attendees. These were only available on the night but if anyone wasn’t able to purchase one – please contact Curiosity Approach giving your name, email etc and once they have verified you attended the evening they will be able to send one over to you.
Surprise – Sleepy Hollow becomes IRELANDS FIRST ACCREDITED SETTING
Having already submitted our portfolio for the accreditation we were waiting to hear if we had been successful. Lyndsey and Stephanie have a team of assessors so we knew it wouldn’t be them to would be in touch with us when the final parts of the assessment were completed. In fact Bronagh had only just had a conference call with the assessors as part of the evaluation process just a couple of days earlier and we had been told it would be another while yet. Anyway .. it was all part of a plan apparently…. as we were announced to be the FIRST Curiosity Approach Accredited setting in Ireland on the night. We were delighted that our key personnel Karen and Rachel (who had both been over in CA settings and who have formed a close bond with the managers in Lyndsey’s setting – the NEST nurseries Birmingham), as well as Amy and Lisa who were also the key drivers behind the changes were there on the night to accept the award. We are hoping to get a team over to visit Stephanie’s setting too – look out for their open days and PD days – well worth a trip over!
Curiosity Approach in Ireland going forward
We hope that some of our colleagues in the sector are inspired to sign up to the Curiosity Approach Accreditation yourselves after this inspirational evening. It’s a journey, a toolkit – you work at your pace and you submit your evidence at the end of YOUR journey (we signed up in September 2017 so we took our time to get ours right – embedded in practice first).
All enquiries should be made directly to the Curiosity Approach. Bronagh and I are now All Ireland Ambassadors for the Curiosity Approach so we will be hosting our own training evenings, network support groups … and more (Curiosity Approach themselves will be announcing more info over the next couple of months). We would encourage you not to delay … get signed up and start with the first module – you won’t regret it! We hope we can form an All Ireland curiosity grouping with all those who sign up – after all we are stronger when we work together with like-minded professionals!
Believe us when we say that these two founders will be amongst the theorists we will be studying about in Early Childhood in years to come – their accreditation is being undertaking across 16 countries. It’s a modern day pedagogy which will shape our sector and your setting! Looking forward to having you join us on the bus …
Some photos of the evening and our whistle stop tour around Belfast the day after the evening before ….. ( a little Irish one for you there !!)