Author Archives: Christie Huang

Celebrating Children’s Learning

Children and parents came together to celebrate children’s learning journeys in “Look for Learning” that gave parents an insight into not just what children are learning but how they are learning and to learn together.

It was another example of how we build and define a learning community and gives parents an insight into the knowledge, skills and understandings their children are developing.

But most of all it was a morning of pure joy and excitement that came together as a a celebration of learning and the diversity and depth of explorations and thinking that occurs in an inquiry child centered early years education.


Stop preparing children for school

Editor Notes 

Preparing your child for school: What should you focus on?

Children who transition well to our IEYC and other schools generally demonstrate:

• self-management skills (dressing, toileting, hand-washing, eating…)

• social skills (turn-taking, sharing, solving conflict…)

• communication skills (language proficiency, verbal expression, listening…)

Shannon O’Dwyer is a passionate educator.

She has over a decade of classroom experience, both in international and Australian schools. Shannon implements carefully differentiated pedagogy, with the principles of understanding-by-design, inquiry-based learning and constructivism at the core of her practice.

Stop preparing children for school; start preparing schools for children.

With a new year just around the corner in Australia, I’m invited to advise parents on school readiness.

But I feel conflicted.

What if we send another group of 4-year-olds into an antiquated education system that might change them forever, through the well-meaning indoctrination of rules, schedules, compliance & conformity?

Will their curiosity be kindled? Will their intelligence be recognised? Will their passions be celebrated? Will their thinking be extended? I hope so! But I’m not so sure.

How can parents prepare their child for school?

That’s easy to answer (superficially).  Kids who do well at school generally demonstrate:

• self-management skills (dressing, toileting, hand-washing, eating…)

• social skills (turn-taking, sharing, solving conflict…)

• communication skills (language proficiency, verbal expression, listening…)

Certainly, these are important skills for school, and indeed, life.

But we must take care not to use these as tick-boxes to judge anybody, let alone our 4-year-olds.

These are lifelong skills that we all develop and re-develop on our journeys as human beings. As an adult, self-management is my area of need – I’ve mastered buttons and zippers (and only occasionally put my clothes on backwards) – but balance, time-management and healthy eating still elude me!  We’re all learners.

“How do we prepare kids for school?” is not the important question.

Children are ready!

Their brains are innately wired to learn.

When they ask “why?”, express desires and push boundaries – they are independent thinkers!

When they play through touching, tasting, pulling apart and testing – they are researchers!

When they tell stories and re-enact experiences with their toys – they are authors!

Children don’t need any preparation for learning.

However, if they need preparation for school, then we have a problem.

We need to examine the disconnect between schooling and learning. 

Last week, I listened to a Kindergartener process his great-grandmother’s death.

He mused:

How do we know she died?  How did the hospital check? Will she wear a seatbelt in the hearse?  I think people die so that new people can come into the world.  I don’t think heaven’s in the ground with her body – I think it’s wherever she is.

This is the open, inquiring, fertile mind of a child. Powered by personal experience and curiosity, he sorted through the deepest mysteries of mortality that have baffled humans since time immemorial. His wonderful parents welcomed his questions, accepted his theories, embraced ambiguity and didn’t offer trite answers.

I wondered:

Are our schools ready to harness the power of his intellect? How much of his school life is focused on such deep thinking and personal inquiry? How much of the school day is consumed by organisational routines, content coverage and low-level skill development?

Teaching children to toilet and eat at specific times, sit still in plastic chairs, raise their hands for permission to speak, and walk quietly in straight lines has potentially dangerous consequences.

We risk sending messages such as:

• school is about compliance

• school is controlled by teachers

• school is organised and predictable

But learning is none of these things.  Quite the opposite…

• Learning depends on innovation, breaking rules, experimenting and testing theories.

• Learning happens when students ask questions, think for themselves and make personal connections.

• Learning is non-linear, complex, surprising, frustrating and messy.


How do we send the message that learning trumps schooling?

How do we shift the power to show 4-year-olds that we are visitors in their learning; they are not visitors in our schools?

Let’s stop asking if kids are ready for school.

Schools, are WE ready for the powerful minds of children?
(This is not a doomsday post. There are many schools creating cultures of thinking, learning and student-agency! Here are some people inspiring me right now:

Innova Early Years Center is a kindergaten with a thoroughly inspiring mission: Wonder, Connect, Create, Explore. I’m excited to watch these ideals drive teaching and learning.

Innova Mini X – A Speciality for Children’s Day

“I have experienced numerous exhibitions of learning .
This is the best one I’ve ever had! ”
–Ms. Casey, Head of IEYC

“A wonderful day,
We felt that children’s creativity is so amazing.
Every piece of work is very beautiful.
Just as if walking into an art gallery.”
— Michelle’s Mother


Last Friday, to celebrate International Children’s Day, IEYC held a series of events including Mini X, an exhibition and celebration of student learning. Children led their parents through the displays by individual and groups of students together with a fabulous exhibition of student art centered on the topic of ‘How we express ourselves’

Children’s One Hundred languages

Regardless of whether it was writing,marking and drawing, or dancing with light; whether it was a STEAM product or creative structures; whether it was a beautiful student crafted dress or cool robot creating ……every work was different, special and unique. Students followed their passion to decide by themselves what to make and how to complete it. It was a great example of the Reggio Emelia philosophy that hundred children have one hundred languages. These amazing works are expressions of these special languages.

Not an Exhibition of completed art works

The purpose of this exhibition was more than to show children’s creation and present their children’s learning process. If you look at each piece in detail, you would find that next to each child’s work, a carefully recorded documentation of the process of each child’s creation. This included the inspiration, planning, process and thinking behind each work. As such the greatest significance of the exhibition lied in the presentation of the child’s creative process. By observing the children’s learning process, parents could quickly make up and review the process of the student’s learning.

And the learning experiences have offered the children the opportunity to experience and develop the 2020 future skills, such as complex problem solving, critical thinking, creativity, people management, coordinating with others, emotional intelligence, judgement and decision making, negotiation and so on. These skills will benefit the students lifelong.

Positive feedback from parents

In order to guarantee the viewing quality and effect, children and parents visited the exhibition in small groups to ensure a quiet and relaxed environment,  where families could better appreciate children’s works and interact with their children. When the children led their parents to the works, many parents first laughed and many were brought to tears of joy. Several words continued to echo in the exhibition hall, such as “too shocked”, “wonderful”, “too touched”… Suddenly, we felt that in the face of so many beautiful things, all the beautiful words are pale and weak.

After the exhibition, children presented a set of personalized postcards capturing images from their child’s exhibition. In addition each family was asked to give feedbacks on one postcard. All the feedbacks we received are affirmative and full of praise. Here are 2 typical messages.

Mia’s Mum: ‘Thanks to all the teachers, we have a wonderful day. We loved the art works and enjoyed all the activities we were involved in today.’

Anna’s Mum: ‘I love love, love, love this show. This is the highlight of the long learning journey that I wasn’t fully aware as a parent. Without the supporting learning space and the experienced and hard-working teachers, the students won’t come to this presentation. This is the most “fit” education that I would choose for my children. And this is the type of future education that I trust and believe in. BIG THANKS!’

Heroes Behind: Teachers and Innova Environment

After marveling at the children’s work, we couldn’t help thinking besides the children themselves, what else and who else have made great contributions. Right, the IEYC learning environment and all the IEYC teachers. They are the big heroes behind the success.

We often say “environment is the third teacher of children”. The reason why the IEYC children have infinite “creativity” lies in the supporting and stimulating environment. In IEYC, we try our best to provide as many provocations as we can to inspire student’s curiosity and creativity. Here, the children’s ideas are respected, encouraged and helped to achieve.

The IEYC-MINI X is organized and worked together by teachers and students. Teachers are co-constructors, guiding the student’s learning through nurturing their curiosity, providing a hypothesis for them and solving problems together; Teachers are researchers, through an active reciprocal exchange, strengthen learning by teaching; Teachers are documenters of learning through listening to students, recording their activities, interpreting and displaying their work, and revising and applying all that have learned together. Without the hard-work of all the teachers, there would not be this show. Here, we are particularly grateful to all the teachers and staff who have worked very hard for this exhibition.

The End

This exhibition will be kept until the end of this school year, so we welcome all the parents to visit with friends and relatives at any time.

“Peaches and plums do not have to talk, yet the world beats a path to them”, whether an education is good or not, student’s performance and works are the best proof. Thanks to the trust and support of our parents, we will continue to work hard in the future, to provide excite each child’s growth and development.

Parents as Partners – The Importance of Communication

At Innova Early Years Center we value the importance of connection. Through this collaboration between home and school we believe in each child’s success in learning and growing socially and emotionally. Home-school collaboration and communication is the key to supporting our families and plays a crucial role in understanding and supporting each child’s learning.

We learn by making connections between what we already know and what we are exploring. There is no-one more capable to help young learners make these connections than the significant others in their life: their parents and teachers. At Innova Early Years Center we see parents and teachers as partners in their child’s learning by communicating with each other to share observations, strategies and questions.

At Innova Early Years Center, we foster this home-school connection by recognizing the importance of community. We encourage families to ask questions and to listen to their child share their learning. One way of doing this is through the ‘app’ called ‘Seesaw: The Learning Journal’.  This tool is an effective communication between school and the family. Teachers can share authentic learning moments that inform parents of their child’s learning.  What is being taught, how it is being taught and it allows parents to see what learning looks like.

Service and Learning

So proud to see Innova’s Service & Action Coordinator, Margot Marks sharing our commitment to Service and Action and how important it is to develop this as a priority, starting in the Early Years.

Margot shared the UN Sustainable Development Goals and the Service and Action in which our children are already taking part. Children need to learn young ‘to be part of the change they want to see in the world’ (Mahatma Ghandi) to protect and preserve the planet that they are inheriting.

Service and Action is a mindset that needs to be nurtured to help children to become responsible global citizens and develop strong character. Key to this is to empower children to understand the global issues and link their interests, inquiry and learning and provide children with real world opportunities to solve challenges and take action locally, that impacts the issues globally.

At Innova Academy our kids are fully engaged in the 5C’s of Action and Service – Connect, Collect, Collaborate, Create, Communicate. Service and Action provides real world opportunities to develop these powerful Future Ready Skills and develop leadership and project management skills.

Innova Early Years Center’s service projects focus on the following Sustainable Goals

IEYC have developed someof its own initiatives such as creating ‘turtle friendly’ shopping bags, andgiving to others through ‘The Giving Tree’. They have also begun to partner with community organizations, such as JindeNGO (Community Organization), Save the Pangolin (Wildlife China) and SeniorLiving L’Amore.

‘Save the Turtles’ Shopping bags designed by IEYC students (Goal 14)

Fair Trade Organic Coffee at the IEYC Coffee Shop (Goal 11)

‘Save the Pangolin’ Project (Goal 15)

Parent meeting learning about Service and Action and the UN Sustainable Goals at IEYC with Service and Action Cooridnator, Margot Marks

Inquiry Based Learning

The story of how modeling a lump of clay led to volcanoes, dinosaurs and conservation

Education is not the filling of a pailbut the lighting of a fire.– William Butler Yeats
Parents or visitors who visit Innova Early Years Center (EYC), are surprised by the open-style warm learning environment, amazing children’s works, and engaged learners. People may wonder how learning occurs in a child centered inquiry play based learning environment. How are knowledge, conceptual understanding and skills acquired?Lets take a look at a recent child centered inquiry that started off with a lmp of clay and took children into a journey of deep and complex learning.
The origin of the story – A Volcano

Shortly after the new school year started, some clay was introduced to children and Ivy started modeling with it –exploring its feel and texture.

Having heard something about volcanoes she shared with her teacher that she had made a volcano. Inspired by this, teachers introduced some household  products – including baking powder and vinegar and some children joined in to experiment what happens when they are mixed. A volcanic eruption was created and all the children couldn’t wait to explore more.

It was time to turn the volcano into an island and with plants and animals and surrounded by sea. A boy with keen interest in dinosaurs and a recent trip to the Blue Zoo led to their own Jurassic Park like environment full of discussions, explorations and creativity.

One day the volcano erupted, and the hot and thick ‘magma’ poured out of the crater, and the peaceful and beautiful environment began to change. After seeing the eruption of the volcano, our kind hearted Ivy was particularly worried that the dinosaurs would be hurt, so she moved them to a safe zone. Her classmate Dino, who has a keen interest and lots of knowledge about dinosaurs, explained to everyone that the dinosaurs became extinct just because of such a reason. Wonder, explore, create, connect – the childrens’ interest had been sparked and already had acquired deep learning in language, history and natural science – intense focus and deep learning.

The development – An Island

The volcanic eruption caused the change of the environment, the dinosaurs became extinct, and the children were very sad. In order to transfer this negative sentimental emotion, teachers went on to tell the story of the volcano. The eruption of the volcano is not necessarily a bad thing, because it makes a new environment. So the story of an island came into being. This is a small island in Australia. Long long time ago, this small island was made by a volcanic eruption. The magma of volcanic eruption flowed down to the foot of the mountain, and cooled down. From the smoke came ash that many plants started to grow in.

Interest shifted to the sea and animals living in it particularly sharks, jelly fish and turtles. Our director John McBryde visited the class and shared his first hand experiences of climbing volcanoes and seeing eruptions. Everyone clamoured onto a green screen set to experience a virtual eruption. He also shared his story about turtles from when he lived on a small tropical island and seeing turtles laying their eggs. He shared some pictures of the local islanders who lived there and pictures of them dancing. Next everyone was up learning and signing a traditional island dance. Through this sharing the children come into contact with another culture that is different from their own.

The Climax – About turtles

A teacher shared a video about turtles laying eggs and eating plastic bags in the sea which they thought were jelly fish. The children wondered what would happen if they ate a plastic bag and put some bags into an aquarium and quickly realized how easy it is for a turtle to mistake a plastic bag for a jelly fish and how dangerous they are to them.

The children wondered what they could do and decided it was time to let other people know about this problem and to think of an alternative to using plastic bags each time they went shopping.

The children designed a cloth bag and drew pictures of turtles to print on it. Their teacher produced a set of bags and parents bought the shopping bags with their strong ‘conservation’ message.  (United Nations Sustainable Goal 13 – Life beneath the Sea).  Learning empathy, responsibility and taking action.

The end thoughts

The volcano is still standing in the middle of the class classroom, and continues to remind children about their inquiry and continues to excite new conversations. The learning that has taken place has been based on “experience”, is because the learning here is more of a process of a “experience”: in a context of with children guiding the questions and constructing their own knowledge, from each other, discussions, books and videos and classroom guests.

Big concepts have been explored – the geology of a volcano, chemistry, biological diversity, dinosaurs, extinction, pollution, conservation, indigenous peoples, culture.

During the process, teachers play the role of a guide and provocateur. Respecting childrens’ curiosity, questions and creativity, teachers facilitated an exciting and engaging learning environment to excite their inquiry and enrich their learning. This type of learning has a far-reaching impact on young children with lifelong benefit.

Innova EYC incorporates a Reggio Emilla inspired approach to early years education. This approach believes that education should develop children’s creativity so that children can form a perfect personality. Its creator Loris Malaguzzi has written a famous book “One hundred languages of children ” which describes children as having……

‘one hundred languages,

one hundred hands,

one hundred thoughts,

one hundred ways of thinking, games and talk’

Innova Early Years Centre encourages this diversity of expression and learning to support children and their optimal development.

Student agency

When students have a say in what is going on around them, they begin to develop the sense that their ideas and opinions matter.

At IEYC we encourage children’s sense of agency by welcoming and responding thoughtfully and respectfully to their wonderings, questions and ideas.

By allowing students to have a voice promotes a positive, open and trusting relationship between the students and teachers. By embracing student’s input and encouraging their voice and involvement, we also enrich our work as teachers.

Every day we see teachers promoting student agency. They are collaborating with their students. The teachers are ‘showing our students that their thoughts matter’. They quote the students, they display their words, they ‘listen’ to their thinking. The teachers use the students’ thinking to shape the next steps of learning.

Independence contributes to the development of self-esteem, identity, wellbeing and a sense of belonging. Allowing students to make choices for themselves is an important step towards encouraging independence and agency.

The teachers provide students with opportunities to provoke and develop the confidence to wonder, to explore their world, to ask questions, to express ideas, to create and empower students to make connections.