Coffee with Miquel Castanys (MC): a young teacher with a degree in early childhood education who talks to us about new trends and guides us in what we should value when choosing the first center for the psychomotor and autonomous development of our children.
Interview by Andrea Zazurca (AZ).
MC: Careful, early years education schools aren’t “places to keep children”; we teach, we don’t hang on to… (Note: In Spanish, the term “guardería” is frequently used to refer to kindergarten but yet is an old-school term, as it derives from the verb “guardar”, to keep).
AZ: HAHA YOU’RE RIGHT…I’LL TAKE NOTE OF THAT…
AZ: THE FIRST THING WE USUALLY LOOK FOR IS A KINDERGARTEN THAT’S CLOSE TO HOME. TO WHAT EXTENT SHOULD WE SACRIFICE OUR FAMILY’S COMFORT IN TERMS OF THE QUALITY OF THE CENTER?
MC: Taking the component of proximity into account is what’s most logical. Among other things because the places in public schools are given out according to the which families are in the neighborhood. But the quality of the center is obviously fundamental in the development of small children at such sensitive and absorbent ages: you have to see the center, weigh the pros and cons and find a balance.
FIRST TIP: PROXIMITY vs QUALITY
AZ. AGREED, WHEN WE VISIT THE CENTER WHAT IS THE FIRST THING WE SHOULD FOCUS ON?
MC: I think the most fundamental thing for a school is their philosophy regarding mobility and space. A good playground where children can play with enough items (trunks, sand, a castle with a slide and other obstacles that develop motor skills). The playground is a place where children can test all kinds of personal skills that the environment offers them (jumping, throwing, running, climbing, getting wet, sliding…) and it’s up to the teacher to let the child do certain activities. The same thing happens in parks where we can observe to what level we leave the child to do the “barbarities” the environment allows (jumping, getting wet, climbing, throwing …).
SECOND TIP: A PLAYGROUND WITH MULTIPLE OPTIONS FOR CHILDREN TO TEST THEMSELVES
MC: In that sense, I think that society is leading some families to be too protective and limiting the opportunities for children to get physically hurt. Like what they normally say, and I believe it too, children have to fall in order to learn how to stand up, and this is what is called trial and error, trying and failing but returning try it again and learn from it. If they don’t try they don’t learn. Like Confucius said, I hear and I forget. I see and I remember. I do and I understand.
THIRD TIP: DIVERSITY OF OBJECTS WITHIN THE CLASSROOM SO THAT THE CHILDREN CAN DEVELOP DIFFERENT SKILLS
MC: The content and distribution of the classroom also has to be taken into account. There needs to be a diversity of objects to use, to test and to learn independently along with (logic games, memory games, mathematics games, stories, pine cones, sticks, leaves …) In addition, schools should be an open space to the neighborhood, to the city and if possible, to nature. The classrooms should contain natural elements such as plants, wood sticks, leaves, and sand.
Those natural elements are another way to play and learn. They can play logical and mathematic games, to classify, put them in a specific order, to ass and subtract. All these abilities let the children manipulate objects that we usually don’t let them use at home.
Miquel Castanys is a teacher of early childhood education, with a focus in psychomotricity. He graduated in 2017 from the University of Vic.
Interview by Andrea Zazurca, rocket mom and co-founder of Little champions