Friendship Traffic Bands

I’m going to share with you one of the magical moments that occurred in our room. As teachers, we have the best jobs in the world because we are fortunate enough to share our children's exciting discoveries and magical moments (as we like to call them) every single day. We must try to stop, slow down, and really look, listen and draw out the amazing potential that is in each child.

‘Knowledge is co-constructed in relationships with others, both children and adults, and in this process listening is critical, listening to both others and to ourselves.’
Moss (1999)

Designs were Drawn

Throughout the year, the children from the Sunflower Room have shown a keen interest in maps and mazes, incorporating treasure maps, mazes and marble runs into their explorations.

One day India bought some hermit crabs to visit and the children were intrigued by the little creatures. We decided to organise 'The Great Amazing Crab Race' whereby the crabs were placed in the middle of the circle and the first one to cross the line won.
This led India to design for our 'visitors' a maze using the indoor blocks on the large table.
What fun they had exploring the maze. After the holidays, the children returned with the desire to resurrect the maze for our hermit crabs.
The children collaborated to incorporate aspects of each design...and then construction began.
After the initial construction was finished, the children were excited to see how the hermit crabs would like it.
Friendship - value flags
The Love Box


Boxes arrived, cupboards were unpacked and the moving day to our new classroom was imminent.

The children were encouraged to embrace this move in a positive light - to see it as an adventure full of new and exciting possibilities. In this ever-changing world, it is important that children recognise their abilities to be flexible and to develop the confidence to cope with change.

To draw out these attitudes with the current Sunflower children, it was imperative that they become involved with the process of moving; not in a physical sense but rather in an organisational one. So, at one of our many morning meetings, the children were asked what they would like to take to our new room. An expansive list was compiled, including painting easels. dress-ups, tea sets, climbing bars and much more.

However, the children were challenged to go deeper and were asked to consider things they could not actually touch or pack into boxes - things that brought warmth and magic to our room everyday.

After a thoughtful pause, a small voice broke the silence and quietly said; 'Love'. 'We need the love in our room.' Everyone thought this was a wonderful idea. But how can we carry love from room to room? 'We need to get a big wheelbarrow and fill it up and push it to the new room.' 'That won't work because it will just float away.' The love is in our hearts and we need to carry it in our hearts across.' There were many wonderful suggestions and much debate.

Finally the children decided to create a Love Box, which they painted. During a candlelit ceremony they poured their love into the box, which was then carefully sealed until our moving day.

We began to think of other values and attitudes, which we wanted to bring to our new room. The children were asked to think of values that made us the 'Super Sunflowers' and which bound our community.

So the concept of our
'friendship value flags' was born.
Each child designed a flag, which represented a value or attitude important to themselves and to our Sunflower community.

'Share and Care' 'Never give up!' 'Friendships' 'Listening' 'Love' 'Look after Mother Earth' 'Music' 'Give it a go!' 'Look after all the Animals' 'Give Hugs and Smiles' 'Help your Friends' 'Fix Problems'

Honesty, compassion, courage, generosity, loyalty, perseverance and responsibility are just some of the values we see as fundamental to individuals and to human society in general.

Values are defined as 'one's principles and standards' and it is these principles that help mould our character. It is important therefore, that we encourage children to develop their own values from an early age. By developing a set of values, our children create their own 'pack of life' cards upon which they can draw in their everyday lives.

The flags now hang proudly in our beautiful new room - a gently reminder of the values and attitudes which bind our Sunflower community.

And What of the Love Box?

Finally the day arrived and the Love Box was transported with the greatest of care. It was opened to squeals of delight as a love balloon flew out of the box, containing a magical parcel full of love treasures.

To begin to explain the ‘magical moment’ I need to give you a little background information. During our first term, many conversations took place around the group’s expectations. One of them focused on how we want to be treated and how we want to treat our friends. What do we need to do in order to be a friend to someone else?

The children all agreed that one of the most important things a true friend can do is to listen. We talked a lot about this and agreed that ‘to truly listen, you can't just listen with your ears,
you must listen with your ears, your eyes and your heart'.

Now this is a lovely sentiment, however, when you are four or five years old, it can sometimes be difficult. Occasionally, in situations of extreme frustration, the eyes and ears scenario may be replaced by fists and teeth.

One day, after an incident of ‘extreme frustration’ we called one of our many little meetings where we collaboratively help to understand and solve problems. The
three step solution was offered.

If a friend is doing something that you don’t like or if he/she is frightening you, you follow these three steps:

Step 1 – Please stop, I don’t like it.
Step 2 – Please stop or I will need to get a teacher to help
Step 3 – I’m getting a teacher

A couple of days later we had an incident which is now commonly known as ‘reckless riding’. This problem arises from ‘extreme enthusiasm’ rather than extreme frustration.

One of the rights we had agreed upon was that everyone at Kinder has the right to feel safe. During this incident of reckless riding, it would be fair to say that some of us weren’t feeling particularly safe. I said to the children,
‘Please stop it, I don’t like it’. Of course, I could have just said, ’Thank you, you need to hop off the bikes.’

However, I asked the children to solve possible problems.
I asked; ‘What are we gong to do if some children choose to continue their reckless riding?’ The children decided to make some reckless riding tickets and explained that if people rode too fast, they would get a reckless riding ticket and be banned for a long time.
Tom said, ‘Yeah a trillion years.'
Alex agreed, 'Yeah a billion years.’
Tom thought about this and said, ‘No not a billion years, you can’t live that long. Just till the end of secondary school, but not university.’

So Tom, Charlie and Alex very enthusiastically sat down to design
reckless riding tickets.

This is where the story takes a twist, because it s here that a connection to a prior discussion was made, and by listening we were able to create opportunities for the children to revisit their learning and take it deeper into a new situation.

Deep learning and understanding is evident when children are able to connect ad use their learning in a new situation. The pedagogy of listening teaches us that as teachers, we need to be facilitators and support these connections and theories to promote greater understanding and new learning.

“Listening is thus seen to be reflecting a philosophical position. Seeking to provide the opportunity for all voices to be heard in every early childhood setting could be seen as an instance of seeking socially just practice. Fleet & Robertson (2004)

Alex didn’t draw what we assumed would be a reckless driving ticket. Instead, he was thinking and making connections. He drew dots: red dots, orange dots and green dots.

We asked Alex what these dots represented. He replied that they were like traffic lights – red, orange and green.
If someone is driving recklessly, you can say;

Stop it I don’t like it! (red)
Stop it or I am going to tell the teacher. (orange)
You can go because you have said sorry and you will never do it again. (green)

It could have ended there, but we gave it back to the boys and suggested that everyone in the class should have one. This is where the fun really began! I asked Alex how he was going to work out how many children there were in the Sunflower room.

Provocation Number One
Alex, the problem solver, thought about this and replied, ‘I’ll count the lockers!’
Why the lockers?
If I count the children, I would make the wrong number.’

So, Alex went inside and counted the lockers. He said, ‘I don’t need to count mine because I already have a set of dots.’

Alex counted 19 lockers and with himself that made 20.

At morning meeting, the boys explained their ‘friendship traffic bands’ to the children and said that they wanted to make a set for each child. Everyone thought this was a fabulous idea.

First they represented each child with coloured blocks; blue for the boys, red for the girls. They discovered there were 8 boys and 12 girls; four more girls than boys. We suggested that they might like to recruit some friendship traffic light makers as the task ahead was quite enormous.

The new recruits, Jimmy and Tom, became very involved and busily made many coloured dots. They organised themselves; some made red dots, some orange and others made green dots.

While exploring their project, they were exposed to and grappled with many mathematical concepts. The most wonderful thing was that these concepts were being explored in a relevant and purposeful context, which is the only way children can obtain true understanding.

Then on to the girls. We asked the boys how many more green they would need for the girls? Alex and Charlie lined them up with counters to see how many they had. Alex decided to fill up the boy’s spaces first. There was almost enough of each. Alex counted how many more red and how many more green were needed.

‘I’ll do two orange and you Charlie, do one red.’
Julie asked Alex how many more green they would need for the girls. Alex counted eight in his head and told Julie that they would need to do four each because 4 + 4 = 8.

‘Uncovering the extraordinary within the ordinary is, to a large extent, a matter of listening. Considering with colleagues and parents, the implicit assumptions or questions that lie just below the surface, has been the key to finding meaningful, self-sustaining material for exploration.’ Shafer (2002)

These conversations continued and throughout the process the children discussed many concepts. Addition and division, quantity, problem solving and patterns were identified and the depth of their collaboration was extraordinary. The boys supported each other. When one miscounted, the other said, ‘No, I think you need to count again – try going more slowly.

Finally, the dots were laminated and made into friendship traffic light bands and were used by the Sunflower children with great enthusiasm. This exercise had become such a rich experience on so many levels.

As they completed the mammoth task, our Early childhood leader made a visit. With her enthusiastic reaction came another provocation. She said; ‘Well, I think it would be very useful for all teachers to have a set of traffic lights too.’

So back to the drawing board to work out how many teachers in all the EC classrooms.

The dots were laminated and made into friendship traffic light bands and are now being used by the Sunflower children with great enthusiasm.

One day Alex and I were sitting together in the playground when we heard…’Please stop it, I don’t like it!’ Alex's face lit up like a Christmas tree.
He turned to me and said,
‘Oh that’s good, that’s really good. It’s working! That really was a good idea of mine wasn’t it?’

Anything is possible when we empower children and take the time to stop and really listen to their amazing thought and ideas. There is a proverb, which I find very useful.
It helps to stop me from telling my children everything I think they need to know. It stops me from 'jumping in' to solve all their problems. It goes like this.

We have been given two eyes (to really see our children with) two ears (to really listen with) and one mouth (for a very good reason)

This project became the starting point for the children to move deeper in their thinking and in their ability to resolve conflict.

At the beginning of the year, we were presented with a very strong, powerful group of individuals. Our challenge was to draw out their ability to collaborate and work together as a group and to help them learn to respect the rights of one another.
Yes, we are one, but we need to work and live with many.

Maze for Hermit Crabs


One day Alex and I were sitting together in the playground when we heard…’Please stop it, I don’t like it!’

Alex's face lit up like a Christmas tree. He turned to me and said, ‘Oh that’s good, that’s really good. It’s working! That really was a good idea of mine wasn’t it?’

Anything is possible when we empower children and take the time to stop and really listen to their amazing thoughts and ideas. There is a proverb, which I find very useful. It helps to stop me from telling my children everything I think they need to know. It stops me from 'jumping in' to solve all their problems. It goes like this.

We have been given two eyes (to really see our children with) two ears (to really listen with) and one mouth (for a very good reason!)

This project became the starting point for the children to move deeper in their thinking and in their ability to resolve conflict.
Yes, we are one but we need to work and cohabitate with many.

Text and photos by Jill Richardson