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Welcome back, Natural Pod™ LIVE Episode Four is available to watch!

About This Episode

This episode offers such an inspiring and eye-opening conversation between Maureen Dockendorf, Early Care and Learning Strategic Consultant at the British Columbia Ministry of Education and Denise Augustine, Director of Aboriginal Education and Learner Engagement at BC School District 79, and our host Bridgitte Alomes, CEO and founder of Natural Pod.

Our two guests spoke passionately about how we can weave in different perspectives and worldviews into our daily educational practice, creating connections for our early learners to culture, land and people. They discuss how when play is honored as the biggest teacher, it allows us to focus on early care and well-being before learning, which greatly benefits the needs of the child. It’s the small and ordinary moments, when weaved together, that can create such extraordinary and engaging learning experiences, for both educators and the early learners in their care.

“Focus on shifting to the stories that matter – it’s not about holding a crayon in the right or left hand. It’s about demonstrating kindness, empathy, and care.” – Maureen Dockendorf

Through their work, both Maureen and Denise have been instrumental for creating change in how early learning is taught in British Columbia, Canada. The federal government of B.C. has updated the Early Learning Framework to recognize the new realities of children, families and communities. The new framework was developed in collaboration with early childhood educators, primary teachers, academics, Indigenous organizations, Elders, government and other professionals. It includes several key changes:

  • Expanded focus to children from infancy to eight years of age (previously five years of age)
  • Increased focus on reconciliation and Indigenous worldviews
  • Increased focus on inclusive practices
  • Connects with new K-12 curriculum, core competencies and primary program principles
  • Focus on integrating theory with practice
  • Updated inquiry questions address all early learners

We highly recommend listening to the entire conversation between these three inspiring women as there are so many great takeaways, but to share the key points: Maureen started by sharing with us how the redesign in the curriculum for the early years has put play at the center, and rather than covering the curriculum, the goal and the effect has been to uncover the curriculum. By doing so it uncovers the needs of the child, revealing questions such as: what are they wondering about?, how do they feel?, what do they need?, because how a child feels supports how they learn.

“How we feel supports how we learn.” – Maureen Dockendorf

When we shift from being the knower, to being the wonderer, it ensures the wellbeing of the child along their journey. That’s why it’s essential we also shift to wondering alongside the family and caregivers, as by doing so it ensures children have continuation of care from birth. This ‘slowing down’ in effect, gives space to ‘be’, which holds up the gifts children already have and to celebrate those. This giving space to ‘be’ is very much a First Nation Peoples principle, which isn’t just about creating greater engagement opportunities for indigenous learners – it’s more about changing the engagement for adults, to support engaging all students, not just Indigenous students. And by focusing on the stories that matter, we can show up with compassion for each other, and create space for healing for each other. This shows why investing in our educators is so important, as their well-being is at the core of their learners’ well-being.

“If anyone can change the world, it’s educators! Create a world where our little ones can stand as confidently as any other child. To move into the future with grace.” – Denise Augustine 

These ‘ways of being’, from a First Nations perspective – allows weaving in the principles of the learner and play being at the center of the framework within education – ‘knowing and being’ become woven into our educational practice. We don’t need to plan every single moment in a day, in a lesson, we can trust children that they know what they need. Another First Nations principle which so clearly benefits all children, as well as adults, is to be outside. Outside is the perfect place that offers this space to ‘be’. By physically being and playing outside, learning follows, natural connection happens, any behavioral problems almost evaporate. Being outside also doesn’t need to be perfect, it doesn’t need to look a certain way; simply being outside greatly benefits everyone.

This conversation lifted up the whole of the Natural Pod team, as to have our own values reflected and given greater context was so enriching. We especially loved these last two quotes by Denise and Maureen for their humanity and gracious permission that we can all try, and no matter the outcome, it’s the trying to make a difference within education that matters!

“We can make a difference – we’re going to make mistakes, but not doing anything is not an option. Start by looking for wonder and joy in every moment, big or small. Together, we can make the change.” – Denise Augustine 

“You’re going to make a mistake, so am I. We cannot afford not to. Go ahead and make the mistake – it means you’re trying. People are trying to make change – they’re making mistakes. We need to make space for more understanding and welcoming the mistakes that demonstrate they’re trying.” – Maureen Dockendorf

About Maureen Dockendorf, Early Care and Learning Strategic Consultant at the British Columbia Ministry of Education

Maureen has spent her career in Public Education. She has worked as a teacher, university faculty associate, principal, and assistant superintendent. As the Superintendent of Reading/Literacy and Early Learning at the BC Ministry of Education, Maureen has been a team member supporting the redesign of British Columbia’s 2019 Early Learning Framework, K – 12 curriculum and core competencies.

Maureen currently works with the BC Ministry of Education as the Early Care and Learning Strategic Consultant. Maureen leads the Ministry of Education’s professional early learning initiatives: Changing Results for Young Children (website: cr4yr.com), and Strengthening Early Years to Kindergarten Transitions which involves participation from 51 BC School Districts/Communities, Early Childhood Educators and Primary Teachers.

Maureen is currently called upon to provide advice on policy, practice, and process as the BC Government integrates child care into the Ministry of Education to create a universally accessible quality system for children and families. Passionate about improving life chances for all children and families, her work focuses on Early Care and Learning. Maureen has an unwavering commitment to strengthening professional partnerships between Early Childhood Educators and Teachers through ongoing collaborative inquiry and critical reflection.

About Denise Augustine, Director of Aboriginal Education and Learner Engagement at BC School District 79

Denise Augustine (Swee’alt) is a Coast Salish woman with mixed ancestry. Both her and her husband, Greg, were raised in the Cowichan Valley and this is where they also raised their two girls Skye and Arianna. Denise has been an educator for over 20 years and has worked with children and youth from preschool through grade 12. More recently, as the District Principal of Aboriginal Education, Denise has been working closely with teachers, administrators and support staff. In side-by-side coaching, action research, and experiential workshops, Denise carefully weaves story and research together, inviting adults to open their hearts and minds and imagine a community that values diversity and inspires innovation.

About Bridgitte Alomes, CEO of Natural Pod

Bridgitte Alomes is a thought leader dedicated to better environments for play, learning and collaboration using sustainable furniture. In her work with Natural Pod, she has helped create over 15,000 learning environments throughout the world. She’s engaged over 40,000 educators through her workshops and presentations and has been dedicated to creating play-based pedagogy and sharing the importance of the learning environment design. Bridgitte also serves as President on the board of the Green Schools National Network, creating broad-based initiatives and successful strategies aimed at fostering healthy, sustainable K-12 schools across the United States.

About Natural Pod™ LIVE

Natural Pod™ LIVE has been created for, and by, our incredible community of educators, students, architects and anyone with a stake in creating better learning spaces and experiences. It’s an online streaming talk show where we interview education leaders who share their personal stories behind the challenges and opportunities of creating exceptional learning environments. Join us as we explore the new approaches for what’s possible in the future of education with the people who are making it happen. This is your opportunity to learn directly from them about the challenges and successes and how they are approaching this work.

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