When we take any kind of risk, the most important question to ask is “Is it worth it?”
I took a risk participating in the annual 2018 Conference and Trade Show titled Exploring Risks in Outdoor Play organized by Association of Early Childhood Educators NS and so far I have no regrets. As a vendor, I chose to create an inviting space that reflects my values and shows that even small spaces can be used effectively. I have arranged my booth to showcase the local, natural, hand-made products that are sold on my website. They became conversation starters about our learning environments, their effect on teachers and children, and the quality of their learning.
Some of the things on that display are not new, to me or to you. For example, showcasing the materials that we offer to children and storing them in a self-explanatory manner has been all over Pinterest for decades but does every classroom has this type of display?
Using loose parts is not new either, yet selling a small paper bag filled with 5 “handfuls” of different loose parts was very successful because sometimes you don’t need to have the whole bucket.
A simple invitation to play featured the dragon from the Farm Animal Set by a local company WoodChaCallIt, also known as The Toymaker of Lunenburg. And the rest of the animal set and the Diverse Family display got a lot of positive feedback.
One thing was truly new, at least as a product that can be purchased for the classroom. Handmade trees from Sticks & Strings by Aya Saito with the natural wood trunk and crocheted tops received many comments. In fact, I had to label some trees as “samples” to be able to show them to the teachers before they were all sold out!
I met a ton of people that I know and it was great to see so many familiar faces! I met people I studied with, people who taught me at the college, teachers I worked with and those who taught my children! I met people from the government and some parents whose children I know. My neighbors at the trade show were my vendors and the future contractors for the centre where I work. I even met people who teach my children’s gymnastics!
As a teacher, I had an opportunity to attend the presentations on Saturday and the gala on Friday. It was lovely to see Pamela Streeter, the director of the centre where I work, to receive an award and be recognized for her contributions to the local ECE field.
If you have been attending the sessions, you probably would agree that most ideas about the benefits of outdoor play, adventure playgrounds, and taking risks were not groundbreaking or even new. It was a good reflection excise, for sure, but the real question is whether we will take the risk to take those risks? Because after all talking and reflecting, someone needs to take a deep breath, roll up the sleeves and make things happen.
And this is my approach to taking risks. After deciding that starting Beautiful Classrooms on top of working full-time with children is less likely to kill me and slightly more likely to make me stronger, I just jumped in.
Will it pay off? Will the ECE community support it? Honestly, I don’t know. I haven’t landed yet.