Family Friendly May Events

Standard

I interrupt my Ramadan 2017 series to bring some very cool family-friendly events to your attention. These are all local (Calgary-based) events that are happening this month. While I’ve attended all of these events in the past, I’m not sure how many I will make it to this year, but I do intend on getting my family to attend!

  1. Nagar Kirtan/Vaisakhi Parade – Saturday May 13, 2017 – Dashmesh Culture Centre: 135 Martindale Blvd NE – Opening Ceremonies at 9:30 am; Festivities from 10:00 am – 2:00 pm

This is the largest gathering I have witnessed outside of Stampede in Calgary. We’ve been meaning to check it out ever since we moved to this part of the city 4 years ago, but didn’t actually make it until last year. It’s a HUGE parade that leaves from the Dashmesh Culture Centre (Gurdwara) at 135 Martindale Blvd NE and follows a predetermined route. Roads are closed to accommodate pedestrian traffic. Even if you don’t join the parade, there is plenty to do in and around the centre. All sorts of delicious (FREE) food awaits and inside the parking lot of the centre and in the surrounding greenspace, there are lots of tables and tents set up with activities and giveaways (and lots more delicious food). You can get more information here. This photo is from the 2016 parade.

IMG_1842

These photos are from the 2017 parade.

2. Ramadan Gana Fair- Saturday May 20, 2017 – Al-Salam Centre: 6415 Ranchview Drive NW- 6:00 pm – 10:00 pm

Get into the Ramadan spirit by visiting this free festival (admission is free but bring cash as there will be food and products available for sale). This is the third year this festival is in operation. There will be delicious food, traditional decorations and children’s activities. A great event for Muslim families to welcome the holy month and non-Muslim families to learn more about Ramadan and fasting and experience some aspects of the vibrant and diverse culture that their Muslim neighbours belong to. You can get more information here.

story time (3) edited

3. Calgary International Children’s Festival (Kidfest) – May 24-27, 2017 – In and around the Arts Common/Olympic Plaza: 205 – 8th Avenue SE – On May 24-25, 9:30- am – 3:00 pm; On May 26-27, 9:30 am – 6:00 pm

We’ve been to this festival twice. H was 6 months the first time and 2.5 years the second time. This is hands-down one of my favourite free things to do in the city! There are ticketed shows that you can purchase tickets to as well. Chances are that your child’s daycare or school group may already make a field trip out of it, but if you want to head down with your family, I’d highly recommend it. Past attractions have included giant walk-on keyboards, all sorts of creation stations, free clown shows, large gross motor games and activities, the splash pool, dress up and free snacks. For more information, click here.  Here are some photos from our visit last year:

Ramadan 2017- Post #2- The Plan

Standard

So here’s the plan we came up with to do this year. Some of these ideas are repeated from last year. Others were planned for last year but didn’t materialize. Others are brand-spanking-new based on H’s needs and the blossoming community we have come to find ourselves a part of, alhamdulillah.

Once again, I grouped them into six general categories that made sense in our situation after brainstorming the long list.

Ramadan Plan for H – 2017

Food/Cooking

  • Soup jars for neighbours/hosts (6)- create and deliver
  • Make cupcakes – bring to Dadi’s House
  • Cook food to bring to Dadi’s House (ask H what she wants to cook…other than cupcakes)
  • Make chocolate covered dates (rolled in coconut flakes) or stuffed dates and other sweets like cookies etc and deliver to friends in the neighbourhood/family/bring to gatherings
  • Ramadan Skewers (fruit in shapes of stars and moons with dates on a skewer)/as part of a goody bag with dollar store items (bubbles, stickers etc) for her preschool class and neighbourhood friends. Also include short blurb for parents.
  • Make fruit salad

Art/Crafts

  • Listen to Ramadan songs (in car ride/at home); compile a youtube playlist and share with others
  • Stained glass geometric designs and lanterns (design in black and use tissue paper squares to fill) – decorate house- make extras for cousins so they can decorate Dadi’s house
  • Paper chains (patterning) – decorate house
  • Paper lanterns- decorate house
  • Make Ramadan card for a friend (and mail it)
  • Create visual duah list (collage style) and use each night
  • Make Eid Cards for family and friends
  • Make wrapping paper (stamping)

Islamic Learning

(*set aside consistent time each day to focus on this)

  • Memorize/Review Surah An Naas
  • Memorize/Review Surah Asr
  • Memorize/Review Surah Ikhlaas
  • Memorize Kalimah
  • Listen to/Learn Eid Takbir
  • Review Arabic Alphabet with blocks; once knows them, set up a scavenger hunt in backyard and reinforce with other games

Activities/Excursions

(Ask other family members to take her to things I may not be able to with new baby)

  • Ramadan Gana Fair – (with nani before she leaves)
  • Moonsighting outing (pack blanket, hot chocolate, binoculars; if F not interested, partner with other local moms)
  • Scavenger Hunt with Ramadan Gift Baskets for all of the cousins as treasure (do at grandparent’s house at beginning of Ramadan); share scavenger hunt clues in a document on the blog so others can benefit
  • Go grocery shopping and buy items for people in need (to donate to food bank)
  • Go to Masjid (non-peak time)
  • Buy Eid Gifts
  • Attend Eid Potluck (MG)
  • Visiting the Elderly/Sick in care facilities/hospitals (MG) 
  • Group soup making after reading Bismillah Soup (MG)
  • Drop off sadaqa that has been collected (ask H what cause she wants to collect for and for ideas on how she can raise money)
  • Operation Eid Child or something similar

Global/Ummah Connections

  • Call/skype relatives in other places
  • Make a card/Write letter to sponsored orphans (Somalia and Bosnia)
  • Learn about Ramadan customs in other countries and learn about those countries (refer to National Geographic book)

Books to Read

(what we already own; add to list)

  • It’s Ramadan Curious George
  • Under the Ramadan Moon
  • Welcome Ramadan
  • Celebrate Ramadan and Eid Al-Fitr with Praying, Fasting and Charity
  • Ilyas & Duck and the Fantastic Festival of Eid-al-Fitr
  • Je me soucie des autres
  • Je prends la bonne decision
  • Golden Domes and Silver Lanterns
  • Jameela’s Great Idea
  • Allah to Z: An Islamic Alphabet Book
  • Zaynab and Zakariya and the new Neighbour
  • The Little Green Drum
  • Resource: Allah to Z Activity Book
  • Resource: A Life Like Mine: How children live around the world

(what I’ve ordered)

  • Ramadan Moon
  • Hassan and Aneesa Love Ramadan

Hope this plan encourages you to think about Ramadan for your little ones!

I Like Pumpkins – Post #1 : Field Trip

Standard

I have to start by explaining the the title of this series. “I Like Pumpkins” is the name of a book we must have read at least 15 times in the past few months. As any parent with a young child knows, sometimes children develop strong preferences that are then imposed on you. I have to admit, I have hidden this book twice  (not that it’s not a good book, but I am so bored of reading it!) but every time my daughter finds it, she brings it to me to read. She knows the story so well that sometimes, I ask her to “read” it to me.

ilikepumpkins

Our work with pumpkins this year started off with a visit to Cobb’s Corn Maze. This is the same place we went to last year, however, because H was a year older, she was able to participate in many more of the activities. There were lots of opportunities for gross motor  (large muscle/full body) play that were included in the admission ticket. These play opportunities were appealing to both adults and children!

There was an element of biology/natural learning that happened as well. We saw a pig eating a pumpkin which prompted questions on H’s end about eating raw pumpkins and animal diets. We could also see and smell pumpkins being roasted. The intense smell and display of black and white scorched pumpkins was definitely intriguing.I wish there was some more information/exhibits on how pumpkins grow or an opportunity to see pumpkins on the vine, however this is an area that can be explored afterwards if it is of interest to the child.

image

image_1

While we had initially planned to go near the beginning of October, snowy weather and other commitments kept us away until the end of the month. The hot food served on-site was particularly welcome on this chilly day. H had her first taste of poutine and used a porter potty for the first time.

Before leaving, we stopped in the pumpkin field to take photos,check out the tractors and pick out two pumpkins to bring home. Of course H picked out pumpkins bigger than I could carry so our dear friends helped us transport them back to our car.

field

For a lot of educators, it seems to make sense to have a field trip at the end of a unit once children have become well-versed in various concepts, but another approach is to go on a field trip before project work begins due to its ability to spark inquiry and curiosity. Field trips can also lend themselves to symbolic play and representations, making them a rich source of inspiration and a perfect starting point for projects.

While the work we did with pumkins is still more traditional activity-based than Reggio-inspired project work, it was beneficial for me as a parent and educator to gain a better understanding of H’s interests, skills and needs.

Cobb’s Corn Maze was a great field trip experience that I think could have been enhanced by going in a group with other children and parents. Perhaps I will try to organize a field trip group to go back in the spring/summer for one of their other festivals!

Ramadan 2016- Post #6: Sadaqa Jar

Standard

Sadaqa is an Islamic concept which basically means to give charity (voluntarily).

About a year ago, I first read my daughter a book called “Jameela’s Great Idea” (review can be found here). My daughter loved this book and we’ve rotated it in a few times over the past year. When I was carefully choosing the books I wanted to add to her bookshelf during Ramadan, this book was a natural choice. The book is about a little girl who regularly goes to the Mosque with her father and upon noticing him deposit money in a “little brown box” asks him what that is all about. The book follows her as she brainstorms ways to raise money so that she can give sadaqa too.

What I decided to do with my daughter during Ramadan was give her simple art materials to create her own “sadaqa jar” (a glass jar*, paint, paint brush, glitter).  We talked about the idea of collecting money, ways she could collect money and what she would do with it after. Keep in mind she was 2.5 years old and it was a very simple process (essentially asking family if they would like to donate money to her jar so she could share it). While we’ve been toying with the idea of a piggy bank for her, I liked the idea that the first time she was going to save money, it was going to be for charity.

*Some people are weary of letting toddlers handle glass, but I believe that children should be entrusted with using authentic materials.

My daughter was excited to paint her jar. She picked two shades of blue paint. But of course, painting the jar wasn’t enough for her.I passed her some recycled materials but she shortly moved onto something more exciting; she decided to paint both her arms. I have to admit, my inner parent wanted to rush in and give her paper, but I know that sensory input is valuable for children. Besides, it wasn’t anything a good wash couldn’t take care of. So I sat back, made a video and marveled at the curiosity and focus of my little smurf.

 

She added some red and purple glitter to her jar and once it was dry, I made a simple top with a slit out of a styrofoam plate (we used a mason jar which worked really well for this). For the next few weeks, she collected coins from her Papa, grandparents and aunts.

Near the end of Ramadan, we drove to the Mosque and after some hunting (there was no donation box on the women’s side…sigh), we found one in the men’s lobby. H excitedly deposited her coins and we were on our way.

As I mentioned, this was the process we followed as part of our Ramadan Calendar, tailored to my then 2.5 year old. Below are some adjustments that can be made to better meet the developmental needs of older children.

Modifications for older children

  1. Learn about your local currency – Now that my daughter is three, she is interested and better able to differentiate between the various coins and learn about their value. Coins collected can be used not only to learn new terminology (In Canada, we have the penny, nickel, dime, quarter, loonie, toonie) but these coins can be used in other mathematical and numerical learning such as numerical value, patterning, sorting, weighing etc.
  2. Allow children to choose their own sadaqa recipient – For younger children, a generic sadaqa box at the mosque works splendidly, but with the array of charitable organizations in existence, it might be more meaningful for your child to research and pick a cause that is dear to their heart, whether it is building a well, contributing to the education of a child abroad or helping with the local pet shelter.
  3. Ask children to create a plan about how they will earn/raise money – Have children consider the materials and resources needed to raise money and critically evaluate what will be the best approach. Perhaps this will be a great opportunity for their inner entrepreneur to shine! Older children may choose to take on additional jobs or engage in classic fundraising initiatives like bake sales to help raise funds for their cause. Work with your child to adjust the plan so that it is suitable for your scope and lifestyle.
  4. Nurture their desire to help in a sustainable way – Abu Huraira reported: The Messenger of Allah, peace and blessings be upon him, said, “Take up good deeds only as much as you are able, for the best deeds are those done regularly even if they are few.” Your family may choose to make this sadaqa initiative an annual tradition or better yet an ongoing project.
  5. Remind children of the other forms of sadaqa – While monetary giving is commendable, it is not always possible or what is most required. Remind children of the words of the Prophet Muhammad peace be upon him who told us that even a smile is sadaqa. As a family, brainstorm other ways of giving sadaqa and possibly undertake one of these ways as a family initiative. Some suggestions include volunteering time, gardening, conversing with the elderly in your community, shoveling snow for neighbours with limited mobility, sharing meals and toys and speaking what is good and true.

Reflections on an Indian School

Standard

Earlier this year, I had the opportunity to travel to India for personal reasons. It was my first time in the country, and while I had planned on visiting some local ECE settings in Vadodara, Gujarat, my busy schedule prevented me from doing so.

I did, however, have the chance to visit a government-run elementary school (roughly grades 1-6) in the small town of Devgadh Baria in Gujarat. It was an informal visit, led by a friend/city resident. The teachers were extremely cooperative and proud to tell me about the initiatives that they were taking with the children and very curious about my life in Canada. Our communication was somewhat limited because of language barriers, but they say a picture speaks 1000 words. Here are some photos from my visit. Hover or click to read the captions.

As an educator from Canada, three things stood out to me the most:

  1. The physical environment of the school: The classrooms were small. They also happened to be dark when I visited, just before classes started for the day. I assume they receive so much natural light that the classrooms heat up quickly, which is why in an attempt to keep the rooms cool, educators keep the curtains closed when not in use. They lined the perimeter of the school in a U-shape. A covered “deck” also formed a U and bordered the classrooms. This area was used for morning assembly and prayers, with the boys on one side, and the girls on the other. There was a big, sunken, unroofed courtyard in the centre. This area is used for recreation. I cannot stop thinking about this space–just a wide open space in the centre of it all. There was no play equipment or toys (although I did see a student with  ball)…oh the possibilities!
  2. The lax attitude surrounding school: Even though classes had an official start time, classes did not begin until teachers arrived, were settled and ready to teach. Children were expected to occupy themselves until this happened. In speaking to some local teachers, I learned that attendance and punctuality among the students is a common problem in government schools. Some teachers take this as permission to show up as they will and run class according to their own schedules. This may be seen as unprofessionalism to Canadians. Another thing that was very different than professional practice in Canada is the idea of photo consent. Even though I was repeatedly told it was okay for me to photograph the children’s faces, I preferred to avoid this, instead opting for different angles or using editing tools to blur any such images.
  3. Evidence of a high-quality environment: How even in such modest conditions, teachers were striving to make their classrooms more engaging and inviting. Simple concepts like including the children’s artwork, displaying artifacts or incorporating natural and found materials really peaked my curiosity. This was most evident in math and science-related “centres”. My two-year old daughter (who accompanied me) couldn’t help but reach out and explore the tactile materials.

If you are not well-travelled, please do not assume that this is what a typical Indian school looks like. Like in any country, there is a huge variance among  the quality, appearance and curriculum of schools, often tied directly to the schools revenue stream. In a country where private/tuition-based schools are popular, it was valuable to see what a government-run school looks like. I only wish I had had more time to observe the daily routine and more opportunities to visit other approaches to schooling throughout the province.