Skygarden Is Our Very Own Sensory Approach To Education

The Blossom Skygarden approach is where children learn using their  senses through exploration and activity based themes and experiments. This is a subjective, options based approach that premises that curiosity driven play will yield the best learning results.  Skygarden ensures children can experiment, build and rejig with a focus on dominant sensorial awareness, integration and isolation projects.  This is purposeful play; pretend play; and powerful play that allows children to live in a world of cognitive flexibility.  

As  children are developing this play in a space that impacts learning designed zone it means we can harness the knowledge that abounds in biomimicry which is the progressive science of believing in nature's products, processes, policies and permutations.

In a world where STEAM skills (Science, Technology, Engineering, Art, Math) are more in need in the global economy the Skygarden approach allows children to build theses skills and ensure strong school readiness. Everyday they experiment, hypothesise, and build new understandings in a holistic and practice based approach only at Blossom.    

This methodology is similar to other emergent interest based approaches such as the Montessori, Steiner & Reggio programs and significant curating of both the learning spaces and materials used are considered to ensure we provide the best of a planned, structured approach such as the EYFS and the benefits of play based learning and investigation in the early years.

Skygarden is an experience based learning model that extends the British EYFS curriculum by focusing on the senses and children’s emerging interests which sparks their attention and imagination. The approach takes self-directed exploration, focused play and blends them with a fundamental belief that experience and doing fun things makes learning a joy that children respond to. The Skygarden model aspires to ensure the reason why we do things is as important as the results and each day the lessons of life are learned through active play, imagination and creativity.

Skygarden is heuristic play which helps children learning through the exploration of a variety of natural objects. These objects are presented in a way which encourages discovering, experimentation, imagination, and creativity together creating powerful “spark” moments of understanding. Through heuristic play children have free choice to explore everyday objects as play materials encouraging them to develop their preferences and uses as they take part in spontaneous experimental play.

Each class curates a Skygarden Basket which consists of items with different textures, materials, strengths, colours and consistency. Most of the items in a Skygarden basket are upcycled or heuristic in nature - spoons, sponges, wrapping paper, foil, rubber balls, shells, pebbles, candles, wooden blocks etc.  We ensure the safety requirement and appropriateness for ages and stages of development for children to explore and use on an everyday basis but these are often everyday “found materials.” The benefits of such play are well researched but Blossom builds it up further with vocabulary cards used to prompt and consider new meanings and uses. Mathematical sorting, diagrams and timelines are investigated and applied in new and interesting situations.

Skygarden’s premise is dominant sensory isolation to form new patterns of “knowing.”

Young children are oriented towards sensory experiences. From birth, children  learn about the world by touching, tasting, smelling, seeing, and hearing. Sensory play also contributes in crucial ways to brain development. Sensory experiences are as “food for the brain.” Stimulating the senses sends signals to children’s brains that help to strengthen neural pathways important for all types of learning.  This happens naturally.  

But at Blossom we often remove the dominant sense which heightens our other senses and allows to investigate in new and unexpected ways.  It is practice but also a strong builder of new neural pathways that would otherwise not be explored and built. Neuroscience is an exciting new way of understanding the “hidden brain” and skygarden applies the learnings here in a practical and usable way yielding real results.  

Sensory exploration is crucial in the early days and here are some ideas to try at home for different types of play activities. 


TOUCH

Place different objects with varied textures in an empty tissue box. Ask your children to reach in and describe what they feel. Can they guess what they are touching? exercise isolates sight which is a dominant sense and requires your child to focus on tactile touch to explore vocabulary, early math concepts and descriptive language.

At the beach– dig in the sand to see what you feel. In the kitchen feel flour, sugar, hot, cold, etc. Keep asking your children to describe what they feel and why.

Some of the cool things we do at Blossom are: Making Temperature Rainbows: We paint a selection of pebbles from black, red, blue, yellow, orange, white etc. and once dry leave the stones outside in the sunlight.

We ask the children to feel the stones and experience the different temperatures of each colour as black will feel the hottest and white very cool.  We also discuss Braille and the importance to the Blind - a way we can “read” without our eyes.  

We create name plaques for children selecting the Braille letters.


TASTE and SMELL

A great kitchen activity is to provide items that look alike but taste VERY different. Bring out white vinegar and water, salt and sugar, flour and baking soda. Put just a dab on the end of the finger, try them and describe the differences. What makes them different even though they look similar? Exploring smell is entertaining—soak cotton balls in different flavors like orange, lemon, peppermint and see what they like most and least.

Children can make their own scratch and sniff items by simply spreading flavored powder gelatin on a paper. Once it dries, scratch and sniff. Cinnamon sticks and  dried leaves are fun materials to use for DIY potpourri by tying them in small netting squares with ribbon. This is great for little fingers and makes a  unique  present.

Fruit Fantasy: Spray some oil essentials and let the children smell and tell you where they are and what it is. Cut fruits, vegetables and herbs with strong tastes, like garlic, lemons, onions, carrot, mint, coriander, peppers etc. and let the children smell.  

What is this smell? Explore with the children different smells. Let the children discover how cookies smell like? Or grass, flowers, shoes, leather, hair etc. To make the game more advanced you can blindfold the children and let them guess or they can taste or smell senses only.  Tasting items in their various ways of preparation is also fun - mustard seed and mustard condiment; tomatoes,  ketchup and pasta sauce; cucumbers and pickles; flour and bread etc.


SOUND

A musical afternoon is a great way to beat Dubai’s heat and add some fun physical activity to your day. Clapping hands, drumming and using instruments all build early numeracy skills. Find the beat by blindfolding your child and asking them to follow the direction of the sound. Guess what is making the sound and ask them to replicate simple pattern sounds. There are wonderful collections of children's music available.

Spice it up with international beats of samba, tango, jazz and classical so they hear a variety of beautiful sounds in many languages. Some ideas to try at home are:

Secret story: The children gather in a circle.  Explore different voice tones.  Whisper a story or a few words in the ear of the first child; this child passes the message on the next child, find out what the story was as the last child tells it out loud. How did it change? Ask the children to tell what changed in the story.

Make the music: Have the children bring all kinds of natural resources like sand, beans, stones and leaves and build your own fantasy musical instrument. Explore and find out what sound the different materials make. Try to describe the different sounds as you create your own orchestra.  Rainsticks with small funnels that create dropping sounds are a great experiment and keepsake.

On Air: Have the children record their own voices on a tape recorder. Have them sing a song and play it back on the recorder. Children discover what their own voice sounds like. Experiment with high and low voices, hard and soft voices.

Hello, who’s there?  Have the children make a telephone from cans and rope. Paint the cans and “call” the other side. Have a phone conversation and ask the children what it was about. Discuss the times they make a call to their family in a different country and how do they also call with video.  Just like our cans and rope we discuss telephone wires and point them out in the environment above and below ground.


SIGHT

Sight is our dominant sense so we work to use it in new and interesting ways at Blossom.

We use different colours of cellophane, magnifying glasses, and mirrors to change the way the world is perceived and give everyday things we see a new perspective.  Hide and Seek in Light and Dark is a great game to build non visual spatial awareness.

What is missing isa another great training game. We discuss how we find things and if it is easier to find small or big things. Children have a good look around in the environment and we let the children go outside.

Something in the room is changed and we bring the children back in again to guess what has changed. Follow the leader, eating in the dark and other experiences also are enabling for other senses and we introduce these opportunities throughout the year.   


MAKE YOUR OWN BLOSSOM SKYGARDEN SENSORY BASKET

Making a play basket is a fun way to extend these activities. Take a small wicker basket and place a number of everyday items in it– small flashlight, magnifying glass, bits of paper, ribbons, scarves, magnets and start conversations. Change often and use this to go on scavenger hunts. You do not need expensive toys to learn and have fun. Not only are these everyday items educational but they help teach children to reuse things in new and exciting ways!

By exercising all five senses

Often, you will help budding

Blossoms explore their

imagination and grow to

experience the world in new ways.