Oi speaks to Janine Gordon Principal of EtonHouse International Pre-School Franchise An Phu about intentional play, the child as a creative learner, and what a “remida” is.

Can you tell us a bit about yourself, and how you and EtonHouse International Pre-School Franchise ∙ An Phu partnered up?

I am a passionate advocate of child-centered, play-based learning. While working in the Middle East a number of years ago, I was fortunate enough to lead a study tour of my entire Early Years Team to Reggio Emilia. It was there I learnt about the Singapore-based EtonHouse International REACH program (Reggio Emilia in Asia for Children).

I was subsequently working in China with a team opening up a Western Pedagogy & Chinese Culture-based school, which lead to a desire to further my work in education within Asian cultures. Thus, I was naturally attracted to looking for an opportunity to work with EtonHouse.

I have been fortunate enough to enjoy doing exactly that here in HCMC for the past two years, at EtonHouse International Pre-School Franchise ∙ An Phu.

Janine Gordon

Janine Gordon

You’ve worked in countries such as France, US, England, UAE, NZ, China and your home country of Australia. What experiences from each would you be bringing to EtonHouse International Pre-School Franchise ∙ An Phu in Vietnam?

If I could unpack the multitude of experiences that have shaped my current (and ever-developing) approach to and philosophy of education, and assign each to its national source, this issue of Oi would be more than full… and not nearly as interesting!

As a teacher, trainer of other teachers and educational leader I am learning constantly when I’m working with children/students, parents and other teachers. I began working in education at a time when Western education was evolving from the traditional and teacher-centered didactic (‘chalk and talk’) approach to an understanding of learning being a ‘hands on’ experience for all students. Today we work with learners taking responsibility for their own learning—problem solving and self-directing. We now teach understanding of how to find out, how to know and how to learn as we prepare our learners for their future.

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The Reggio Emilia Approach was developed after World War II by psychologist Loris Malaguzzi, has its educational philosophy, where it’s student-centered and constructivist, changed over the years?

Essentially your very correct description of the Reggio Emilia approach as child-centered and constructivist continues in Reggio Emilia. However, as the culture in the city and amongst the people evolves and changes, so does the experiential approach within the pre-schools. The Reggio Emilia philosophy is respectful of the community and reflects the thinking of the families of the children within the commune of Reggio Emilia. One small example is the central “Remida” or recycling center, a foundational concept of respecting the environment in Reggio Emilia inspired schools. The collected and recycled donated materials, that would otherwise be thrown away, are imaginatively and creatively used.

The best way I can respond to this is by paraphrasing from Loris Malaguzzi, founder of the Reggio Emilia schools project: “There are hundreds of different Images of Child. Each one of us has a different Image of the Child that directs us as we begin to relate to a child. In turn, the environment we construct around us, along with the way we interact with children, reflects the image we have about children.”

At EtonHouse International Pre-School Franchise ∙ An Phu, we have a shared Image of Child and Image of Teacher which reflects how we relate and interact with each other. We believe that children are curious, independent, capable, reflective and intelligent. Thus as teachers we foster children’s independence and curiosity, creating intentional play spaces and stimulating learning experiences. We work alongside our children and support them directly while talking with them about their learning and understandings. Aligning with the Reggio Emilia approach, we see parents as the child’s first teacher, ourselves as the second teachers and the environment as the third teacher.

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Tell us about the school’s facilities and its location inside the Somerset Vista.

The Somerset building is well-maintained, so our pre-school is very well-serviced. Feedback from visitors to EtonHouse International Pre-School Franchise ∙ An Phu is that it is modern, fresh and very clean.

We have an entire floor on the second floor of the Somerset Vista building. This enables us to enjoy a huge, naturally-lit Indoor playground space. We have an exciting adventure playground, an obstacle course, a rock climbing wall and many activity areas where the children learn through purposeful play.

The advantages of this air conditioned multi-purpose area are self-evident, given our weather here in HCMC (sudden tropical downpours; heat and humidity)! Our teachers can plan for experiences there and use the space at any time.

Our location also enables us to use the outdoor area, pool complex and playground at The Vista, weather permitting, giving us the best of both worlds. We access the pools twice a week for swimming fun—water familiarization and safety.

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Our pre-school is designed with an Early Childhood education and environmental focus. We ‘bring the outdoors in’ with vertical gardens and natural wood furniture. Our classrooms are open and well equipped with lots of open-ended materials, many from nature, for our creative children to use imaginatively.

We have also just set up a new classroom to welcome toddlers from 12 months old to 18 months old, accompanied by a parent, to our new “Early Learners Group” every Tuesday afternoon starting from August 15, 2017.

Our teachers design interesting, purposeful play areas. These are stimulating to our children and appeal to their natural curiosity. They encourage the children from 18 months to 6 years old to engage in what we term ‘intentional play’—play that is constructed to elicit goal-oriented learning.

We are deliberately located further away from the majority of pre-schools in D2 that attract international children, as we are in An Phu. Thus we happily bring the opportunity for families in our area, particularly those in the Vista, to experience the joy of EtonHouse Early Childhood Education at EtonHouse International Pre-School Franchise ∙ An Phu.

Oi readers are warmly invited to visit our beautiful center here at the Somerset Vista, An Phu. Please phone us on (028) 6287 0804 to arrange a time. I look forward to welcoming you personally, showing you around our pre-school and further introducing you to what we do by answering all of your questions.

EtonHouse International Pre-School Franchise ∙ An Phu  // 2nd Fl., Somerset Vista, 628C Hanoi Highway, D2 // etonhouseanphu.com

Images Provided by EtonHouse