When Joanne Babalis (BEd ’06, MEd ’13) started her blog in 2011 to document her journey as a kindergarten teacher and early childhood educator, she never expected the overwhelming response and interest in the blog from educators in Canada and abroad.
In less than two years, her blog Transforming Our Learning Environment into a Space of Possibilities has exceeded 450,000 page views. The blog was created with the intention of spreading important messages about early learning to educators and students. Babalis felt that the blog would support her research titled, “Transforming our learning environment into a space of possibilities: Illuminating the path of inquiry-based learning for others working with young children”, because it would allow her to share photographs from her own classroom environment. The blog would also serve to document how her classroom transformed over time to complement and encourage inquiry-based learning.
“IBL [inquiry-based learning] was at the heart of my research and I wanted to design a classroom open to possibilities while illuminating the path for others working with young children,” said Babalis. “The main objective of the blog was to document our transformation in the classroom with the hope of inspiring others who might wish to begin their own classroom transformation(s).”
She said that never in her wildest dreams did she think that the blog would have such a far reach and impact on educators around the world. She has received comments and e-mail inquiries from educators from as far away as China, Russian and the United Kingdom.
While working on her summative research project, Babalis read a variety of articles and professional resources about designing a space for inquiry-based learning and posted numerous photographs of her physical classroom environment onto the blog. She also posted about the “before” and “after” to document how the learning environment in her classroom changed. After receiving consent from the parents of her students, Babalis started to post images of some of the inquiry-based learning onto the blog, which then piqued the interest of educators, parents and others working with young children.
Visitors began to follow the blog and post comments about how her classroom transformation was inspiring them. The blog has grown into an important social media tool and forum to share and discuss information on Early Childhood Education with educators in Ontario, Canada and around the world. Visitors can read about the learning that is taking place in Babalis’ classroom, browse photographs and videos documenting her journey, find professional development opportunities and access resources for further learning.
Babalis credits the Faculty’s Graduate Degree in Education and Graduate Diploma in Early Childhood Education with playing an integral role not only in the success of her blog, but in her learning, research and overall teaching. “As a full-day kindergarten educator, I was searching for ways to improve my teaching and inspire students to become lifelong learners,” she comments. “York’s courses provided me with the opportunity to think more critically about my questions and I gained a deeper understanding of early childhood, conditions for learning, and developmentally appropriate practice. The theory that I was learning about in lectures and course readings became my foundation for research and eventually led to the transformation of my teaching practice and classroom environment. Without the Faculty of Education’s dedicated professors and rich course content, I would not be the educator that I am today.”
Babalis with her students
“With the Ministry’s movement to full-day kindergarten the timing was perfect for Joanne’s blog on her journey. Teachers are now working in tandem with early childhood educators in their classrooms and they needed a way to imagine kindergarten differently,” said York education Professor Isabel Killoran. “Joanne has provided a tool for teachers that provides them with the opportunity to see the vision in action. It is a safe and welcoming environment where teachers can share their experiences, their fears and their successes. The response to the blog clearly demonstrates the eagerness of teachers to embrace change, further their professional development, and make their classroom a place of discovery for all students.”
“This is an important time in Early Childhood Education where many professionals are seeking new ways to teach and learn in authentic and meaningful ways with their students,” said Babalis. “I hope that my learning and blog continue to inspire many more educators and that inquiry-based learning can reach more children.”
Babalis currently teaches kindergarten at Bond Lake Public School. She graduated with her MEd, Graduate Diploma in Early Childhood Education from York’s Faculty of Education this past spring. She will also be teaching one of the Kindergarten Additional Qualification courses at York University’s Faculty of Education this fall.