Our Image of Children

One of the most essential elements to providing a quality service and educational program for young children is to understand how the service views children...what is their image of children?

As reflected in our service philosophy and through our commitment to the frameworks which underpin our programs, our service has taken the following as their ‘image of the child’:

We wish to view children as worthwhile citizens who at any age have the right to a voice and to be heard. Every child has a limitless potential, brings with them prior life experiences, family values and ideas which are recognised and respected within the centre. Children have the ability to teach the staff as much as the staff can teach the child and it is this shared learning journey that we look forward to taking with every individual in our care. It is through our commitment to play based learning and learning environments which are supportive of children’s exploration and discovery that we are able to nurture trusting relationships and understandings that are genuine to each child.

The following information is to express how this image we have of children relates to our play based curriculum and our learning environments.

The value of play
Children learn best when they engage deeply and in an unhurried way in authentic experiences that reflect their interests and their lives.” (NSW Curriculum Framework for children’s services).

Play for the purpose of motivating learning doesn’t just happen.
If we are to see that there is any value in play as a motivator for providing opportunities for learning we must recognise that quality play doesn’t just happen, the teacher and the environment, the resources and a sound knowledge of child development are what moves play from being just “fun” to “a fun way to learn”.

Our image of children
How we choose to view children will also influence how we choose to provide for them. If we view children as “empty vessels” waiting to be filled with knowledge, then our role as the teacher is always going to be finding what pieces of information to provide them with next.

If we see children as powerful, capable members of society who are able to be directors of their own learning, then we can become co learners and engage ourselves in the process of learning with the children. We can provide challenges, questions, obstacles as we engage with and learn about the child and what they already know.

What’s the difference?
If we see children as the empty vessel then we can make direct assessment against outcomes as to what they do or do not “know”
If we see children as capable learners we must engage in the process of finding out what they already know, we must find a way of making their learning continuous, we must engage with them in challenging their ideas, and we must apply our deep knowledge of child development to interpret what they are telling us.

So play is not just running free..
The notion of a totally ‘free’ play environment is really a myth. The material resources (toys, furniture, props), that are selected and the activities, the social interactions, and the environment that we offer children, define both the opportunities and the limitations for their learning. The linguistic and cultural context in which children are immersed even more fundamentally influences what they learn.”(Early childhood Education. An Introduction to Early childhood studies, (2nd Edition) London: Sage Publications).

Choosing resources to support learning through play
The resources we add to our environment or make available to children reflect how we view them as learners as well as what we see as the potential of the play situation.

Plastic play pieces, board games: These usually have a specific way of being used. A plastic piece of fruit will always be just that, it does not have the potential to be anything else. A board game has rules, order and one way to be played, thus setting up for predictable learning outcomes or, none at all!

Choosing learning rich materials
Learning rich materials are those which create a sense of wonder, that are adaptable, that are interesting to a wide range users, that have limitless possibilities. They create a sense of trust because they are real, hence the materials themselves are asking to be used in an interesting way. When we place materials in our environments that are out of reach of children we send clear messages about how we value the user.

A learning rich environment is full of potential to learn through the materials on offer, it has materials that promote learning across all areas, it has print, is language rich, offers raw materials, promotes numeracy and literacy in a functional, life relevant way, it is beautiful, it is predictable, it is safe, nurturing, supportive and promotes investigation and enquiry.

The environment
Through a play based curriculum we aim to create a community of learners who are supported in their learning by being in a physical space full of possibilities.
“The physical environment in a children’s service is much more than a backdrop for children’s experiences. It is a major provider of opportunities and possibilities. More broadly, it is a literal depiction of the identity, traditions, priorities, history and vision of the service” (NSW Curriculum Framework, P 101)

Taking care of the physical environment supports a feeling among the people who use it that they and the things that happen in it are valued. In this way the physical environment mirrors practice.

It is obvious that relationships and collaboration are encouraged.
There is evidence that children are seen as capable and resourceful.
It is clear that this is a place that supports a range of appropriate opportunities for learning.
There is a rich array of materials accessible for children to engage with.
There is evidence of diversity.
There is attention to beauty and aesthetics.
There is evidence of the process as well as the products of children’s experiences.”  (NSW Curriculum Framework P101)

The child is made of one hundred.

“The child has a hundred languages
A hundred hands
a hundred thoughts
a hundred ways of thinking
of playing, of speaking.
A hundred, always a hundred ways of listening
of marvelling of loving
a hundred joys
For singing and understanding
A hundred worlds
To discover
A hundred worlds
To invent
A hundred worlds to dream.
The child has a hundred languages
(and a hundred, hundred, hundred more)
But they steal ninety nine.
The school and the culture
Separate the head from the body.
They tell the child:
To think without hands
To do without head
To listen and not to speak
To understand without joy
To love and to marvel
Only at Easter and Christmas.
They tell the child:
To discover the world already there
And of the hundred
They steal ninety nine.
They tell the child:
That work and play
Reality and fantasy
Science and imagination
Sky and earth
Reason and dream
Are things
That do not belong together.
And thus they tell the child
That the hundred is not there.
The child says: No way, the hundred is there.

Loris Malaguzzi (1920-1994) Reggio Emillia Educator.