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Story, Identity and Gospel Shaped - Big Ideas for Little Children

Story, Identity and Gospel Shaped - Big Ideas for Little Children

Thursday, 6 August 2015  | Wendy - Early Years Coordinator
I love how little children view complex ideas! I see them simplify and grasp concepts which many adults would wrestle with and claim to be too difficult for young children. This teaches me that children, even when very young, should never be underestimated!

Narelle and Gerry have reflected on the recent ITEC15 conference in the last two editorials, and I can’t help but include a perspective in relation to teaching and learning in the Early Years, on which I presented a workshop at the conference. Throughout the conference I was struck by the common themes that echoed through the amazing ideas shared by the presenters, and to my surprise a few of these themes were also reflected in my workshop.  One that particularly resonated with me was ‘Story, Identity, and Gospel shaped’.

My primary aim for the Early Years workshop was to unpack some of the ideas in the Transformational Education booklet - recently published by the Teaching and Learning team at MECS, as all delegates attending the conference received a copy. Together in the workshop we spent time exploring themes from the Transformational Education framework, together with the Early Years Learning Framework (EYLF) to bring together ideas on how to develop a biblical perspective on learning in early childhood education. Teachers in the workshop shared their own stories and contexts and spent valuable time together networking and sharing ideas.

Story
Don’t we all love a good story? When Jesus was teaching he often used a story to convey meaning. As described in the Transformational Education book,  the Biblical narrative of redemption and the coming of God’s kingdom is the story that informs and shapes every aspect of the life of the school. God’s story is the over-arching narrative that informs and shapes all that we do. It provides the framework by which we understand our life and the world. Our story (how we understand life in community) and My Story (our individual gifts and talents, needs and interests) are ideally shaped by God’s story. Beware: the happily ever after is found in the restorative work of Jesus, and not all of our life experience is Gospel shaped! (See last two editorials - Narelle’s about story and Gerry’s on false gods.) The magnitude of the Fall was highlighted at the conference.

Little children have a natural aptitude for discovering problems, and it is in the story of the Fall that we discover the origins of wrong doing. As Jesus came to right those wrongs, educators and children work restoratively within the Kindergarten. More big ideas for little children! This means a shift in our thinking about the capabilities we believe children have.

Identity
Children, made in the image of God, learn differently and are given different talents and abilities. These differences will be honoured in learning approaches and activities. At MECS Kindergarten we have been challenged to think deeply about our philosophy, and how that translates into practice. This was especially highlighted through our recent assessment and rating process, as the assessors were looking for consistency between what we say we do, and what we actually do in our teaching. What we think about children matters! It influences our decisions, strategies and educational ideas, how we set up the environment - all factors that provide for rich learning.

We believe children are:
Wonderfully created
Powerful and strong
Capable
Natural explorers
Curious
Image bearers
Loved by God

We all know young children like to play, explore and experiment, but have we thought about young children as being able to hypothesize, predict, or use scientific thinking?

Gospel shaped
During the conference I shared with the Early Years teachers a story about Mae, one of our 4-year-old kindergarten children. This year Mae decided she wanted to help people who were poor, and after conferring with her parents and looking through a Compassion catalogue, realised she didn’t have enough money in her money-box. She decided that she would sell her artwork, and after an invitation to her kinder friends and families, she set up a shop on her verandah, selling her artwork! She raised enough to buy a cow and clean water! We recognise that all is not well with the world, and opportunities to discuss and learn about problems provide springboards for ‘hand’ responses at an appropriate developmental level. Mae’s story is an inspiring ‘hand and heart’ response. I was so encouraged by Mae’s simple and practical solution to a very complex situation in the world!

Ultimately, through participating and presenting at the ITEC15 conference, I was encouraged to ‘listen in the quiet’. Our world is filled with visual images, through many media sources. Our ability to be ‘present’ is being eroded through social media and IT devices. Listening is a part of our practise in the Early Years, and as we allow this practise to filter through to listening to Jesus and to spending time in the quiet spaces, we can continue to absorb scripture and reflect on our part to play, no matter what our age, in God’s story.
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