Thursday, 19 January 2012

Identity and belonging

Identity and feeling like we belong are such an important aspect of our personal development.  Research shows that children who have trouble understanding their identity and forming secure attachments have difficulty thriving academically.

Maslow discussed this principle at length and documented it in his hierarchy of needs.  Knowing who we are and where we belong is fundamental to life-long learning and success both personally and professionally.  Early Years Educators have been feverishly learning about how we can support children within our services understand who they are and how they belong, to ensure the best outcomes for the child and meet legislative requirements.

I was blessed to be able to observe two of the 4 year old boys in our ELC, as they attempted to uncover what makes you belong to a family.

It began through a simple conversation at the easel.  J and R were discussing what they were painting.  J decided to paint his family, "Good idea" replied R and began painting his.  Both children kept checking in on the others painting, comparing similarities and differences in their artwork.  "Why do you have two girls in your family?" J asked R.  "UMMMM, that's my mum and my sister" R replied walking around to look at J's picture.  "Ummmm, your missing a sister on yours" R proclaimed.  "No, I don't have a sister, doesn't matter girls are silly anyway" J said.  R paused for a minute "who is them?" "That's my big brother and my little brother" said J.  Again R paused for a while, "Hey wouldn't it be cool if we were brothers!" he said  (These two have been very close friends all year) After a few excited laughs and 'high 5s' R looked at J "It wont work, your skin is a different colour to mine" he said "We can't be brothers, cause they have to be the same"

'Was this an intentional teaching moment??? Should I step in and discuss how families are different and unique, pointing out posters around the room and looking at our family photo albums with the children?  I could, I could, my mind was going crazy with all of the ways I could extend their knowledge, broaden their thinking and concepts.  Instead I stood back and waited to see what the two boys would do.'.......

"Just because our skin is different..... you know we are still friends" J said, and held R's hand.  Just then the two noticed they had brown flecks of paint on both their hands from their artwork. "Hey they look like freckles...... we both have paint freckles........brothers have freckles"  With that J pulled R closer to the easel. The two began mumbling to each other and both stood back from the easel at the same time holding a paint brush and began painting their arms.

Curious, I asked what they were doing.  "Just making sure we can be brothers" J said casually.  "yeah we have to look the same to trick our mums" R replied laughing

This one single child initiated experience sparked a great deal of discussion about families and how we look, amongst the group for the next few days, allowing plenty of opportunity for intentional teaching moments.

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