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I am just back from encounters with a network of early childhood educators in Yamanashi prefecture, a large district to the West of Tokyo.
The plan has grown over conversations spanning a few years, following Professor Asami Akiyama's participation in a Sightlines Initiative Reggio Study group some years ago. We have been able to have good discussions during this time, as she has been doing research at Newcastle. We discussed many things, including the action-research projects of Sightlines (in 2018 we held an online seminar on 'Adventuring in Early Childhood Education') the varying fortunes of early childhood education in the UK, governments' general attitudes to education and creating autonomous professional development movements.
Professor Akiyama is involved with a network of early childhood educators in the district of Yamanashi, and also working to influence the direction of the Prefecture's early childhood policy and services, and her invitation was intended to help shift thinking and practice. From my perspective it was a wonderful opportunity to test out how our work and principles would be examined by an entirely fresh group of educators, and also to begin to discover how this new-to-me culture valued children, and education.
For me, it has been extremely energising, refreshing and reassuring to encounter early childhood services - I was able to visit three centres of different types – and the network group – which weren't ground down by effects of egregious government policy.Consistently I met with happy places and people – children, educators, parents. The educators and schools were all in their different ways committed, grounded, researchful, curious and above all loving and humane with their children and their overall intents. A phrase from the UK Children's Act came to mind – 'the welfare of the children is paramount' – would that were actually the case in the UK. We have all learnt much from the encounter so far, and are motivated to continue and develop further.
London Sightlines Network Members Little Jungle Centre of Early Childhood are looking for an Artist Educator/ Atelierista to join their 1-2s team.
"The role entails supporting the development of the children's enquiry-based projects through a variety of learning experiences, the development of documentation and collaborative work with our Educators.
We are a progressive school of Early Childhood, based in East Dulwich. Graded outstanding and shortlisted for 'best nursery 2017' by Nursery World, we follow an enquiry-based learning approach, listening to and encouraging children to explore the world and test out their own theories through play and creative expression. We use the children's research as a basis for projects to help them develop skills and knowledge across all areas of learning and enable them to become the strong, confident and free-thinking adults of the future.
This is a fantastic opportunity for anyone looking to grow their knowledge and experience within early years education, through a pioneering approach, as we provide ongoing opportunities for professional development, as well as a supportive, fun and friendly environment."
To know more about us, please visit: www.littlejungle.co.uk
Typing up notes from a 2019 visit, it occurred to me that it could be interesting to share. Perhaps it will only work for those who in any case can picture the life of a preschool in Reggio, I don't know ... (there is a rather informative minute's video on our page 'Introductory Articles on Reggio Emilia's Preschools' which may help in filling out a picture.) ... anyway here it is....
Spring 20019 visit to Otto Marzo Preschool
8.30 – 9a.m.
This is the preschool with the circular layout, by the canal; rich in its habitation and embedded in the close locality: quiet streets, dads and children walking or biking in. The spring 'snow' – blossom/seeds – is drifting around.
…a boy, 5, scoots through the internal piazza on his scooter (!) Other children meet, and two hold the door for a while meeting each other, possibly waiting for friends. Children bounce and skip around, meeting each other; there's a hum of easy voices and conversations of children and adults.
Projects documented in the entrance area show how they are joyfully developing their environment and relationships in it – the fence sculpture with 'secret ways' through to the canal path; relationships with the city e.g. project for everyone to travel by bike not car.