Wednesday 28 April 2010

Education for Citizenship early years case studies

This website gives concrete examples for working on children's citizenship rights with very young children.

Following is information from the website about working with pre-primary school children on citizenship rights.

Learning about rights

Paisley Children’s Centre is a large, purpose-built family centre providing care and education for children aged from 6 weeks to those not yet attending primary school (76 full-time equivalent places).

The children come from various catchment areas and the nursery is based in central Paisley within Renfrewshire Council. The nursery has extended opening hours (7.30 am to 5.30 pm) to meet the diverse and sometimes challenging needs of the families.

The nursery has a staff team of 24 full-time and part-time staff who strive to provide a warm, supportive and nurturing educational experience for all of their families.

Aims of the project

Responsible active citizens

Staff in the nursery wanted to promote further active citizenship as a way of nursery life. They wanted to involve the children in teaching and learning, through genuine consultation. They also wanted to ensure that young children would recognise that rights are linked to responsibilities, fostering relationships based on mutual respect.

They developed two main initiatives which highlight their commitment to involving very young children in decision making.

· A children’s meeting room has been established where staff work with small groups of children to support them to express their views and be involved in meaningful decision making.

· Children are often involved in the nursery to ‘help’ with the organisation of resources. The children work together to decide which responsibility groups they will volunteer for. This serves to reinforce the importance and value placed on the children’s contribution to life in the centre.

Meeting room

The children’s meeting room was situated intentionally at the entrance to the building, and beside the parents’ room, to include everyone who is directly involved with the children. This provides the opportunity for staff and children to reinforce to families that children’s opinions are valued, sought and acted upon on a regular basis within the nursery.

The entrance to the children’s meeting area is illustrated by symbols based on the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child.

Meaningful discussion

The area is used for purposeful and meaningful consultation with the children in areas that directly affect them. Some of these consultations have included:

  • Children’s Rules - which informed the rules for the whole nursery
  • What Makes Us Happy? - which informed the purchase of play resources, in the redevelopment of the literacy area
  • Curriculum Activities - children’s responses were used to plan meaningful activities on the topics of Halloween and Scotland.

Recording discussions

Mind mapping and symbols are used as a tool for discussion and staff find this is a useful technique to encourage all children to participate at their own individual level.

Responsibility groups

Staff worked with the children in small groups to identify and discuss the responsibilities that there were or should be within the nursery. After mind mapping these jobs, the children decided on names for the groups and produced badges for them.

The responsibility groups were:

  • the Peace Patrol
  • the Toy Tidiers
  • the Lunch Bunch
  • the Toilet Monitors.

Role of the adult in discussions

Staff in the nursery had clear guidelines to facilitate the children’s discussions:

  • Give clear guidelines at the beginning of the session - explain to the children what they are entitled to expect, but also what they may give to the group.
  • Discuss what will meet the needs of your service - ensure workable capabilities to ensure success and build on children’s self-esteem.
  • Encourage further thinking - respect children’s choices even when it may be the same group chosen week after week, exploring issues such as real ownership.
  • Promote further active citizenship as a way of nursery life - modelling genuine consultation and participation.

The two initiatives in the nursery have emphasised the central role the children play in learning, teaching and developing skills as responsible citizens. Children have learned that they have a valuable contribution to make to the nursery. They have explored their own values and those of others in a safe, supported environment, and have developed effective communication skills.

Meeting room

Children feel real ownership, having their own designated space for meaningful discussion, which is comfortable and attractive. The room clearly indicates to the whole community that the children's opinions are valued.

Appropriate resources are easily accessible for both children and staff and don’t need to be sought out prior to meetings or activities. Projects can be displayed, and added to for extended periods, effectively building on learning experiences.

Nursery staff ensure that children are aware that these consultations are used to inform improvements and change within the service.

Responsibility groups

The responsibility groups were a fun and appropriate way to engage with and motivate all children to be aware of the role of a responsible citizen.

The children developed relationships with peers and adults, based on mutual respect and responsibility. They had to link and apply different types of learning in new situations, carry out plans and resolve problems, while learning about early leadership roles.

A Curriculum for Excellence planning table

Successful learners

Confident individuals

Responsible citizens

Effective contributors

Carry out plans and resolve problems

Learn independently and as part of a group

Link and apply different types of learning in new situations

Make reasoned evaluations

Create and experience learning

Collaborate and negotiate in groups

Relate to others and manage themselves

Assess risk and take informed decisions

Achieve success in different areas of activity

Participate in goup activities

Develop a sense of fairness in respect of self and others

A form of trustworthiness

Become responsible

Make informed choices and decisions

Be sensitive to the feelings, interests and needs of others

Communicate effectively with others

Engage effectively and safely in a range of situations

Take the initiative and lead

Work in partnerships and teams

Express feelings in words

Parental involvement

Parents were surprised at the level of involvement the children had in the nursery and were encouraged to discuss their work with the children at home. They were very impressed by the responsibility that the children were able to demonstrate in carrying out their nursery jobs.

You will also find information about teaching on citizenship rights with primary and secondary school children.

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