“Children have the right to imagine. We need to give them full rights of citizenship in life and in society. It is necessary that we believe that the child is very intelligent, that the child is strong and beautiful and has very ambitious desires and requests. This is the image of the child that we need to hold.

Those who have the image of the child as fragile, incomplete, weak, and made of glass gain something from this belief only for themselves. We don’t need that as an image of children. Instead of always giving children protection, we need to give them the recognition of their rights and of their strengths.”

Loris Malaguzzi

By Pia Coates and Liz Chavez

The Schools of Early Learning (SOEL) have a rich history in inquiry-based learning; deciding many years ago to bring the work of educators in Reggio Emilia to Western Australia and the children in their care. Each year teachers and educators from our six SOEL centres engage children in research to dig deep into an idea or concept. This yearly idea or concept is based on the findings from the previous year’s research and is encompassed in a BIG idea.  This BIG idea frames the children’s and educator’s research.

For 2023, the 4-year-old Kindy Research Focus was: Social Justice

EYLF Outcomes: Outcome 1.1, 1.3, 1.4, 2.1, 2.2, 2.4, 3.1, 4.4, 5.1, 5.2, 5.3 and 5.4

SOEL Values: Curiosity, Leadership, Mindfulness, Integrity.

To support the educator’s understanding and engagement in this research, the Pedagogy Team facilitated quarterly Network meetings and monthly Kindy, Studios and Educational leaders’ meetings across all SOEL centres.

A range of methods were used to engage children, families, and educators in this research BIG Idea.  Some examples of this were:

  • Developing experts and guardian programmes
  • Implementing a Kindness curriculum
  • Observing children’s play
  • Discussing challenges and successes at Kindy and Network Meetings
  • Focusing on Emotional literacy and Self-regulation strategies through Circle of Security Approach training
  • Resources such as “Antibias in Action- The Early Years” and the Antibias Curriculum 4th Edition by Red Ruby Scarlet.
  • End of year Art Installation making the 4-year-old children’s learning and thinking visible to families
  • Engaging with the Local Communities

The educators met for their final meeting in October 2023, to share their findings, and challenges and identify patterns and recurrent ideas across the six SOEL 4-year-old Kindy programmes.

The findings from the 4-old Kindy 2023 research into Social Justice are:

BIG Ideas such as justice and kindness are best researched over a few years.

“The concept of ‘Social Justice’ is broad”’, so we are on a continuous learning journey; As educators, sometimes we need to step back and listen first”.

– SOEL kindy educator.

  • Educators were able to move from exploring the concepts to confidently putting ideas into action over two years.
  • Doing this builds a classroom culture that supports children to feel comfortable, secure, and supported.
  • Circle of Security builds a culture where educators become responsible for reflecting on themselves and their practices.

We learned that children are willing to advocate for others and need concrete tools to advocate for themselves.   

  • Educators observed that children were more inclusive in their play; advocating for peers even though they might have been identified by others for doing the ‘wrong’ thing.
  • The development of tools for children included:
  • the ‘Rainbow Room’ as ‘A place for everyone’,
  • “Fill a Bucket” book,  
  • Kindness Curriculum to teach mindfulness practices,
  • Happy Flipper the Travelling Whale to act as a concrete object to teach children breathing techniques,
  • Guardian and Expert Programmes offering peer mentoring opportunities.
  • Continuing the work of expanding children’s use of language as a tool to advocate for their rights and the rights of others.

Children are increasingly able to recognise and name their own emotions and those of others.

Families benefit from educators sharing concrete tools to be used at home to support children’s emotional well-being.

  • The use of the travelling journal and objects to gather stories and experiences from home.
  • The Guardians and Expert Programmes were shared with families by their children on arrival and departure in the classroom.
  • Families willingly came together when a clear purpose was articulated e.g. Smoking Ceremony, NAIDOC Week, etc.

Children who transition into a room engaged in justice, kindness and advocacy research need a welcoming and intentional introduction to the programme.

Exploring the concepts of justice and kindness through sensorial experiences and the 100 Languages (construction resources – blocks, magnets, Lego, dramatic play, music) requires educators who are confident in their ability to document learning.

We would like to thank the children, teachers, educators, and families from our 4-year-old Kindy Programmes: Wolgol, Matisse, Kanimbla, Numbats, Clontarf and Preston and Studio educators from our six SOEL Centres.