Academic journal article Australasian Journal of Early Childhood

Joining the Tots: Visual Research Tools to Connect Families and Community in Early Childhood Education

Academic journal article Australasian Journal of Early Childhood

Joining the Tots: Visual Research Tools to Connect Families and Community in Early Childhood Education

Article excerpt

Introduction

Current policy in Aotearoa New Zealand espouses the rhetoric of collaborative partnerships between early childhood education and care services (ECEC) and family-whanau (1) and community (Duncan, Bowden & Smith, 2005, 2006a, 2006b; Podmore & Te One, 2008; Powell, 1997).Traditional modes of collaborative partnerships in most ECEC services have tended to position parents and community as benign outsiders, whose contributions are selectively appropriated as required. While the signs say: 'welcome', the reality says: 'on our terms'. In other words, at the moment, partnerships with parents and community services are inherently unequal, and in our view, this diminishes the potential impact of collaborative endeavours. It was within this context that we engaged in a two-year research project with early childhood teachers to reconceptualise just such partnerships and collaborations between ECEC services and parents and families.

Our research, a New Zealand Teaching and Learning Research Initiative (TLRI) funded project (2) entitled, Active adult participation in early childhood services (Duncan & Te One, 2012; Duncan et al., 2013) repositioned teachers and their pedagogy to include the children's home and also the neighbourhood communities. We recorded and documented reframed pedagogical practices that included active adult participation in a cluster of early childhood centres. The question framing the research was:

   How does active adult participation in early childhood
   education enhance positive outcomes for children
   and their whanau?

The research was a two-year project from 2010 to the middle of 2012 involving the Whanganui Central Baptist Kindergarten and Early Learning Centres (CBK); five centres made up from four ECEC centres, and a parenting resource centre. The focus of the project was to investigate how 'ordinary (1) early childhood centres enact 'extraordinary' pedagogy, by including families and wider whanau in 'everyday' early childhood programs. These ECEC centres were the ideal place and people to partner with on investigating this topic as the CBK has been actively involved in the Whanganui community for many years, not only as a provider of early childhood education, but also as a provider of a range of parent supports, programs and interventions. The CBK has entwined a range of other professionals and programs around the parenting resource centre and the ECEC centres to ensure a wraparound approach to parenting in the early childhood years. The parenting resource centre is part of the CBK complex and is positioned down the road to provide some privacy for parents to come and go from its location. It is on this model of community-based intervention alongside ECEC services that this research project took its activities and frame of reference.

The research

The practitioners at CBK began by looking for daily opportunities to expand and extend their connections and conversations with the parents. They had previously held occasional events for the families and whanau but, in response to the feedback from parents and the increased opportunity to connect with families-whanau, these events increased in frequency and expanded into wider community events. A new position was created with a Parent-to-Parent Facilitator joining the teaching teams to intentionally and deliberately connect parents as a daily routine at drop off and pick up times. The provisions of the parenting resource centre included: coffee mornings, activity groups and sessions (generated by the facilitators or the parents present), Supporting Parents Alongside Children's Education (SPACE) sessions, counselling support, having food and clothing available, assistance with government and health services, and parent education sessions (both formally and informally). Services and supports offered by parent facilitators became an integral aspect of the whole CBK experience. …

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