Harmony Day on 21 March was an opportunity to celebrate Australia’s diversity.
This month, we hear from Jenny Ashenden, Teacher in Charge, at Larapinta Preschool in the Northern Territory about their daily practice and programs that encourage respect, curiosity, and develop children’s knowledge, particularly in regards to its local Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities.
At Larapinta we use a parent’s eye to understand where children have come from and a teacher’s eye to plan for where they are going to as learners. This means that age, gender, position in family, developmental levels, prior experiences, strengths, needs, cultural backgrounds and family expectations are used to inform our pedagogy, planning and practice.
We strive to create a sense of belonging for the families and children that attend Larapinta Preschool. There is an emphasis on developing and nurturing partnerships with families, local community services and children. Each year we revisit and update the Larapinta Preschool Philosophy to ensure we have a clear understanding of how we can act in a respectful manner towards all cultures.
At our preschool we believe that relationships and partnerships form the foundation for learning and inform our daily practice and long term planning. As we are based in the Northern Territory, we have a particular focus on Indigenous communities but we celebrate and embrace all cultures of our children, families and staff.
Working alongside organisations in our community helps develop our understanding about Indigenous perspectives in our local context. Some examples of these partnerships include:
- partnering with the Central Australian Aboriginal Congress Health Service through the Preschool Readiness Program
- provision of a playgroup organised and run by Indigenous staff members – initially established for Indigenous families but extended to welcome all local families
- attending a Central Australian Early Childhood Educators’ Association meeting, organised by one of our preschool staff members – learning about the world view of traditional owners of the land around Alice Springs via a cultural explanation of how local landmarks and sites of significance were created.
We also make use of the expertise of staff. Last year we celebrated NAIDOC week by organising an excursion to the Alice Springs Desert Park where children and educators worked together to cook kangaroo tail and damper the traditional way, in the hot ashes of a campfire.
Partnerships with families and children
We strongly believe families are the very first teachers and we work in partnership with them. Simple strategies include greeting family members in their home language, having daily conversations, communicating via email and having a suggestion box for feedback.
A ‘My Place’ poster is on display for families to share events, interests and questions from home. Children are encouraged to share their stories in class.
Parent meetings allow us to learn about the backgrounds and cultures of families in detail. A parent shared her childhood memory of a lantern walk, a German tradition celebrating St Martin, and we organised a version that was adopted by the Larapinta Community the following year.
Just a small selection of examples of how we do this when working with and supporting our children and families are:
- staff build relationships that can be nurtured over time as families return with younger siblings
- educators exhibit pictorial and photographic displays so children and families can see themselves reflected in the program and learning environment
- our end of year performance celebrates and reflects our similarities, differences and diversity and children are encouraged to wear traditional clothing.
The Harmony Day website has a number of resources and activities to assist educators to embed respect and celebration of cultural diversity into practice, policies and programs. These include lesson ideas, lesson plans and activities.
Let us know on the ACECQA Facebook page if you have any other ideas or activities to share with educators.