There are many different types of celebrations to be had in services from cultural to religious and traditional family celebrations. Each one has the potential for a great deal of learning and partnerships, but also has the potential to be tokenistic and isolating depending on how they are celebrated. Here’s 5 tips to help with making sure your celebrations are meaningful and respectful …
- Reflect on chosen events: There are literally hundreds of events that could be chosen to celebrate across the year and most services have their set events that they pick, but have you ever reflected on why these events are chosen? Do they reflect the families/staff in the service? Do they reflect the children’s interests? Do they allow for connection with the community? Are they age appropriate in their content? Do you have enough knowledge about the events to scaffold children’s learning? Do they children have agency in the way the events are celebrated? Are there more appropriate events to choose? Are the events respectful of diverse family structures and cultural backgrounds? Should the events stay the same every year regardless of evolving and changing communities?
- Consider the needs of the families: Families are constantly changing in regards to availability, employment, work rosters etc. To celebrate events at a time that suits the service without considering the needs of the family and their ability to attend does not make families feel like they belong and matter. Many families struggle to spend valuable time with their children so some services are opting for the gift of time, allowing families to come in to the service for breakfast on the way to work, or after hours to work on an art project or similar with their children. Also consider whether other family members can take the place e.g. does a Mother’s Day morning tea only allow mums, or can it be about celebrating women so Aunts, Grandmas, Big sisters, Loving neighbours can come as well/instead.
- Embed learning opportunities: Consider how much you know about the event being celebrated. It is difficult to embed the learning if there is a lack of knowledge and understanding about the event. Do some research so you can answer children’s questions, talk to families or staff of that culture, understand the significance. Perhaps have these knowledgeable people on hand to answer the children’s questions in meaningful and appropriate ways as and when they arise, instead of a structured ‘lesson’ on the topic.
- Think beyond craft: Many events are celebrated with the making of craft. Often this craft is about the finished product, not necessarily the process, and can at times have very little to do with helping children learn about the event as there is a conveyor belt of children making items. There are other ways to explore events such as discussions, cooking, sensory bins, loose parts, child lead art, etc. Celebrating events should be in line with your philosophy and ideas about how children learn best, just like any other programming decisions.
- Use documentation wisely: .Documenting celebrations can be a meaningful and valuable way to share how children learn through these events in different ways. Instead of a stock standard piece of documentation for everyone, a real assessment of learning could be made for children from the lead up to events and the celebration itself. Also displays can be documented to show how celebrations and events connect the children and the service with the families and the communities, as well as learning about different cultures and valuing diversity.
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