(The Kindergarten Book Week Project, 2019)
Last year, the Kinder children took part in a long-term project to capture their literacy skills and share them with the Choklits community. Beginning in Book Week (a much-loved annual Choklits event celebrating books), the project spanned over several weeks, and culminated in a bus trip (or two) and lots of new books purchased by the children.
After creating many story books throughout the year with great success, the Kinder room educators saw the learning potential in creating a book together about the children’s talents. As with many Choklits ideas, the learning didn’t end there. Why just create a book for the children, when we could plan a long-term project? And so, the motions were set in place for an exciting adventure for the children…
First came the creation of the books. Each child was interviewed about what they were great at. Listening to the children identify and take pride in their talents led to many heart- melting moments. Their talents included helping friends, climbing trees, hugs & kisses, belly dancing, loving girls and writing letters.
“I’m great at hide and seek – I find places that no-one knows who I am! Giving my brother hugs, giving my Mum kisses, helping my Dad do stuff, like packing up. I love giving my family lots of hugs at the same time!” – Abigail
“I’m good at scribbles and I know lots about Pokemon. My next superpower is loving girls.” – Dean
Next came the drawing and writing.
“And…by helping to make this book together, we’ve all discovered that we also have the super powers of being authors (writing the words) and illustrators (drawing the pictures) – amazing!”
Once the children had finished writing and drawing their pages, the families were given the opportunity to purchase a book bound by their child. The children loved practising sewing as they used wool and pre-punched pages to put the book together.
After a few weeks, we sold more than 20 copies of our book, “The Super Powers Of Choklits Kinder”, the proceeds of which were matched by Choklits owner, Jade.
As a group, we talked about different ways to spend the money. Including the voices of the children was important, not only because they had worked hard to create the book, but because the opinions and voices of each child help to drive the program and decisions that influence the children themselves. After many suggestions of different toys, games and books, the children were happy with the final outcome; and an excursion to visit a local Op Shop was planned.
The day was eagerly anticipated and when it finally arrived, you could feel the excitement in the air! Having been on many excursions to a local library and an aged care residence, the children knew what to expect when it came to the routine: something to eat, a quick toilet stop and drink, sunscreen and hats, putting on our ‘hi-vis’ vests and lining up with their partner. The walk to the bus stop was filled with chatter and observations of the sights around them (flowers and plants were a much loved sight!).
Next came the bus ride. Again, the experience was one that was familiar to the children and it showed through their safe and responsible behaviours. Although familiar, I don’t think joy and excitement was any less apparent (bus rides are pretty amazing when you see them through the eyes of a 5 year old!).
After arriving and disembarking from the bus, it was a short walk to Sally’s Boutique (a local opportunity shop in Ringwood). Many of the children were excited to note that they recognised the area and point out the directions of their house and local shopping centre, Eastland. The chatter continued while the sun continued to beam down….and then we reached our destination. We began to note some curiosities….the closed door, the empty car park and then, a note on the door.
It would seem as though a power outage in the area had not taken into account the group of Kinder children who had been anticipating the purchase of some books and some exploring!
So, together we sat in the carpark and talked about how we felt and what we could do next. Disappointed and deflated summed up the initial reactions (educators and children alike!), but we spoke about how that meant we we get to have another trip to visit the shop again soon. The children were pretty elated at the idea of another bus ride – and definitely not displeased at the extra time for playground fun that the unexpected turn of events allowed for.
And so, the walk back began, with more beautiful gardens to view, flowers to pick and a much-enjoyed stop at a small local park. With equipment to climb, swings to swing on and some great hiding spots for mini-beasts, the children were in their element, enjoying outside exploration.
A few weeks later, we set out for a repeat of our journey; this time, with much more success given that the shop was open! After careful selection, the children proudly purchased the new books to take back to Choklits.
“Resilience is the ability to cope or ‘bounce back’ to previous levels of emotional wellbeing after encountering a difficult situation or negative event. Put simply, it is being able to adapt to challenging circumstances and still thrive (Benard 2003).”
While the literacy learning opportunities are evident from an experience like this, there are other aspects that I’d like to unpack.
Firstly, the pride of children who know their identity and strengths, and can voice them to others. The book we created captured the conversations and answers to the question “What are you great at?” and we were very proud to hear the children list their talents (my favourites included showing kindness and loving their families.). What a fantastic way to consolidate their own self-esteem and contribution to a group project as valuable members of the Kinder group!
Every time the children venture further afield than the centre, I’m always struck by the connections they make to those we see. Whether it’s on a library visit, trip to a local aged care residence or walk to the park, the importance of connecting with the community shows. This can take the form of waves, smiles of fellow bus passengers, chats with the locals (gardeners, shop keepers, neighbours enjoying a stroll) and the general enjoyment of connecting with the world around them. Who doesn’t love seeing an adorable group of excited children out and about as a group?
Lastly (my favourite aspect of the whole experience), what the children gained in terms of their emotional well-being. Resilience (namely, coping with setbacks or the unexpected) helps children to bounce back from disappointment. Not only is there a wealth of research behind resilience (see links below), but our guiding curriculum, the Early Years Learning Framework, notes resilience as a vital part of identity and emotional well-being.
“Children become strong in their social, emotional and spiritual well-being. This is evident when children manage change and cope with frustrations and the unexpected”– (Department of Education and Early Childhood Development, EYLF Outcome 3)
The unexpected disappointment of the shop being closed really highlighted the strong foundations and relationships that the children have built with educators. These relationships help to guide them through the experience with a positive outcome.
Our goal at Choklits and in the early education setting is to empower little beings to be strong in their own identity, rising to challenges and secure in their own sense of self. When we see their learning evident in an experience like this, we know that we’re doing something right.
- Information based on a research project taken on by Beyond Blue to increase mental well-being from an early age https://healthyfamilies.beyondblue.org.au/healthy-homes/building-resilience/
- A basic guide to what resilience is and what it means for you early aged child https://www.rch.org.au/ccch-old/resources_and_publications/Resilience_in_childhood/
- Some handy tips on ways to build resilience https://www.theguardian.com/lifeandstyle/2019/jan/05/six-ways-to- raise-a-resilient-child/
- A wealth of research-based info from experts on navigating parenting (I love the added tips about focusing on your own sense of self and resilience skills!) https://raisingchildren.net.au/school-age/behaviour/understanding-behaviour/building-self-esteem/
Choklits blog post authored by Dee Wasserfall, Choklits Child Care Kindergarten Educator.
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Choklits Child Care, 319 Canterbury Road, Ringwood (0pposite the Ringwood Golf Course near the Canterbury Road Eastlink offramp).