I was so heartened recently, after a vibrant conversation with Claire van Niekerk the Head Teacher from Bethlehem College Kindergarten in Tauranga. The Kindergarten is involved in a Kahui Ako (Community of Learning) entitled Ngā Whānau O Karaiti that is focusing around the topic of Service Based Learning. In our conversation I was impacted by Claire’s view of the child. She spoke with such passion about children’s ability to make an impact in their communities from a very young age. If I am honest, I guess I had viewed it more like it is our role as educators to help build children’s characters and ability to serve one another as a way to enable them to make an impact in the future. What an amazing perspective to believe young children can impact others now! Claire talked about the importance of building an attitude of gratitude and developing empathy. It has always interested me that these attributes are learned behaviours and not something we are automatically born with. I wonder what strategies you can put in place in your daily centre life to build these ways of being into everything we do?
We are often good at planning special events that in a sense demonstrate ‘one off acts of kindness’. Service learning is about integrating ways to serve others in everyday life – little and often. In Service Learning the learning and the service activity carry equal weight or importance. Children learn through the act of serving and teachers need to plan for and assess the learning outcomes. Perhaps the simple act of encouraging a child to be brave and give Mum a smile when she says goodbye is a way of learning about how to think beyond your own feelings and emotions. Service learning is also about forming sustained and real connections with people in our community who we can help in a genuine and authentic way. It is about providing a space for children to hear about other people’s needs and to support them reflect on what life can be like for others.
This approach is a fabulous model of Christian Education in action and it demonstrates to us that our youngest children can make a powerful impact in society.
We look forward to exploring this approach in more detail in a future CECEAA Hui. It is a privilege to part of a growing learning community where we can learn and be inspired by one another.