The cooperation within the Diversity+ project consortium has been very fruitful and it already resulted in creating common initiatives among the partner organizations and generated synergies in the field of ECEC. We are presenting two of these initiatives, developed by Škola dokorán – Wide Open School, n.o. and made possible thanks to invaluable involvement of some other partners in the Diversity+ project.
Strengthening and Supporting the Early Childhood Development Workforce - ECDPLUS
Together with CIAPE, project coordinator of Diversity+ project, we have been implementing the Erasmus+ project ‘Strengthening and Supporting the Early Childhood Development Workforce’ – ECDPLUS, with a focus on creating the necessary skills for the ECD workforce. By promoting innovative practices among the ECD personnel we aimed to help them provide high-quality services to children and their families. The first project output was a thorough analysis of the educational systems and the approaches taken in the area of early childhood education and care in the four participating countries. The report findings will serve as a basis for the development of Policy Recommendations at the national and EU levels at a later stage of the project.
The consortium also selected four areas to be promoted and strengthened in the ECD workforce. Two comprehensive training manuals were produced around the four areas (Parenting, Home visiting, Respecting diversity (Education for Social Justice) and Persona Doll Methodology) and used for the training of five trainers per country, which will spread the gained knowledge and skills acquired to a larger group of ECD staff during the workshops that will take place at the beginning of 2023.
The training manuals were written by experienced trainers and experts in the field of ECD, and developed in a way that is engaging and informative at the same time. We believe that the ECD workforce will greatly benefit from the in-depth knowledge and skills in the four selected areas and make use of them in their daily work. We realize that lifelong learning and continuous acquisition of skills are a must in the field of early childhood development in order for the ECD workforce to provide high-quality services for their target groups.
The first training manual focuses on Parenting Skills and Home Visiting methodology and provides the ECD workforce with tips and tricks that allow them to work with families also in their natural environment, outside the official preschool settings. These approaches are oriented largely toward parents and children in the zero to three age group.
The second training manual covers the topics of Education for Social Justice and Personal Doll methodology under the name of Respecting Diversity and provides insights into how the ECD staff can work with the age group of 3 to 6-year-old children to help them develop empathy, problem-solving skills, openness to diversity and pro-social values. Each project partner has contributed their respective expertise in the field and valuable experience. All of the included methods can be used in both formal and non-formal ECD settings.
To learn more about this initiative, visit the project website: http://www.skoladokoran.sk/en/ecdplus/
Building on partnership synergies to advance our efforts in the area of ECEC innovation
The second initiative started following the outbreak of war in Ukraine. In collaboration with UNICEF, Škola dokorán – Wide Open School n.o. has launched the Play and Learning Hubs Project in Slovakia. These hubs are currently located in six locations throughout Slovakia: Košice, Prešov, Žilina, Poprad, Spišská Nová Ves and Tatranská Lomnica. The objective is to connect Ukrainian and Slovak children and enhance inclusion among them. Nurturing, educational and safe environment has been provided, where the children can play, make new friends, work on various creative projects, learn many new things and spend time with their parents and grandparents.
Before the war, play and learning hubs operated by Škola dokorán – Wide Open School n.o. were mostly located in pre-school and elementary school environments, attended by children from Slovak, Romani and Hungarian communities. After the outbreak of war in Ukraine it was confirmed that the concept of play and learning hubs is universal and can be tailored to basically any target group.
The main goal of a play and learning hub is to create a stimulating and inclusive space for children in a non-formal environment; however, it is very important, to involve adults as well.
Some of the workshops organized in the play and learning hubs are intended for adults only and include e. g. lectures on psychological support, prevention of violence against children or prevention of human trafficking.
All workshops are organized based on the needs of the local target group, and designed in a way that enables the adults/parents/grandparents/caregivers to play/learn/work/create together with children.
People from Ukraine come from a very difficult situation and want to spend as much time with their children as possible. Thus the aspect of intergenerational learning is very strong. Even the senior citizens have been involved, such as Anna, who attends the play and learning hub in Tatranská Lomnica. Anna does not have any children and came to Slovakia by herself. She felt scared and lonely. In her late sixties, she could not imagine starting from scratch. Then she heard about the play and learning hub and started visiting it regularly. She plays with the children, helps with the creative activities and reads stories to the youngest children. Anna says: “I feel ten years younger. Thanks to the play and learning hub I found a reason to live again.”
Her story is very inspiring and proves that the play and learning hubs are very beneficial not only for the children but also for their parents, grandparents and other adults.
Upon opening the six play and learning hubs in June 2022, we provided their staff with the best possible education and prepared them thoroughly for the work in the play hubs as not all the employees and volunteers (especially those coming from Ukraine) had a full education and experience to work with children aged 0-8. During four intense weekend seminars, they were introduced to important concepts and useful methods and tools. For one of the seminars that was much appreciated by the participants, we invited our partners from Diversity+ project, the International Step by Step association – ISSA from the Netherlands. Two highly experienced trainers and professionals in the field, Zorica Trikic and Aljosa Rudas joined us and introduced the play hub employees to inspiring activities that they can do and organize with the children and their parents. It was a great opportunity to join forces and we were very grateful that they could share with them their extensive knowledge of working with young children and families in difficult circumstances and dealing with traumatic experiences.
To learn more about this initiative, follow the website: www.skoladokoran.sk/en, our Facebook page (@Play Hubs SK) and Instagram (@playhubssk), or read the recently published article “Play Hubs in Slovakia are responding to the needs of Ukrainian refugee children”.
Co-Baby: Professional early childhood education and care within co-working spaces
CIAPE, through its innovative hub, The Apartment, and ISSA engaged in a partnership supported by the Erasmus+ programme called Co-Baby. Together with another organisation from Slovenia, the project aims to promote the transformation of co-working and unconventional working spaces, such as libraries and bars, into family-friendly spaces where professional early childhood education and care are provided while parents are working or networking.
The implementation of the project has included a training week in the Netherlands (May 2022) for early childhood professionals and educators willing to gain a deeper understanding of quality pedagogy and acquire the necessary skills to respond to each child’s needs and empower their growth and development in a nurturing and stimulating environment.
The training was followed by a study visit in Ljubljana (Slovenia) also for future co-working managers who intend to innovate their spaces on the basis of inspiring practices of family-friendly spaces, that are supporting work-life balance with offering different childcare facilities, workshops and support activities for parents and their children.
The next step in the project will be to organise national workshops in the three countries involved with the aim to raise awareness about the importance of adopting training innovative methodologies and approaches.
For more information, visit the project website: https://theap.it/co-baby/
Author: Katarina Panikova, Project Manager, Škola dokorán – Wide Open School n.o., Slovakia
Photos: Courtesy Škola dokorán – Wide Open School n.o.