Building Communities: Begins in the Early Years with Early Childhood Services and Professional Teachers
This presentation explores the role of building and maintaining networks and communities for healthy personal, family and whanau relationships through early childhood services. Data from New Zealand studies, within early childhood settings, have provided evidence that early childhood services are the ‘natural places’ for providing links between families within their community. The role that teachers and services can play in building communities is a change from traditional child--centred philosophies, but fits with most teachers understanding and awareness of the need for partnerships with parents and their role as a professional in the community. Building, supporting and growing communities is often the subject of debate amongst social services and educational agencies, but is less often heard in the ‘market place’ or political sectors. Where a community does come to the attention of media and political spotlights is when the ‘community’ is needed to support a function that any particular service or government no longer wishes to have responsibility for. Communities themselves are required to care for those within them, but New Zealand research from childhood geography have demonstrated the changing understanding of ‘community’ for children and their families, and the different experiences of childhood that children in the 21st century have from those who grew up in the 19th or 20th centuries. Undeniably, strong communities and networks support strong families; strong families with less health, social, mental and emotional issues, i.e more resilient. This presentation explores how early childhood teachers, services and training providers can be rethinking early childhood pedagogy, professionalism and practices to assist parents, families and communities in the years ahead. As both New Zealand and Japan have experienced devastating natural disasters in the early months of 2011 the importance of building and maintaining communities across these early years for families will conclude this presentation.