If you are new to the teaching profession, you may have heard about a ‘local curriculum’ and wondered what this means. It is vital that we have a vibrant and responsive curriculum that benefits all of our key stakeholders; the children, their parents and whānau, the teachers within the centre and the local community. Our early childhood curriculum Te Whāriki emphasises the learning partnership between teachers, children, parents and whānau. The Education Review Office has stated that it is an expectation that individual centres design their own curriculum drawing on the broad definition in Te Whāriki, where the curriculum is described as the sum total of experiences, activities and events, whether direct or indirect, which occur within an environment designed to foster children’s learning and development.
There are three main ways to build on your local curriculum. Some centres are active at all three; others may have regular excursions or regular people visiting their centres, while others are at the beginning of their journey.
1) Going out into your Community
At Gaia Education and Development, we believe in the importance of nature and natural elements in child development and we encourage visiting local areas such as nature reserves, parks, streams or beaches.
Excursions outside of your centre is a fantastic way to get out into the community and does not need to cost a lot of money. Taking children on regular walks around your area will help children develop their awareness of the community they live in. Visiting the local primary school playgrounds, helping out at the community gardens, visiting the local beach or library are great places to start. If you have a retirement village close by, making contact with them is valuable. In an article published by The Guardian by James Tapper, it noted that children who regularly interact with older people see improvements in their language development, reading and social skills. It also stated that by playing and reading with children, the elderly are less likely to experience loneliness, while the children get more opportunities for one-to-one reading and play time, it adds.
Making excursions, a regular event in your calendar is an excellent way of developing relationships within the community too. Centres that regularly visit places will have their risk mitigation and risk benefit assessments completed and reviewed often making these trips successful.
2) Inviting Visitors into your Centre
There are times when visiting areas or people are not possible. This is when inviting visitors into the centre allows children to develop their understanding of people who can help us within the community such as the police, fire service, ambulance, local librarian, veterinarians or dental nurse. Even the local waste collection service can be exciting for children. Bringing local people into your centre also allows the whole centre to make a connection and build on the relationship. It may also be beneficial for parents to come into the centre and attend while a visitor is there especially if the visitor is someone that will be a part of their child’s educational pathway, e.g. new entrant’s teacher or dental nurse from the local primary school. You could even invite your parents to pop in for a mat time of their own so they can share their profession and stories about what job they do.
3) Intrinsically in teaching practice
Your centre’s philosophy is your guiding statement for teachers, parents and broader community detailing what is important to your centre (i.e. aim’s, values and beliefs) and what you as a centre will commit to. An embedded philosophy with a commitment to building partnerships and relationships will help develop your local curriculum. Being able to consultatively develop and communicate this with your teachers, parents, whānau and wider community is something that the Ministry of Education and ERO will be looking to see when they visit you.
At the foundation of this is being inclusive and also taking into account a child’s aspirations, interests, identity, language and culture and teachers being intentional in their teaching practice.
It may seem quite overwhelming if you are at the beginning of building on your local curriculum or even how you can articulate what your local curriculum looks like. But by collaborating with your teaching team, gaining feedback from your parents/whānau and using your philosophy to guide you, developing your local curriculum will blossom.
Tapper, J. (2019)– How the elderly can help the young – and themselves. The Guardian. Published https://www.theguardian.com/society/2019/jan/05/children-eldery-intergenerational-care-advantages
Need Assistance getting started?
Here at Gaia Education & Development, we have assisted many centres identify, design, consult and develop their local curriculum or philosophy. An added bonus to working with us is that the following things come naturally to us like expressing and enacting elements of sustainability, partnerships, relationships with community and all living things around us, and guardianship, which are among 24 core Gaia (Earth) values that we have developed. If you would like help in developing your local curriculum or philosophy, please feel free to get in touch with us.
For other ways on how Gaia Education & Development can support you:
- Our Study Tours take you to centres around the world, where you can see, be inspired by and learn from teachers and children being OK with risky play.
- Our 1-1 Mentoring is a supportive and reflective space for you to explore, test and develop your own sense of facilitating, guiding, scaffolding and planning risks in play.
- Our Centre Quality Audits provide a good balance between ‘risky play’ and ‘risky business’.