Like the country we live in, Today’s Family believes that our diversity makes us stronger. We take the opportunity to celebrate each individual child, and acknowledge that their differences are what makes each child so unique and incredible.
And we think that making this diversity a fundamental part of the classroom is incredibly important. A report titled Young Children Develop in an Environment of Relationships by the Center on the Developing Child at Harvard University says that “Young children experience their world as an environment of relationships, which affect virtually all aspects of their development.”
To put it another way, “Every child deserves to have someone’s eyes light up when they enter the room.” (In case you were wondering, that’s a quote from Jane Clinton’s presentation to the Ontario Ministry of Education way back in 2012.)
The beginning of a new year offers a great opportunity to explore this diversity, while also allowing the children to take ownership of the classroom space. The children at one of our Before and After School programs were invited to decorate a corner of the classroom with their names, their likes and dislikes, and a self-portrait of themselves. The moral of the exercise was simple: we are here, and this is our classroom.
“It is wonderful to see them opening up to each other in a mix age group and sharing their likes, dislikes and talents,” said one of our Early Childhood Educators.
What struck us the most about these self-portraits was what each child chose to focus on. Some wrote about their parents, their religion or their ethnicity, or their favourite food. Others talked about their favourite TV shows and their favourite sports. Others still wrote down their personal talents.
It was a reminder that diversity doesn’t have to mean different religions or races, that diversity can be diversity of interests and ideas. The important thing is that every child in that classroom is a child, and they feel safe with each other.
And that is the most important lesson of all.