Outcome 2 of the Early Years Learning Framework discusses children’s connection to community, peers, and the wider world. It addresses the importance of relationships, and the way children, in the context of these relationships, begin to understand their rights and responsibilities as citizens.
Viewing children as citizens, with rights from birth, is sometimes difficult to comprehend as it requires us to dramatically shift our perspective. This reframing can be complex, but as educators, we have an ethical and legal responsibility to undertake this work under the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child.
Whilst the shift in perspective requires ongoing critical work, the way in which this manifests in our practice with children is much more transparent. The simplest experiences can often be the most powerful, and this is certainly the case when we think about children as citizens.
The EYLF states:
When children participate collaboratively in everyday routines, events and experiences and have opportunities to contribute to decisions, they learn to live interdependently.”
Early Years Learning Framework p.24
At Flinders we interpret this to mean that active, meaningful participation in routines impacts on children’s understanding of citizenship. When children are supported to participate in cleaning and caring for the environment and resources which they benefit from, they feel a sense of authentic contribution: not only do they experience the joy of playing in this space, they also feel the satisfaction of caring for it.
Children frequently seek to participate in cleaning and associated environmental care routines, however as adults we often try to perform these tasks around them rather that in collaboration with them. We seek the line of least resistance, prioritising efficiency, perhaps getting the task done as quickly as possible in order to get back to the more enjoyable (to us) aspects of life.
If, however, our intention is to embed children’s reciprocal rights and responsibilities as active citizens within our teaching, we are challenged to look beyond efficiency to affect; how can I, as an educator, support children’s meaningful participation in this task?
And so, we offer brooms, dustpans, cloths and buckets to children, providing them with space and time to practice and perfect their cleaning techniques. We welcome them into our tasks and provide space for their meaningful contribution. It is not without struggle; it takes time, patience and persistence. But witnessing a child’s satisfaction as they meaningfully contribute to the care of our environment is a joy well worth the effort.