By Nursery Red Teacher Daniela Kemeny
Did you know that studies show that children begin to form attitudes about people who are different from them, as early as 2 years of age? Children innocently pick up stereotypes, simply as a way to make sense of the world around them. This is why it is important to intervene by giving them opportunities to look more closely at things, people and phenomena around them (York, 2003).
Our role as teachers and adults in an international school is to provide the opportunities where our students can examine their feelings and attitudes towards each other, and challenge them to accept new ideas about a variety of people into their lives, thus developing international mindedness.
This is the reason our unit of inquiry into “Who We Are” has had such a great impact in the learning and development of Nursery children. In this unit, children have been exploring the idea that “we can learn about ourselves and what we can do” and they have been inquiring into “who we are in relation to others”.
At a very fundamental level is the understanding that we all have specific traits and characteristics that define us. We have a name, nationality, age, gender; we have likes and skills. As children explore these things about themselves, they develop self-awareness, and they also learn that they may be similar or different from others, thus exploring the concept of diversity.
Under this context, children in Nursery have been practicing ways to communicate these things about themselves, as well as find ways in which they are different and alike.
Interviewing each other to say simple things such as “My name is… what is your name?” and “I am from… where are you from?” has been a first step that Nursery children have been taking in the journey of discovering and sharing who they are.
They have also explored ways in which they are similar to each other, by finding others with their same gender, nationality, or likes. Children this age are still in a very egocentric developmental phase, and discovering that there are others who have their same nationality, or who speak their same home language, is something that provokes great awe in them.
Learning about each other, identifying their abilities, preferences, and moreover seeing how others may be similar or different to them, have been meaningful ways in which they are developing open-mindedness, reflection, curiosity, confidence and tolerance, attitudes and attributes that are constantly contributing to their development of international mindedness.
York, Stacey (2003) “Roots And Wings, Revised Edition: Affirming Culture in Early Childhood Programs”. Redleaf press, St. Paul, MN