Gee time has flown since our last blog post! Just goes to show what happens when you decide to have a third baby!!
For months now I have had this large, framed map of Australia sitting in my bedroom, plotting and planning a project that I had been envisioning for even longer.
This weekend my amazing husband decided to take our two older children to the motocross for the day, leaving the baby and I to our own devices. While the baby slept peacefully, I ate way too many clinkers, watched way too many episodes of Nurse Jackie and finally decided to tackle my project.
I printed out small images representing each of the family holidays we have been on together. Using cardboard tags (Kmart) I created snippets that captured our favourite holiday memories. I then hung them on the corresponding place on the map using string and tiny pegs (again…Kmart) Simple!
In the process of creating this map (which we cannot wait to add to!) for our family home, I began thinking about how we incorporate families into our services in meaningful ways. I have seen many belonging trees (I am not 100% sure why it so often is a tree?) in services, where families are asked to bring in a photograph of themselves to place on the tree. I have seen photographs in frames and information sheets where families are asked to share a little about their lives. As I was creating this I found myself wishing I still worked in a centre, thinking - how cool would this be to do with a group of children?! Then (as I so often do) I began reflecting about the possible implications of this. What about the family who can't afford to go on a holiday? Where does this leave them?
So often, in our attempts to "create a sense of belonging" we alienate, or make uncomfortable, the very people we are trying to include! I distinctly recall during a project on holidays a family telling me they didn't bring any photos in to share as they hadn't actually been on holidays. So how do we make all families feel like they have something to contribute?
Looking at my map, I started thinking about belonging and our community. Perhaps a map like this would be a great project for thinking about places we go in our community. Children could bring in photographs if they choose or do drawings, and on the reverse of the tag, could share their thoughts, memories and stories about the places in their community. It could be the park near their house or the local library where grandma takes them each week. Keep it simple and everyone can be included. Get a map from a street directory or print one from the internet, of your local area and work with the children and families to plot out the meaningful places to them. This way we not only encourage families to be involved and experience a sense of belonging in our services, we also explore and become more deeply connected to the wider community!
Providing inspirational professional development opportunities for Early Childhood Educators