If there is one thing that COVID-19 taught us, it is the importance of connectedness. As humans, we crave connection to the people and places that are meaningful to us, and to the cultures, values and traditions we share, in order to feel safe and maintain our sense of wellbeing.
As adults, connectedness is not a concept we are usually mindful of, at least until the moment we are thrust into the uncomfortable situation of a new job or a new social scene. At these times we suddenly become acutely aware of the connection between others, and our own lack of connection to those around us.
The lack of familiarity and understanding of what to say and do can be uncomfortable or even overwhelming. Stress hormones can flood the brain and make it difficult to think, speak and make decisions clearly. Until we make a connection. Until we feel we belong.
Kindergarten lays the foundation of connectedness
Children are no different. Connectedness is fundamental to their sense of security, inclusion, belonging and wellbeing, and research confirms it is also vital to their long-term learning and development outcomes.
The Harvard University Centre on the Developing Child (2009) explains that,
Children experience their world as an environment of relationships, and these relationships affect virtually all aspects of their development – intellectual, social, emotional, physical, behavioural and moral. The quality and stability of a child’s relationships in the early years lay the foundation for a wide range of developmental outcomes including self-confidence, sound mental health, motivation to learn, achievement in school and later life, and emotional regulation.
Positive interactions that underpin connectedness help shape the architecture of children’s developing brains. Feelings of security, confidence and competence enable children to take risks, experiment, explore, discover and stretch their skills and thinking, and open the door to future mastery of literacy and cognitive skills (Dombro, Jablon and Stetson, 2020).
Connectedness is also an important protective factor that can help support children experiencing other risk factors and stresses in their life, by reducing the prevalence of stress hormones in the brain that can inhibit learning.
Connectedness is central to quality education
It is therefore no surprise that connectedness is one of the five Learning and Development areas of Harmony’s kindergarten curriculum. Furthermore, positive relationships with children is a key pillar of the National Quality Standard for Early Childhood Education and Care – the benchmark for quality education in all Harmony Centres.
Connectedness in the kindergarten year is about the development of strong relationships between our Early Childhood Teachers, Educators and children, and their role in supporting children to build positive relationships with their peers.
This includes intentionally supporting children to develop the knowledge, skills and dispositions that enable them to relate to others in age-appropriate ways. This significant learning embedded in the kindergarten curriculum supports children to:
- engage with others
- cooperate, share and take turns
- show care and concern for others
- understand fair and unfair behaviours, and
- understand their own personal responsibilities.
Together, these skills enable children to connect meaningfully with others and actively contribute to their learning and their world.
Upholding connectedness in our kindergarten curriculum
The qualified Early Childhood Teachers (ECTs) and Educators who lead Harmony’s kindergarten curriculum uphold the importance of connectedness, and work to build strong and secure relationships with each child through intentional, purposeful and culturally responsive interactions every day.
They take the time to understand and value each child’s unique strengths, cultures, interests, abilities and capacity to make choices, and carefully consider how to build upon these to support and extend their learning.
Our ECTs carefully develop and enact three levels of planning to support connectedness:
- Planning daily rhythms and rituals aligned to long-term learning connectedness goals. For example, daily morning meetings in which children come together and connect through shared interests, personal stories and collaborative planning.
- Planning intentional teaching experiences that facilitate connectedness between children. For example, small group interactions based on common interests and shared ideas.
- Responding to children’s needs in the moment. For example, guiding children to negotiate with peers, solve problems or co-regulate their emotions.
Quality education guided by research
Harmony ECTs and Educators pedagogy (or art of teaching) is guided by the research-based principles and practices of the Queensland kindergarten learning guideline and National Quality Standard, which support best outcomes for children.
This includes responsiveness to children, respectful relationships with children, high expectations for all children, equality and respect for diversity, and the right of children to learn through play and inquiry.
There is so much more to unpack around connectedness, especially through the lens of diversity and respect for others which is discussed in the blog piece Early Learning Education For Respect – The Harmony Way. But for now, here’s a thought to leave you with…
When children feel connected, when they know they can count on the people around them to support their exploration and provide comfort and protection if needed, they feel safe, competent and able to move out into the world or “take distance” to explore, experiment and learn (Cooper, Hoffman and Powell, 2017).
Australian Children’s Education and Care Quality Authority (2018) National Quality Standard, Australian Government https://www.acecqa.gov.au/nqf/national-quality-standard
Centre on the Developing Child Harvard University, 2009, Young children develop in an environment of relationships: Working paper 1, National Scientific Council on the Developing Child https://harvardcenter.wpenginepowered.com/wp-content/uploads/2004/04/Young-Children-Develop-in-an-Environment-of-Relationships.pdf
Cooper, C., Hoffman, K., and Powell, B., 2017, Circle of Security in child care: Putting Attachment Theory into practice in preschool classrooms. Zero to Three 37 (3): 27 – 34
Dombro, A., Jablon, J., and Stetson, C., 2020, Powerful interactions: How to connect with children to extend their learning. National Association for the Education of Young Children
Queensland Curriculum and Assessment Authority, 2018, Queensland kindergarten learning guideline, Queensland Government https://www.qcaa.qld.edu.au/kindergarten/qklg