PECE lessons in engaging with fathers, building respectful relationships, and social and emotional learning
The Positive Early Childhood Education Program (PECE) is having positive outcomes across the West Australian Wheatbelt, building solid and respectful spaces which make fathers in the community welcome and making a big impact on the social and emotional learning of children.
In this follow up piece to a story recently shared by The Sector, Andrea Cowcher, KindiLink Early Childhood Educator at Narrogin Primary School shares her perspective on the transformations witnessed by the PECE team.
A safe place for fathers
To begin our conversation, we asked Mrs Cowcher to tell us more about what the service had done to make the space a welcoming and culturally safe place for fathers in the community, and to increase their engagement with the program.
Firstly, she said, the service has engaged Chadd and Basil Kickett in the role of Aboriginal & Islander Education Officer (AIEO). This, she said “makes Dads, uncles, and male cousins feel at ease. The more they come along, the more they join in and support each other.”
Once they feel connected and comfortable, she continued, “the Dads/Uncles/Pops are amazing!
They work alongside the children on the learning games, activities and art and craft work. They join in on the mat sessions, doing actions to songs and conversational reading. They know the set routines and are always available to set and pack up.”
“It seems the blokes often seem to come together on the same days, I think they may text each other and work out who’s going to be there. It’s a great opportunity for them to be with other males and their kids to yarn and support each other,” she added.
When planning activities for the service, Andrea and the team try to build on the interests and feedback of the men. “For example,” she shared, “we did a science experiment ‘elephant toothpaste’ that didn’t quite work out, and a few of the Dads were reminiscing about when they made mentos in coke explosions when they were teenagers. So, I told them we would get the materials for the experiment for the next session. They ran the activity with all the kids the next week and did a fabulous job – it was fun and it built on their capacity and confidence as the educators.”
Educators learning alongside families
Being part of the PECE project, Mrs Cowcher explained, has allowed educators the opportunity to reflect “on what we are doing well”, and to “bring to the forefront of mind the strategies and skills that we do use in our everyday teaching that you don’t think about as they are an ingrained part of what we do. Things like behaviour management, the organisation of the spaces or environments we create and the routines that are embedded into the day.“
Working through these elements to explicitly teach and model them for the AIEO educators has cemented practice for others in the team, and offered opportunities for critical reflection.
While the PECE strategies fit well with the 3a Approach, the unique context of KindiLink means the emphasis is always on parents being the child’s first and most important teacher.
“In a KindiLink setting, we would not implement behaviour routines such as a ‘sit and watch’ or ‘time out’ with their child. We do model distraction and other low key positive strategies,” Mrs Cowcher explained.
Building parent capacity respectfully
Through acknowledging, valuing and utilising the amazing strengths, skills, and experiences that families bring to KindiLink, the team have established strong and meaningful relationships with the community.
“We have one Nan,” Mrs Cowcher said, “who makes the most amazing damper and johnny cakes. She will regularly make damper with the children in KindiLink. She now has the confidence to run damper making sessions school-wide during events like NAIDOC. “
With each activity in the sessions, educators create an activity card to go with it, with a picture of a sample finished product, some instructions for completing the activity independently, and some key words to use while completing the activity, or questions to ask to enrich language learning and promote thinking.
“What is powerful is when you hear families use these prompts or questions independently in other settings, for example, during role play in the hairdressers who has the longest hair, shortest hair, let’s put them in order from longest to shortest,” Andrea explained.
A much larger part of the connection process, she continued, is working alongside families, letting them know how amazing their child is, and that they are doing an amazing job.
“Accepting where the families are ‘at’ when they come into the space and meeting them there is key,” she continued. “For some parents just having the confidence to come along is the first step and that is a big one – it’s vital we support them and build on that.”
Options for bringing PECE to your service
For services wishing to implement PECE on site at their organisation, there are a number of options available. Information is available here, or please contact your local PECE team via email at [email protected] or phone 1300 846 811.
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