Fostering community connections: advice from Gowrie Victoria
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Fostering community connections: advice from Gowrie Victoria

by Freya Lucas

October 05, 2023

Connecting with families, and recognising them as the first and most influential teachers in a child’s life, is of paramount importance for all early childhood education and care (ECEC) services. 


In the piece below, Gowrie Victoria professionals share three ways in which family bonds are nurtured and supported at each of its six early learning services to foster a sense of inclusion and to value the diverse knowledge and cultures of the families in their care. 


  1. Sharing skills and talent


In all ECEC communities there is a pool of hidden skills and talents. From grandmothers who are into painting rocks to hide, through to older brothers who have a load of soccer trick shots up their sleeve, each community will have a vibrant range of skills and talents extending beyond the classroom.


When families are invited and encouraged to share their time, talent and skills a range of wonderful opportunities opens up. 


Children at Clare Court were recently treated to a special visit from one parent, Jacinda, who is the founder, CEO and artistic director of not-for-profit organisation L2R Dance – a program providing free dance programs, arts leadership opportunities, and employment pathways for children and young people who are traditionally under-represented in mainstream arts and culture.


She visited the service to lead the children in a hip hop dance class. 


“Dance is such a great tool for creative development, and I wanted to create a fun experience for the children so they could also enjoy the health and wellbeing benefits,” she said. “It’s a good way to contribute something back to the community and really strengthens those relationships. Many of the children recognise me when I walk into the room and will stop to say hello, and it gives my own child a sense of pride.”


  1. Sharing culture and traditions


Diversity is celebrated and embraced at many ECEC services, and is viewed as “an integral part of Gowrie life”.


At Gowrie at the Harbour, families are invited to share the different ways they celebrate important festivals, such as Eid, Holi, or Lunar New Year.


Educator Dimple Verma says celebrations are a fun and important way for children, families and educators to actively learn about each other, and to honour the rich diversity of families within the service. 


“We always look forward to including different cultures and getting to know more about them by learning language and culture,” Dimple says. “On Harmony Day, families and children are invited to dress in traditional costume to help celebrate our cultural diversity and sense of belonging.”


At Gowrie Victoria Broadmeadows Valley (GVBV), parents often join Early Childhood Educator Bassima Al Hadi in the kitchen to share recipes. 


“Part of our Adult English Program for beginners at GVBV is to involve parents in cooking a traditional meal for children,” Bassima says. “Cooking together with parents creates closer bonds and helps build a partnership with our families. We use this time to listen, share and talk with each other, helping us to recognise the cultural and social diversity of our families and communities.”


  1. Sharing experiences


Sharing events and experiences, such as community parades, special occasions or celebrations, is one way that the gap between the service and the world outside can be bridged. 


At Carlton Learning Precinct, each of the rooms in the service created something special to ‘sell’ at the Honey Pot Market, with the children able to ‘sell’ and ‘buy’ each other’s products with token money.


The market was such a hit with the children that they wanted to share the experience with their families. They worked together to create jewellery, dream catchers, bookmarks, vases and paper flowers again, to allow their families an opportunity to participate. 


“The market was a great way to bring us together as a whole service and to connect children’s families with us,” explained Educational Leader Kristie Dowell. 


For more advice about creating strong connections with families, please see here. For the original coverage of this story, please see here

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