Unity and Connectedness in the Face of a Pandemic

Project author:

Project summary:

An observational study of children aged 3-5 and their sense of “Unity and Connectedness” in home-to-nursery transitions during a global pandemic.

Introduction

This project looks into the importance of Unity and Connectedness and the impact that this has on a child’s wellbeing through their experiences in nursery throughout the pandemic. This has been a process of observing children in play environments as well as interviews with the children about ‘What Matters to Me?’ The purpose of undertaking this project is to gain a clear insight into what is significantly important to each child and developing a true sense of Unity and Connectedness.  It is only now during the pandemic that children, parents and practitioners are challenged to ensure this ethos of Unity is nurtured while negotiating ever-changing rules and restrictions.

Context

As a newly built family centre working with children aged 3-5 years opening in the midst of a global pandemic was challenging in many ways. This required creative thinking in order to ensure every child and family felt a sense of Unity and Connectedness when settling into a new environment. This led to a feeling that the importance of recognising Unity and Connectedness was key in the early transition phase as well as continuing to nurture this throughout the child’s time at nursery. Through observing playthrough active listening as part of our play pedagogy I was able to observe the areas and interests that made the child feel secure and happy but I still felt that in order to truly gain deeper insight to the children’s feeling of Unity and Connectedness further research was required. Throughout the discussions with the children the nursery environment was enhanced to incorporate their interests and promote an ethos of connectedness through the environment. These feelings of Unity and Connectedness underpin the every day experiences of children and nurturing and enhancing these was key to ensuring children develop and learn. Working collaboratively with children and parents was essential throughout this project.

Methodology

The main research participants were the children and their parents in order to promote a sense of Unity and Connectedness with both the children and their parents. The unique factors to consider were including all children within this project and the consideration of pre-verbal children. To support this process observations and interviews with parents were vital order to consider the needs of every child individually. In order to offer parental feedback/ insight opportunities in light of the restrictions to ‘walk and talk’ were made available as well as phone calls. The parents were given the opportunity to feedback on the project at all times. Observing the children at play was key to this project and this required taking time sampling and targeted observations of individual children to observe the Unity and Connectedness of the children in different areas of play. In addition to interviews, the children also photographed their learning environment demonstrating what the was significant to them. In conclusion when the children have considered what is important to them and creates an ethos of Unity and Connectedness a tapestry will be sown, by the children, parents and practitioners in order to display the interconnectivity of everyone at Overlee.

“I love everything about nursery because my friends are with me and we can play all day together. Nursery makes me so happy”

Child L - aged 4 years

Findings

The observations that were carried out through the children’s settling and play demonstrated that children developed a strong sense of autonomy in their learning environment. Children engaged in their environment not only with their peers but with the resources and the furniture that the children were completely comfortable moving in increasingly creative ways to enhance play. Observing the children transitioning from home to nursery, I observed the children’s increasing independence and connectedness to the nursery environment. Areas such as individual pegs, being greeted by their own key worker and peers evoked emotions such as joy, excitement and delight. This introduces the concept of children’s transition from home to nursery when restrictions ease, promoting the continuation of current procedures.

Children would actively seek their key worker and friends and immediately find a play experience that created a sense of Unity within the nursery. When interviewing the children using props and a camera to photograph their findings family, siblings and friends were of high importance to the children and this highlighted the need to involve them in the daily life of the nursery. As this was not possible to be introduced in person a ‘Family Wall’ was introduced where photographs and ‘special memory items’ were added into the play room for children to access at all times. The photographs were available into playroom in a basket that enabled children to use these props through play. One child took her family photograph and ‘showed’ her family all the areas of the nursery. By introducing a camera for the children to take photographs ‘What Matters to Me’ gave us an insight into what created that feeling of Unity and Connectedness for all the children. As a result of this most children photographed the other children and areas that they play in most often.

Parents discussed the importance of involvement and building trusting, reciprocal relationships with key staff. Introduction opportunities for parents and staff to explore the local woodlands with the children were available and very successful in building these relationships. Parents expressed an interest in exploring the nursery environment when restrictions eased and when they did children led their parents through the playroom in a relaxed and playful experience. Through the opportunity to learn more about what makes children, parents and staff feel a sense of Unity and Connectedness has enabled us to build a Froebelian Inspired, inclusive and nurturing learning environment for all to enjoy.

Conclusion

In conclusion, taking time to observe and discuss the important and significant areas of a child’s life, and enhancing them at nursery, has supported their sense of Unity and Connectedness. Through active listening ‘what is important to the child in their life has promoted a sense of Unity and Connectedness within the home to nursery transitions. Actively involving parents within this process, consulting them in areas such as our vison, values and aims has built bridges in creating a joined-up approach to every child’s learning experience and wellbeing. Moving forward the children’s Unity and Connectedness will be nurtured through our nurturing, inclusive approach.

Dissemination/Impact Report

Please see link to Dissemination Report that gives details of the Unity and Connectedness Project

 

https://drive.google.com/file/d/1vNgWzgbpi4pJbria2mSWCY_DM2NLQ8f9/view?usp=sharing

Research implications

As a newly built family centre working with children aged 3-5 years opening in the midst of a
global pandemic was challenging in many ways and required creative thinking in order to ensure
every child and family felt a sense of Unity and Connectedness when settling into their new
environment. As a result of the research carried out and the team, parents and children had a
better understanding of Froebel’s theory of Unity and Connectedness. We have also created a
child-led, enriched ‘Welcome Policy’. Each child’s transition from home to nursery is now
individually catered to their needs and their sense of Unity and Connectedness is nurtured
through daily welcome interactions, transitional objects and family photographs. Children have
developed a strong sense of identity and autonomy within the playroom and each area of the
playroom supports the children’s interest. Froebel’s theory of nurture and care has been
implemented when the children transition into nursery from home by supporting children’s
wellbeing through changing their shoes, washing their hands and faces as well as brushing their
teeth before they begin to play.
Children reflect on their experiences from both home and nursery and add their thoughts,
ideas, words onto a ‘What Matters to Me’ wall that has supported the children’s
understanding of ‘Children’s Participation’ and feeling listened to by their care givers.
Through the team’s development of active listening and observing practitioners Pedagogy of
Play has enhanced to support the children’s learning.
When discussing what is important and significant to the children, family was identified as
key area for most children. This is where the challenges of the Covid-19 restrictions required
creative thinking and the Froebel practitioner provided family items and photographs for the
children to use through their play. This was well received with the children and was
enhanced by the creation of a family wall where the children could interact with family
photographs throughout the day. The value of this resource supported the transitions of a
number of children and was added into the ‘Settling Policy’ for children settling in the future.
The findings and methodology of this research proposal will be shared within the Local
Authority to support other establishments and teams to develop their awareness of the
importance of children’s Unity and Connectedness.
Through active listening ‘what is important to the child in their life has promoted a sense of Unity
and Connectedness within the home to nursery transitions. Actively involving parents within this
process, consulting them in areas such as our vison, values and aims has built bridges in
creating a joined-up approach to every child’s learning experience and wellbeing. Moving
forward the children’s Unity and Connectedness will continue to be nurtured through our
nurturing, inclusive approach.

Practitioner enquiry

I believe that research is highly valuable aspect of professional learning. It provides the
opportunity to challenge practice and to fully consider the rationale behind our actions. It allows
us to critically reflect with peers and to utilise the informed professional dialogue to ensure best
possible experiences for our children.
In order to enable research to continue as part of routine practice moving forward we need to
ensure time and space is provided to have informed discussions and to read new and existing
documentation. An opportunity to engage in a shared practitioner research inquiry would also be
beneficial. This may take place within the same centre or across a cluster/authority.

Leadership learning

Through supporting this research programme, I have been involved in discussions
around the change process and considering what really matters to our community, This
has impacted our setting and a sense of ‘togetherness’ is evident in our vision and
values.
As a leader I have also learned the importance of coaching and professional dialogue to
help ensure the research project succeeds. Also when to support and when to allow
space to think and explore a range of possibilities.

 

Author and role

Ana Castro, Head Teacher

Comments from other network members

What did you appreciate about this research? What forward-looking questions did it raise for you?

  1. Fiona Ferguson
    Fiona Ferguson
    25 May 2022 at 2:54 pm

    What a wonderful project. It is heartening to see that you have embraced, after such a difficult period for children and families, the recognition to support unity and connectedness at a time where nurturing approaches are desperately needed. It will be lovely to see how this evolves as parents and families are now able to take a more active hands on role in the life of early years center’s now that restrictions have eased further. You should be proud of this project.


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  2. Stacey MacKinnon
    Stacey MacKinnon
    25 May 2022 at 8:12 pm

    This was a fabulous project! I liked the creative approaches used to helping families stay connected and the lovely touches incorporated to help settle the children. By reading this project I can sense that the children were given an enhanced transition experience, allowing them to self-regulate during a difficult time. I think you should continue to share your research and practice. Thank you.


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  3. Joanne Greig
    Joanne Greig
    25 May 2022 at 8:30 pm

    Researching unity and connectedness is particularly relevant as we emerge from the last couple of challenging years. Acknowledging the importance of the environment in building relationships between children, keyworkers and parents was lovely. As the restrictions begin to end it will be nice to see these relationships continue to develop.


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  4. Joanne Greig
    Joanne Greig
    25 May 2022 at 8:30 pm

    Researching unity and connectedness is particularly relevant as we emerge from the last couple of challenging years. Acknowledging the importance of the environment in building relationships between children, keyworkers and parents was lovely. As the restrictions begin to end it will be nice to see these relationships continue to develop.


    Report comment

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