Children who feel a sense of identity, community, and friendship within a group are the most well-adjusted and successful in school. As children progress developmentally, their “world view” expands to add a greater understanding of the relationship between self and other.
Knowing this, collaboration and identity activities here at Rosa Parks Early Childhood Center take center stage. The children’s values, beliefs, and ideas are fostered at our school through the emphasis we put on building community. Some examples supporting identity and community building include identity panels, room signs, family pictures, me books, and birthday committees.
Identity panels offer an opportunity for all children to draw, sketch, and/ or collage creations supporting their physical appearance. Individual creations displayed in hanging panels promote each child’s place within their room and community. This is an extended process where children look at themselves in mirrors noting the intricate details that make them distinctive. This reminds all of us that it is each child, along with his or her strengths, successes, and accomplishments, which creates the formation of a true classroom community.
Families too play an integral role supporting each child’s identity and development, and we strive to support these school family connections.As children feel safe and comfortable in their learning environment, their success in school is greater and their membership is more overt. Family pictures, both movable and visible, are displayed in each classroom in a variety of welcoming ways hoping to support these basic required feelings of safety and security for both our children and families. Visitors to our building often note their delight as children are seen carrying their family pictures with them to eat, to work, to nap, and out to play.
Birthday committees, another example of identity building, serve as an alternative to traditional birthday parties allowing all children to share who they are and work in a collaborative committee setting supporting friendship and negotiations. Birthday Committees consist of the birthday child and two to three additional children. Each Birthday Committee decides ahead what questions they will ask their birthday child. Some birthday questions might include, “What is your favorite food?” “What do you like to do best?” and/or “What is your favorite animal?” Each Birthday Committee then utilizes a different pre-agreed- upon medium (clay, paint, wood, plastic, etc.) creating a one-of-a kind collaborative Birthday Representation for that child. Each representation is then displayed year long in their classrooms marking each child’s sense of beginning, information, place, belonging, and connection.