Hunter Park Kindergarten

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Friday, August 14, 2009

Spirituality in ECE

A reading by Anna Whitehead in Early Education 45 got us discussing what is spirituality?
She pointed out our curriculum,Te Whāriki says 'learning and development will be integrated through recognition of the spiritual dimension of childrens' lives. In culturally, socially, and individually appropriate ways.' (Ministry of Education, 1996, p.41).(My separation of the last sentence.)

It was a hard question to answer, but after discussion with the team my current thinking is that spirituality is about the connections we feel to people, places, things, our bodies and everything. It is our sense of oneness, of belonging to a greater whole.

This ties it right into our curriculum. As we explore our awareness of connections grows, communication feeds the connections we feel, we feel we belong when we feel connected, how connected we feel affects our well being, and we connect to others when we contribute.

The principles that drive how we implement our curriculum, holistic development, relationships, family and community are also all about connections, and empowered is how we feel when we connect in a positive way with others.

One of the easiest ways to measure our spirits is to look at our feelings, because our feelings are tied into our sense of connection. When we feel positively connected, in high spirits, we feel happy. When our spirits are low, when we are dispirited we feel disconnected, sad and lonely. When our sense of connection is disrupted, blocked, or jarred, it can make us feel angry. Our nose (ie our ability to sense a connection) is out of joint.

We don't just feel connected to one thing, we feel connected to many things, people and places at once. The strength of those connections and how they interact will affect how we feel. Say a child feels strongly attached to a toy, leaves it comes back and finds someone else has it, will they feel angry someone has their toy, or happy to see a friend sharing an interest? Is the strongest connection to the thing or the person?

This is universal knowledge, Anna mentions for instance in Māori traditions
the terms whanaungatanga as 'relational acts of love and caring', and manaakitanga 'bestowing respect or kindness.'

Wairua, is a word made up of the word wai, indicating water or a flow, and rua meaning two. One understanding of it's meaning is the connection that flows between two entities.

Nurturing spirituality in ECE, is being aware of how a child's spirits feel, about helping them develop positive connections to the world, about helping them learn how to deal with a low or disrupted spirit.
Part of this is about helping them be aware of how they feel, but it is more than just emotions, because being aware of and managing our connections, trusting them, and having faith in them are skills that must be learned / experienced to have emotional well being. It's about how we relate to and with others.

At mat time today I talked with the children about what made them feel happy and connected. They had some great answers, mum, dad, friends, singing, dancing, food, clothes, pets, getting to help others. Then we talked about the things people do for us and we do for them that can all make us feel happy and connected. It's about raising our awareness so we notice all the things that help make us happy, and even just thinking about these connections left heaps of smiles on everyone's faces.
Later at lunch I asked the children, who wanted to be recorded, some of their thoughts.

Those are my thoughts and some of the childrens'. I'd love to hear everyone else's thoughts are on what is spirituality in ECE. On how we can recognise and integrate the spiritual dimension in childrens' lives in our curriculum. So please have a think and post your comments.
To sum it up spirituality is about how we relate and how we feel.

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