I have just got off the phone, I was talking to one of my Rose3 members. We were discussing the ever constant problem of “To Theme or not To Theme”. This question always comes to the fore around the very special events of the year; one of those being Anzac Day.
Commemorating any specific events in the child-focused, true play-based learning environment is always difficult with very young children.
Working with the 0-3 year age group is challenging when considering Anzac day. They will rarely bring the topic up for themselves, so you can’t “follow their interests”; however being part of a community means beginning the journey of understanding as to why Anzac Day is so important. There are also some extremely confronting and generally upsetting ideas to deal with. Death and War are hard topics for adults, let alone children.
An educator can always choose to do a big “craft-fest”…making wreaths and medals with very instructional activities. This usually makes an educator feel good, but what did the 2 year old who didn’t want to do the activities and had all their very half-hearted attempts “fixed” to make sure the produced craft looks “right”, get from it all?
Trying to keep things more open ended is key, read a story to prompt interest or bring in an Anzac Day poster or badge. Ask if any of the children are going to a march. Do any families have medals, parents or grandparents who have been a part of the Armed Forces? Find out what the children understand about Anzac Day first.
If children show interest in wreaths, look at pictures of different ones and let them make their own version, non-compulsory of course (great way to use technology…some fantastic images on the internet).
Educator’s can strive to make this important commemoration more meaningful. One Rose3 member, an FDC educator, has done just that. She has forgone the structured craft for a focus on those who protected and cared during war time. She included in her dress ups (as the children in her care have been very focused on dress-ups in recent weeks and are all 3 or younger) soldiers, nurses, doctors uniforms (or an approximation of, sometimes one hat will do).
This has prompted dramatization and discussion on those who care for us and sacrifice for others. What a wonderful way to begin to understand Anzac Day.
It is this development of understanding that we want to support in children. Creating craft may improve their fine motor skills and ability to follow instructions, but may go no further than that. Understanding comes from open discussion about what children know and what they want to know.
Even the non-verbal child can show interest and the beginnings of understanding, even when there is no physical product to show for it.
To support educators this Anzac Day, I am including two resources below to assist understanding and create meaning. The mind map/web is to see all the places discussion can go. I encourage you to make your own with the children. If this is difficult with a group of very young children, this process is great with parents/families or join with some other educators and create together. Then there is the very helpful facts about Anzac Day information which includes some great websites to visit. (Rose3 members can log in for more Anzac Day resources)
I, personally, grapple every year with the emotions, loss and renewal that is Anzac Day. That balance of solemn remembrance, togetherness of community and celebration of life. So meaningful to us all. Lest We Forget.