“It’s January, don’t you think it’s time to change the bulletin board?” pointed out a colleague. I looked at our Fall Explorations documentation panel and agreed that it was time to add some of our learning about the changing seasons to keep it current. Over the course of that week, I began searching for a space to move our learning to make way for our Winter observations that still kept the contents of our documentation panel close by so that we could refer to the changes in the season. As I began thinking about how and where we were going to move our documentation panel, I decided to try something different – ask the children.
I often find myself reflecting on a particularly powerful aspiration for young children promoted by Te Whāriki, New Zealand’s Early Childhood Education curriculum: ” to grow up and competent and confident learners and communicators, healthy in mind, body and spirit, secure in their sense of belonging and in the knowledge they make a valued contribution to society” (Ministry of Education, 1996, p. 9). This statement is a constant source of inspiration for me because it recognizes young children as competent and contributing members of society, having the capabilities to determine their own lives by building on experiential knowledge (Hedges, 2014), and understands the young child as a co-constructor of knowledge, identity and culture (Dahlberg, Moss and Pence, 1999).
I decided to use the aspiration found in Te Whāriki as my source of inspiration to involve the children in the decision making process of where to move our documentation panel and what to traces of learning to keep visible. I started by asking the children what text, images and artifacts they wanted to keep from our original documentation panel.
It was so interesting to notice that much of what they wanted to keep were photographs and artifacts from our learning. I noticed that much of the text that was displayed on our original board was not chosen by the children.
Next, I asked them how they wanted to share their Winter observations for our new documentation panel. Some ideas we brainstormed were:
“We can make pictures of the snow.” E.Q.
“I want to bring snow from outside.” M.R.
“I can draw what I learn in books.” L.K.B.
Understanding the young child as a co-constructor of knowledge, identity and culture is a deliberate choice to emphasize the active participation of young children in constructing and determining their own identities while contributing in meaningful ways to the societies in which they live (Moss, et al., 1999; Rinaldi, 2006). In our classroom, this means recognizing that the children have just as much of a say in how and why our documentation panels are created, where they are placed, and what learning is made visible. I’m amazed at how organic and authentic our documentation panel has become; the children in our class are enthusiastic and eager to share their learning with their peers, and most importantly, feel secure knowing that their contribution to our inquiry is valued.
Dahlberg, G., Moss, P., & Pence, A. R. (1999). Beyond quality in early childhood education and care: Postmodern perspectives. Psychology Press.
Hedges, H. (2014). Young children’s ‘working theories’: Building and connecting understandings. Journal of Early Childhood Research, 12(1), 35-49.
Ministry of Education (1999) Te Whariki: He Whariki Matauranga: Early Childhood curriculum. Wellington: Learning Media.
Seitz, H. (2008). The power of documentation in the early childhood classroom. YC Young Children, 63(2), 88.
Tarr, P. (2004). Consider the walls. Young Children, 59(3), 88-92.