By: Kasia Sulewski, Olivia Murray and Michelle Redeker, Early Childhood Educators

On October 25, 2019, Terra’s Early Childhood Educators from our Child and Family Support Centre welcomed 55 colleagues from the early learning and childcare (ELCC) community to share in professional development. It was a successful day for learning and growth in the field of early learning.

A significant part of Terra’s Early Childhood Educators’ practice is creating documentation and writing learning stories. They do this to share their knowledge, as well as honour what the children are creating, discovering and learning. Documentation is a collection of photos, observations and questions that represent what children are exploring every day. Learning stories are a collection of photos and a sequenced story that shines a light on children’s engagements and dispositions to learn as they play. Pedagogical documentation is created when educators place meaning behind what children are learning, using the information from resource books or from the Early Childhood Curriculum Framework for Alberta, titled “FLIGHT” (Makovichuk, Hewes, Lirette & Thomas, 2014).

The focus of this year’s professional development event was engaging Terra families and the community in the documentation process. Moving throughout the centre, the hallways and rooms buzzed with conversation and excitement as learning and experiences were shared amongst colleagues and ELCC community members. They invited community members to reflect on the following questions:

  • Can pedagogical documentation support educators’ efforts to build relationships with families?
  • Does it promote families’ understanding of what is happening for children in their day-to-day experience in the early learning and childcare environment?
  • How can it bring family more fully into the life of the ELCC program?
meaningful participation

How do Terra’s Early Childhood Educators encourage meaningful participation from families and the community?

  • They recognize that everyday conversations are significant for building relationships and sharing knowledge about children and their experiences.
  • They invite families to engage with what is happening within the playroom. Invitation to contribute is a starting point to building relationships and empowering families. For example, in one of the childcare rooms, families were invited to decorate the Plexiglas sides of their child’s crib with chalk markers to help their child feel more comfortable with their sleeping space. In another room, families are invited to come in and answer the question, “What does family mean to you?” on chalk boards on the wall.
  • They ask questions. Families’ experiences are meaningful in that they offer rich perspectives to documentation and bring life into the playroom community. For example, in one room families were given a questionnaire asking about their child and their routines to help make it easier for them throughout the day. It included questions such as: “How did you choose your child’s name?” and “What helps soothe your child?”
  • They encourage families to participate. Inviting families to participate with their children in experiences can further families’ understanding of what their children are learning in their play and how educators support them. For example, in the Cedar room, families were invited to paint a large canvas with their children.
  • They value inclusiveness. Providing families with equal opportunity to access and contribute to documentation encourages a broad spectrum of ideas to emerge and opportunities to grow. For example, in each playroom, documentation binders and sticky notes are accessible for the families. Educators invite them to contribute to the living wall and read their child’s learning stories.

A young mom absorbed in her son’s learning story.

Reflections from the day

After a full day of presentations, conversations and knowledge sharing, the educators’ passion for lifelong learning was evident. Some of the comments from attendees include:

“Seeing how inspired and thoughtful the educators are, the curiosity and commitment to furthering community and a sense of place.”

“Thank you Terra educators. I love your willingness to share what you are doing.”

[I am inspired by] “Your educators! Your responsive environments! What great work you are doing…and the difference you are making in our community.”

“The skills, experience and thoughtfulness of Terra staff is just so evident. I am leaving inspired by the way they have focused on relationships and partnerships as a way of building a strong early learning and care environment.”

“The staff are so incredibly knowledgeable, committed and creative. What a gift for families to be able to engage with these fantastic humans. The responsiveness to families is beyond inspirational.”

Learn more about Early Childhood Educator Professional Development Day here.