When I first started working at Mother Duck Childcare I was employed as a qualified Preschool Teacher, fresh out of university with braces still on my teeth. I was so proud to have achieved my bachelor’s degree in Early Childhood Education from QUT and even more thrilled to accept a position at a childcare centre.
All of my friends who graduated at the same time as I were shocked that I had turned down a contract with Education Queensland to work in childcare. They couldn’t believe that I would give up the status, work conditions and particularly the holidays to work with children aged birth to five years. The decision to take this position came easily to me and one that I have never regretted, I still thoroughly enjoy working with children aged from birth to five years and in particular, feel privileged to impact young children’s lives in the most critical period of their learning.
This was in 1998 and well before Prep or Kindergarten existed in Queensland. The children I was teaching were aged four turning five and it was the year before formal schooling where they would commence in Year One. Some children would stay with me at Mother Duck and others would leave to attend the “real” preschool (as parents would describe it) at the school. Of course, I was secretly offended to hear parents say this as I had worked so hard to get my degree and my choice to work at a childcare centre instead of a school was an intentional decision which had personal sacrifices.
Now let’s leave my trip along memory lane to look at the Kindergarten program and early childhood education in 2021. The Queensland Kindergarten Learning Guideline has been in use for over ten years and provides guidance for the Kindergarten year throughout all early learning services (childcare centres) and stand-alone Kindergarten services across Queensland. All early education and care services require at least one Bachelor Qualified Early Childhood Educator, with Centres with more than 60 children requiring two. We have come a such a long way in having our Kindergarten Programs recognised at Mother Duck, but still, some families are confused between our program and the “real” Kindergarten and by that, I mean the stand-alone Kindergartens and Kindergartens attached to Private Schools.
For many reasons, these other Kindergartens operate set days of the week, over set times 40 weeks of the year. One of the main differences is that our Kindergarten Programs Operate 12 Hours a Day, 5 Days a Week, 52 Weeks of the Year.
Whilst our operating hours are a benefit for families to support their busy lives, this also supports children. The set hours and set days system in other services can mean that the learning is limited for a child compared to a child attending our Centre over longer days, five days a week. There is simply more time for learning.
Most of the children that commence in our Kindergarten programs have attended Mother Duck Childcare in younger Studios. Whilst the obvious advantage of being in a familiar environment assists our children transition to the Kindergarten Studio with relative ease, there are many other things our Educators do to ensure children are “Kindergarten ready”.
In consultation with our Educational Leader, all Educators in all Studios reflect on what skills and rituals they need to be developing right from the Infants’ Studio, to provide children with “Kindergarten readiness”. This includes ensuring mastery of materials before Kindergarten entrance e.g. the ability to work with clay, use drawing implements and introduction to scissors occurs BEFORE children progress to the Kindergarten Studio.
This also includes the “rituals” children are a part of throughout the day. One example is children from a very young age assist in setting up the meals space and cleaning up after themselves, to have the skills required for the important Kindergarten year.
During the second part of each year, the Educators in the Kindergarten Studio and Senior Studio (which is the studio with children yet to transition to Kindergarten) spend time in each other’s spaces working with the children to ensure they are developing the necessary skills for “Kindergarten readiness”. Also, this means that all children have benefited from this. At another service, many children may be experiencing their first time away from home and require a lot of additional support with settling into the Kindergarten Program.
Most other Kindergartens consist of one classroom with a Kindergarten Teacher and Assistant. The Kindergarten Teacher is “in charge” of the program which means the teacher is required to observe all the children and providing only one perspective of each child’s learning. Space can be limited to fit all the learning spaces in one classroom, which stifles opportunities for children to engage in large play across areas.
Our “studio model” provides a team of Educators (including at least one Kindergarten Teacher, sometimes more). All the Educators in the space are required to observe and document children’s learning and share this in a planned weekly meeting lead by the Educational Leader of the service. Of course, our Kindergarten Teacher shares the unique knowledge they have gained through their studies, but this “capacity builds” all Educators in the Studio. This means that all Educators are working together in the educational program which results in a richer program for the children. This also provides “multiple perspectives” on each child’s learning and development.
The studio model also supports large play spaces for children to engage in deeper thinking and explorations and can revisit play episodes over several days without the need to pack away resources for the next group of children. Explorations can occur over days and weeks which is quite difficult to achieve when two distinct groups of children are using the same classroom space across the week.
Further to this, our Kindergarten Teachers all agree that the benefits of having children attend the Studio across the two years is substantial. It means that the first year has provided the foundation of creating their identity in the play space, as well as become familiar with the resources, traditions, or rituals in the space. The second year then provides a “consolidation” year where deeper learning can occur.
“As I have grown professionally in my career as a Kindergarten teacher, I have often observed the benefits of working with young children for increased lengths of time, not constrained by the ‘calendar year’. As we all know, true, deep and productive relationships need time to be established and nurture. Working with young children in my Kindergarten Studio for two years, instead of one provides me and my team, the opportunity to really get to know the children, support their individual needs and guide them to explore deeper and more fulfilling learning experiences as they mature as active, engaged learners within our community.” – Katherine Fitzgerald, Kindergarten Teacher – Mother Duck Manly
I often hear a fear from families “If my child does a second year, won’t they get bored?”. A play-based curriculum means that children will never be bored as learning and teaching are integrated. Although we have a “Structure of the Day” the learning occurs differently every day.
If you would like more information about the Kindergarten Year at Mother Duck, please make an appointment for a meeting with your Centre’s Educational Leader.
For additional information Download our Kindergarten Program booklet here.
Miss Karen xxx