How kindergarten No. 35 “Freedom” in Stara Zagora includes children
Sharing through drawings, puzzles, emotional training
In 2021, 30 kindergartens from the districts of Burgas, Sliven and Stara Zagora appointed 44 new specialists – psychologists, speech therapists, resource teachers – to work with children with disabilities and learning difficulties as part of the European Child Guarantee Pilot Project in Bulgaria. The project is funded by the European Commission and is implemented with UNICEF’s support.
We present some of the new practices for inclusion, which are already being applied in Kindergarten No. 35 “Freedom” in Stara Zagora. Plamena, the new psychologist in the kindergarten, talks to us:
There are two girls in our kindergarten who are 6 years old and are in the two fourth groups, respectively. Their teachers shared similar things about them – that they rarely answered questions, did not take the initiative, found it difficult to express an opinion and communicated only with certain children in their group.
That’s why I chose to work with them using a slightly different model – not with each one individually, but in a small group.
I started taking the girls along with one or two other children from the respective group, with whom I also work, and each time we chose different topics and activities. In such a small group, it was much easier for the children to relax and get to know their pals, as well as to talk about themselves or express opinions.
Sometimes conflicts arise in activities that require taking turns or working together, which is a good occasion for children to discuss their feelings, share their discontent, or find ways to work together. I try to provide them with an environment in which everyone is heard and participates equally.
This way the girls manage to create a special and close relationship with new friends with whom they have barely ever played together.
Some of the most enjoyable activities we have done as a group are:
I prepare in advance a sheet on which I have written: “I can, I know, I have, I want.” Under each line, each child must draw what is true for them. When everyone is ready, we share – everyone talks about their drawing and introduces themselves to the others. We discuss and we talk.
Two children draw a picture together on a piece of paper. They choose the topic themselves, but they have to draw with one pencil which they hold together. For each, element they switch and take turns as the leading hand.
Everyone paints a picture with a negative focus – something bad, alarming or scary. Then everyone redoes their drawing, so that the story ends in a positive way. We discuss different options for action and for the development of the situations at hand.
In addition, we often assemble puzzles or play Tetris together, and again it is important that everyone participates equally, talks a lot and resolves conflict situations in time.
I recently planned to have a short training with the children from the third and fourth group, related to the basic emotions – understanding, expression.
During the activity, we will discuss the topic, and the children will receive materials that they can take home in order to provoke their parents to share their personal experiences and emotions with them. I consider such an experience extremely useful in terms of strengthening the parent-child relationship.
The support for quality inclusion in kindergartens is one of the components of the European Child Guarantee Pilot Project in Bulgaria. This activity is carried out in 30 kindergartens from 10 municipalities – Aytos, Burgas, Kazanlak, Kotel, Nova Zagora, Sliven, Sredets, Stara Zagora, Tvarditsa and Chirpan. Kindergartens create an appropriate physical, social and educational environment which allows for the full participation of each child in the educational and social processes. The capacity of the Regional Centres to support the process of inclusive education, as well as that of the Regional Education Bureaus, has been strengthened.
The main activities are:
Training programme for kindergarten specialists on topics related to the modern understanding of the application of educational approaches and practices in a quality inclusive environment and early detection of difficulties;
Appointment of additional specialists and assistant teachers, where needed;
Enhanced application of assistive technologies for augmentative and alternative communication;
Group work with parents in the kindergarten on individual topics aimed at early childhood development;
Improving cooperation between kindergartens, social and health services to facilitate the transition family – kindergarten – school;
Strengthening the capacity of the Regional Centres to support the process of inclusive education to assess the needs of children with disabilities and to support kindergartens and individual cases;
Strengthening the role of the Regional Education Bureaus in facilitating the exchange of experience and good practices and in promoting the use of assistive technologies for augmentative and alternative communication.
This project is funded by the European Union
© UNICEF-Bulgaria, 2021
The information and views in this article are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the official position of the European Union. The institutions and bodies of the European Union or a person acting on their behalf cannot be held responsible for any use that may be made of the information contained therein.