One day in a kindergarten – how preschool educators in Georgia improve the teaching environment
The trainings and the series of preschool-based coaching sessions have led to major transformations towards child-friendly physical and learning environments
The partnership, initiated in 2017 between UNICEF Georgia and the Government of Poland, aimed to create successful systems for capacity development of preschool educators to enable them to improve the quality of the educational process in line with new national standards. Rustavi public preschool # 31 is one of seven target preschools where educators and other staff were trained and coached as part of the project. The trainings and the series of preschool-based coaching sessions have led to major transformations towards child-friendly physical and learning environments. Importantly, these successful changes were achieved without any additional costs for expensive materials or resources, as the educators enriched the learning environment with accessible recycled and natural resources. Educators are now better tuned in and responsive to the children’s interests and build up the learning process based on the children’s initiative.
Replacing coloring sheets with open-ended artistic materials and letting children express themselves creatively is an important change that supports children’s imagination, emotional well-being, and sense of belonging to the preschool community.
As a result of coaching, educators started to offer natural resources to children, to develop their numeracy, cognitive, and fine motor skills. During one of these activities, children used red and white beans to fill in the small hand drawn circles and made different patterns on paper.
Over the summer holidays, preschool staff, with the support of a coach and in consultation with children, transformed the gloomy outdoor environment into a vibrant, joyous, and interesting space for children to explore, learn, and play. With the use of recycled or second-hand materials and everyday objects, the transformation cost almost nothing.
With the mix of natural resources, crayons, clay, paper, and glue, children create beautiful pieces of art appreciated by adults. Children’s artwork and creations have become an important source of information for educators as they observe, track, and assess child development. Educators are now better skilled at making child portfolios to track the children’s progress, and to identify and respond to their needs and interests.
The preschool staff creates unique opportunities for children’s development. The parrot – a little special resident of the preschool, is a source of great joy and interest among the children, creating perfect teachable moments for learning about birds, feathers, flying, and much more.
Children creatively use simple, open-ended tire “constructions”. The use of open-ended resources is highly encouraged by the new preschool education standards, as there is no one “right” way to use them, stimulating children’s imaginative thinking and creativity.
Renovations in the outdoor environment leads educators to reevaluate the importance of outdoor space for holistic child development. Educators encourage children to engage in different activities. When the weather is warm, the children can stretch out, relax, and read a book outdoors, which could be a pleasureable learning experience for them.
Children, with the support of educators, planted the seeds of various plants, and watered, and cared for them, observing their growth and transformation. Caring for the plants gave the children a great opportunity to learn about the differences and similarities between the different plants and their growth processes. Through this activity, the children developed skills for caring for the plants and the environment.
The new national standards envision the supporting role of the educator, who does not lead the process, but follows children’s interests and frames their learning. Educator Ketino Demurashvili made an engaging boardgame with egg cartons and colored paper, which children enjoy playing with in small groups. Though simple to make, such board games help children achieve important milestones in their cognitive development.
After the series of coaching sessions, educators started to have a greater appreciation for the richness of children’s aesthetic experiences and expressions, for which simple paper and pencil is not always enough. Using innovative hand-made artistic tools for expressing thoughts and emotions is a great way to support child well-being, as well as artistic and social-emotional development.