Based in the roots of our vision for equitable, accessible early childhood education, one of the core components of our curriculum is anti-bias work. By celebrating individual children’s interests, cultures, and skills, we seek to create an inclusive learning environment that celebrates difference. Yet, we recognize that simply celebrating difference too often leaves room for bias to develop in young children and deeply impacts young children from marginalized communities. It is thus our goal for our learning environments to model a world where bias is worked against and dominant, privileged culture is de-centered.
We challenge children to become critical thinkers around topics like race, ability, gender, socioeconomic status, biological sex, ethnicity, language and communication, and other identity markers. In doing this work, we seek to elevate the voices and perspectives of those who have not had adequate representation. We do this through books, discussions, puppets, and play in a developmentally appropriate way. According to Anti-Bias Education for Young Children and Ourselves, by Louise Derman-Sparks and Julie Olsen Edwards, the four main goals of anti-bias work with young children are:
Identity : Each child will demonstrate self-awareness, confidence, family pride, and positive social identities.
Diversity : Each child will express comfort and joy with human diversity; accurate language for human differences; and deep, caring human connections.
Justice : Each child will increasingly recognize unfairness, have language to describe unfairness, and understand that unfairness hurts.
Action : Each child will demonstrate empowerment and the skills to act, with others or alone, against prejudice and/or discriminatory actions.
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Our goal is to dive into these topics naturally based on interactions in children’s play, children’s questions, and conversations throughout the school day. Yet, we believe that these subjects are too important to always wait for the subject to emerge from the children. At these times, we very thoughtfully and gently introduce new ideas, activities, and discussion topics to share with the children in our care.
Public parks are a wonderful setting to do this work; children are encouraged to care for the land and people around them and become activists for the community and for a better world. We use principles of place-based education to guide the way that we engage with the park and the social and environmental justice associated with being in this space. Children become stewards for the community and, ultimately, for the people and planet around them.