Equilibrium believes that quality early care and education is crucial for children’s development into independent and competent adults. Having created in 2017 the first Early Childhood Development Resources Centre in Ruse in support of parents, educators and social workers, we have initiated the modernization of nursery and pre-school education in Bulgaria through our recent project: Reform of Early Childhood Education in Eastern Europe – Bulgaria.
Implementation period: January, 2019 to December, 2021
Source of funding: Villum Foundation, Denmark
We are a local partner to VIA University College, Faculty of Education and Social Studies, Denmark
The overall aim is to stimulate national awareness of the importance of high quality in Early Childhood Education. This will be achieved through creating state-of-the-art pedagogy and learning environments in the kindergartens chosen for reform and creating awareness among key stakeholders and the national media. Project actions will result in the transformation of the pedagogical approach and learning environment in the Sofia kindergarten “Brothers Grimm”. In addition, the Ruse kindergarten “Snow White” will benefit from the training undertaken in Sofia and the concrete example provided.
- Transformation of the pedagogical approach on the basis of training and competence development while working within the boundaries of existing curricula and regulatory frameworks
- Extensive redesign and renovation of indoor and outdoor areas and investment in new equipment
- Capturing parental support
- Creation of a concrete model for demonstration to government and other stakeholders
The staff of the Bulgarian kindergartens visited kindergartens in Denmark and undertook 8 training modules delivered by VIA college lecturers. They were encouraged to introduce new elements in their pedagogical practices – step by step.
These are the first changes with excellent outcomes for the children, as reported by the staff:
The children are more involved in the process. They serve food themselves (fill their own plates) and pour water or tea. They help prepare the table and help with clearing up.
We strive for children to play outdoors as much as possible. So far, children used sandboxes, balls and hoops to play outside. In addition, there were various organized games.
With regard to those games, we have radically changed our approach, encouraging children to play with sand, mud, water and natural materials in different weather conditions. Children feel happy and free to explore their environment. This freedom of children to play is the thing we enjoyed most in Danish kindergartens and we have shared our experience with parents explaining that it impacts on physical dexterity and social competence. We have even arranged for children to eat outdoors when circumstances permit.
Music is now an integral part of children’s everyday lives at the kindergarten. We have provided an introduction to classical music but our main focus is on songs and musical activity that is age appropriate and can be done in circles with children improvising around a central rhythm and melody. We use “shakers”, wooden spoons and buckets. We have also bought a number of percussion instrument that are available to the children.
Indoor play and reading corners
During our visit to kindergartens in Aarhus, we were able to gather a lot of impressions and inspiration for changing the environment and the overall attitude towards the games and the children. We liked that in almost every kindergarten there was a place with cushions for reading books and other activities of the children. We are doing the same thing here – introducing sofas as reading corners.
Ideas for changing the interior layout include:
– removal of most of the curtains to let in more natural light
– reducing unnecessary toys and focusing on those made from natural materials
– providing more space for free play
– children’s creativity as a criterion for design and layout
With small modules, we separated the spaces in the living room and made the following play areas: a shop, a kitchen, a hairdresser and a baby center. In the next room, we made corners for the boys to play. There is a workshop, a football area, various construction toys and garages.
We believe that children in smaller groups play better. They argue less and enjoy the cooperative play.
Pedagogical interaction with the child
This involves a change in attitude and change will have a significant impact.
Our old habit was to stand in front children and to address them from this position. We now join the group and get down to the level of the children by sitting on the floor of sitting side-by-side on chairs. This ensures face-to-face contact as opposed to literally talking down to the children.