To be a truly student-driven Preschool, children need to have ownership and responsibility for the classroom. How can we teach young children responsible civic engagement? In her 2015 article in the Atlantic, Amy Rothschild states, “early-childhood classrooms can serve as a natural cradle for democracy”. Link to Article
What does this look like in developmentally-appropriate practice? Students can work to decide upon shared-agreements for communal spaces. Students can all participate in discussion and debate over situations that may happen in social interactions, from teacher expectations, or a that may arise in literature. They can take shared responsibility for the upkeep and maintenance of classroom materials. Students who show an interest, can be given special leadership responsibilities. All children should be expected to give special care to peers who may be hurt or having difficulties.
Beyond teaching responsible civic participation, children can have an authentic experience in the foundation of democracy- voting. In my class, the children often take responsibility for curricular decisions by voting. For example, children are introduced to two books which may possibly be read for enjoyment. Each child gets one vote to decide which of the two will be read-aloud and the book receiving the majority will be read that day. There are many ways to manage this activity- a ballot box, a show of hands, or tally marks on the black board. Voting thusly teaches children the practical aspect of how to vote. Also, they learn have a voice, but also their voice is balanced by the whole.
Preschools are the perfect arena for fostering democracy and even the youngest children can approach civic duties and the direction of their learning with responsibility and a sense of fun. When we teach democracy in the Preschool we foster a self-directed community of learners who will grow to have a sense of civic duty and social responsibility.
How do you foster democracy in your classroom? Leave a reply.