We see connecting the role of family, children, teachers and community members as an integral part of building genuine community partnerships and this in turn enables educators and the children to advocate their importance as contributing citizens in the world in the here and now. Engaging in the immediate community where the children are well known and welcomed by shopkeepers is one of the first steps we took.
At Rosie’s, we recognise and value the fact that we are part of a community and we are proactive in building on the connections therein. We acknowledge that building and maintaining community relationships takes time and regularly review our community engagement to capitalise on the rich learning opportunities afforded to the children. Highlighting the connections we have to the community, and making them visible for children, is an important way to do this—involving children wherever possible in such connections makes the experience meaningful in the child’s eyes.
We have appointed a team member as the Community Engagement Officer to develop and oversee the Community Engagement Program. The aims of the program are to:
Ø Shift community perception of capabilities of young children
Ø Provide children with opportunities to be influencers in the community and genuine active citizens
Ø Engage in the local community, interacting with business owners and community members. We see this as an opportunity for Rosie’s children to advocate the competencies of young children
Rich community engagement takes planning and is not something that will easily come to the centre. This was the main purpose of the Community Engagement Officer – a team member with their lens on community engagement. It is easy to say ‘well we tried’ when something doesn’t work but it is the ability to continue to make those connections and more that is critical.
Some examples of the community connections Rosie's Early Learning has are:
· the kindergarten children visits Daisy Hill State School (Term 3 & 4) twice a week
· pen pal program developed in 2018 through the ‘Loneliness Project’ connecting with elderly people
· a plot at the local community garden and organise regular family outings to tend the plants. This is a valuable time for families to meet one another and also for community members to further engage with the children, sharing their gardening knowledge.
· A member of the Nangara group, with the objective of organising annual NAIDOC events, and to establish a Yarning Circle for educators in the region to share their knowledge, support one another and learn from local Elders. A funding application has been submitted by this group for the next NAIDOC event to be even better.
Sourcing the community networks in the area and requesting to join committees or meetings also connects the service meaningfully. Contact departments such as QLD Health and Department of Early Childhood Education and Care to find out what networks are in your area. These are the memberships Rosie's has in community networks. As members of these networks, educators are well informed of local support projects for children and families.
- Logan Together Initiative – Membership on the strategic group of Child and Family Chapter.
- ‘Children Together Project’. The Rosie’s educator is the facilitator of this group and the goal is to develop a child friendly charter of rights for children and toolkit to engage businesses in listening to children’s ideas in Logan.
- Communities for Children Salvation Army committee. A Rosie’s educator is a member of this committee
- Aboriginal Library- Dandiiri
- Logan Council Community Engagement team and local Library members
- Logan Art Gallery members
- QLD Health’s Local Level Alliance. This is a combination of professionals in Health and Education who meet quarterly to discuss areas of concern in Logan and strategies to support families and children. Rosie's has membership on this.
Be an advocate for the children and get yourself into community. The work of Rosie’s children is regularly shared at community meetings and this has influenced change in the way many in the community regard the capacity of children to contribute to issues that concern them. The children send feedback and ideas to local councillors offering our suggestions regarding the development of proposed playgrounds in the area when applicable, written to local school principal seeking an old overhead projector, booked the FREE display cabinets at local libraries to share children’s work and shared project work with politicians as some examples to get you started. It’s a journey that has many paths and crossroads but just pick one and start there.