Helping children to learn about difference and diversity and make new friends from around the country and the world is the reason a number of Goodstart centres have implemented new pen pal programs.
Goodstart Toowoomba Glenvale Road early childhood teacher Kelly Ries said she wanted to introduce her children to different cultures when she put the call out online seeking teachers in other countries who wanted to connect.
“We have been learning about where we live in Australia, compared to the rest of the world and I wanted to teach children that people around the world live differently to us,” she said.
A teacher in the Philippines called Razelle, responded to her post and the pair and their classes have been sharing letters, photos and information ever since.
“We exchange photos of what the children are doing and we’ve also sent them a big box of resources because their school doesn’t have a lot of toys or equipment for the children to play with,” she said.
“Razelle’s school in the Philippines is in an area where families don’t have stable incomes and they don’t have access to resources like we do in Australia. Razelle makes a lot of their resources through recycled materials.”
The children share photos, drawings and letters to learn about each other’s daily lives.
“The children can see how their new friends’ resources are very different to ours as is the way they live,” Ms Ries said.
“Razelle has told us that since we started this relationship with her children they are all very excited about attending kindy and learning more in school and one day visiting Australia.
“It is really lovely to see how this experience is opening their minds to the fact that not all people live like we live and not everyone has the same privileges as we have.”
Learning about difference was the main motivation for Goodstart Ingle Farm early childhood teacher Kyla Davidson to seek out pen pals for her kindergarten class.
“We have connected with Goodstart Glenorchy in Tasmania and we are about to start our pen pal relationship,” she said.
“The children have written their first letter and next week we will post it at the local post office or post box.”
Ms Davidson said she originally sought out a centre to become penpals with because she wanted to help her children understand that while people have many similarities, we also have many differences.
“We have written them a letter to tell them all about us including where we’re from, what we like to do and then we asked a lot of questions,” she said.
“In writing our letter we found that we could help the children understand questioning and how to take an “I wonder” statement and turn it into a question.
“It is important for them to understand there isn’t just one way of living or being or playing. This is giving them a different perspective and helping them to understand how to question and ask to gain knowledge.”
Goodstart Hughesdale is another centre with connections across the world.
The centre has regular contact with a Balinese orphanage, helping the children to learn about empathy, poverty, cultural diversity and geography, said centre director Jess Flahive.