Trip to Wuhan, China
During September 2017 two faculty members from Kaye College, Ms. Dina Ben Yaish, Head of the Program of Teacher Education for Kindergartens, and Ms. Barbie Shapir, Lecturer in the Program of Teacher Education for Kindergartens, visited "Hamood" playgroup centers in Wuhan, China.
In China, organized early childhood education begins at age 3 and is run until the age of 6. The government licenses private daycare centers to operate playgroups for children starting from the age of six months and up to the age of 3.
One group has established such playgroup centers in the city of Wuhan, under the name “Hamood”. They hope to incorporate full daycare centers into this framework as well.
The professional relationship between Kaye College’s early childhood education training program and the “Hamood” centers was forged in order to develop programs in the fields of mathematics, science and crafts that will be run in the various playgroups. An additional objective is the development of continuing education programs for the educational staffs running these centers.
Beginning in April 2017, we started developing the continuing education programs and writing lesson plans on various subjects, tailored for preschool children. The group of initiators from China invited us on a scouting trip to see the operations at the “Hamood” centers firsthand, learn how they are run and how we can contribute, so that we could develop appropriate lesson plans.
The “Hamood” centers are interested in presenting a unique edge in their operations by focusing on Jewish values such as: helping others, respecting and preserving the environment, family values, maximal development of the individual’s talents, creativity, the ability to explore freely, honoring one’s parents, perseverance, connection to cultural traditions , and adopting a famous saying by one of our sages, Maimonides, that one must live by – “having a healthy soul will contribute to having a healthy body.”
What did we discover? On our trip, we observed various age group lessons working on different subject matter, as well as work methods. We participated in staff meetings and were part of their preparation training prior to their new classes. We examined their work plans and gave advice as to improving them. We also became aware of the deep involvement of Chinese grandparents in their children’s and grandchildren’s lives and how the staff must address this issue.
During the visit, we gave a central lecture to the various educational staff members and other participants interested in this type of educational work. The lecture focused on the early childhood learning process. We chose to focus on the theories of Gideon Levine, who emphasizes three stages in childhood activity: discovery, examination and execution. We emphasized the equal importance of activity among children, giving examples and explaining that for a child, activity includes creation, learning, playing and work. Activity is the manner in which the child expresses its individual identity, and we emphasized that those involved in this activity are: the child – the teacher – the parents.
In addition, we met with groups of parents whose children are enrolled at the Hamood centers, and with parents who will potentially be enrolling their children, and answered various questions that they raised. All of the meetings were accompanied by a wide range of photos of diverse learning environments and video clips showing facilitated activity with children from the age of birth to 3 years.
The conclusions we reached during the visit and our future plans are based on the primary understanding that the guidelines must be precise. We must allow for plenty of ongoing experience, make sure the objective of the lesson is focused, hold daily staff meetings every morning, hold regular meetings between the staff and the parents with professionals, focus and limit the Jewish values, initiate modeling and enable the creation of new activities.
The Hamood Staff’s Visit to Be’er Sheva – A visit is planned to observe educational frameworks from the age of birth to age 6, in order to understand the developmental sequence and the importance of free choice and personal expression in early childhood (birth to age 3) that produces thinking, active and creative children.