BLOG: EDUCAS Case Study from Lithuania
EDUCAS aims to create ECEC environments that support children’s development in a holistic way, taking into account the diverse needs of children and families, with special attention to the ones at risk of social exclusion. The consortium is experimenting visions and methods related to organizing ECEC environments and materials within an educare approach.
The project is sharing a series of case studies from each of the three countries (Belgium, Italy and Lithuania) involved in the project.
The Case Study in Lithuania
After a comprehensive literature review, the Lithuanian Case Study conducted four focus groups with families and staff in the two ECEC centers involved in the project: Vaikystes Sodas and Aukstelke School – Multifunctional Center. In all focus groups, high quality of discussions ocurred. We were thankful to teachers and parents for their readiness to cooperate on rethinking and improving learning environment in ECEC centers in the future.
Taking into account the main findings emerging from the literature review, results of the focus groups conducted and the first transnational learning activity in Italy, a CPD (continuous professional development) path started with the ECEC staff and families involved, supported by Center for Innovative Education.
Main areas of work identified
- Family participation: how to involve family members in shared decisions about their children’s learning and the environment in which they learn? How to arrange the space for them to meet with one another? How to enable them to make their ideas and knowledge useful for their children’s learning? How to involve families at risk of social exclusion?
- Preschool environment must fit all children: how to assure that learning environment and educare approach will support wellbeing and development of children with special needs?
- Training of teacher assistants: how to involve technical workers in professional development activities? For example, to help them to better understand that they can help teachers and children not only by cleaning the space or providing food, but also during the learning process; and that, according the educare approach, when cleaning the space and providing food, they can communicate with the children and participate in their learning.
- Better use of learning environment outside the preschool: As learning can equally happen indoors and outdoors, how to arrange the school yard for learning?
- Reflection and continuous professional development of teachers at school level: each preschool center develops a professional development plan. Having a clear focus, as well as shared ownership of goals helps in promoting collaboration between teachers.
- Possibility for teachers to visit each other’s classrooms to learn from each other and to provide constructive feedback.
- Documentation of changes in pedagogical practice to stimulate reflection on their practice within the educare approach.
- Possibility for teachers to meet weekly to share achievements and challenges, creating an atmosphere where the success of others can be shared and replicated.
- Education activities for parents to increase understanding of parenting and child development. Support from program staff as well as outside experts and peer-to-peer support among parents.
- Collaborative learning community of teachers and parents that helps to ensure high quality support for children’s development and learning.
What ‘changes’ happened in practice: some examples
- Dissemination of information: presentations about the kindergarten’s visited in Italy, with big amount of ideas and pictures for the teachers and parents. The newsletter for parents supplemented with EDUCAS news is being sent every Friday.
- Survey of teachers and parents on their favorite places in preschool conducted and results presented on special EDUCAS stands.
- Enhanced cooperation of teachers: regular staff meetings, sharing of materials, tools and ideas with other teachers. Ongoing reflection on their practice within the educare approach helps to ensure high quality support for children’s development and learning.
- Following the ‘less is more’ approach encountered in Italy, the ECEC centers reduced amount of toys. Some of them have been replaced with natural materials. Less plastic toys have been used. It was recognized that when there are less toys, it is much easier for children to tidy up. Parents noticed the changes and started to use this method at home.
- Pedagogical Documentation: Teachers added photos with children involved in activities and with brief comments in their classrooms. This information is always visible to parents.
- New “parent corner” with a wall of children’s family pictures. It includes a mini library with useful resources for parents: a kindergarten program, positive parenting books, and other literature requested by parents.
- Outdoor spaces for all ages of children were improved: mini gardens where children can grow vegetables and herbs; learning centers for different kind of activities, etc.
- Keeping good emotional wellbeing of teachers: parents can write a thank you note for the teacher and put them in a special box.
- Improved community involvement. Children like it when their parents, grandparents or another community members come to the kindergarten to talk about their work, travels or just to read a book.
Dissemination of information on EDUCAS focused on spaces and educare, sharing the best practices gained during project implementation, involving teachers, parents and policy makers in the discussion more and more.
The Lithuanian government (as other governments in the world) decided to close down the country's schools in order to prevent the spread of COVID-19 and is preparing to continue the educational process remotely. We are facing new challenges, but also new opportunities. Our priority for now is to support teachers and parents in the best way by providing reccomendations on how to arrange learning environment at home, and how to use different educational applications and platforms to help parents, teachers, schools and school systems to facilitate student learning and provide social caring and interaction during periods of school closure.