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FRIDAY 24/03

KEYNOTE: Playful inquiry: Rooting in uncertainty  Matt Karlsen (USA)

We are living in an epoch riddled with crises. That simple statement ought to have profound implications for our work, provoking new questions regarding how we want to be with children and with each other. As we step into this auspicious gathering, let’s think together about how playful inquiry might support us and the communities we serve. What do we want from schools today? How can we support the communities we work with to recognize the tremendous resource of children’s perspectives? What if the greatest opportunity is to engage with reality - in all of its complexity and uncertainty - by asking what if together?

Who leads the leader? Who mentors the mentor? Who coaches the coach? – Jane Wornock (NZ)


Who leads the leader? Who mentors the mentor? Who coaches the coach? Ask this same question for yourself as a leader, a mentor, or a coach, and the reality could well be a considered opportunity or perhaps a fantasy as to Who leads you? Who mentors you? Who coaches you? Together we will explore each of these roles, including how a critical friend can make a difference within an open to learning conversation space with a focus on the importance of reciprocal and responsive learning communities for leaders, mentors, coaches. We will draw on the bicultural tikanga practices of wananga as in considered discussion and whanaungatanga in capturing the essence of relationships across all leading, mentoring and coaching connections. From the research that Jane has undertaken, opportunities will be shared of evidence-based practice when engaging kanohi-ki-te-kanohi/ face-to-face in informing and being informed through reflective dialogue both for self and for every leader, mentor, and coach. 

A checklist for fantasy, opportunity and reality! – Dr Red Ruby Scarlett and Stephen Gallen


The landscape of early childhood education and care has transformed dramatically in the first decades of the 21st century. Our long-held fantasies and dreams of blue skies for the profession have become a question of whether and to what extent reality, fantasies and dreams have turned to the dark side and possibly become nightmares? Does our vision need updating in order to stay in step with the complexities of the realities we face, or do we need to accept that fantasies can be measured and quantified as we continue to move into a world of checklists and dropdown options? Maybe it's the very gap between fantasy and reality that we need to interrupt and blur. Is there an opportunity to slip and slide through these binary notions and create a space to play in the spaces in-between?  

Creating a team contract: creating a new reality – Su Garrett


Working in a baby's room is fast paced and sometimes frantic, with numerous adults and infants. When do educators stop and really explore how they want to work? How does the group decide how they translate their site-specific philosophy into practice? Our Ngurra educators have a desire to find time to be better, to develop a deeper understanding of each other as well as their practice, to explicitly express how they wanted to work as a collective. This desire opened a process of exploring how they practiced their philosophy and how they could create a team contract to support this process and keep each other accountable. When an educator asks you to lead the team through this process where do you start? How did the service leaders design a process to guide the team through the process? What is our new reality? This presentation explores the power of a team contract and how it transforms practices. 

The slow laboratory: Daring to unlock delightful learning through artisan teaching experiences – Dr Gai Lindsay


At the turn of the 20th century John Dewey advocated for active, arts-inspired curricula as a rich laboratory of learning. Rather than focussing on preparation for unknown futures and conforming to factory-line approaches to education, Dewey suggested education should be a celebration of "life itself" in which children and teachers collaborate in aesthetic and artistic inquiry to foster growth and human flourishing. Almost 150 years later, educators continue to express their desire to slow down and delight with children in joyful, meaningful and aesthetic places of learning. Yet, in many early learning settings children's right to express their artistic voice through free, active and artful experience is hijacked when structured, adult-dominated 'craftivities' dominate. My research and practice suggest that such choices are driven by educator's limited practical experience with visual arts methods, materials and techniques and persistent low visual arts self-efficacy. This presentation will confront habitual and restrictive arts practices, offering points for critical reflection and visual arts confidence building to inspire pedagogical transformation. Participants will be presented with the opportunity to play, learn and re-ignite their inner artist through active experience with arts materials and engagement with studio thinking practices. 

Valuing language, culture and identity – Arapera Card (NZ) & Dr Rosina Merry (NZ)


It is a fantasy that for many indigenous peoples across the world, their culture, their language and their identity are valued and shared in an environment that respects all that each of these cultures bring to their environment and to their world. For many, if not all indigenous peoples, there has been and continues to be a struggle to be acknowledged for who they are, where they come from and their ways of knowing, doing and being. How do we grasp opportunities to bring alive the knowledges and stories of the indigenous peoples in our world? What can we do to open up the reality of their world? We can contribute to making the dreams and aspirations of indigenous peoples a reality by understanding their language, culture and identity. Examples of how these ideas can be integrated into early childhood and pre-school teaching practice will be shared. 

Leadership is Like Ice Cream – Angela Hunt


In 'Leadership is Like Ice Cream' the fantasy that leadership is glamorous is shattered. Using the analogy of a sweet treat loved by all, we explore how delicious it appears from the outside, the hidden dangers within and what happens when the heat is on. This presentation delves deeply into recent experiences of a leader to share candid, true anecdotes and draw out key ingredients for success. This becomes the backdrop for a tale of leadership under pressure: what it was like to lead a large Education and Care Service located in the heart of Melbourne CBD through two years of intermittent lockdowns. The story resolves with the positive lessons learned through leadership under pressure and a celebration of circumstances (both personal and professional) which have potential to create unshakeable strength. Leaders who attend this workshop will be captivated and moved by the raw vulnerability of the presentation. Most of all, leaders will be encouraged and inspired to embrace the challenges that come their way not as stumbling blocks, but as stepping- stones. 

A collision of perspectives; drawing on everyday challenges to unravel possibilities – Kirsty Liljegren and Louise Dorrat


How do you deal with conflict, pedagogical tensions and contradictions in practice? What strategies can be used to respectfully construct solutions together? Kirsty and Louise will demonstrate some of those sticky, tricky and challenging aspects of an educator's role when approaches to pedagogy clash. A well versed and curious educator furthers their skills, knowledge and confidence to question and speak up to enable change. As professionals, they advocate for contemporary approaches and evidence-based pedagogy. They challenge practices that have been enshrined as 'normal,' critically reflect, question myths and disrupt false expectations, i.e. documentation, routines, indoor/outdoor play, celebrations and understandings of agency.

This practical and engaging workshop will demonstrate what is possible when the art of bravery through a collaborative culture, encourages robust discussions and listening. Participants will walk away from this presentation with renewed energy and tools to embrace the uncomfortable.


FRIDAY 23/03

Celebrating very young children as active cultural citizens: Inviting children, their families and teachers into a contemporary art museum space – Amanda Palmer


The Museum of Contemporary Art, Australia (MCA) is collaborating with Macquarie University on research that has led to transformation of pedagogy within our artist-educator led programs, and beyond. This Art & Wonder: Young Children and Contemporary Art Research Project is focusing on very young children's engagement, learning and responses to regular encounters with contemporary art in the museum context. There is an emphasis on revisiting and returning over time, building connections and establishing relationships with spaces, materials, artists, artworks and exhibitions. During this workshop we will share how reflexive reshaping of pedagogy and work with/in early childhood pedagogy has also transformed the ways in which other creative learning programs with older school groups and adults at the gallery are now designed and facilitated. 

Magic, enlightenment and possibilities -The post-modern childhood – Karla Wintle and Vanessa Field


This workshop looks at how children anticipate childhood encounters with magic, enchantment, and new possibilities. Research presented in the paper suggests that dominant discourses can shape children's views of themselves, others, and the world around them. After noting significant differences between early childhood and school cultures the presenters embarked on research and documented the thoughts and ideas of children before and after their first visit to school. Using video footage and visual representations, data was collected from children who shared different perspectives, highlighting diverse pedagogical and philosophical beliefs of school. Fictional literacies are used within the paper, supporting an invitation to open our minds and hearts to the Foucauldian concept of 'thinking otherwise.' Delving deep into Enid Blyton's Enchanted Wood' we immerse ourselves into a world of magic, fantasy, and childhood utopias, while also critiquing and challenging the 'status quo' of early childhood education. Linking current educational practices across both school and early childhood settings with literary dialogues, we re-imagine childhood, positioning ourselves as educational re-conceptualists in the hope that it will revolutionise education now and into the future. 

From child’s play to play for all – Ric McConaghy


The notion of child’s play was originally coined as a somewhat pejorative concept suggesting both ease and a degree of inconsequence. Through the committed engagement of researchers, practitioners, and carers over many years play has increasingly been proven to be not only incredibly diverse and complex, but also fundamental in contributing to the wellbeing and development of children. Playspace provision has likewise moved from the notion of plonked coloured pipes in bark chip to much more sophisticated and highly designed spaces. Consequently, it has demonstrably attracted a new range of professionals with a background in design rather than in provision for, or maybe even awareness of, the needs and aspirations of children and their carers. In my rambling, wandering, sojourn through the design and making process we will collaboratively explore the intent, the idea, the engagement, the creation, and the delivery of play spaces large and small, that celebrate inclusion and diversity for play. This exploration will assist participants is their future provision for play that sees dreams find form in space and that evolve and improve over time as players brings their imaginations and endeavour to nurture their own narratives. 


Stepping stones: Respecting Indigenous ways of knowing, honouring infant and toddler pedagogy – Susan Franco


Every decision we make in our professional learning journey invites us to think with new ideas or tell a story that informs our core values that we uphold and hold close to our hearts. Every curriculum decision we make advocates for what we consider is important. It puts a spotlight on what we value and what we don't, and more importantly what we value with children's knowledge and what experiences we consider are appropriate for children's learning. How do we inspire thinking that sincerely moves our curriculum to become ‘something more’? That provokes curiosity and wonder. That authentically advocates for our centre philosophy in everyday learning, facilitating a pedagogical companionship that values democracy, sustainability, diversity and complexity. Intertwining considerations that broaden educators own Indigenous understanding so that they walk deeply on Wangal land. By developing an ‘Awake Mindset’ the teaching team at Explore & Develop, Annandale have nurtured a holistic understanding of the interconnectedness of country, allowing the children’s minds to grow, to explore, to dream, to collaborate and to engage heartily on Country. The educators have galvanised their pedagogy to be purposeful and attentive so that they facilitate stepping-stones that celebrate an enduring and dynamic ecosystem with other animals, plants, land, water and cosmology. Through wonder and play they are engaging their children's hands, hearts and minds and cherishing a complex understanding of Indigenous ways of knowing. 

Imagining Opportunities: Stories from the past, Experiences of the now, future aspirations – Monique Proud 

When it comes to embedding Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander perspectives, understanding Country, Cultural Protocols and building genuine long-term relationships with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples and Communities – How far have we come? In order to imagine and create the opportunities of the future, we must have an honest look at where we are, and where we have come from. This presentation explores some of the questions and stumbling blocks that are often encountered, and pushes participants to examine their intentions and priorities; and think outside the box to create change. 

Pedagogical documentation as a process: reconceptualising learning design, assessment, and reflective practice – Adam Christie


This presentation will offer perspectives on pedagogical documentation as a process of learning, design, assessment and reflective practice. Together we will share in stories of practice that make visible, educators thoughtful and inspiring conversations to establish shared meanings and contextual applications of pedagogical documentation in practice. Our stories honour and celebrate the thinking of educators and children, rejoicing in the miracles of teaching and learning. The session will be grounded in the research of 18 early childhood services across the West and Northeast of metropolitan Adelaide. These services celebrate diverse cultural, linguistic, and social contexts. Our collective research was guided with the intent to improve learning design, assessment and reflective practice and drive preschool improvement. What we learnt about children and ourselves was so much more! 

Stand still long enough to listen – Dr Deborah Harcourt


Much like the slow food movement that began in Italy in 1986, early childhood education is exploring – even embracing – a slow pedagogy movement. Thought leaders, such as Professor Alison Clark from the UK, are encouraging us to pause, take notice, collect our thoughts, and propose that children have the opportunity to delve deeply into their exploration of evolving ideas and theories. Together we will explore what possibilities this movement offers early childhood settings here in Australia, beginning with the daily' rush hours' of 11-2 and then moving either side of these times to large blocks of uninterrupted play, where we might honour children's right to slow down and be thoughtful authentic players in learning.  

FRIDAY 23/03

The Taste of Aesthetics : Environment Design Lessons from the Culinary World – Dr Sandra Duncan


Fantasy and food--it may be an interesting partnership, but it is once worth dancing alongside and considering. Practice  and research clearly points to the importance of environments as a contributing factor to the quality of education and experience for children. Spaces shape who we are and therefore consideration must be given to the environmental design of an early years program. With that in mind, how might we and can we draw inspiration from the culinary world? Could there be a link here? In this presentation Dr Duncan will travel with you through the fantasy of spaces and food as we discover and explore the fascinating connection between designing learning environments and curating plates of culinary excellence. 

Stories, systems and transformational change: Behind the classroom door – Dr Alma Fleet, Leanne, Armao, Carly Bourke, Moana Strauss and Christopher Williams


Where does a dream begin? Stories told by different voices will share the experience of living inside a growing idea. Each has a different starting point. For this small glimpse of an unfolding story, we'll share what Anthony was hoping when he offered a conference, what Leanne saw as a vision for a school on the edges of Melbourne, what Moanna, Sharmine and Carly heard when the invitations were made, and what Alma offered when she joined the team. Currently in the middle of a three- year adventure with practitioner inquiry, this school team is building on Anthony's earlier provocations regarding the environment and the image of the child. Leanne offered all staff in the school the opportunity to work to imagine what school would be like with inquiry as core pedagogy. In this session, the presenters will each share their perceptions of the school-wide Inquiry Thinking Project, sharing their individual practitioner inquiry questions and the impact on their professional lives. With a focus on the early years of school, implications will be offered for other Inquiry thinkers. 

Children's theories: Fact and fantasy, information and imagination, data and dreams – David Gilkes


As adults, we are often too quick to separate things such as facts and fantasy, information and imagination, as we tend to see them as conflicting ideas, almost opposite in their definitions. Young children, however, rather than polarise or disconnect, seek out and delight in the places where these things can naturally dance together in joyful, surprising and curious ways – giving wings to their ideas and theories, embodied voices to their questions, and oxygen to their creativity, innovations and research. This presentation will share uplifting stories from practice and help us to think more deeply about what our role can be if we let go of our 'knowns' and sink into the places children so generously invite us into. Worlds where data and dreams, truths and untruths, can co-exist harmoniously. Places where children's theories unfurl, intertwine and take to the sky.


Cultivating curriculums that care: achieving learning outcomes through professional love – Sarah Louise Gandolfo


I dream of an early childhood sector where care and education are not seen as separate: where one can care for a child deeply and professionally and demonstrate love through their interactions and relationships. This is the space of professional love, where adults come together in a collaborative way to give value to the child as a whole being and understanding that care is vital to education. During a time of intense disruption to children's lives we need to bring the focus back to care and advocate for this core part of our work. Care is not simply for those children whose families work, and it's not an add on saved only for routine tasks such as feeding and sleeping. Care is foundational to ensuring that children feel a sense of safety, belonging and welcome in the early childhood classroom. Daring to dance with the concept of professional love, I want to bring to the participants a sense of curiosity about what it means to engage with professional love as a concept of caring within our early childhood spaces; explore how this might make all the difference in ensuring optimal learning outcomes for children; and share opportunities for new ways of thinking and teaching with children through this lens.

‘A single dream is more powerful than a thousand realities’ (Tolkien) - challenging realities with a dream to think big, embrace change and reimagine organisational paradigms – Lou Kirkwood


New Horizons Preschool is an early childhood setting with a strong belief that if schools, preschools and early education settings were given opportunities to be complex, dynamic places of learning; cooperative places, based on dialogue and exchange, then we must also focus on reframing our organisational practices to reflect this. This presentation invites participants to consider ways to reimagine organisational models of early childhood settings. What might our sector look like if we dared to dream? An often-overlooked value, the organisation model of an early childhood centre can hinder and stifle education. What if we could shift that model to open opportunities for teachers and educators to focus on reciprocal exchange, listening and co-responsibility? This presentation explores New Horizons Preschool’s 'organisational' journey over the past five years. A journey where the preschool has attempted to shift from a business model to a model of participation, inclusion and equality. Lou will share with participants how they have reorganised and redesigned not only their business model, but also their classrooms and teaching practices to support growth, exchange and cooperation, and in doing so changed the organisational paradigms of the centre. This presentation aims to inspire others to work within their own contexts, exploring a reality where shift organisational systems can shift to focus on a culture of learning, critical thinking and advocacy for educators and children alike.  

Understanding you are bigger than yourself: Striving for the common good – Anna Cimarosti and Liz Cohen


This presentation features multiple projects engaged in by the children and educators of The Northern Nursery School, Mosman. Throughout these projects the children have strived to make change and difference in their world, with a vision to reach as many people as possible. Malaguzzi told us, ‘We cannot afford to think small’ – as the projects are presented, participants will quickly understand the incredible capabilities of children and the possibilities they can create for those around them in their community and wider world. You will be taken on an empowering journey, learning how a group of children aged four to five years strove to make everyone in the whole world happy in the same second. Of how another preschool aged group decided to reach the largest audience possible during COVID to share their messages about caring for our precious Earth, and of Northern Nursery’s passionate Koala fundraisers, concerned about the welfare of these intriguing and loved creatures. The presentation is a timely reflection on how Malaguzzi stressed the importance of viewing children as citizens of their world, right from birth. 

The Spectacular Find – the joy of possibility and of listening to children and engaging in inquiry-based projects – Catherine Lee


If you have ever wondered where a child-led inquiry-based project would lead you – the teaching team at Point Preschool found the reality is not where they would have imagined. While digging in the sandpit, looking for dinosaur fossils, a child discovered something unknown. The reality was so much more than they had ever thought possible. Immediately, the teaching team was filled with curiosity and wonder. The Spectacular Find launched an amazing and joyous, child-led inquiry that inspired our entire community of learners - the children, educators, and families. They danced a joyous dance filled with wonder, opportunity, knowledge-seeking, curiosity, and collaboration. With the children's imaginations running wild they made a movie and wrote and performed a musical. And it didn't stop there. This presentation explores the joy of possibility when we, the educators engage in an inquiry project alongside children. 

KEYNOTE: Playful inquiry: Rooting in uncertainty  Susan Harris MacKay (USA)

Playful Inquiry is an approach to learning that is animated by the unique gifts of childhood: imagination, empathy, curiosity, a sense of wonder, and possibility. Adults can learn to rely on these gifts to construct the world we want to live in together through a commitment to seeing beyond standardised expectations and to rekindling these gifts in themselves. Play, the arts, and story have evolved in ways unique to our species, leaving us with a powerful toolkit to realise our birthright as human beings capable of turning fantasy into reality. We’ll consider ways that adults can prepare experiences and environments that are intentional about opening the door to collaborative, compassionate, playful inquiry in solidarity with children. 


KEYNOTE: The role of fantasy in the early years: From dreams to possibilities  Dr Claire Warden (Scotland)

What if?

 ‘Fantasy is hardly an escape from reality. It is a way of understanding it’ was penned  by Lloyd Alexander and to me rather than the understanding of a single reality it inspires the thought of the existence of many realities that we have yet to understand.  These realities are framed by world views that are formed through our lived experiences and are full of tensions and knotty problems. Our world views can lead us along networked pathways to create storied landscapes in Early Childhood but the views we hold can in turn be limiting and constrictive when they do not respond to the change in time and place.  Ironically, the power of fantasy is that it allows the thinking process to expand but at the same time it can create a world full of illusion that it sometimes feeds our perception of professional inadequacy. Fantasy helps us fly above mere existence into a world of possibilities that may never have been explored before, but at the same time we have to be ready to be risk takers in our pedagogical thinking so that we let go of some long held beliefs to embrace innovation and change. Join me to explore What if ? where we will start to create multiple landscapes , full of unobservable and observable ways of thinking about social and pedagogical change within our profession.

Boiling in the bubble…She'll be right mate!! – Maria Stavros, Jackie Swanscott and Jason Goldsmith


Boom!! In June 2021, the COVID pandemic hit the Local Government Area of Fairfield once again. Fairfield LGA was declared a COVID hotspot and forced into a lockdown bubble. Fairfield City is one of the most culturally diverse communities in Australia and also one of the most disadvantaged. With a high percentage of workers being on low incomes, new migrants without access to government benefits, families living close to the poverty line relying on charities to survive, it is a community that struggles to get by in the best of times. This presentation illustrates the reflections, challenges and personal stories of the early childhood professionals who worked through the challenging times of the 2021 COVID lockdown. They faced challenges such as low utilisation, staying connected with families in lockdown and supporting each other's wellness and wellbeing. Highlighted is how they went above and beyond their usual roles to provide meals for their local community during a time where the more traditional providers of this type of service were unable to fulfil and meet the demands of the local community. Videos and interviews highlight the presentation. 

Why are we doing the same, same, same! – Michelle Pratt and Dr Sandra Duncan 


Transform and re-think your early childhood education experiences through meaningful environmental design, defending the awe and wonder of childhood. When women from across the globe combined their passion and drive for better early childhood learning experiences, something incredible happened. Enspirement—a group bound by the belief that inspiring environments unlock and nurture children's knowledge and potential. Through a large-scale multi-media presentation, explore how Enspirement enables educators to create more purposeful early childhood education spaces and experiences through. The group’s dream has been a digital platform dedicated to environmental design for early years settings. An online destination for inspirational imagery, quality content, research and trends, best practices, and thought leadership. A place where educators and parents share their creativity, knowledge, and ideas to better the lives of children globally. The presentation will take you on a journey of environmental design, showing you an easy and global view of making and planning spaces that spark wonder and discovery. It is beautiful, creative, and fun. 

Contexts for collaboration: A necessary act for innovation in practice – Kelly Goodsir


Building a strong intellectual landscape amongst our early childhood teams requires disrupting the inherited and traditional models of isolation we continue to lean on. When we think together, discuss, debate and collaborate something magical happens. It is where ownership emerges, shared commitment grows stronger and the impossible becomes possible – a willingness to try new things is ignited. It can feel risky starting something without having it all figured out, yet the most rewarding pedagogical practice often arises from walking with the uncertainty and trusting that the process reveals clarity of direction. This almost always happens in the company of others and not in isolation. What if we started with questions and puzzles instead of agendas and solutions? What if we moved beyond our walls to invite different perspectives and create places of safety where changing our minds is a welcome sign of intellectual integrity. This session will have you reframing and connecting with the power of collaboration and what it means to bravely invite and cultivate shared perspectives that build innovation in practice. 

Stories that inspire: stories with long endings… – Janet Roberston


What do children think about? Can we trust their solutions to ‘wicked’ problems’. Their theories, listened too with a pedagogical ear, given time and a respect for the process create endings unthought of and wonderful. This presentation explores the stories of learning and the uncoverings and discoveries we make as teachers of young children. Presented as a series of short pedagogical stories each has a long ending which keeps us inspired to want to know more, to discover the power of children’s thinking and theory making and the power and potential of teaching.  

Creating a more positive reality through positive emotion – Jo Maloney


Experiencing more positive emotion in our day can increase our cognitive, social, and psychological capabilities. These increased capabilities can support expanding and maintaining wellbeing, essential for early childhood educators to be able to provide high quality care and ensure the wellbeing outcomes for the children that they educate and care for. These outcomes are invaluable when considering the complexity of the early childhood environment and the rapidly changing, uncertain times we are experiencing. This presentation will explore the benefits of cultivating practices in educators that enhance opportunities to develop more emotional granularity to celebrate and savour 'positive' emotion while seeing the opportunities that 'negative' emotions provide. Participants will have an opportunity to think more deeply about their emotions and explore how to incorporate micro-interventions into daily practice on an individual and group level. Simple, realistic, micro-interventions will be offered such as looking for moments of joy and delight, using humour, and being open to ways to boost positive emotions. These strategies will be viewed from the lens of the educator to form a basis to expand this meaningfully into their work with children. 

Pushing boundaries in early childhood – looking through an innovation lens – Ella De La Motte and Niki Moodie


This presentation is about pushing boundaries in an early learning setting and why children need us to take on that role. In a climate of social unrest, Ella and Niki look toward a future that is a far cry from the present and the past – early childhood education and care, now more than ever, needs to be at the very baseline, innovative beyond measure. They have critically reflected on their contemporary practices and how they look more risky than beneficial through a lens of fictional rules and checklists. They have asked 'why not' alongside of asking 'why' and 'how can we not' when faced with pushing traditional boundaries. Looking forward requires a deeply open mind and a willingness to surrender to change, despite how confronting it may be. Ella and Niki share how they have found that innovative practices that provide children with amazing learning experiences and beautiful environments, result in less negative focus and pressure surrounding children's behaviours, and higher retention rates of motivated and inspired professionals. Playing witness to current research and trends within the sector propels us to make and inspire change, ensuring the next generation are equipped for a future they could only dream of. 


Is ICT a help or a hindrance to assessment in ECE? – Wendy Lee


Wendy Lee is a passionate advocate for both e-portfolios and paper-based portfolios because of her long involvement with Learning Stories (Carr & Lee, 2012 & 2019). She believes both types of portfolios are advantageous, but for different reasons. Paper-based portfolios are critical for young children, whereas e-portfolios are primarily for adults (i.e., parents and whānau). Wendy is deeply interested in developing documentation that is central to building the learner identity of the child. This is not achieved when documentation is carried out primarily to meet accountability measures. Sometimes technology hinders engagement and the reflective analysis needed for developing deep connections. Wendy believes that the courage of teachers and those working directly with children will ensure the wider values of education are protected, and that everyone in the learning community has the opportunity to be the very best they can be, thereby realizing possibilities that may have been unimaginable in the past. To achieve this, it is increasingly important that we make visible the joy, wonder and magic we experience as teachers to children and their families. This will ensure that we all keep our moral and ethical responsibilities alive as we strive to make a difference for these learning communities. 


Embracing reality, while we continue to dream of the fantasy – Anna Veres


Over the last 20+years, early childhood professionals have united in a movement to raise the profile of the complexities of an early childhood professional's role. The team at Eungai Preschool wanted to draw their communities' attention to the depth of knowledge and skill required to provide quality learning environments. They wanted to be respected and acknowledged as specialists in their chosen field. The question was…how to demonstrate this – how to prove it – to a world in which early childhood professionals are considered to essentially be playmates, carers and babysitters? And so, the work began which included individualised child portfolios, then digital cameras, then portfolios and the list became longer. This presentation asks, 'Why have we allowed these demands to be placed upon ourselves – with such little compensation'? This is a story of how a team intentionally turned away from the fantasy of achieving everything they dreamt of but instead embraced their own reality – with pride and conviction. Until our working conditions improve, as leaders, we have to be courageous, and make the right choices to ensure our teams thrive professionally within each of our own service's reality…and while doing that, it is essential we find the meaning within our own practice, and remember that the academic papers, and inspirational images are all amazing tools to guide our practice, but what is essential and what is possible, is what will lead to a team to flourish and be able to support children to thrive.

Wellbeing literacy – wellbeing for children beyond health and safety! – Lisa Baker


We all know children need a strong sense of wellbeing. Research suggests strong wellbeing connects to a broad range of outcomes in our lives including our capacity to function, learn, experiencing greater happiness, success, relationships, health and longevity But, how do we facilitate that with young children? What does wellbeing really look like? This presentation argues that children's wellbeing, far beyond health, safety and risk avoidance, should be about building capabilities for life – through the capability of Wellbeing Literacy. The aim of the presentation is to share emerging research (once the land of fantasy, now becoming reality!), bridging early years pedagogy and wellbeing science, to promote contemporary thinking across psychological, relational and communication domains. To inspire and empower early childhood professionals, to articulate for and about wellbeing, through the construct of wellbeing literacy. For educators, teachers, pedagogical and thought leaders this presentation will introduce Wellbeing Literacy, offer a practical model to view, guide, underpin and clarify current best-practices and link wellbeing literacy to outcomes of the EYLF in order that we can more effectively articulate, plan for and document pedagogically and psychologically sound practices for and about wellbeing, challenge historical and hidden assumptions of wellbeing and highlight and discuss contemporary ways to view wellbeing as a psychological and emergent state of being that can be facilitated and built through the teaching and learning of Wellbeing Literacy. 

Early education without the profit motive: possible, desirable, or dangerous? – Lisa Bryant 


The education and care sector in Australia is a mixed sector – not for profit services, corporate services, services owned by private equity funds, small family run services and large private run chains. What would the sector look like if the profit motive was removed? Would doing this be good or bad for children, for families, for educators and for those that currently run services, own services, invest in services or work in them? Is the idea purely fantastical or is it something we should all be advocating for? This presentation provides a space for thinking differently about the landscape of the early years sector whilst providing a space for thinking about how policy and practice live hand in hand and impacts what happens on a daily basis. It suggests that controversial ideas should not be shunned but rather debated and explored as we dream towards a future that supports a new landscape of early years education provision


Composing creative cosmological curriculum – Guy Lance, Dr Red Ruby Scarlet and Chloe McMartin


It's no fantasy that children have capacities way beyond what we can imagine. Whilst we have come to acknowledge some of these capacities and intellectually understand them, the (wo)manifestation of practice that demonstrates the processes that educators undertake are often invisible. Coupled with this is absence of the creative professional expression that occurs in relational intraentwinglements is the essence of how places and spaces enable or disenable the 'response-ability' (Hawaray, 2003) that recognition of children's universes comprises. In this presentation Guy, Red and Chloe gift glimpses into an ongoing project that dreams big, plays with pedagogical majik and makes (un)real children's capacities to compose creative curriculum with the fantasmagorical imbibement of educators whose primary essence is 'enthusiasm'. They dance into Aunty Dr Sue Atkinson's (2007) 'signs, signals and symbols' to ensconce our research in Indigenous cosmologies. 

Re-imagining early childhood teacher identity through the lens of play-based learning and creative inquiry – Jessica Horne-Kennedy


Early childhood teachers in Australia work under the government legislated National Quality Framework, which sets a benchmark for measuring high quality teaching and learning practices. The legislation highlights critical reflection as an indicator of high-quality practice. Critical reflection involves exploring personal attitudes about human nature and human learning in ways that challenge assumptions and question existing ways of enacting early childhood practice. When this happens, a deeper awareness of self and the values, beliefs and possible biases brought to one's teaching practice can form. Peter Moss urges us to reflect on the two narratives present in early childhood education and consider alternatives to neo-liberal discourse through the following questions: What stories about early childhood education do you like? What alternatives do you want to existing viewpoints? This presentation will present the literature and methodology of a PhD project that aims to respond to Moss's invitation to highlight how (in the space of a neo-liberal agenda) forms of reflection that involve expression, intuition and connection with others are being lost and neglected. 

The journey to education for sustainability – Peter Monteith (NZ) & Marion Dekkar (NZ)


The presentation traces the Education for Sustainability journey of Inspired Kindergartens since its inception in 2008. Peter and Marion will focus on the expansion of the programme beyond the two original 'activist' kindergartens to a whole organisation approach involving the EnviroSchools Movement (Toimata Foundation), and the local Regional Council. The presentation references the challenges and opportunities for children's, teacher's and whānau (community) engagement; the interaction with te ao Maori (the indigenous world) and the Inspired Kindergartens' plan to become energy self-sufficient – the Power Project. 


Engaging with Aboriginal art from the Anangu Pitjantjatjara Yankunytjatjara [APY] lands: 'Wonder Woman is real. I met her when I was two' – Kathy Gelding


Kathy’s PhD study is examining Australian children's and educators' understanding of Australian Aboriginality through engaging with contemporary Aboriginal art. Specifically, Kathy will share what happened when children and educators engaged with artwork from a popular art centre located in the Anangu Pitjantjatjara Yankunytjatjara [APY] lands in the remote North-West of South Australia. This artwork reconceptualises Australian Aboriginality through popular culture. For example, sometimes Wonder Woman is painted as black, sometimes she is painted as white. Engaging in these artworks elicited children's significant knowledge of superheroes. Their knowledge included fantasy as a critical element of their reality and dominated their conversation. In this presentation, Kathy will discuss the idea that fantasy expands children's thinking. This is different from educators' orthodox understanding that fantasy is the opposite of reality and to be dismissed; rendered unimportant. Drawing on Judith Butler (2020) who suggested adults, ‘imagine in a radical way that makes you seem a little crazy, in order to open up a possibility that others have already closed down with their knowing realism’, Kathy encourages educators to think differently about children's fantasies and realities and look for possibilities to program and practice for equality and social justice.



Building a culture of felt safety for an emotionally literate environment – Nicole Talarico

Fantasise a sector where educators have created a new reality, one that transmits a sense of calm, from a contextual dance between a child and educator. A reality where educators recognise that this dance is unique, because we have released ourselves from traditional mindsets about how children best regulate. A reality where we change our practice to be with, not apart, from individual children who have momentarily shifted out of sync. Valuing the power of our holistic connections gives us remarkable opportunities in our everyday. This presentation explores the possibility of building culture of felt safety for an emotionally literate environment and how the early years sector can bring this dream to an everyday reality. 

Beyond cute quotes: Embedding children's perspectives into big decisions – Rachel Flottman


Article 12 of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child states that children have a right to participate in decisions about matters that affect them. However, documenting what children say, and acting upon their perspectives are two different matters. This presentation invites delegates to think deeply about Article 12 of the UNCRC and advocates that we make decisions about matters that affect children with children, rather than for children. In doing so, presentation takes what is a fantasy for some – rights, democracy, agency and shared power with children – into the realm of the possible. Rachel draws on theories of democracy and agency and showcases ways in which contemporary Australian organisations are positioning children as experts in their experiences and recognises them as best placed to make decisions about matters that directly affect them. She will provide a framework for delegates to use when wanting to embed these ideas of democracy, rights and agency into their organisations and facilitate children to make their own decisions. Finally, Rachel will invite delegates to reflect on the possibilities that will come from positioning children as expert citizens. How might this change our practice? Our services? Our policy? Our research? Our democracy? 

Connecting and honouring children, place and culture – The power of children's art exhibitions – Bernice Mathie-Morris and Monica Hilzinger  


In 2016 the educators and children at Bomaderry Community Preschool embarked on a research project that had been a dream for many years. The vision was to afford children, educators, their families and community members, time outside of the gate to connect, theorise, encounter, question, research, co-construct, design and 'Be' in a very special site – Bomaderry Creek National Park. The gift of time and relationship with place being the basis on which to launch the project. This presentation shares the journey of the 'Power of Nature' research project which spanned many months, culminating in a community art exhibition – ‘The Power of Nature – Our Place’. The immense and overwhelming response to the exhibition has further sparked the importance of continuing to ensure, that as early childhood programs we have a responsibility to make visible the infinite richness of children's potentialities. Bernice and Monica invite us to open our hearts, eyes and minds, to the many possibilities in the teaching and learning space. Possibilities that honour children.


Keeping ourselves afloat – stories from the end of the world – Stephen Gallen, Michelle Stanley-Jones, Maree Conroy and Cath Gillespie


In February 2022 the northern rivers region of NSW was hit by a disaster of unimaginable magnitude. Floods, landslides and extreme weather changed Country, changed lives and changed communities. Early childhood centres were washed away. Children and educators were cut off and isolated in sometimes extreme conditions. In this presentation a group of educators from the region who have been involved in an ongoing teacher research project around Children and Community will share how their ongoing project intersected with this disaster. They will share their learnings and stories – stories about the ways in which the reality of catastrophe collided with their dreams for children and communities. And how amidst the wreckage there is possibility in alliance and solidarity in the face of adversity. In the spirit of optimism and opportunity they will share how they keep themselves afloat. 

Creative reciprocity between young children and contemporary art/ists – Dr Clare Britt 


The Art & Wonder: Young Children and Contemporary Art Research Project is a collaboration between the Museum of Contemporary Art, Australia, and Macquarie University, working with children, families and teachers from Mia Mia Child and Family Study Centre, and Blacktown City Council Kids Early Learning. Our research focuses on how very young children encounter contemporary art in a gallery space, and how rich pedagogy might emerge from these encounters. Creative reciprocity between young children and contemporary artists is a fascinating element of this research project. Children show us the connections they make not just with artworks but with the artists as people, as well as the creative processes that these different artists engage with. We are also interested in what contemporary artists might be experiencing as they engage with and create connections with babies and very young children in the art museum context. In this workshop we will think more about findings from the project around creative reciprocity in aesthetic, expressive, tactile, imaginative, encounters between contemporary artists and young children. 

The puddle at the bottom of the hill: learning and teaching through outdoor play – Kylie Thomas


Shoes off, she pulls the rainsuit over one foot and up the leg, then over the other. Shimming into the all-in-one, she places her arms into the jacket and does up the zip. Next gumboots on. She knows the routine well and takes pride in her accomplishment of doing it by herself. She stands up and takes a deep breath in, ready! She smells the rain from the last shower and sees a drop on a leaf about to fall. She reaches for it; it lands on her hand and rolls down to her fingertips. She is interrupted by the sound of a giggle over the call of a noisy miner and is drawn down the hill. Over the rocky terrain she moves with ease and finds the source, her friend, who runs and jumps into the puddle at the bottom of the hill. At Flinders University Child Care Centre (Flinders), the line between indoor and outdoor play is blurred. Both indoor and outdoor play are available concurrently. Children take agency in moving freely between the two environments during all weather. This presentation will include the benefits and advantages of play outside. Through vignettes from the five 'Houses' at Flinders, Kylie will highlight the opportunities for learning as children spend time outdoors. Listen to evidence and stories of experience; babies barefoot outside, toddlers climbing trees, a seed to table program, pre-schoolers venturing into the wild and children sleeping outside. Hear the words from the children, families and educators who really know outdoor play. Shoes off, gumboots on. Come join us, we will be in the puddle at the bottom of the hill. 


Can pedagogical documentation be inspiring? Thinking together to enlighten our work – Janet Roberston, Dr Alma Fleet, Kirsty Liljegren and Anthony Semann


How might we re-image the role of pedagogical documentation so to ensure it enlightens our work. The act of documenting is an act of democracy where we bring to light the thinking, theories and ideas of children and adults. This panel will challenge, affirm and inspire new ways of thinking about pedagogical documentation as we share ideas, stories and thinking which underpin this way of working. We wish to propel a movement away from surface level documentation to a more rigorous and thoughtful approach that shapes our practices and the learnings of children. We offer presence, theories and philosophy as necessary companions in this pedagogical act. 

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