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Published: November 21st 2012
Paraphrasing and borrowing this famous saying attributed to the Jesuits, I would have to say that the children of Zhangqui Experimental Kindergarten in Jinan will be wonderful future citizens.
This kindergarten has won many awards for not only Jinan but for the whole of Shandong province and it’s easy to see why.
The centre is well staffed with 3 adults per room, 1 teacher, 1 assistant teacher and 1 assistant for 40-50 children.
There are additional staff to clean and cook and administrative and directing staff on hand constantly.
Children are signed in with a swipe card system and in each room there is a visual and light display showing each child represented as a number with the light on for being there, this was used as a numeracy tool in one of the rooms today. It is easy to see how many children are in each room instantly with a clock and temperature display completing this great use of technology.
The centre is large, 500 children on 3 levels, with playground spaces on the 3rd
floor roof top, at ground level, balconies off each room on each floor for
Swipe card, display in each room with who and who is not in
outdoor play and 2 teaching/play rooms per class.
Most classes divided into 2 halves for intentional teaching time, with one teacher in each space.
Many lessons focussed on traditional Chinese art forms such as drawing, paper folding, and there was quite a lot of instruction on how to use materials to create the desired effect.
This is a lot more directed than what we do in Australia in our early childhood areas where we let children experiment and use materials to their self-satisfaction.
However I can understand exactly what the teachers were doing as we do this at times too with eg clay and carpentry where we show children how to use the tools, both for safety and to provide children with the necessary knowledge of their use.
China has so many people that order and uniformity is desired and necessary for both living and safety, so this is taught and expected at an early age. Children as young as 3 were able to sit still on little chairs and attend for short periods of time, with this interspersed with active creative play.
Attention to aesthetics
makes this kindergarten stand out, hall displays of art work which was mounted, real art and then children’s imitations created an art gallery effect.
They have resources to die for: a library, a science room, music studio complete with 20 keyboards, gym studio used today for a 5-6 year old boys specialist class of a martial arts routine, each room has a piano, computer connected to internet with a massive flat screen display, and a teachers room complete with a bank of computers and keyboards for lesson preparation.
The outdoor play was a sight to behold, with the majority of the children in the outdoor large playground before lunch. Initially the 5-6 year olds were marshalled into this area, each holding 2 plastic bottles and they commenced a calisthenics routine to music expertly choreographed, learnt and enjoyed by all.
The younger children arrived during this music and had circle areas to play in and around with obstacle courses, ball and hoop play, directed as needed but with the children able to do as they wanted within their area.
After the routine there was skipping ropes for all, wheelbarrow races if
they wanted, obstacle course, climbing equipment, individual play.
Behaviour was managed with a positive smile, a guiding hand, and gentle touch, rewarding the positive, showing and setting limits (hands up) and ignoring the not so appropriate. Whistles were used outdoors, with a set of whistles to inform the children of what they were required to do, e.g. pack up. As this area was large, loud music and laughing & playing children their use was needed and not overdone.
So where were the ASD or ADHD children? No idea at all.
I can only think that with the direction and order that was extremely evident in all activities, that these children can cope and understand and know what is expected of them.
We all know that routine and predictability is needed for any child with Autism. Not sure how they would cope with the huge numbers and the co-operative nature of learning here.
I did not see any child with any disorder at all e.g. Downs Syndrome, or any obvious cognitive, language or physical issues, maybe they can’t be included in these settings. And I know that there is heavy
screening prenatally for the one only child of this country.
Our educators in Australia are extremely stressed with having 1 in 4 children with some sort of issue in their main stream settings with no extra support of any kind. None of these teachers today seemed too stressed, they had 3 students per room, us visiting, children excitedly seeing a foreigner and calling out and shouting for attention, none of this threw the room out of balance and order and calm was restored quickly.
Yes this is a model and the best in Shandong but it’s enlightening to see such a wonderful early childhood environment.
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