An exploration of how the Froebel Storytelling Approach can support young children through the COVID-19 pandemic
Evidence is beginning to emerge about how the anxieties linked to COVID-19 are affecting the everyday life young children (Pascal et al, 2020). It appears that the impact of restrictions on social interaction and participation in society’s cultural life is highly individual and structured by many hierarchies, including hierarchies of age.
Understanding the lessons of this crisis are important as policymakers and practitioners work out how to both prevent and respond to such events in the future. It is also crucial to ensuring the current and future mental health and wellbeing of this generation of young children is not adversely affected by these experiences.
As with most areas of society and human life, the COVID-19 pandemic has posed additional challenges to young children growing up in the modern world. The economic and public health consequences of the crisis are threatening to deepen the well documented existing patterns of vulnerability and under-achievement for young children and families, especially those living in poverty and disadvantage. The impact of the additional stress, depression and mental health issues caused by the pandemic crisis is likely to be grave, especially in low income households and for disadvantaged young children and their families (Pascal et al, 2020).
Listening to, and capturing, the experiences and perspectives of all citizens on the pandemic would therefore seem to be congruent with our sense of an inclusive, democratic society which values solidarity and the right to be heard, yet all too often the voices of young children are excluded from consideration as we begin to narrate the pandemic.
These young children, who are at a formative stage in their lives and in their growing civic awareness, have equally valid knowledge, views and feelings about the pandemic which they are capable of expressing if given the opportunity. They have powerful and specific narratives about how they have been and are affected firstly, by the lockdown and now, by the gradual opening up of public spaces and places, which deserve serious consideration and which provide important evidence to inform how early years provision should respond.
Children have powerful narratives about how they have been affected by lockdowns and the subsequent opening up of public spaces and places, and we believe that this deserves serious consideration by practitioners and policy makers.
The research project was also featured in an article in Nursery World published in May 2021: Listening to Children - Tell us a story
Participants and Methodology
This project was led by the Centre for Research in Early Childhood, Birmingham, England working with a team of practitioner researchers from CREC under the direction of Professor Chris Pascal and Professor Tony Bertram. In this project CREC worked in a collaborative partnership with:
Guildford Nursery School and Family Centre, Surrey, England under the leadership of Sally Cave.
Cowgate Under Fives Centre, Edinburgh, Scotland under the leadership of Lynn McNair.
Greengables Nursery School & Family Centre, Edinburgh, Scotland under the leadership of Catriona Gill.
Birdwood Kindergarten, The Auckland Kindergarten Association, Auckland, New Zealand under the leadership of Anne Denham.
Two lead practitioners and one manager from each setting were trained in the Froebelian Storytelling Approach and its pedagogy and also in action research and documentation techniques.
12 children and their families from each setting (aged 2-4 years of age and a mix of gender, ethnicity, socio-economic status and COVID experience), 36 children in total, were identified as case studies and their COVID narratives carefully documented from September-December 2020 as they returned to their nursery, creating an evidence bank of narrative sequences from the 36 children, drawn from the three different countries.
These narratives took the form of oral narratives, drawings, play narratives, photographic storyboards, digital documentation and a range of other expressive methods and media as appropriate to culture and context. The evolution of the Froebel Storytelling Approach in each of the study sites was also carefully documented and collated by the practitioners involved.