One of the things which is most wonderful about Anchorage is that it is such a culturally-rich place to live. Because our population is so diverse, it is certain that we and our children will have friends, classmates and co-workers of many different ethnicities and cultures. Early childhood is a perfect time to help children understand and practice the concepts of kindness, service and inclusion, regardless of race or ethnicity.
The third Monday of each January is a federal holiday marking the birthday of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Ordinarily PNA celebrates Dr. Martin Luther King Day with such things as an all-school assembly, special art projects, and service opportunities. This year however, due to COVID restrictions, it was decided that each class would handle its own celebration. Last week in the Beluga class, we began talking about Dr. King’s life and messages about love, equal rights, and service for others. Both last week and next week we are focusing on one of Dr. King’s important quotes (which can be found stenciled in one of PNA’s stairwells): Life’s most persistent and urgent question is, “What are you doing for others?”
At the age of four, children are still largely egocentric. Egocentrism occurs in Piaget’s preoperational stage of development, and indicates that the child interprets their world in terms of the self. Young children in this stage of development lack the ability to see situations from another person’s viewpoint or infer what another person is thinking, feeling, or seeing. Because a child in this stage cannot infer accurately another person’s point of view, they instead apply their own perspective to situations. While they may appear selfish or spoiled, a child in the egocentric stage simply believes that everyone else sees (or feels or lives) exactly they do.
While many 4-year-olds are beginning to move out of the stage, it is a gradual process, and there is still plenty of preoperational thinking even in 5-year-olds. In preschool there is a constant flow of statements such as “Don’t cut in line (or play with her hair, or touch his neck, or take her toy, etc.)” followed by “Would you like it if someone did that to you?” One of my most memorable was when I found myself saying, “Don’t lick your neighbor. You wouldn’t like it if he licked you.” Standard preschool directions!
For our Beluga class, we hope to stimulate the children to begin to look outward from their egocentric perspectives, and invite them to think about children who are less fortunate than they are. To bring this down to a 4-year-old’s comprehension level, we talked about the fact that there are many children who do not have very many toys, or possibly even their own home. Then we talked about how many toys we have at our houses. We are hoping to provide a meaningful experience for the students by inviting them to choose one of their own toys to donate to children in need. We will be donating these toys to Clare House Women’s Shelter.
The goal is for these young children to feel and recognize that they are a part of a larger community, and that their actions can make a difference! Preschool at PNA is where we begin to “educate students to be exceptional learners and independent thinkers of vision, courage, and integrity”.
A few highlights from our week!