Landscape of Rights – Adelaide July 2009

Posted on August 28, 2009

Landscape of Rights – Adelaide July 2009

A Journey Into the Rights of Children Bruna Elena Giacopini

Bruna Elena lives in Reggio Emilia and works as a pedagogista for the Municipal infant toddler centres and preschools. She has a PhD in pedagogy and this has given sense and meaning to her own professionalism in the continuous dialogue and exchange with different educational experiences at national and international level. Elena also coordinates the Remida Creative Recycling Centre.

“Children have rights and children bring culture – on this premise we can build a higher level of citizenship” Malaguzzi

  • Universal declaration of human rights was signed in 1948
  • The United Nations Declaration of the Rights of the Child was signed in 1959

The rights of children are about the subjectivity of each child within the group of children. The declaration of rights would be transformed into an assumption of responsibility. Children are the subject of rights from birth. Children are citizens now. To talk of the rights of the child is to talk about the image of the child and the cultural image of the child.

It is about the rights of a person – in the present – not of the future.

Children have rights and there must be a dialogue between the rights of children, of teachers, of parents, of the community. No right lives on its own. How rights exist must be in balance. It is when there is the ‘unbalance’ that we must then strive towards balance –this is reciprocity.

Perfection does not exist, but how can we do better?

The culture expressed by children should be brought from centres and schools to the city. The debates around this are about making meaning.

“Children listen to the rights of their fathers, children listen to the rights of children, Fathers have to listen to rights of their children” (girl aged 5/6)

“Duties are the things you have to do and rights are things you need to have” (boy 5/6)

How does the school as a learning community offer itself as a political and cultural subject and not just an answer to a need? Schools take their identity from a place but they also give identity to that place. Terms define your identity ‘Schools of childhood’ – ‘Nido’ translates as a ‘nest of childhood’.

Transforming practice into theory and theory into practice.

How do children acquire knowledge?

How do children process and organise knowledge?

How do teachers construct their knowledge together with children? We must observe what the children are proposing to us.

How can we legitimise research about children?

Children’s rights:

  1. The Right to Play. The freedom to play. What is normal? Normality doesn’t exist. Inventing a new world, experimenting, creating possible realities without losing sight of the boundaries – being daring. The boundaries are the most interesting places to be in. Play enables us to reinvent our definition of ourselves. Play allows us to be distant from ourselves with ease and to generate a sense of belonging, pleasure and passion.
  2. The right to learn to learn. It is important to not give information to children. Children need to know what to do with what they know. They must know how to access information and give meaning to the information. You don’t teach it by saying it. Meta-cognition is important and is about thinking about thinking.

Building questions, critical thinking, a research attitude with doubts, listening incompleteness, confrontation of ideas as qualifying paradigms.

Knowledge as a means of opening ourselves as a temporary theory and not as an act of conformity.

Enjoying doubt. “What do you mean”. The process is incomplete and this is the beauty.

  1. 3. The right to be recognised as unique, whole, as a protagonist.

We have tried to see the child and children not only as the recipient of care but as producers of relationships – they are constantly seeking the sense of their actions, the meaning of the things around them. They are equipped with enormous potential and they have 100 languages to express their potentiality.

Languages sustain children to be in the world – languages generate and support. We must revisit our image of teaching and learning

  1. 4. The right to a school as ‘agora’ (“place of assembly” in ancient Greek history)

School is a place to meet, a place of solidarity, dialogues, differences.

Schools are laboratories for a democratic life. They are a community for learning that transmits and builds culture by acting and building the rules that need to be discussed, to argue and to compare ideas.

  1. The right to a learning context.

Contexts that offer participation, individual and group learning, intelligent materials, amiable environments, 100 languages, respect of child time, on site professional learning as research. Intelligent materials as a way of activating research – not replicating preconceived ideas.

Nothing without Joy!

Languages represent the world – and languages can re – present ‘yourself’.

There is a need for a theory of experiences – create contexts where experiences are deepened. Generate learning through reflection across an experimental continuum. There is a close relationship between social organisation, physical furnishings, subjects of study and the methods used. There is a link between experience – a link to finding ‘meaning’. Dewey’s theory was viewed as a philosophy of experience. Experience – action – meaning.

  1. The right to loans of knowledge – Creating memory through notes. Elena gave an example of a child’s drawing – it was not until the child revealed her thinking when she described what she had drawing, and the drawing came alive. The notes taken by the teacher reveal a different level of thinking.
  2. The right to listen – drawing, researching ways to re – present. Children like discussing rules. Make the rules explicit – this gives meaning.
  3. The right to construct meanings – constructing rules; The importance is around the purpose of reading and writing. “when you say the ideas they detach from and then come back differently in the middle”. Different responsibilities – equal dignitaries

The importance of literacy and numeracy must be valued by writing what is important to children and giving it purpose.

  1. 9. The right to the possibility to organise your own knowledge.

Problematising learning – complicating the everyday

10 The right to a culture of the contemporary. Not to let ‘popular culture’ in means not letting the child in – only parts of the child – but we have said we want the whole child.

How do we welcome those parts of the experience of popular culture?

We must ask ourselves ‘what are the qualities of these toys? Are they fascinating? Which concepts are interesting to children and what parts can be modified. The idea of transformation and identity – identity with your friends.

How are we able to be with our friends? Becoming invisible is fascinating to children and it is possible in the digital world. In Reggio we undertook research around transformation and invisibility. It is interesting when we can multiply parts of ourselves. Children reconstruct and re-imagine these concepts. “Polymarisation” is a way of going round and round that unites two monsters into one really strong monster.

11. The right not to agree – to have different points of view.

Freedom to express your ideas. Relationships of the word and the clay gives power to your understanding (e.g. of the bicycle). ‘Is there one bike here that could be used as an idea for next time?’

Collect – Interpret and then re-launch

Doing – reflecting – interpreting – re-launching

Documentation gives us opportunities to reflect about the learning processes of children and adults.

Keeping an element of doubt alive. Doubt allows a person to communicate something which is different to saying something.

Documentation – the culture of difference.

12. The right to aesthetic dimensions that could help us emerge from conformity

The right to an aesthetic dimension helps us to emerge from conformity which deprives the different languages of energy and expressiveness. The desire to express grace and loveliness, care and attention to the details and a refusal of ‘redundancy’. Spreading of love – being in love

13. The right to take your own time.

Time to understand and build competencies as a memory of each subject and of the group.

14. The right to make explicit that the space is time, that the space gives shape to time, to the right of imagining, to get excited, to dream to learn.

The right to “feel the air” – something that exists but that can’t be seen. The beginning of relationships – fragile but dense.

These notes are a ‘version’ of the presentation given by Elena – but they are only that. As everyone hears, sees, remembers differently, it is a surety that I haven’t captured things quite as they were meant or said. I offer them to you as just that, notes from my encounter with Elena at a presentation in Adelaide.

What a wonderful experience that was.

Thanks to Bruna Elena Giacopini of Reggio Emilia.

Chris Bayes