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Young Children, Public Spaces and Democracy
Start date: Sep 1, 2014, End date: Aug 31, 2017 PROJECT  FINISHED 

This proposal is for a 36 month transnational strategic partnership (BRIC) that focuses on the democratic engagement of children under the age of five years using public spaces. The rationale of the project is that young children are often excluded from access or participation in public spaces and that their democratic engagement is not only a right, but also an essential aspect of their identity and education and citizenship. We contend that there is a need to reconsider the use of public spaces to promote young children’s citizenship, through a combination of voice with action that can lead to genuine participation, inclusion and belonging. Whilst the provision of preschool education and care has become well established in many European countries in recent years, one possible impact of the placing of young children in early childhood institutions is that they are less visible to the rest of society and the children have less opportunity to participate in public arenas and spaces. The objectives of BRIC are to enable: • an exchange of ‘good practice’ between preschool teachers in three countries; • systematic education and training around democratic engagement in public spaces; • the development of open educational resources and targeted activities to engage early childhood professionals, parents, the local community and key stakeholders, including local politicians and representatives from business. The BRIC project will involve 6 preschool teachers who will lead the project with 60 teachers in each of the following three countries; England, Italy and Sweden (total of 180 preschool teachers and approximately 750 families). Key stakeholders such as parents, local politicians and business people will also be invited to participate in the project. It is anticipated that this group will involve around 30 people in each country (total of 90). A systematic and progressive programme of civic engagement is planned, starting from the dialogue between children, preschool teachers and parents in three countries (Italy, Sweden and the UK). The BRIC activities involve the following: • Set up Activities – to include training in Participatory Action Research (PAR) • Orientation and initial activities in Preschools • Focus group documentation exchange and reflection • Local and transnational exchange, documentation and reflection • Forums and national conferences • A range of dissemination activities including webinars and wider dissemination through the project website and social media • An International Conference The overarching design of the project is participatory action research (PAR) with children and preschool teachers. PAR involves working with children and preschool teachers to define an aspect for improvement (use of public space), design a change to address the issue and evaluate the success of the change. In particular, the ‘poly-vocal’ method (Tobin, Wu and Davidson 1989; Tobin, Hsueh, and Karasawa 2009) will be used in order to elicit children’s and practitioners’ perspectives using video film to record discussion, reflection and documentation about the public spaces. This visual data will then be shared between practitioners in each country and then between the three countries to enable deeper reflection and understanding. It is intended that dialogue, reflection and documentation undertaken by preschool teachers, informed by regional and national dissemination and participation in transnational exchange will impact on practice in preschools and enhance civic engagement. The results of the BRIC model will therefore inform pedagogy and professional development in the field of early childhood education through: • the establishment of Permanent Open Forums • maintenance of the website • conference presentations • evolving practice in preschools • a project Documentation Centre • the production of Case studies and pedagogical documentation for use for reflection by practitioners. These will be in the form of video and written vignettes published online and in hard copy. • publications at local, regional and international level. BRIC will forge crucial links between children, practitioners and policy makers, offering the potential for significant benefits to the civic engagement of young children and the transformation of practice in early childhood education. Practitioners will increase their knowledge and skills through participation in webinars and workshops and attendance at conferences, increasing their appreciation of the advantages of evidence based practice, and greater knowledge of the impact of the significance of young children’s democratic involvement in public spaces. Through participation in the project and democratic engagement in public spaces young children will enhance their sense of citizenship, identity and belonging. A pilot of the BRIC project has been completed (see
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