The Case Study Site and the Rationale for Selecting It to Analyse Holistic Wellbeing
This site is where I did my fifteen-day placement last year. It is called Swinburne Children’s Centre, and its teachers do their best to provide children with a nurturing and co-learning environment. The Centre strives to help young learners achieve lifelong success (“Swinburne Children’s Centre,” n.d.). All of the services provided at Swinburne are available to the community, and parents can choose either part-time or full-time education and care for their child. Each staff member is highly qualified and well-trained, which enables them to create a trusting learning environment for children (“Swinburne Children’s Centre,” n.d.). The Centre offers favorable settings for young learners, where they can experiment and promote inquiry skills.
The motivation for selecting this site to analyse holistic wellbeing is primarily associated with the fact that it is attended by children from diverse backgrounds. While doing my placement there, I noticed that there were many children with special needs, but the Centre’s supportive staff managed all issues effectively and promptly. Compared to other centers in that suburb, Swinburne Children’s Centre has numerous supportive resources aimed at helping children to learn or seek help. Such activities as yoga time, library visits, music lessons, age care visits, and others, which are provided at Swinburne Children’s Centre, foster young learners’ holistic wellbeing. Respect for families, as well as for aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander cultures, high level of care, and principles of inclusion, diversity, and equality make the site an exemplary place for analyzing children’s holistic wellbeing.
Holistic Wellbeing and Its Link to Policy
The early childhood stage is the period when the foundations of physical, spiritual, social, and emotional wellbeing are established. The combination of these factors makes up holistic wellbeing (Australian Government Department of Education and Training [AGDET], n.d.). Pendergast and Garvis (2017) single out six principal discourses that help to understand the term ‘wellbeing’: medical, operationalized, sustainability, holistic, philosophical, and self-responsibility. Wellbeing presupposes having good physical and mental health, self-regulation, and attachment (Department of Education and Training [DET], 2016). Children with developed wellbeing can regulate their emotions, experience the feeling of happiness, and can adapt to new environments easily (DET, 2016). Children possessing a strong sense of wellbeing can ask for help and are comfortable being both alone and with others. According to the Convention on the Rights of the Child, the main principles pertaining to children’s wellbeing are those of (a) non-discrimination, (b) the best interests of the child, (c) survival, development, and protection, and (d) participation (Pendergast & Garvis, 2017). To comply with these conventions, educators have to promote children’s holistic wellbeing.
Holistic wellbeing is linked to outcome 3 of the Victorian Early Years Learning Framework (VEYLF). According to this outcome, children should have a strong feeling of emotional and social wellbeing, as well as grow responsibility for their own physical wellbeing (AGDET, n.d.). To comply with these expectations, Swinburne Children’s Centre affirms care, safety, security, and high-quality education for its young visitors. Specifically, the Centre promotes children’s access to a progressive learning environment by cultivating emotional security, care, and safety (“About Us,” n.d.). When I was on the placement there, I noticed that they had a checklist that was run through every day to make sure that the environment was safe, and there were no potentially dangerous things. Furthermore, the Centre aligns its program with the VEYLF (“Additional benefits,” n.d.). The site focuses on helping children to gain a strong sense of autonomy, self, and community (“Additional benefits,” n.d.). One of the numerous policies of the Centre is the safety check policy, responsible for the safe environment for the children (“Policies,” n.d.). Hence, the Centre pays due attention to children’s holistic wellbeing.
A Discussion of One Aspect of Holistic Wellbeing in the Selected Case Study Site
The aspect of holistic wellbeing selected for discussion is diet and nutrition. From my observations, Swinburne Children’s Centre pays much attention to this aspect of children’s development. First of all, the Centre respects each learner’s individual characteristics and demographics, including food preferences, which is a crucial component of the biopsychological model (McCormack & McLeod, 2017). Furthermore, such an approach aligns with Bronfenbrenner’s ecological model, which implies a focus both on the development of the child and the environment in which this development occurs (Fleer, 2018). The Centre has several policies concentrated on diet and nutrition, including the food provision code of practice and the nutrition, storage and heating of breast milk procedure (“Policies,” n.d.). Each of these regulations helps educators and other staff members to provide children with the highest quality of diet and nutrition.
Making healthy food choices is one of the core prerequisites of children’s physical health, which also affects other aspects of wellbeing. Since young children cannot make responsible choices regarding their diet, parents and teachers are the ones who can and should arrange nutrition literacy (Parletta, 2017). Poor eating habits have an adverse effect not only on youngsters’ physical health but also on their emotional and mental development (Munday & Wilson, 2017). Thus, by educating children on making healthy food choices, Swinburne Children’s Centre increases the likelihood of gaining the holistic wellbeing of each child. A misalignment between the parents’ and schools’ food choices can lead to negative outcomes of early years learners (Boyd, 2015). Therefore, a positive effect can be gained with the role modeling of healthy food choices and attitudes (Parletta, 2017). The Centre can also serve as a useful partner for those families that do not have time or opportunity to promote healthy food choices at home.
The elements of Bronfenbrenner’s ecological theory that I was able to observe at the Centre were those concerning the microsystem and mesosystem. At the microsystem level, the Centre provides families with an understanding of what nutrient food is and how healthy food choices can be made without considerable financial inputs. At the mesosystem level, the interaction between teachers and parents is arranged through encouraging families to prepare healthy food for 3-5-year-old learners, including fruit and vegetables. Due to the brevity of placement days, I was not able to observe all of their practices associated with healthy eating. However, I believe that teachers run activities promoting healthy food choices and preventing the consumption of junk food.
How the Case Study Site Supports the Perspectives and Strengths of the First Peoples of Australia
Swinburne Children’s Centre pays due attention to supporting the perspectives and strengths of the first peoples of Australia, such as Aboriginal Australians and Torres Strait Islanders. Children from various cultural groups attend the Centre, as well as children with additional rights. The activities focused on such support are linked to outcome 1 of the VEYLF, which states that children should have a strong sense of identity (AGDET, n.d.). Outcome 2 is also important in this respect since it presupposes that children develop a sense of belonging to different groups and communities (AGDET, n.d.). Children from diverse backgrounds can experience difficulties in communication and integration into the learning environment (McCormack & McLeod, 2017). Swinburne Children’s Centre fully understands the significance of the strong cultural identity for children’s holistic wellbeing.
Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander services provided at the Centre align with the requirements posed by the Secretariat of National Aboriginal and Islander Child Care (SNAICC). Forming partnerships with families, paying attention to traditions, and encouraging children to learn about each other’s culture are some of the most crucial components of enhancing preschoolers’ holistic wellbeing (SNAICC, 2013). The Centre’s activities in this direction are numerous and effective.
During my placement, I noticed that the Centre supported the perspectives and strengths of Aboriginal Australians and Torres Strait Islanders. Children from various cultural backgrounds, including India, China, Europe, and Aboriginal groups, attend the Centre. To make their accommodation easier, the Centre employs a teacher specialising in Mandarin. Additionally, the Centre arranges aboriginal storytime activities, celebrates aboriginal festivals, and honors festivals of different countries.
From my placement experience, I noticed that Australia’s Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander cultures are deeply valued in the Centre. In the 3-5-age group, there is a sandbox in the classroom, with the help of which children explore aboriginal storytelling symbols through sensory play. Children are also taught to sing Aboriginal Torres Island songs, such as the “Taba Naba” song. All of the activities undertaken by the Centre’s educators promote children’s understanding of and respect toward their own and other cultures. As a result, these learners grow up with respect for diversity and disapproval of racism.
How the Case Study Site Supports the Wellbeing of Children, Parents, Families, and Communities
Holistic wellbeing is closely interlinked with the ecological model of development. There exist different typologies of dimensions constituting holistic wellbeing, and one of them focuses on such broad domains as societal, community, family, and individual (Lewis, 2019). From the ecological perspective, the most beneficial settings for the early identification of children are community ones (Laletas et al., 2015). Taking into consideration my experience in Swinburne Children’s Centre, the case study site wholeheartedly supports the wellbeing of children, caring about parents’, families’, and communities’ wellbeing as well. The Centre makes sure that children are aware of their peers’ diverse needs, such as anaphylaxis and ways of coping with it. All procedures that might trigger an allergic reaction are recorded in a book carefully, and procedures are followed with utmost care so as to avoid giving children foods to which they are allergic. Additionally, the Centre has a sun smart policy aimed at preventing skin cancer (“Policies,” n.d.). These measures concentrate on the individual level of Bronfenbrenner’s ecological model.
All of the other levels of Bronfenbrenner’s model are also given due attention in the Centre. The microsystem includes the child’s immediate environment, such as their family, school, and peers (Fleer, 2018). To support this system, the Centre communicates with children’s parents openly and tries to adopt a family-centered approach. For instance, teachers speak multiple languages to build rapport with families. Also, they speak different languages to children so that the latter do not feel isolated. However, educators still encourage children to use English as often as possible. The school has a Facebook page, with the help of which parents can find out about school activities and give their feedback on them. There are at least two teachers in 3-5-year-old children’s room, and four teachers in toddlers’ room, so every child receives the necessary support whenever needed. The Centre provides a safe and hygienic place for children to learn in favorable settings.
At the mesosystem level, the connections between the child and their immediate settings are examined. At this level, the relationship between family and school is evaluated. My observations allow concluding that the Centre has a well-built system of communication between teachers and families. Apart from the Facebook page as a means of communication, teachers frequently discuss children’s achievements with parents, explaining how they behaved and what they did during the day.
At the exosystem level, the settings in which children do not participate directly, but which affect them, are located. Such environments may include social welfare, the community health system, parents’ jobs, and the education department’s policies (Fleer, 2018). The Centre understands that some parents work long hours or in shifts, so it is open from 6 a.m. until 6 p.m. to ensure flexible time for each family to bring and pick up their child. Swinburne Children’s Centre provides social welfare support to help families in need. The manager can refer such families to helplines or arrange a goodwill service. There is a community pantry where parents can donate, share, or take the items they need. The macrosystem incorporates the culture in which the child lives. The Centre supports this system through valuing cultural diversity and respecting aboriginal cultures. Teachers speak multiple languages to reduce language barriers in communication with families. The Centre celebrates festivals of various countries, and on such occasions, the flags of these countries are placed in classrooms.
The bioecological model, which is an improved version of Bronfenbrenner’s ecological model, includes another level, the chronosystem one. This level incorporates the timing of events and their effect on children’s development (Bone, 2015). In view of the current pandemic situation in the world, the Centre realises how distant learning can influence children’s development. Therefore, teachers create videos for teaching children and parents how to make play materials and use them at home.
I would like to work in Swinburne Children’s Centre because of the excellent management, play-based activities, and cultural diversity that are cultivated there. The principles of non-discrimination and putting children’s best interests first signify that children’s rights are respected, which promotes their holistic wellbeing (Pendergast & Garvis, 2017). The atmosphere in the Centre is favourable for children, families, and teachers, which makes it an excellent place to work at and promote children’s development.
Swinburne Children’s Centre, which was selected as a case study site for analysis, fully corresponds to the requirements and policies of the Early Years Learning Framework for Australia. The Centre has favorable settings in which every family can choose the type of stay. The school respects diverse cultures and takes into account the different needs of young learners and their families. A special focus of the analysis was made on diet and nutrition, but the Centre ensures many other positive factors of children’s growth. Most importantly, the Centre provides holistic wellbeing of children by promoting healthy habits and positive interaction at different levels of the ecological model of development.
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