Date: 31-03-2020

BLOG: EDUCAS Case Study from Italy

EDUCAS aims to create ECEC environments that support children’s development in a holistic way, taking into account the diverse needs of children and families, with special attention to the ones at risk of social exclusion. The consortium is experimenting with visions and methods related to organizing ECEC environments and materials within an educare approach.

The project is sharing a series of case studies from each of the three countries (Belgium, Italy, and Lithuania) involved in the project. The brief below shares insights into the Italian context.

In Italy, work began with conducting focus groups with families and staff in the two ECEC centers involved in the project: Maria Vittoria in Turin and Gelsomino in Parma.The reflections on the EduCare approach, shared with the European partners during the meeting held in Italy in June 2019, stimulated the Italian team to reflect on the ’Educational’ and ‘Caring’ aspects of the space. It seemed that the ‘Care’ aspect emerged clearly for the partners who visited the Italian services, but the “Edu” value was sometimes hardly visible to an external view. This reflection guided the Continuous Professional Developmental (CPD) Path that is now developing in Italy, named The Space in Mind.

Main areas of work identified

  • EduCare: the guiding-question of the CPD Path is ‘How we can make the ‘edu’ value of the ‘caring’ space more visible?
  • The Italian CPD Path is following an action-research methodology conducted in the two ECEC centers involved. Each center’s team is composed of its relevant educators and pedagogical coordinator plus a researcher from the university involved.
  • Maria Vittoria chose the toilet and the eating spaces whilst Gelsomino chose the welcoming/reunion spaces and the spaces for structured activities.

Strategies

  • Once the “critical spaces” were chosen, each center’s team conducted an observation of these spaces during the daily practice: coordinators, teachers and researchers, all wrote down their personal observations individually, followed by an ad hoc grid.
  • The observation grid helped observers to focus on the ‘Edu’ and ‘Care’ aspects of the space. The two main guiding-questions were: ‘What are children learning in this space?’ (Edu) and ‘How do children feel in this space?’ (Care).
  • Observations were shared with the whole team so that each professional could read the observations from the others.
  • Then, a plenary meeting to discuss the observations made was organized with researchers, coordinators, teachers, and assistants in each ECEC centre.
  • During this meeting, the strengths and difficulties of the chosen spaces were discussed and the whole team thought about possible changes.

Next steps

  • As a result, the Italian services are going to realize these changes in each centre.
  • After the re-design of the spaces, new observations will be conducted from the whole team and another plenary meeting will be organized to discuss the changes. This circular process, aimed at improving the spaces, will allow continuous adaptation to ever-changing needs for each specific moment (‘here and now’).
  • Both ECEC services will produce pedagogical documentation on this process to further reflect on their practice.
  • After exploring the points of view from families and staff, those from the children will be explored too. Through drawings and interviews, children should express how they feel in the spaces of the school/service.

Acknowledgments

The support in the process from the Local Stakeholder Group has been an added value. The Group is composed of key representatives from the National Group of Italian ECEC Services, Pedagogical Coordination of the Municipality of Parma and of the City of Turin, Department of Architecture of the University of Parma, Libraries for children, Italian pedagogical magazine “Bambini, Laboratorio Città Sostenibile of Turin, Opera Munifica Istruzione of Turin, Italian ECEC services furniture company Spazio Arredo. The Stakeholder Group is acting as ‘critical friend’ and supports the development of the project, its influence at the policy level, its sustainability, and dissemination.