Seminar Video: Children as Architects of their own Education – An insight into Danilo Dolci’s Ecological Maieutics

We hosted this event 12-12.45pm GMT Monday 8th March 2021 (free, online).

The talk examines the application of Danilo Dolci’s Ecological Maieutics in Children’s Education, focusing on Dolci’s practice between 1975 – the year when his Mirto Experimental Educational Centre opened, and 1997. Notwithstanding all the administrative and financial problems it faced, the Mirto Centre, for children from four to fourteen years of age, became a beacon for progressive education in Italy. The Centre came into being in response to the dire situation of the Italian educational system of the day. According to Dolci, schools suffocated children, repressing all creativity, and he objected that they were not healthy environments but places of coercion and authoritarian rule. One severe drawback that schools had, according to Dolci, was their inability to pose “maieutic” questions, a failure to strengthen the natural questioning instinct, from the earliest infancy, in the widest range of contexts. Dolci’s vision for school is of a healthy environment where children can grow and learn, ultimately becoming the architects of their own lives and futures, making the children themselves responsible for their own education. Dolci’s method was drawn from a number of sources and in that sense was not wholly new but we can regard the clarity and persistence with which the method was applied as innovative in and of itself. It was highly effective in harmoniously combining theories from different educators, notably Maria Montessori and Aldo Capitini in Italy, and Rudolf Steiner and Paulo Freire internationally. This educational approach was intended to be constantly discussed and improved, not only by educators themselves but by the children, the educators and the parents together, focusing on creating a relationship between the experience of the Centre itself and other experiences from the childrens’ own world.

An image of Danilo Dolci – used with the kind permission of Sereno Dolci

Bio: Dr Abele Longo is MA Translation Programme Leader at Middlesex University, London. His main research interests encompass perspectives ranging from ecocriticism to environmental education. His publications include: Danilo Dolci – Environmental Education and Empowerment (Springer 2020); ‘Roma, viandanza dell’esilio. Rafael Alberti tradotto da Vittorio Bodini’ in N. di Nunzio and F. Ragni (Eds.) (2014) “Già troppe volte esuli” Letteratura di frontiera e di esilio, Morlacchi Editore, Perugia; ‘The Cinema of Ciprì and Maresco: Kynicism as a Form of Resistance’, in W. Hope (Ed.) (2010) Italian Film Directors in the New Millennium, Cambridge Scholars Publishing, Cambridge; ‘Subtitling the Italian South’, in J. Díaz-Cintas (Ed.) (2009), New Trends in Audiovisual Translation, Multilingual Matters, Bristol; ‘Palermo in the Films of Ciprì and Maresco’, in R. Lumley and J. Foot (Eds.) (2004) Italian Cityscapes, Culture and Urban Change in Contemporary Italy, Exeter University Press, Exeter.

Thinking with Freire to develop transformational children’s rights education – video online

Advocates of Children’s Rights Education (CRE) often describe their work as transformational and frequently cite Paulo Freire to argue their case, but they do not always espouse the kind of radical pedagogic practices promoted by Freire. This creates a mismatch between the revolutionary rhetoric of CRE and the rather timid practices that are often promoted. The first part of this paper introduces Freire and identifies some of the aspects of his work that are popular among CRE advocates. The main part of the paper explores Freire’s work in more detail, starting with his views on the relationships between learners and teachers, and then moving on to consider the ideological implications of adopting his work for CRE. The final part of the paper draws on Freire to suggest six complementary ways in which CRE can be genuinely transformational. The purpose of the paper is to introduce people to Freire’s work and demonstrate how it can be used to develop contemporary educational practices. 

Lee Jerome is Associate Professor of Education at Middlesex University. His main areas of interest are children’s rights, citizenship education and the professional development of teachers. In addition to his teaching and research Lee is actively involved in the Association for Citizenship Teaching where he contributes to training, resource writing and edits a magazine for teachers (www.teachingcitizenship.org.uk/journals). This presentation is based on his most recent book project with Hugh Starkey ‘Children’s Rights Education in Diverse Classrooms’ (soon to be published by Bloomsbury). 

Video: From multispecies tangles and Anthropocene muddles: what can lichen teach us about precarity and indeterminacy in early childhood?

Professor Jayne Osgood

This event was hosted 12-12.45pm on Monday 22nd Feb. It was a free online event.

This paper pursues storytelling in the Anthropocene as a method of earthly survival and multispecies flourishing from capitalist ruins. Storytelling emerged from (an accidental method of) walking-with during a global pandemic; the figure of the modern-day flâneuse is mobilised as a feminist praxis to investigate infected, entangled and affective relationalities between the human, non-human and more-than-human as they unfold in the daily tangles to emerge from lock-down life in the city. It is through the art of noticing (Tsing, 2015) and the arts of living on a damage planet (Tsing et al., 2017) that a commitment to engaging with the ordinary, mundane and habitual muddle, that the world is viewed, sensed and encountered through a different set of optics. The stories that are told about lichen, a dead pigeon, and a deadly virus are curated from a specific geopolitical moment where the early childhood workforce, as a highly gendered and classed group of ‘essential’ frontline workers, suffer disproportionately. Storytelling provides a means to attune to life in Anthropocene that emphasises precarity, indeterminacy and hope. It is only by recognising that trans-corporeality demands an ethical response-ability to all life forms (Alaimo, 2016) that we might find a means of earthly survival.

Bio: Dr Jayne Osgood is Professor of Education (Early Years & Gender) based at the Centre for Education Research & Scholarship, Middlesex University. Her present methodologies and research practices are framed by feminist new materialism. Through her work she seeks to maintain a concern with issues of social justice and to critically engage with early childhood policy, curricular frameworks and pedagogical approaches. Through her work she seeks to extend understandings of the workforce, families, ‘the child’ and ‘childhood’ in early years contexts. She has published extensively within the postmodernist paradigm including Special Issues of the journal Contemporary Issues in Early Childhood (2006, 2016 and 2017) and Narratives from the Nursery: negotiating professional identities in Early Childhood (Routledge, 2012) and currently Feminist Thought in Childhood Research (Bloomsbury Series). She is a member of several editorial boards including Contemporary Issues in Early Childhood, British Education Research Journal, and is Co-Editor of Gender & Education Journal and Co-Editor of Reconceptualising Education Research Methodology.

Event: Thinking with Freire to develop transformational children’s rights education, 12-12.45pm Monday 8th Feb 2021, via Zoom

Advocates of Children’s Rights Education (CRE) often describe their work as transformational and frequently cite Paulo Freire to argue their case, but they do not always espouse the kind of radical pedagogic practices promoted by Freire. This creates a mismatch between the revolutionary rhetoric of CRE and the rather timid practices that are often promoted. The first part of this paper introduces Freire and identifies some of the aspects of his work that are popular among CRE advocates. The main part of the paper explores Freire’s work in more detail, starting with his views on the relationships between learners and teachers, and then moving on to consider the ideological implications of adopting his work for CRE. The final part of the paper draws on Freire to suggest six complementary ways in which CRE can be genuinely transformational. The purpose of the paper is to introduce people to Freire’s work and demonstrate how it can be used to develop contemporary educational practices. 

Lee Jerome is Associate Professor of Education at Middlesex University. His main areas of interest are children’s rights, citizenship education and the professional development of teachers. In addition to his teaching and research Lee is actively involved in the Association for Citizenship Teaching where he contributes to training, resource writing and edits a magazine for teachers (www.teachingcitizenship.org.uk/journals). This presentation is based on his most recent book project with Hugh Starkey ‘Children’s Rights Education in Diverse Classrooms’ (soon to be published by Bloomsbury). 

Event: Pheminar Seminar – Enacting an Affirmative Ethics in the Neoliberal University through Peer Reviews, with Katie Strom & Tammy Mills

In this phEminar, we introduce an intervention into practice that explores the refusal of the belittlement and rejection culture of academia, focusing on scholarly publishing, and specifically on peer review. As a production of a creative project that the two of us worked on together, we created an affirmative peer-reviewing practices workshop that presented an alternative vision and tools for conducting affirmative, rigorous peer reviews that, rather than cutting down or serving as a stoppage for potential authors, seeks to provide a supportive experience that produces very different affects. We argue that this workshop, which we’ve since used with reviewers for a special issue and for faculty professional development, serves as an example of an alternative, affirmative vision for academia that can help to build trans-disciplinary connections & solidarity and establish mentorship as a norm of peer-reviewing. As part of the phEminar, participants will engage directly in the workshop and then hold a facilitated audience discussion afterward.

Book the tickets from https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/138647573625

Early Years: Finding Our Voice – – transcript, briefing & video of the event

The Leadership in Early Years Education RIG held an online symposium on Tuesday 19th January 2021. We were fortunate to welcome a fantastic trio of speakers to the event, bringing local, national and international perspectives to the issue of making the early years sector better heard in society and policy.

Our speakers were:

  • Aaron Bradbury Coffey, academic, author and early years campaigner
  • Taneshia Thompson, nursery manager at Brixton Community Nursery, part of LEYF
  • Ellen Dektar, specialist on advocacy work for childcare policy in California

Each speaker gave a ten-minute talk on their professional views and experiences. These talks were followed by breakout room discussion for participants and then an open dialogue among speakers and participants.

We want to make the lively discussion as accessible to as many as possible, and so we’ve published the following outputs:

Early Years Leadership in a Post-Covid World – transcript, briefing & videos of the event

The relaunched Leadership in Early Years Education RIG held an online symposium on Tuesday 10th November 2020. We were fortunate to welcome a fantastic trio of speakers to the event, bringing local, national and international perspectives to the problem of how we move forward as a sector in response to the Covid-19 crisis.

Our speakers were:

  • Julian Grenier, headteacher of Sheringham Nursery, working with the DfE on EYFS reforms
  • Sharon Quamie, baby room leader at the New Cross Nursery, part of LEYF
  • Professor Julie Nicholson from Mills College CA, trauma-informed practice specialist

Each speaker gave a ten-minute talk on their professional views and experiences. These talks were followed by breakout room discussion for participants and then the opportunity to pose a few questions to the speakers.

We want to make the lively discussion as accessible to as many as possible, and so we’ve published the following outputs:

‘Avant-Garde Art & Children’s Picture Books’ – a webinar with Victoria de Rijke

Victoria de Rijke led a webinar on the 9th Nov 2020 , organised by a PhD Candidate she mentors at São Paulo State University and the São Paulo Research Foundation.

A very heterogeneous group of 70 people from UG and PG students in English to professors researching picturebooks and children’s literature in general from Brazil, China, India, Europe and the UK attended the webinar, and found the opportunity to make connections across avant-garde visual arts and design, poetry and prose to the art of the picturebook rewarding. The influence of the Russian constructivist avant-garde on later movements such as Cubism, nonsense and concrete poetry or CoBrA, defined mobile features of the avant-garde such as play, re-forming, collage, and metaphor.  The organiser Guilherme Magri will publish an interview with Victoria in a University of Sao Paolo journal, which addresses many of themes covered in the webinar.

Event: Early Childhood Voices Conference (online), 16th – 20th November 2020

Professor Jayne Osgood is giving a keynote speech at the ECV conference hosted by Charles Stuart University in Australia.

The Early Childhood Voices Conference (ECV2020) is a multidisciplinary international conference providing a platform to share research about innovative methods, theories and partnerships with children, families and practitioners that supports social justice during early childhood or within the early childhood sector.

You can read more about the conference and sign up through the website.