“Play is often talked about as if it were a serious relief from learning. But for children, play is serious learning.” –Mr. Rogers
When I was in Korea, I volunteered at a day care center every Monday morning called 어린이뜨락. This day care was unique. It is the result of a partnership between a church and a group of mothers and their pre-school aged kids. One of the rules is that both the children and the mothers go to the center. Parents can’t just drop their kids off. This creates a beautiful relationship between the children and also between the mothers.
The mothers are working together to create a program for their kids that is alternative to the mainstream Korean education system. My understanding is that they want a program that promotes creativity, critical thinking, and hands-on learning. One day they hope to have a space large enough to accommodate many areas or “stations”, each offering a different way for the children to learn and play. The children will be able to choose which stations they want to go to, therefore choosing their own education, in addition to participating in scheduled activities. Because of this center’s unique approach to early childhood education, it was featured on a local Korean tv news station, which you can view here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ikLQ9-8AUzw&t=2s&index=2&list=LLgTKRl2eSapcSSX6a_PhS6Q
As this center was in its infancy, the mothers needed time to plan and figure out how they want to structure their programs. That’s where I came in. My job was to hang out and play with the children, so that the mothers could devote some time to planning and brainstorming. I never thought that I would like working with very young kids. But I really enjoyed it.
I also helped the mothers with their planned activities for the kids. These included arts and crafts, going to playgrounds, and reading books. Actually, I read a lot of books, both in English and Korean. It was a great chance for both me and the kids to practice Korean.
Everyone at 어린이뜨락 really inspired me. The kids were incredibly cute and smart. It was a pleasure to watch them grow. And I admire the mothers because they didn’t want to just drop their kids off somewhere for the day; so they took the initiative to get involved with their children’s education. They work together to give their children a chance to learn in new, creative ways. In doing so, I learned as well, from both mother and child.