Play, Participation, and Possibilities: An Early Learning and Child Care Curriculum Framework for Alberta

Play, Participation, and Possibilities is a refreshing new curriculum framework out of Alberta that is broadly focused on the processes and decisions of early years educators.

HiMama is super excited about the new Play, Participation and Possibilities framework published in Alberta earlier this year. The vision and guiding principles behind the framework align closely to many of the values and principles that we hold central in the design of learning and development capabilities of our apps for early childhood educators.

In this post, I’ll provide an overview of the Alberta child care curriculum framework, Play, Participation and Possibilities. I’ll summarize the vision, purpose, and guiding principles behind the framework so that you can get a better understanding of the fundamental drivers behind the framework, as well as the goals set out in the document and the defined role of the early learning and child care educator.


Vision

The framework is inspired by a vision of strong, active, and energetic childhood communities that welcome and invite the participation of children and their families. This is referred to as places of vitality, which support the belief that children are strong, resourceful and capable learners and participating citizens. The curriculum framework is meant to inspire, provoke, and guide educators in their work with children and their families, with possibilities for:

  • nurturing each child’s identity as a mighty learner and citizen
  • valuing play in the lives of young children
  • making children’s play, learning, and development visible for children, families, and educators
  • respecting local family, social, and cultural practices and traditions in local communities
  • reflecting on the everyday experiences of children that are the basis for curriculum meaning making in early childhood communities

Purpose

The curriculum framework is a flexible framework for thinking about how children learn and experience their worlds, as well as a guide that fosters strong early childhood communities. The purpose is to:

  • articulate a set of holistic play-based goals for children’s learning and care
  • nurture children’s dispositions to learn
  • work with families in the care and learning of their children
  • engage educators as co-learners, co-researchers, and co- imaginers

Guiding Principles

The guiding principles of Play, Participation and Possibilities informed and shaped the decisions behind the framework and reflect what the authors considered to be truths about their work with young children and their families:

  • Children’s life-long health, well-being, learning, and behaviour are strongly connected to their early childhood experience.
  • Childhoods differ depending on social, cultural, and economic circumstances.
  • Children interact and learn in multiple learning communities and their learning is profoundly influenced by the relationships within and between these communities and, specifically, with respect to the relationship with the family.
  • Children thrive when they are nurtured in close, consistent relationships, and their families benefit from these relationships as well.
  • Children are active co-constructors of knowledge through first-hand experiences and in reciprocal relationships with people and things.
  • Children are unique learners who construct and represent knowledge using multimodal literacies for exploration and expression.
  • Children are citizens and active participants in society.

Holistic Play-Based Goals for Children’s Responsive Care, Play, Learning and Development

The holistic play-based goals of the Early Learning and Child Care Curriculum Framework for Alberta were adopted from the New Brunswick Curriculum Framework for Early Learning and Child Care. Here’s the summary:

Well-Being

Children participate within safe and caring environments where their vitality, health, well- being, and sense of belonging and identity are protected and nurtured. The three facets of this goal are Emotional Health and Positive Self-Identities, Belonging, and Physical Health.

Play and Playfulness

Children participate within open, engaging, and responsive environments where exploration and play are encouraged and purposefully planned. The three facets of this goal are Imagination and Creativity, Playful Exploration and Problem Solving, and Dizzy Play.

Communication and Literacies

Children participate within intellectually, socially, and culturally engaging environments where language and multiple literacies are valued and practised. The three facets of this goal are Communicative Practices, Multimodal Literacies, and Literate Identities With/In Communities.

Diversity and Social Responsibility

Children participate within socially inclusive and culturally sensitive environments in which social responsibility for self, others, and the world is enacted. The three facets of this goal are Inclusiveness and Equity, Democratic Practices, and Sustainable Futures.

The Role of the Early Learning and Child Care Educator

In the curriculum framework, the role of the early childhood educator is seen as multifaceted, complex, and dynamic where the educator must act as co-learner, co-researcher, and co-imaginer of possibilities.

Co-Learner: Plays, Seeks, Participates, Persists, Cares

Alongside children and families, educators openly seek to learn about children and their families. This learning informs curriculum planning and is foundational for a practice of relationships. Educators use their knowledge and learning to create places of vitality with children and families.

Co-Researcher: Questions, Investigates, Reflects, Interprets, Shares

Educators actively engage children, families, and colleagues to investigate, make meaning of, and communicate about what children are doing and thinking. They engage with families to learn about how children engage in their world. Interpretations reflect an understanding that learning is socially and culturally constructed.

Co-Imaginer of Possibilities: Wonders, Imagines, Creates, Invents, Risks in the Spirit of Learning

The role of the educator is to value the questions that can lead to possibilities created along with children, families, and colleagues, rather than have all the answers. Possibilities begin with wondering, imagining, and taking risks in the spirit of creating authentically shared places of vitality with children and families.


If you would like to learn more about how HiMama can be applied in your programs as a tool to help you, the early learning and child care educator, to act as co-learner, co-researcher, and co-imaginer of possibilities please contact us and one of our Community Advisors with an understanding of Play, Participation and Possibilities will be happy to speak with you.


Key Definitions

The curriculum framework frequently refers to some terms that are fundamental to the thinking behind the document. Here are definitions of some of these key terms:

Places of Vitality – Places of vitality are strong, active communities that welcome and invite participation of both children and adults. Places of vitality support the belief that children are strong, resourceful, and capable learners and participating citizens.

Mighty Learner – A mighty learner brings body and mind to play and learning. To be mighty means to be powerful, robust, vigorous, stalwart, and awe-inspiring. The image of the child described within the curriculum framework is a strong, resourceful, capable child.

Meaning Making – As a participatory and democratic process, meaning making is focused on documented moments of children’s learning and reveals multiple ways of knowing and understanding curriculum moments in early childhood settings.


Much of the information provided here is from the document, Play, Participation, and Possibilities: An Early Learning and Child Care Curriculum Framework for Alberta. Play, Participation, and Possibilities is the result of the collaborative effort of many individuals. The full framework can be retrieved at www.childcareframework.com.

Makovichuk, L., Hewes, J., Lirette, P., & Thomas, N. (2014). Play, participation, and possibilities: An early learning and child care curriculum framework for Alberta.

Ron Spreeuwenberg

Ron is the Co-Founder & CEO of HiMama, where he leads all aspects of a social purpose business that helps early childhood educators improve learning outcomes for children.

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