Since its inception in November 2022, the international project “DECODE” has taken off beautifully, with several large meetings and numerous “micro-meetings” where we work together to discover solutions, establish processes, and, most importantly, share experiences between organisations and countries.

In the first newsletter, we discussed the project’s targeted outcomes as well as our first two meetings.

We provide three project outputs in today’s newsletter:

  • methodology for kindergarten teachers
  • educational teaching resources for kindergarten
  • manual for parents

Methodology for kindergarten teachers (theoretical part of the methodology)

The DECODE project is aimed at assisting children and families from socially challenged backgrounds. For such children, remaining in kindergarten is a crucial step towards considerable socio-emotional and intellectual development. Here, they are urged to practice collaboration and communication skills. Along with having the chance to involve families in their children’s education, teachers are able to develop a broad educational offer. The current methodology aims to increase kindergarten teachers’ readiness to adopt optimal educational strategies for the balanced socio-emotional and cognitive development of children (not just from socially disadvantaged families).

Kindergarten is a place that complements family education. Here, the child gets the opportunity to explore and experience new social roles, develops his communication skills, and is surrounded by a sufficient amount of stimuli for cognitive development. The teacher uses his or her professional and personal competencies to get to know the child and target his or her learning progress, transmitting attitudes and values.

This methodology captures a broad spectrum of early childhood education issues that encompass many important aspects. It is certainly not an exhaustive and single source of information, but it provides insight into the subject in such a way that it is clear that a teacher cannot concentrate on one area but must be able to consciously and purposefully link theoretical knowledge with his or her own practice. From the knowledge of the child’s personality, he or she makes the choice of appropriate educational strategies, and then, through the evaluation of the educational process, he or she decides on the next steps. The aim is that at the end of pre-school education, the child will have reached his or her personal best in all areas, ready to continue learning, to take on new social roles, and to meet the new challenges that await him or her.

The theoretical part of the methodology captures the basic foundations for a comprehensive view of the child’s development. On the basis of this background, the current model of pre-school education is presented, based on the principles of individualization and inclusion. The teacher’s work and contribution to the child’s development are crucially influenced by the educational strategies used, the methods of work, the evaluation of the learning outcomes, and the guidance of children in self-evaluation. The final chapters are devoted to these roles.

A significant challenge for teachers today is to promote collaboration, provide ongoing feedback, and assess the child’s progress. In this methodology, we have focused attention on linking cognitive development to another important component of child personality development, i.e., the development of cooperation.

We consider the biggest contribution of the methodology to be the connection between theory and practice. Following a brief overview of the essential theory, examples of concrete activities are given and described in a unified structure, giving the teacher the chance to supplement or review the subject matter. Each activity is described, including recommendations for working with a child with special educational needs, questions for reflection, and the use of ongoing feedback and support for the teacher during the activity. The teachers involved in their preparation and description also validated each activity directly in the kindergartens. This makes the methodology a valuable source of inspiration for other teachers and an important step towards improving the quality of preschool education.

Pre-school education is the building block for an individual’s lifelong learning, life application, happy experience, and finding oneself. In today’s very performance-oriented society, it has become the professional duty of the kindergarten teacher to indulge children’s childhood and allow them to experience success based on creative activities in which each child actively participates based on his or her current needs, abilities, and interests, without regard to the end result, but with a focus on the process, i.e., the experience of satisfaction, the joy of progress, mastering a problem, and finding a solution. To do this, the child needs a welcoming, accepting environment and support to build social relationships with his or her peers.

Educational teaching resources for kindergartens (practical part of the methodology)

In the DECODE project, Čtyřlístek Kindergarten aims to strengthen teachers’ professional skills.  We meet frequently and encourage one another. We share information about the requirements of particular children. Together, we develop a diverse list of activities meant to enhance their capacity for intellectual development. Our main themes have been Water around us, The world around us, Life events,  What I like to play with and Our uniqueness.

The careful planning, environment setup, actual implementation in the classroom, and assignment verification, including the generation of relevant open-ended questions, come next. Children and teachers both reflect at the end of each topic.

Our next effort and challenge will be to recruit and involve parents in activity planning.

Manual for parents

The DECODE project’s manual for teachers is followed by another manual for parents to support communication with the family and the development of the child’s cognitive potential. They can choose from a variety of activities to help support their child at home. Teachers can use this as an opportunity to inform parents of its benefits or to find new sources of inspiration.

We are aware of the interconnectedness of early childhood education with the family environment. Communication and cooperation with the family are becoming increasingly important. It is more than appropriate that the interaction between the family and the kindergarten be unified, based on the child’s current needs, capabilities, and interests. The teacher should be equally able to alleviate pressure on the child’s performance from the family, to mitigate the effects of protective parenting, and to support families from socially disadvantaged backgrounds so that all act in the best interests of the child. At the same time, parents should also seek out and find support from teachers.

The methodology is written in parent-friendly language. It aims to support parents so that they themselves can support their child’s development and, together with the kindergarten, contribute to a successful and smooth transition from kindergarten to primary school.

The first chapter is devoted to a description of the areas of support for the child. This provides the parent with a simple overview that makes it easier to understand the importance of supporting the child in all areas. Most space is devoted to the cognitive area, which is broken down into sub-areas in separate sub-chapters. Each sub-section is elaborated in a simple description, accompanied by specific relevance to the child and his or her development.

In the second chapter, entitled How You Can Support Your Child at Home, parents will learn about important aspects of child support. These include creating a supportive home environment, encouraging natural curiosity, nurturing health, encouraging your child to learn, and fostering a love of exploration.

In the final chapter, we have tried to give parents a way to talk to their child and evaluate their efforts.

An important part of this manual is the practical demonstration of specific activities that are easily accessible for implementation in the home environment without the need for special equipment. As in the Teacher’s Manual, the activities are presented in a clear, unified structure. Once again, the preparation and validation of the activities were carried out by kindergarten teachers.

In order to support their child well, parents need to know them well and provide them with ample opportunities to develop. They can give these opportunities to the child when they know about them and when they themselves are convinced of their importance. In this handbook, we have tried to present and convey in a simple way to parents of children important information that is particularly relevant to their child’s intellectual development. Together, we have embarked on a journey to understand the laws of child development, and we believe that by doing so, we will help to bring about the thoughtful and purposeful development of the child.

DECODE project partners meeting

The third international meeting of the DECODE project took place virtually in May 2023, again under the leadership of the project coordinator, Dr. Josef Raabe Publishing House. The meeting was attended by all the partners and started with a presentation in which we presented what we have already successfully completed and what we are working on, but also recapitulated what lies ahead in the future. At the virtual meeting, we had the opportunity to discuss various topics directly and clarify some details that were important to work out, especially regarding the Parents’ Manual, which is currently approaching its final version. Our next virtual meeting is coming up in November 2023.

More information about the partners can be found on the official website of the project.