Investing in our future through early years education

16 March 2023
Melinda Pratt and preservice teachers
at GOMA.

A group of first year preservice teachers from The University of Queensland visited the Gallery of Modern Art (GOMA) to learn how to foster early learning environments that engage young children and develop their professional practice.

They examined the ‘Superpowered’ exhibit, which uses art to empower Aboriginal people and create cultural and social learning spaces for all children as a part of their Early Years Curriculum and Pedagogical Foundations (EDUC1760) course.

Course coordinator from UQ’s School of Education Melinda Pratt was energised to see students become inspired and curious by this immersive experience.

“The early years of life are a time of extraordinary and pivotal growth and development.

 “Children are introduced to learning experiences that engage them as active social citizens, researchers, and in conversation with the world,” Mrs Pratt said.

“If provided with quality learning environments and relational approaches to teaching and learning, young people have the unique opportunity to grow and flourish as active learners.”

Mrs Pratt also emphasised the importance for current and emerging teachers to enhance their learning environments in order to provoke curiosity and lifelong learning.

Preservice teachers at GOMA.

The course is designed with creativity and curiosity at its core to help grow the preservice teachers’ 21st Century competencies.

It combines active, socially constructed experiences with digital real-world simulations and AI tools like ChatGPT, RiPPLE and DALL-E 2.  

“Designing learning environments is a highly creative process in which social, cultural and political conditions are experienced.

“It’s not just a transmission of knowledge, but a unique opportunity to build young children's conversation with our changing world,” she said.

“Equipping young children as competent, active, change makers by bringing the relational connectivity between teacher, child and the environment for authentic learning is key.”

There has been a current rethinking of early childhood education with the Albanese Labor Government calling for public consultation earlier last month to contribute to commitments to developing an Early Years Strategy.

Minister for Early Childhood Education Dr Anne Aly said the Strategy is about making sure we optimise connections between health, education and family support services to ensure we have happy children that thrive throughout life.

“We know that 90 per cent of brain development happens in the first five years, which is why it’s so important we have a holistic approach to the early years,” Dr Aly said.

“Our children are our most precious resource, investing in them now is an investment in our future,” she said.

Communicating and elevating UQ’s pre-service teachers and their role in co-constructing knowledge as professional educators is a powerful factor defining their identity as change agents within education.

Learn more about the educational philosophy underpinning this course – Reggio Emilia Approach.