It’s officially Mardi Gras season, and while some members of our community are working hard at the gym, for parents it’s a time to think about how we can talk to our kids about what Mardi Gras means.
We spoke to an expert in early childhood education, Dr Red Ruby Scarlet, Creative Director of Multiverse Educational Consultancy and Resourcing:
LGBTIQA+ is an acronym festooned with culture. So, like any culture, including it in your early childhood curriculum means thinking about how relationships are formed within communities.
In the early childhood curriculum, we value the ongoing work of connecting with community in ways that recognise the diversity of the families that are local to us as well as the families that we know are part of the broader Australian identity.
In the latest iteration of the National Quality Framework, Quality Area 6 asks early childhood educators and teachers to connect with LGBTIQA+ communities whether the setting has LGBTIQA+ families attending the setting or not.
This is a beautiful recognition of the broader diversity of Australian society along with a cross-cultural recognition that LGBTIQA+ families might be Aboriginal, they may derive from various ethnic, language, geographic and faith based denominations. Authentically celebrating Mardi Gras as a cultural celebration means we also dive into anti-bias approaches to teaching and learning.
These approaches gently illustrate that bias hurts and that it has no place in an early childhood setting. We do this by demonstrating through our early childhood literature that shows early childhood educators and their families participating in Mardi Gras that to be welcomed into a culture that experiences discrimination is a lesson about how to welcome and be welcomed by diversity and difference.
Ideas for celebrating Mardi Gras and family diversity in ELCs
- Chalking a rainbow crossing or love hearts at the entrance to let members of the LGBTIQA+ community know they are welcome at the centre
- Making a rainbow flag and make it visible (all year round!)
- Encouraging children to dress up and have their own mini Mardi Gras – the rainbow flags come in very handy for this activity
- Story time with LGBTIQA+ inclusive children’s books, with discussion after exploring family diversity such as Fair Day (the beginning of Mardi Gras and a wonderful family celebration) by Brenna and Vicki Harding
The above learning experiences are an excellent way for LGBTIQA+ parents from the community to come and talk about their families and culture to highlight family diversity.
You could also suggest that your centre considers Drag Story Time as a way to celebrate Mardi Gras.
Dramatised story time isn’t a new concept in early childhood education. Early childhood educators have always contracted artists who specialise in storytelling through dress-ups, role play, music and many forms of performing artists to become part of the curriculum and contribute to language, literacy and arts education.
Drag Story Time is one such iteration of these contributions to curriculum, but it adds another significant dimension - inclusion. Across the world Drag Queens and Kings are donning their sparkles and reading, telling and performing favourite stories for thousands of young children every day. In some countries, like Sweden, Drag Queens are actively being sought to read to children in libraries, schools, and early learning centres.
In Australia, educational policy has drawn from international best practice, like Sweden, to develop curriculum and learning frameworks along with measures of quality. Inclusive practices are central to any definition of quality and that can be traced explicitly through the development of the current National Quality Framework that was developed a decade ago. One principle of this Framework has always been ‘inclusion’. It is explicitly featured as an overarching principle that shapes all children’s learning. Inclusion is focussed in two primary ideas – firstly that each child has a strong sense of identity and secondly, that children experience the diversity of their communities and the broader Australian community in and through their education.
Including Drag Story Time into a curriculum promotes inclusivity by promoting language and literacy (given Australia is lagging behind based on international standards!); promotes arts and culture; and enables children to have the most fabulous inclusive education that will shape children to be equally inclusive in their outlook and attitudes as they mature.
Community engagement helps the service to build relationships between each child, the families of the service and the community they reside in, and encourages each child to develop their identity within the context of their local community. As well as enriching programs, practices and policies, it provides an opportunity to support children to respect and value diversity.