An interactive art exhibit inspired by the curiosity and creativity of a group of young children is shining a light on how to incorporate the energy of little ones into the pedagogy of early childhood care.

Held at Crumbs Bakery in Castlegar during the month of October, the Mark Making: An Exploration of Coal exhibit has asked visitors to add to their own original drawings to the foundation established by multi-aged participants who attend Exploration Station Child Care. Using charcoal as the primary tool, the collective response has been an exciting glimpse into what it takes to keep children engaged and enthusiastic.

“The children discovered charcoal from the leftover fire they had the week before, they were making marks on the rocks and really enjoying it,” explains Michelle Pierce, one of the exhibit’s organizers and an instructor in Selkirk College’s Early Childhood Care & Education (ECCE) Program. “We thought it’s a nice sustainable medium and it takes away the focus on the colours. It’s really about the mark-making and the stories that come alongside that they share as they are engaging with the material.” Pierce began her career in early childhood care after graduating from the ECCE Program based out of the Castlegar Campus. She worked 18 years at Kootenay Family Place before returning to the classroom as a program instructor in 2018. While she mentors the future the sector, Pierce is also the faculty pedagogist and member of the Early Childhood Pedagogy Network (ECPN), a provincial group funded by the Ministry of Education & Child Care to support the recruitment and retention of early childhood educators across the province.

Practicums are a vital component of the ECCE Program. Pierce works closely with childcare centres across the region to ensure current students and graduates have proper mentorship as they develop into the foundation of the sector. It was while working with Deidre Price at Exploration Station Child Care that the idea for emphasis on the children’s fascination with charcoal spurred a more formal exploration into how it can be used in advancing the pedagogy.

“It’s important to think about pedagogical choices: why are we doing what we are doing and what are we trying to produce?” says Pierce. “In early childhood education, we are the children’s first teachers and that’s really important work. So, we have to really think about what kind of human do we want to be to respond to the current conditions of our world without also knowing what the future looks like.” Pierce says that children are deep-thinkers with ideas and theories that are inspiring when you slow down enough to listen and reflect. The Mark Making: An Exploration of Coal exhibit did exactly as it was intended with dozens of bakery patrons adding their own charcoal sketches to the children’s careful explorations. 

“It has been a way to engage the community to recognize the work of early childhood educators and the work of children,” says Pierce. “By making this visible, it invites the community to think collectively together and create together. As early childhood educators, we are making pedagogical choices and we are not blindly following children’s leads. The children are inspiring us and we respond by offering something back, it’s an important way to look at this education.”  

Through its ChildCareBC commitment, the Province of British Columbia has been working to enhance training for early childhood educators and deliver a stronger system for families. Earlier this month, the Ministry of Advanced Education & Skills Training added funding for 12 more seats in Selkirk College’s ECCE Program.

Offering a variety of delivery options for both a nine month certificate or two year diploma, the Selkirk College ECCE Program is the destination for those looking to enter this in-demand career. You can find out more information at: selkirk.ca/ecce

Selkirk College