Educator Kim Moroney is still blown away to think about preschools she visited in a study tour last year in China where the best learning is literally child’s play.
“In Anji County in the northwest Zhejiang province they’ve been working on an educational model based on play which is just incredible,” she says.
“They spend a lot of time outdoors engaging with things like blocks, bicycles, and giant barrels. They’re climbing and risk-taking and just immersed in play for long extended periods until age six or seven.”
The education officer for early learning at the Maitland-Newcastle Catholic Schools Office said that meeting Angela Cheng, the county’s director of preschool education, was “like meeting a Maria Montessori or a Loris Malaguzzi [founders of the Montessori and Reggio Emilia educational philosophies respectively].
Kim’s tour was part of a longer trip which also took in educational leaders Finland and Sweden and which she made as the 2016 recipient of the Brother John Taylor Fellowship.
Applications are open for this year’s prize, which allows for an employee of a Catholic school or an associated body to spend up to $20,000 to research a topic that addresses schooling priorities or challenges in a Catholic context.
Catholic Schools NSW (CSNSW) offers the Fellowship each year to promote excellence in Catholic teaching and is aimed at building a library of research for Catholic educators.
CSNSW Chief Executive Officer Dallas McInerney said the Fellowship facilitates valuable research by experienced, insightful and dedicated Catholic educators.
“We want our many knowledgeable educators to take the lead on behalf of their fellow Catholic school teachers,” Mr McInerney said. “They are best placed to identify and research the challenges facing our sector and to put forward ways to address them.
Kim has since drawn upon her research to complete the early learning policy for her diocese and now promotes to teachers the importance of self-directed play for children in developing their cognitive, social, emotional, and spiritual abilities.
“The Fellowship has been immense opportunity for me both professionally and personally and I feel very grateful for it,” she says.
“I’m also very proud that early learning has been seen as important and crucial to our Catholic schools.”
Other previous Fellowship winners have contributed research on making mathematics more attractive to students, the use of technology to improve student collaboration across borders, and expanding diversity among Catholic education leadership.
Applications for the Brother John Taylor Fellowship must be submitted by 30 September using the online form at www.csnsw.catholic.edu.au/bjtfapply.
It is named after Christian Brother John Taylor, who had a 30-year career as a teacher, principal, and executive director of Catholic Education Commission NSW, the predecessor body to CSNSW.