Growing up in Walltown, Italy presents an ethnographic account of the culture of early childhood education, as it is constructed in two municipal schools (a nursery and a childhood school) of an Italian town, explored through extensive participant observation and interviews of educators, teachers, school coordinators, mothers, and cooks and school staff. After providing background information on Italian early childhood education, the author describes and interprets the process of children's insertion into the world of the school as a "passage" whose ritual steps—initially accompanied by a parent—are carefully prepared by educators and teachers, so that the "passengers" will successfully settle in, and become competent members and participants of the respective educational communities. The author focuses on the educational and cultural learning that children between six months and five years of age attain by exercising their agency, capacity for communication, interaction and responsibility, and imagination in planned educational projects, daily activities as the "reading time" and convivial appointments as meals. The educators' and teachers' professional and personal engagement and care, together with the collaboration of the other school people, are thoroughly illustrated, and their meaningful attention to, and respect for children's pace of learning and participation are pointed out.
Francesca Gobbo is former professor of general and social education at the University of Turin, Italy.
1 – The Culture of Early Childhood Education & Care
2 – Passages
3 – Sharing the Food, Sharing the Table
4 – Sensing & Making Sense
5 – Puer Legens
6 – The Dialectics of Learning and Performing
7 – Roles, Rules, & Rhythms
Francesca Gobbo offers an accurate and lively description of the cultural characteristics of an Italian nursery and a childhood school. Reading this high quality ethnographic study I was meticulously shown around the educational spaces, got to know the children and was fed with carefully worded information and examples which allowed me to get a good idea of the daily practice. For example I sharpened my thinking about the professionality of the educators and the complexities of upbringing, caring and learning in nursery and early childhood education. This book is a gift to all educators of young children and those still studying to become one. It gives words to their impressive professionality and offers lively examples of daily practices and the narratives of the educators. The connection with abstract theoretical literature is made possible with the provision of accompanying text and notes. Early childhood education appears as a continuously developing practice of words and glances, manners of care, playing, sharing, talking, discovering and celebrating togetherness. The book offers a vivid picture of the joy and complexities in the common effort of children and adults to develop an inclusive humanity.
Francesca Gobbo provides readers with an insightful anthropological study of nursery and early childhood education in contemporary Italy. The anthropological approach is original as it allows to rediscover the richness of functions, identities, experiences and processes that are entailed in those educational institutions and to highlight their cultural complexity. Especially touching is author’s focus on the experience and negotiating of that experience along the transformative journey that children undertake as nursery and early childhood school pupils, by learning and accepting new identities, new skills and competences. As Francesca Gobbo witnessed, nursery and early childhood education schools construct the foundations of personal psychological and social development by means of its multitude of rituals and structural arrangements.
This book reminds us of our childhood times as small children at nursery or early childhood education settings. The children-participants of this relevant ethnographic study in two Italian schools express their needs, and their voices make all of us—involved as experts in the field, scholars, teachers, researchers or politicians—reflect on the significance of quality policies in the early childhood sector at international level. Nowadays—in times of migration flows, issues of children’s rights, citizenship—equality of educational opportunities, and social cohesion would be set in the first line of education policies from the early school years. That’s the message that the author of this book, a committed ethnographer, brings with great success to the readership.
This is a fascinating ethnographic study of what transpires in the everyday lives of babies, infants and their educators/carers in a nursery and an early childhood education setting in Italy. The detailed study shows how much can be achieved by well-informed and reflexive professionals who strive to nurture the gift of imagination and who enhance creativity among pre-school aged children, who are helped to follow daily routines in order to learn through play—both individually and collectively. The level of professionalism, care and commitment to the little ones, as seen through observations and interviews of early years professionals and competent cooks, offers a new insight into this crucial developmental stage for children who as individuals with rights to play and to learn have so much to teach grownups. The study raises fundamental educational, cultural and political questions about what it means to be a baby and a child in the challenging times we face today, as well as the level of respect and care that little people deserve as their human rights everywhere in the world. How well trained and qualified are the educators? Who should pay for child care in pre-school years all through babyhood and childhood for ALL children? This study shines a light on possibilities.
Dr. Gobbo interpreted the culture of a nursery school and an early childhood school where education and care coexist like two sides of a coin. It is a caring process in which the school teachers take care of, fed, put to sleep, read books and let young infants play. And it is also an educational process in which young infants communicated and interacted with strangers beyond their parents and families, conducted engaging rites of passage and learned social order and autonomy. The author has written an exemplary ethnographic research with deep descriptions using participant observation, interviews, and literature analysis, including young infants and parents as research participants as well as the school teachers, staffs and cooks. In particular, she showed how young children were also agents of the early childhood education culture. This book was a case study of two schools in Italy, however, it was so universal that it seemed to show the culture of Korean early childhood schools.