By Dr. Zuhra Abawi, Assistant Professor, Niagara University
During the fall of 2020, a research team comprised of Drs. Rachel Berman, Zuhra Abawi, Beverly-Jean Daniel, Kerry-Ann Escayg, Alana Butler; and Natalie Royer and Fikir Haile met with the College of Early Childhood Educators (the College) and the Association of Early Childhood Educators of Ontario (AECEO) to address the importance and need for anti-racism training within the early childhood education and care (ECEC) sector. Throughout this collaboration, it was decided that the focus of the training should be on anti-Black racism. This led to the launch of the project Give Race Its Place (GRIP).
Funded by a Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council (SSHRC) Connections Grant, the GRIP project offered four, two-hour workshops on anti-racism practice free of cost to early childhood educators (ECEs). Findings from our pre-survey data indicated that many attendees wanted to learn more about:
- embedding anti-racism into curriculum and programming;
- how to interject and address incidents of racism in the classroom; and
- unpacking their own biases, as well as anti-racism resources (Berman et al, 2022).
While it is a common assumption that young children are often considered too young or unaware of race and racism (Abawi & Berman, 2019; Berman et al, 2017; Escayg, 2019), studies repeatedly demonstrate that young children are very much aware of racial and identity differences among themselves and others. Moreover, previous research conducted by GRIP team members suggest that many ECEs had not been exposed to anti-racist pedagogy during their pre-service ECEC programs, and had not been able to access such training through professional development initiatives (Berman et al, 2017). By offering the four workshops, the research team wanted to fill these gaps in professional knowledge and practice on anti-racism for ECEs.
The workshops were provided in July 2021, with three of the workshops authored and facilitated by Dr. Kerry-Ann Escayg and one by Dr. Beverly-Jean Daniel. The purpose of the workshops was to help educators understand the pervasiveness of racism, particularly anti-Black racism within the Ontario and Canadian contexts and the subsequent impacts of anti-Black racism on children, families and communities. Further, the workshops were collated for participants to understand how anti-Black racism shapes the racial awareness of Black children, and to facilitate skills concerning anti-racism practice and pedagogy (Berman et al, 2022).
Due to the ensuing COVID-19 pandemic, as well as to ensure accessibility to participants, the sessions were run through Zoom, with over 300 participants in attendance per session. While the workshops were created for Ontario ECEs, people from across Canada and North America attended. Attendees came from various roles, including childcare staff, students, and faculty. Although the sessions were virtual, attendee engagement remained high, via the Chat feature, as well as robust questions and discussions following each session.
It is clear from the data gathered for this initiative that anti-racism education is particularly salient in a racially diverse context, such as the province of Ontario. We need to increase ECE community capacity building and continue ECE training in anti-racism pedagogies for both in-service and pre-service educators. To read the full research article on GRIP, go here.
Abawi, Z., & Berman, R. (2019). Politicizing early childhood education and care in Ontario: Race, identity and belonging. Journal of Curriculum, Teaching, Learning and Leadership in Education, 4(2), 3-13.
Berman, R., Daniel, B.J., Butler, A., MacNevin, M., & Royer, N. (2017). Nothing or almost nothing to report: Early childhood educators and discursive constructions of colourblindness. International Critical Childhood Policy Studies Journal, 6(1), 52-65.
Berman, R., Abawi, Z., Haile, F., Daniel, B. J., Butler, A., Escayg, K. A., Royer, N. (2022). Give Race Its Place: An Antiracism Knowledge Sharing Initiative for Early Childhood Educators in Ontario. eceLINK Journal, 6(1), 42-54.
Escayg, K.A. (2019). “Who’s got the power?”: A critical examination of the anti-bias curriculum. International Journal of Childcare and Education Policy, 13(6), 1-18.