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ECS Year 1 “Jumping for Joy” at Corrymeela


Early Childhood Studies lecturer Brenda McKay-Redmond describes a successful team-building away day at the Corrymeela Centre on the north coast:

‘Year 1 students on the Early Childhood Studies degree have embarked on a new, significant period of transition in their lives from home and school to university life. This adjustment means moving from one environment to another, involves lots of new experiences, meeting new people, coping with changes in relationships and in routine events and leaving their ‘comfort zone’ to encounter the unknown. This fresh opportunity is undoubtedly an exciting time, with new people working together, undergoing a time of growth and development. Embracing this, ECS students and tutors headed to Corrymeela near Ballycastle for a team-building away day to explore aspects of their identity as they form into a supportive community of learners.

Corrymeela is a place of gathering, work and discussion, bringing people of different backgrounds, different political and religious beliefs and different identities together. The name Corrymeela comes from its neighbouring townland, Corrymellagh, in the parish of Culfeightrin.  Culfeightrin means in Irish ‘The Corner of the Stranger’. It’s a place where differing groups, strangers to each other, are offered the opportunity to cross over into another space.  Corrymeela is for people of all ages and traditions who, individually and together, are committed to the healing of social, religious and political divisions that exist in Northern Ireland and throughout the world.

The focus of the event was to help our students to live and learn well together. This will then be emulated in their future work with young children as Early Years Practitioners (EYPs) throughout their degree studies. The EYPs will influence the way children will learn to communicate and form relationships with others in the future.  By modelling trust and clear communication, listening closely to a child and valuing who they are, EYPs will be role models of healthy interactions for that child.

Head of Department Ms Sheelagh Carville accompanied the students and other staff members who attended. She was particularly impressed by the multi-national team of facilitators who worked with the new ECS students. These Corrymeela staff designed group sessions, experiential play, art and dialogue in order to get the students to look at issues that impact young children, and especially how effective communication and engagement with children requires each of us to think about how we help children establish effective communication. From the most ‘everyday’ greetings and acknowledgements, through to more complex interactions and professional interventions, we communicate in different ways and with different purposes and intentions.

After welcomes, introductions and ice breakers, small teams worked on their listening and communication skills through games called ‘Raising the Sun’, ‘Skis and Maze’, ‘Spider’s Web’ and ‘Sheep and Shepherd’, and there were definitely some strange sheep and shepherds wandering the grounds! 
The students learned that as effective practitioners, the opinions, aspirations, perspectives and views of colleagues and children are unique and valuable.  Listening enables us to see the world from another’s perspective and promoting a participatory approach may help improve the quality of life experiences for young children.  The experience at Corrymeela will help to lay the foundations for ECS Students as they become thoughtful, reflective, strong and competent individuals who can make a real difference in the lives of the children and families with whom they work.
After ‘jumping for joy’ back onto the bus for Stranmillis, we left Corrymeela enriched and ready for the challenges of the degree!’
 

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