Social Consciousness means to be aware of the larger group one functions in and to accept the rights and responsibilities as a member of that group. The first thing we do to help the children understand they are part of a community is to post their pictures in their classroom where they can see themselves with the teacher, the other children, and even the animals that are part of their class community. Children in our Entry Level class especially like this and the magnetic picture holders allows them to hold their own picture and rearrange the pictures to their liking. To further this sense of belonging to a larger community, we have a poster in the preschool class that shows every child’s most important day; their birthday. Also, during circle time in the preschool class the children pass a mirror from child to child as the other children sing a song using the child’s name and saying how glad they are to have them in class.
Many of our preschool Practical Life exercises help develop a sense of social consciousness by giving the child an opportunity to contribute to the well being of the entire group. Sweeping and dusting are some of the ways a child can contribute to the larger group. In the preschool area we have a real carpet sweeper that has been altered to make it child-size along with child-size dusters the children love to use. After snack time the adults disinfect the table but the children get to use the child-size dustpans and brushes to clean up the crumbs. Also, when a child spills his drink, he is to get a paper towel from the child-height dispenser in the preschool area and clean up the spill. Even children in our Entry Level class help out by washing the table after their snack. All of these activities, pulse many more, give the child a sense of his growing self-sufficiency, as well as a feeling of being a contributing member of the group.
“Teamwork” is a term we use often and encourage throughout the day with both our younger children and the preschoolers. During clean-up time the children frequently work together to accomplish a task. This cooperative effort helps build social consciousness by increasing the children’s awareness of the benefits of team effort. We teach the preschool children that while teamwork is important, social consciousness can also mean doing your own individual work without disturbing those around you.
Another process we use to help the children develop a sense of social consciousness and social responsibility is implemented when one child hurts another. Even if it was an accident, we still have the child take responsibility for their actions and have them help with the child who is injured. If the injury was deliberate, then an appropriate discussion takes place about other means to settle a problem. However, the offending child is never told they must apologize for their action. If the child is not sorry for their action and we insist they say “I’m sorry”, we just taught them to lie to get out of trouble instead of taking responsibility for what happened. Saying “I’m sorry” is modeled by the adults and if a child voluntarily says “I’m sorry” they are acknowledged for it, but they are never forced to say it. What we do instead is to have the offending child stay with the injured child until they are O.K. If an ice pack or band aid is needed then the offending child is the one who gets it. Both children sit next to each other until the injured child feels better. While sitting, the preschool offending child keeps checking to see if the other child is feeling better. Neither child goes back to play until the injured child is O.K.
Social consciousness includes not only being aware of ones responsibilities as part of the group, but also an awareness of ones rights as part of a group. The preschool children are taught that as a member of the community, they have the right to participate in group activities and not be excluded by their peers. Though we teach the children the virtue of kindness and not excluding anyone, they are normal preschool children who are still learning, so attempts at exclusion do occur. When that happens the excluded child is coached on how to respond to assert himself and express his expectation to be part of the activity.