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Incorporating Diversity and Inclusion Practices Into Early Childhood Education

Being mindful and inclusive in diverse settings is no longer optional in modern society, and experts agree that it’s important to introduce children to diversity and inclusion at an early age. However, there is much debate over how to present these concepts to young learners while maintaining a safe and nurturing environment.

For those working in early childhood education settings, understanding how to craft a curriculum that appropriately and effectively conveys principles of diversity and inclusion is vital. One option for students in search of further development of this skill is the Southern Oregon University (SOU) online Master of Science in Education (MSEd) with a Concentration in Leadership in Early Childhood Education (ECE) program, which prepares graduates to foster inclusive classroom settings.

Strategies for Inclusive Early Childhood Classrooms

There is no one-size-fits-all strategy for creating an inclusive early childhood classroom, but educators interested in doing so do have options. The alphaTUB Blog, dedicated to empowering educators, parents and children, suggests several approaches:

  • Create a welcoming and supporting environment.
  • Promote cultural awareness.
  • Encourage parental involvement.

This last strategy is emphasized by Educare Chicago teachers, who have made the idea of intensive parental involvement in children’s education one of the school’s core tenets. This means that “the school’s inclusive curriculum also extends to children’s first teachers: their parents and caregivers,” according to the education nonprofit Start Early. The school provides parents with book recommendations “to help encourage at-home discussions about DEI” and also offers parent support groups “to help parents to build strong relationships with staff and one another.”

Culturally Responsive Teaching

The earlier children experience diverse environments, the better. “Children are like sponges,” says Brightwheel, a trusted provider of education solutions. “Early on, they soak up what happens around them and mimic what they see and hear.”

This means children can absorb biases and negative stereotypes about people with different cultural backgrounds, but it’s also an opportunity to expose children to diversity in a positive way.

Creative Safe Spaces

As part of SOU’s online MSEd in Leadership in Early Childhood Education program curriculum, the Culturally Responsive Practices in ECE course requires participants to reflect on their attitudes and teaches them how to craft inclusive, enriching environments for their future pupils. It’s important to note that this mode of culturally responsive teaching differs from the common but flawed concept of the “melting pot”: an approach to diversity that promotes the collapse of distinct cultures into an undifferentiated whole.

This is where the concept of “natural diversity” becomes crucial. According to early childhood educator TJ Borile, teachers must avoid treating cultural diversity as something “external” to their classroom. Instead, a properly inclusive curriculum “will have concrete connections to the children in your group and will reveal elements that have direct importance to them.” Teachers who want to create exactly this kind of safe, diverse environment might enroll in SOU’s Enriching Multicultural Family and Community Engagement course, which teaches them how to embrace and honor the diversity already present in their classrooms.

Promoting Empathy as an Early Childhood Educator

Diversity and inclusion can seem like abstract buzzwords, but they are important concepts with practical implications. “Inclusion allows children to interact with peers who come from diverse backgrounds and have different abilities,” alphaTUB states. “This helps them develop empathy, understanding, and respect for others.”

In other words, incorporating diversity, inclusion and equity has real benefits for young children. Educators who want to prepare their students to not only live in a multicultural society but also thrive in one would do well to cultivate their own knowledge of diversity and inclusion practices in early childhood education.

Learn more about Southern Oregon University’s online Master of Science in Education with a Concentration in Leadership in Early Childhood Education program.

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