Developing resiliancy through group work
A study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences found that prolonged exposure to abuse or traumatic events in childhood stunts emotional development and puts children at greater risk of developing personality disorders or depression later in life. This is a concerning reality for those working in early childhood education in wartorn regions. According to a UNICEF report regarding the rights of childrenv, the 'Occupied Palestinian Territory is a place where children may become, deliberately or incidentally, the victims of extreme acts of violence and brutality, such as targeted and/or negligent killings, indiscriminate attacks on their homes, schools, camps and neighbourhoods, maiming, and other forms of physical and psychological violence – including torture, arbitrary arrest and detention, house demolitions, land confiscation and obstruction of livelihoods, discrimination and harassment. It is estimated that over the 2005-2008 period,334 Palestinian children were killed and 1,461 injured.' Understanding this relationship, TYO's curriculum was designed to address the gap in development created by abuse and trauma and thereby help children to develop resilience.
Resilience can be defined as, 'the human capacity of all individuals to transform and change, no matter what their risks; it is an innate "self-righting mechanism".'Inherent in developing this ability to adapt to changing circumstances is the flexibility to problem-solve both individually and as part of a team and to understand one's role within their community. As such, having addressed the themes of identity and community, week 10 of the Core Child program focuses on further developing children's collaboration skills. By creating a safe and structured environment for children to work together, TYO has removed the stresses inherent with new experiences. Core Child Teacher Ahmed explains how he introduces this important theme children in his class:
The week of collaboration is usually a bit of a surprise for children. When asked, they say that they prefer to work alone and as such, they don't understand that collaboration is a skill they've already begun to develop. Ahmed then explains collaboration isn't a scary new idea- it's simple. You are showing your ability to collaborate when you...
...are supporting someone else ...are participating in a group (or class) ...are showing respect for others ...are being honest ...are helping to create a team
Through class discussion, it's apparent that on a cognitive level children understand the importance of these values. They are aware that upholding such values empowers them to make a positive impact on those around them. During class discussions, children gave examples from their home lives showing how they collaborate with siblings, with many children expressing that 'if someone asks for something I willingly share.' Despite this, during classroom activities, many children still react in an impulsive manner and satisfy their own needs before the group. Ahmed explains that further practice and positive reinforcement is needed to firmly root these values with children.
Teachers at TYO are in a unique position to help children overcome the challenges imposed by a harsh living environment. By modeling positive interactions with peers, children, and even children's parents, children will learn to associate the values of collaboration with a safe and secure environment such as they receive at TYO.
-Ahmed Khateeb, Core Child Teacher & Jessica Dargiel, Deputy Director
This program is funded by the Abdel Hameed Shoman Foundation (AHSF)