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2.3.2020 | Katija Aladin |

The Magic Of Early Childhood Education

This month, we're talking early childhood education and highlighting the importance of the first years in a child's life. With the increase in research on the benefits of early childhood education, let's bring it back to the practice and read what the HundrED 2020 innovators find magical about the foundational years.

It’s Monday morning, you’re walking into work and you’re greeted by 5 eager and excited faces! How many Monday mornings start this way? 

That’s the reality for an early childhood teacher. The sense of wonder, curiosity and excitement all blended into one is the energy that radiates from a kindergarten classroom. Research backs the importance of a child's first years in education UNESCO states: 

“Early childhood care and education (ECCE) is more than preparation for primary school. It aims at the holistic development of a child’s social, emotional, cognitive and physical needs in order to build a solid and broad foundation for lifelong learning and wellbeing. ECCE has the possibility to nurture caring, capable and responsible future citizens.”

Research highlights the importance of early childhood education not only for individuals but also societies, the benefits of the foundational years have drastic effects on a child’s future. The truth behind the magic goes beyond the research, but being with the kids and seeing it in-practice!  At HundrED we believe this to be true and highlight some of the best practices worldwide in our Spotlights and Global Collections. These innovators know the proof really is in the pudding. Let’s explore our HundrED innovations that are making magic happen every day!

HEI Schools 

HEI Schools, selected for HundrED 2020 is bringing the Finnish play-based early childhood curriculum to the world. They know the importance of placing their students at the centre of their learning and the power of teachers! We recently attended their 4th birthday party, where they shared a touching toast to the "real heroes" of HEI Schools: the teachers. We asked 2 of their expert teachers:  Jenna & Aleksandra to share their favourite part of working  in  ECCE.  

"The best thing about working in early childhood education is being a part of a child’s learning journey from the very beginning and being able to explore and wonder together! It’s the best when you see the happiness and excitement on children’s faces, and you know it’s real and genuine. When planning activities together with the children and taking their initiatives into consideration, you reach a whole new level in your group’s everyday life! When working with children, every day is different, and there’s never a dull moment. Children give you instant and honest feedback, and working in early childhood education is fun! Children have the exceptional ability to throw themselves into an imaginary world of play and see the world from a different angle. That’s very inspiring!" - Jenna

 "For me, the most inspiring thing about working with young children is the amount of love that you are able to give and receive on a daily basis. The joy of making them feel safe and happy while being away from their parents is truly rewarding. Children think out of the box, and they often ask questions that make you rethink things. I love listening to their amazing stories - there is simply so much that you can learn from them. I always feel so proud seeing children grow and get excited about learning new things. Also, when you work with children, you get to release your inner child, which is wonderful. There are not many jobs that allow you to play, sing, dress up, paint and be creative all day long.” - Aleksandra



ANEER, is a community based preschool in rural Morocco, selected for the HundrED 2020, ANEER has developed multiple programs to involve key stakeholders in the life of the child. Most notably, the involvement of parents in the schooling of their preschoolers. This preschool takes into consideration the needs of the child by involving the entire community and changing the mindset around education. Bouchra Kamal, Pedagogical trainer at Fondation Zakoura, explains her favourite part of working with ANEER: 

"I build relationships, engage educators, and I am glad I get to contribute to the change for a better future. I am the happiest when I hear that parents are satisfied, children are happy and adore coming to school every day! Our children love to learn, sing and dance. I am so proud to contribute to developing their personalities, for them to be integrated, and have the social skills needed to succeed in academics and life."

Kide Science 

PhD Jenni Vartiainen, Founder of Kide Science & Researcher at the University of Helsinki understood that “Educators feel that planning science activities is difficult and even if they have well-developed knowledge in science they struggle to introduce science in a way that is appropriate for young children. We have solution for that.” 


They have applied a world-class, research-based pedagogical model from Finland for early science education for 3-to-8 year-olds all over the world. The play-based STEAM learning model functions as an engaging “plug n’ play” tool for teachers. The licensing model for educators is complemented with training, lesson plans, peer support and engagement for families. They are currently sharing their solutions for increased STEAM in early childhood education at Dubai Education Week.

Little Ripples

Little Ripples is an innovation originating from Chad, selected for the HundrED 2020, a replicable and sustainable early childhood education program that empowers refugees and communities affected by humanitarian crises to implement child-centered, quality, and comprehensive pre-primary education that supports the social-emotional, cognitive, and physical development of children ages three to five.

Sumiya, a teacher at Little Ripples Chad shares what she likes most about her job: 

“I like being a teacher because I get to go to work in the morning and I feel I have a responsibility. I hear the children call me teacher, they sing songs with me and welcome me, and it makes me feel good.” 



Arkki, developed in Finland, and selected for the HundrED 2020, provides creative education using architecture & design as holistic real-world phenomena to integrate STEAM subjects. Arkki empowers pupils with innovation skills through hands-on learning made fun and rewarding. Through project work pupils learn design thinking, critical thinking and complex problem-solving. Arkki ́s awarded program is certified by The Finnish Ministry of Education. We asked Pihla Meskanen, CEO of Arkki International Ltd.: What is your favourite part about working with younger students in ECE? 

"What I love most about working with “the young ones” is their exploratory way of looking at their surroundings, their endless curiosity, and the ability to make radical and profound questions. The workshop sessions with preschoolers always remind me of how amazing the world really is - how beautiful, complex and ambiguous. How is it possible, that we adults forget about this almost every day? The kids remind us truly what it means to be human, and what is the profound connection between humans and the environment, and living on earth!"

BRAC'S Humanitarian Play Labs 

BRAC's Humanitarian Play Labs  brings their signature low cost, high quality play-based learning model to the humanitarian context of the largest refugee settlement in the world in Cox's Bazar, Bangladesh. They integrate playful learning with child protection, psychosocial support, and linkages to critical services; incorporate relevant cultural traditions; and engage both Rohingya and host communities.

BRAC Psychosocial Counselor, Hamida Akhter Jahan, explains their mission: 

Above all else, we want everyone who comes through these doors to know that they are safe here. While the situation outside may be uncertain, children can come here every day and be themselves. They can be happy and free.”


Anji Play 

It's all in the name! Anji Play prioritises play in early childhood education. Their curriculum and approach to early education developed by Ms. Cheng Xueqin for the public early childhood programs of Anji County, Zhejiang Province, China. In the past five years, the Anji Play curriculum, approach and philosophy have become the focus of pilot and demonstration programs in the United States, Europe and Africa. The Anji Play curriculum and play materials have been adopted at the province level in Zhejiang (soon bringing Anji Play to two million more children), and Anji Play is being practiced in public early childhood programs in all of China’s 34 provinces and administrative regions. In recent months, Anji Play has become a focus of the Ministry of Education efforts to expand universal access to public early education in China.

Let's continue to spread the word about the importance of play! 

Local daycare and school, as featured in the HundrED Forerunner: City of Helsinki

There is magic happening in the city of Helsinki with regards to their education system. In the HundrED Forerunner report in partnership with the City of Helsinki, 10 best practices were identified that are scaled to every school in the city. Local daycare and school was amongst the selected. The idea behind the principle of children attending their local daycare centre and school is to treat all children equally, enable their participation in local activities, and make friends in the neighbourhood. When selecting a local daycare centre or school, the key issue is that the child receives the necessary services and support as close to home as possible. A child's local daycare centre or school may also be determined on the basis of where the child's inclusive services can best be provided.

We talked to an expert preschool teacher, Saija Juusti, on why she loves her job:

"I have worked as a teacher in early childhood education for over 30 years. My work is a balance between teaching, raising and nurturing children. I have always been drawn to my work, and understood and appreciated its importance. The joy I experience is reflected on my entire team. I work with my team often as our work is very communal. At its best, it's collaborative, inspiring, and the voices of all are heard. I have always had a supportive team that encourages our collective love of learning, and this has been extremely beneficial. As a teacher, I find tremendous joy in my children. I enjoy the laughter & energy. 

I like to think that today is their most important day, kids need to feel safe and happy every day. Every day we rejoice in their development, success, and learning, together with my team and parents, we enjoy them as they are.


And that's a wrap! Thank you to all the HundrED innovators for sharing their stories. In this time of global  uncertainty, let's focus on the amazing people who are nurturing the future generation to become well-rounded adults! This article goes out to you! 

For more inspiring stories from our HundrED innovators, follow our instagram page @hundred_org.