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Democratic Kindergartens

location_on Germany

Want young learners to experience freedom of opinion and participation?

Democratic Kindergartens enshrine children’s rights into a kindergarten constitution where children use their voice to shape rules and make decisions, guided by understanding and fairness, to provide future generations with democratic skills.

HundrED 2018

Overview

HundrED has selected this innovation to

HundrED 2018

Web presence

2014

Established

-

Children/users

1

Countries
Updated
November 22nd, 2022
It’s the first time that the basics of democracy and participation, for children in kindergartens, have been defined and executed with verifiable results.

About the innovation

What are Democratic Kindergartens?

Democracy in Kindergartens is a nationwide pilot project that aims to bring democratic decision-making to German kindergartens. 

The rights of children, as set out in the UN Convention on Childrens’ Rights, is implemented in all kindergartens through the project. For the safeguarding and protection of childrens’ rights, all kindergartens practice democratic processes with the children. They examine these as a group and each individual kindergarten can verify their own democratic development through a certification process.

In a Democratic Kindergarten, the constitution is shaped by the children, with teachers transferring rights to children in an age-appropriate way. The specially trained teachers are equipped to distinguish between opportunities for children to wholly or partially make a decision on something, and to specify when there are times when the educators should take the lead. The focus is on the democratic process itself, not just the vote.

The constitution of the kindergarten is an open framework and is constantly changing through participation. Every new decision is made in this way, as a rolling process. Rules are discussed, negotiated and agreed by all participants to ensure they make sense and are fair. Through this process, children learn from a young age that the commonly agreed rules are mandatory for everyone. This reliability and fairness gives children a framework for their expected behaviour at kindergarten.

The approach also teaches young children that they won’t always get their own way, and that there are different opinions and ideas that are also valid and need to be accepted. This is a major learning objective and the hope is that children will learn to be valuable members of a democracy, tolerant of others and always searching for peaceful solutions. The main challenges are for the staff to share power and to monitor and lead complex discussions to reach a consensus. The parents are completely involved in and informed about the project.

Impact & scalability

Impact & Scalability

Innovativeness

This innovative approach to democracy and participation is the first of its kind to be used for children in kindergarten.

Impact

Research demonstrates how children who design their own classroom environments & involving them in planning activities & where they eat & how have all had positive outcomes. This highlights that children, according to their age, can be more engaged and able to take responsibility for their issues. They can coordinate decisions and arrange meetings independently, to bring about change for the whole group. Additionally, the mindsets of adults have changed dramatically as they realise children are competent in being more autonomous and a flat leadership is possible even with young children.

Scalability

The approach is being used in 60 kindergartens with around 900 pedagogical members of staff. The hope is that, in the future, the ideas will become part of the foundations of other kindergartens.


Implementation steps

Implement a participation project
Participation projects are planned by professional staff and carried out with the children according to democratic principles.

Examples of projects are planning festivals together, deciding together where to go on outings, planning room decoration together, deciding on social rules together, deciding on a mealtime menu together, and much more – everything to do with kindergarten life.

Develop a kindergarten constitution
In a training session for pedagogical staff, the future self- and co-decision rights of the children are enshrined.

A common committee structure for each kindergarten is developed so that the children are able to claim their binding rights.

Introduce the constitution to the children
The constitution is introduced with to children through the committees.

Bit by bit, the children gain understanding of their constitutional co-decisional rights. For example, one consitutional right could be that the children can co-decide about the acquisition of new playground equipment. This means that the acquisition of new equipment is the common decision of all. Another right could be that the children decide what they want to play. This means that the children have the right to choose their own toys, their own play partner and where they play.

Ensure quality management
Each kindergarten must provide a questionnaire about the democratic focus of their everyday work.

An example question for the personal development section of the questionnaire would be: “Is ‘Participation’ a regular theme on the agenda of the weekly team meeting?”

Gain certification
A certificate is provided to prove that the kindergarten is following the lead principles of kindergarten democracy.

If a kindergarten can prove that their entire pedagogical work follows the leading principle of democracy by adhering to steps 1-4, they receive a certification as Democracic Kindergarten. This certification process is renewed every four years. Thus, the project is guaranteed one of the fundamental principles of democracy: that it is an ongoing negotiation process.

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