By Anna Lees, Ed.D. Assistant Professor of Early Childhood Education
Northwest Indian College’s (NWIC) Early Childhood Education (ECE) degree program and Restorative Teachings Initiative hosted 20 visitors from Southwest University in Chongqing, China, which included ECE faculty and teacher candidates from Southwest University and practicing teachers from their partnering ECE programs.
The visitors spent their day at NWIC focused on the land, water, and place-based teaching with young children and families. The group was welcomed at the Lummi Nation Early Learning Center with an introduction from Lummi Education Director and Lummi Early Learning Director. From there, they traveled to the NWIC Early Learning Center where they were welcomed by the Early Learning Center Director. At both centers, the group was provided with a tour of the buildings and discussion around how the teachers support child development through culturally responsive practices, inclusive of families and community. They also had the opportunity to examine early learning curriculum and observe teachers’ interactions with young children in both indoor and outdoor learning spaces.
After visiting the Early Learning Centers, the Southwest University visitors spent the afternoon on the NWIC campus to learn about the ECE Restorative Teachings Project. Facilitated by Nahrin Aziz-Parsons (Northwest Indian College ECE Faculty) and Anna Lees (Western Washington University ECE Faculty), they examined efforts to develop a land, water, and placed-based curriculum in collaboration with children’s families and community members and grounded in Lummi teachings and values.
The group learned about the context of early childhood education in an Indigenous community and made connections to the goals of advancing equity and diversity within their teacher education program and early learning centers. They shared that they were touched and inspired by NWIC’s work, its environments for young Native children, and its overall commitment to Indigenous education. The day was full of collective learning and deepened understandings about global efforts to center early education on the goal of community well-being.