From stones to support: Nurturing a culture of care in Calgary

Early learning lays the foundation for life. That is why nurturing a culture of care for our littlest learners matters.

In Calgary, a complex interplay of social, economic, and political undercurrents has transformed perceptions and practices around early childhood education over the past few decades. This evolution mirrors the changing workforce landscape of the city. But more profoundly, it signifies a paradigm shift in how we view children and their capacities.

Let’s explore the key forces shaping Calgary’s journey toward a flourishing ecology of care.

The evolution of early learning and care in Calgary

The origins of Calgary’s childcare evolution trace back to the province’s economic boom in the 1970s. Alberta experienced meteoric workforce growth as oil and gas development took off. From 1971 to 1980 alone, the workforce expanded by a whopping 75% as people flooded the region for jobs. This rapid increase in working parents sparked a pressing need for childcare, eldercare options, and even home care in Calgary. In turn, it laid the foundations for the innovative approaches emerging today.

Over the next few decades, additional factors shaped the progression of early childhood education. Urban expansion brought a swell of young families needing care. Women entering the workforce in record numbers further drove demand. Public policy changes like maternity leave benefits and social assistance reformed the landscape. The ongoing labor shortages resulted in an influx of immigrants with diverse cultures and child-rearing practices.

Responding to these interconnected forces kindled a quest for progressive philosophies and higher standards in Calgary’s early learning environments. The ultimate result is an awakening—a fundamental shift in how we perceive children, learning, and care in the critical early years where life’s trajectory germinates. The culture of care flourishing today reflects this transformation.

The framework of play, participation, and possibilities

The ‘Play, Participation, and Possibilities’ curriculum framework marks a pivotal advancement in Calgary’s approach to early learning. Developed in 2008 under Alberta’s Ministry of Education, this framework provides a comprehensive philosophy and pedagogical guide for early childhood educators across the province. 

The framework is grounded in the belief that play and participation are essential for nurturing the full potential of every child. This includes not only cognitive aspects but social, emotional, spiritual, and physical development. Through play and active engagement, children are seen as capable of constructing their understandings and contributing meaningfully to their world. 

Key concepts in the framework include:

  • Viewing the child as strong, resourceful, and full of potential
  • Focusing on play and inquiry as central to learning  
  • Emphasizing participation, experience, and collaboration
  • Considering educators as co-constructors of knowledge
  • Highlighting relationships with families and communities as foundational
  • Celebrating diversity and welcoming all children

This groundbreaking guide awakened the childcare community in Calgary to the progressive philosophies emerging worldwide. It offered a flexible structure for intentionally creating learning environments that value children’s voices, cultures, abilities, and ideas.

The image of the child in Calgary’s care culture 

This statistic underlines the importance of how we perceive and nurture our children in these early years. The framework’s emphasis influences this perception in Calgary. It views each child as a ‘mighty learner and citizen.”

Recognizing the child as a central figure in Calgary’s culture of care leads us to the next critical aspect. It is the relationships that shape their learning environment.

A practice of relationships: Educators, families, and communities

The innovative curriculum framework provides the blueprint. Relationships bring it to life. Educators, families, and communities in Calgary’s early childhood programs consider cultivating collaborative partnerships imperative.

Educators embrace their role as learners. They draw on diverse perspectives to shape responsive programming. We design interest centers, activities, and materials by observing and interacting with children. We welcome families through open communication, volunteering, home visits, and shared decision-making. Events like potlucks, concerts, and family nights provide opportunities to learn across cultures. 

We invite community partners, such as libraries and recreation centers, Indigenous elders, artists, and environmental experts, to share their passions and knowledge. Children widen their place connections through field trips to various local sites.

These relational practices enrich the life experiences that children and educators bring to the curriculum. They fulfill the framework’s vision of relevant, reflective learning. It honors diverse identities and practices. They assist in nurturing citizens who can make meaningful contributions to their communities.

Curriculum meaning making in action 

With this foundation of supportive relationships, Calgary’s early learning centers put the curriculum framework into action. The image of the child as capable guides them. Educators embrace their vital role. They make curriculum decisions that nurture each child’s learning dispositions. 

For instance, at ABC Child Care Center, teachers provide opportunities for dramatic play. They transform interest centers into grocery stores, hospitals, and construction sites. Children develop skills in communication, collaboration, critical thinking, and creativity through these imaginative environments.

Challenges and opportunities 

But, nurturing this culture of care faces ongoing challenges. Educators also need support in adopting emerging practices. One example is pedagogical documentation. It involves using observations, recordings, and materials to understand children’s thinking and learning. 

As Calgary continues to grow, concerns arise that curriculum approaches may become standardized. This could cause them to lose their responsiveness to diverse communities. Some believe that there are opportunities in Calgary to lead in developing inclusive and responsive early learning models.

The impact of social and cultural practices

Early childhood experts emphasize that curriculum evolves within diverse social and cultural contexts. In this vein, they say this. Educators must engage families and communities to co-construct curriculum. They should draw on their unique identities and practices.

Looking ahead

We’ve journeyed from the historical evolution of child care in Calgary. Innovative frameworks and cultural perceptions now shape the journey. One thing is clear: nurturing a culture of care is dynamic and ever-evolving. 

This journey reflects more than changing workforce demands. It reflects a deepening understanding of early learning’s foundational role in human development. Calgary now has the opportunity to lead in pioneering new, inclusive models of care. These models will nurture our youngest, yet most powerful, citizens.


How does Calgary’s curriculum framework address diverse needs?

The ‘Play, Participation, and Possibilities’ framework emphasizes responsiveness to children’s unique identities, backgrounds, strengths, and needs. But, ongoing work is still needed to create inclusive, responsive care.

What challenges do Calgary’s child care providers face in nurturing a culture of care? 

Key challenges include accessibility, adaptability of new methods like pedagogical documentation, potential for standardized curriculum, and cultural/linguistic responsiveness. Targeted training, mentorship, and advocacy can help address these.

How can families help nurture the culture of care?

Families play a huge role through active engagement like volunteering, joining parent councils, sharing knowledge and practices from home, and collaborating in curriculum decisions. Their voices and participation are critical.