Young Children are Scientists and Explorers

Young Children are Scientists and Explorers

     A central belief of Early Childhood Education Ethiopia is concerned with providing children the space, time, and encouragement to exercise their imagination. Children are interested and invested in their surroundings. They explore, test, challenge, and discover all the wonders in their immediate environment at first, and use these early experiences to build, venture out and gain advanced knowledge systems from a structured learning environment in primary grades. While play remains the most effective tool for all the domains of development, the environment which includes, teachers, peers, and other adults influence how children engage in imaginative play. Children’s involvement with the natural world is unique, they find everyday items overlooked by adults to build, mix, make noise and create. A worm slithering on the ground leaving prints from its movement ignites the young mind to ask, how can a small animal leave such a trail behind? 

Children at Shimmbit preschool  program in Bahir Dar, Ethiopia
     Allowing, encouraging, and celebrating children’s use of their outside environment to explore, is the beginning of the scientific inquiry. Sticks become small infrastructure, representing a bridge they crossed or saw in a book, lending themselves for future aspirations. Looking at ants marching in a uniformed line serves as the genesis for railway or structural engineers. Collaboration, listening to what friends say and how they add to the product, including finding out what makes the design work or break, allows children to test how things operate in their world. Learning is a continuous attempt of trials and errors. A hands-on experience where the child is actively contributing to her or his learning serves as the most productive medium for retaining knowledge. 

Group of children playing with sticks found in the yard

What can teachers, parents, and community members do?

Learning happens everywhere, every day, and every minute for the growing child. As previously mentioned interacting with nature, spending time outside, and allowing children to explore the environment serves as the building blocks for lifelong learning. Parents interested in children’s creations add immeasurable value to children’s curiosity and learning. Invite children to explain their thinking, and share how you played as a child, emphasizing its similarity of differences. Join them in their play without judging or minimizing their efforts. Teachers, and fellow children’s interests, add to it and become learners of students’ patterns of inquiry and exploration. Show genuine joy in their play by engaging, observing, and integrating it into the curriculum. 

“Creativity is Intelligence Having Fun” Albert Einstein


First Community Preschool Project: 

Want to Teach Early Learners Math in Ethiopia?

Want to Teach Early Learners Math in Ethiopia?




Play Gebeta!


Teachers at Shimbit Preschool Program (KG) Playing with Gebeta


Gebeta for Beginning Math

Gebeta is referred to as one of the oldest board games in the world. This pastime favorite was once played in all corners of Ethiopia and enjoyed by all ages because of its simplicity, accessibility, and dynamic nature to change the momentum away from the lead simply by where a pebble lands. But Gebeta has other benefits for children. Gebeta teaches children how to count, wait for their turn, and apply hand-eye coordination, an important life skill for writing, painting, eating and most everything else in later life. During Gebeta play children learn number sequence, forecast future landing spots, and engage in procedural thinking, including managing their emotions in the outcome they lose the game. Gebeta is also culturally relevant to who the child is and enables her or him to find many pathways of understanding what Gebea is and means through his/her parents, and community members while promoting connection to the larger societal wealth that comes with using one’s own resources. 



 Building on Children’s Interest

Curiosity leads to engaged learning. When children find materials they can access and easily conceptualize, they draw from their existing knowledge to integrate more complex and higher-level thinking. Gebeta gives children early learning math skills which leads to questions about engineering like, how does the pebble fit in the groove, why does the sound change as each pebble is dropped, and why are there only 12 holes? The answer is found in Ethiopia’s history, innovation, and all from playing one of the oldest board games.

Indigenous Knowledge

Indigenous early education starts with using indigenous materials. Children are curious when teachers show interest and engagement like those at the Shimbit KG program in Bahir Dar, Ethiopia. When teachers are invested in what children are learning, how they are learning, and find ways to make it more meaningful for the child, education becomes attainable allowing children to translate experience into knowledge that benefits the child first and foremost. Teachers are including Gebeta for many reasons but primarily to teach through play. To provide children with early conceptual skills related to counting, sorting, organizing, and again through playing. 




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Raising Indigenous Intellectualism in Early Childhood      Through Agricultural Education in Ethiopia

Raising Indigenous Intellectualism in Early Childhood Through Agricultural Education in Ethiopia

Title: Raising Indigenous Intellectualism in Early Childhood through Agricultural Education in Ethiopia

Seminar Recording

Join us for a dialogue on the importance of embedding the tenets of Ethiopia’s indigenous agricultural systems in curriculum and instruction during the early years. Early Childhood Education Ethiopia, is committed to empowering the next generation of children to fully understand, utilize and contribute toward food security not only in their immediate community but also in the country and the larger continent of Africa.
As an organization, we are deeply rooted in investing in the first five years of life. As such, we are laying the foundational work of providing the space for children to gain early conceptual knowledge of what it means to grow your food, own your food, and become the driver of agricultural gains in Ethiopia. Our aim and objective with this seminar are to amplify the strategic role of agricultural education in the PK-16 paradigm in order to achieve food security and surpass sustainability goals.


Why Play Matters Most in Early Education Programs

Why Play Matters Most in Early Education Programs

Play is learning for children, it is how they get to know their world. Children use play to solve complex problems like grasping a ball escaping from their hands or displaying joy after an accomplishment and frustration when required to try again and again. Children make noises and the environment responds gleefully, this simple back and forth from loved ones, serves as the foundation for early literacy, self-regulation, hand-eye coordination providing the groundwork for communication, forming friendships, and a deeper understanding that as they grow, their knowledge of the world through playful experiences also grows.

Play helps children find meaning in a world that is getting more and more unpredictable. From COVID to war and disasters, children are often left to wonder why their surrounding has failed to protect them. Through play, children can find places for experiences they may have a hard time fully comprehending. When children play, their imagination safely explores areas that may be difficult to talk about.  Children engage in what Lev Vygotsky referred to as inner speech where they self-talk, assessing what has occurred, what they are engaged in, and possible solutions. 

This allows children to release pensive thoughts, and map out strategies on how to use play for both fun and problem-solving skills. Developmentally speaking, play goes through different stages; starting with unoccupied/solitary play during infancy where we see babies putting their hands in and out of their mouth, fully engaged in coordination, sensation, and movement. During toddlerhood, children quickly move into the onlooker stage of play where they realize other people like them play as well. And they find it increasingly entertaining to see peers playing, from a safe distance. As children enter the preschool years, they transition from the parallel stage of play to associative, where it is more interactive with others. As children become more independent and can articulate their needs, play with peers becomes more common and successfully charged. Free and busy play allows the mind and body to use the environment in a way that responds to children’s ideas and wants. Too much direction from adults compromises play, encouragement, adding to play sequences, and promoting child-directed activities helps children reach higher levels of cognitive, social-emotional, and linguistic abilities as experience is the driver of development.

Play is the most complete curriculum when implemented as the primary focus for teaching and learning. The education paradigm in early learning programs should move away from outcome-based to process-oriented whereby it allows children to simply play and play more. Children are not made to sit and learn, movement is how they acquire knowledge. Children learn best using their five senses, in a responsive setting, where teachers/caregivers are more invested in their interests, desires, and abilities. When the environment is developmentally appropriate and culturally relevant, children exponentially advance their understanding of the foundations necessary to acquire advanced concepts in math, science, social studies, and much more. 

Play is learning and learning should be play-filled in early childhood education programs now more than ever. 
Adverse Childhood Experiences

Adverse Childhood Experiences

      Adversity occurs in childhood through many ways. It can range from war, loss of a family member, abuse, neglect, resource scarcity to name a few. For many children, these unwanted experiences create barriers causing severe developmental disruption which later translate into a list of health concerns. Currently, children in Ethiopia continue to experience trauma from war, displacement, and acts of violence that are difficult for them to understand. Such trauma leaves children with fear, distrust, and anxiousness beyond their control. This affects children behavior, disposition and can augment their developmental trajectory negatively.

      The assaultive nature of trauma can be detrimental to the developing brain but we also know employing strategies found in Trauma-Informed Care can influence, restructure and help children process these undesirable, even damaging episodes, to be more manageable; assisting the young mind in creating pathways that informs rather than compromising it permanently. By intervening early and applying therapeutic measures consistently, we can reduce the devastation on children’s developmental outcomes. Using strategies found in Trauma-Informed Care has shown to have both immediate and long-term positive results.

      Applying developmentally appropriate strategies that are respectful in approach and culturally relevant to the child’s norm, practitioners, parents, caregivers, and teachers can help children open up, discuss and express their feelings. Using a medium such as play, art, and other activities that are comfortable to the children, the path towards recovery can begin. The brain is most sensitive, highly malleable before age 5, and even more adaptable during infancy and toddlerhood (before age 3). Our knowledge of trauma-informed care practices should be included in discussions about rehabilitation, emergency support, and relocation of those affected by the current war, COVID, public health crisis or other ongoing challenges in the context of Ethiopia. For those under extreme and ongoing stress, preparing professionals on how to create responsive caregiving practices using the frameworks provided in TIC in conjunction with our cultural norms will help children and families develop skills to mitigate and absolve some of the trauma incurred abruptly or due to persistent inequities. 

Trauma Informed Care - Training & Treatment Innovations