Do you know me? Can I trust you? Do you let me fly? Do you hear me? Is this place fair for us?

These questions (Carr, 2000), so poignantly phrased from a child’s perspective, speak to the essence of participatory pedagogies that focus on a sense of belonging and wellbeing for individual children, inside a community of learners who care deeply for each other. They touch the hearts of pedagogues because they are questions that really matter if we are to ensure each and every child fulfils their potential to grow as ‘competent and confident learners and communicators, healthy in mind, body and spirit, secure in their sense of belonging and in the knowledge that they make a valued contribution to society’ (Te Whāriki, Ministry of Education, New Zealand, 1996, 2017).

Rarely does learning happen in isolation from others, and when we see learning as connection, we begin to understand how relationships must envelop and protect each child’s growing identity as a learner. Pedagogues who write about the edgy, open ended learning that happens as children play, powerfully contribute to children’s views. In the process, children build an understanding of themselves as learners who don’t give up; as learners who like to trial innovative ideas, as learners who enjoy the stimulation of tricky, challenging goals and the camaraderie generated through playing together.

Building a collaborative community, within a socio-cultural framework, is not a prescribed policy. It is a dynamic, interactive enterprise that relies on the interconnectivity of setting, and relationships. However, it takes brave pedagogues to step outside policies prescribed for them, and instead connect with children, families and their colleagues, to grow collaborative communities where children’s life long learning identities are able to flourish.

LORRAINE SANDS is a facilitator for Educational Leadership Project working alongside teachers across New Zealand as they explore learning and teaching initiatives in their own settings. Lorraine has written journal articles focused on innovative teaching and learning, risk and challenge, infant and toddler environments and has had many opportunities to speak at Conferences and workshops in New Zealand and Europe. She has worked at Greerton Early Learning Centre inside a shared leadership environment and been involved in a number of research projects with the Greerton team, including a Ministry of Education Centre of Innovation (2006-2008) research investigation about enquiry learning.