25 SES 08, Children’s Perspectives on Formal and Informal Educational Spaces
This presentation highlights children´s opportunities to make their voices heard and the social and discursive practice in a Swedish leisure-time centre. Similar institutions are common in the other Scandinavian countries and after-school programs could be seen as the US counterpart to leisure-time centers. Leisure-time centers were until the 1990s first and foremost considered as a complement to the family´s upbringing of the children and an integral part of Swedish social and family politics. The educational aspect has, however, increasingly become more emphasized and nowadays leisure-time centers are considered as a complement to school.
In addition to the Educational Act and the Swedish curricula Lgr 11, one of the principal governmental documents concerning leisure-time centres is General Recommendations with Comments. Quality in Leisure-Time Centres (2007). The recommendations indicate that the activity amongst other things should be based in “fun and stimulating activities, were play and creativity get a lot of space, shaped on the basis of the age of the children, their development, needs, interests and experiences” (Translated from Swedish, pp 22-23). Another issue that is emphasized is children´s opportunities to participate in and influence the activity. Their opportunities to participate and influence should, according to this steering document, both concern group activities conducted and organized by the staff and their participation in play activities organized by the children. The children should therefore be deeply involved in the decision-making of the everyday activities in the leisure-time centre which is well in line with the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child. Research concerning leisure-time centres are, however, limited compared to research concerning school or pre-school. This is one reason why the knowledge regarding everyday practice in leisure-time centres, including children´s opportunities to decide the content and their involvement in different activities, is inadequate.
The presentations theoretical point of departure origins from a social constructionist perspective that asserts that reality is constructed through the interactions of people. This indicates that the everyday life, the social practice, at the leisure-time centre is a result of mutual constructions produced and reproduced by children and the staff when they interact. The production and reproduction of the social practice is also based on the discursive practice, how children and staff understand their social positions and how they interpret their responsibilities and the governmental steering documents that describe the intentions for leisure-time centres. The theoretical framework is used as a resource to describe and discuss children´s opportunities to decide the content and their participation in leisure-time activities.
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