Embarking on our own journey of social and emotional wellbeing, illustrator Winnie Zhou and I, a multi award winning, writer, animator and digital creative director have spent the past nine years developing the concept of the Ginnie & Pinney Learn & Grow eight book set, animated videos and teacher resource for young children.
There have been many highs and lows for us in the development of this series but, importantly the message of encouraging young children to behave ethically and with empathy, helping them to grow into emotionally intelligent adults has always been the driving factor.
Supported by much evidence, not the least being the Harvard Graduate School of Education article in its Making Caring Common project, that;
‘Empathy is at the heart of what it means to be human. It’s a foundation for acting ethically, for good relationships of many kinds, for loving well, and for professional success. And it’s key to preventing bullying and many other forms of cruelty.’
Doctor of Education, Jeanette Poulton, one of three educational expert consultants we engaged, states in a review for the Journal of Philosophy in Schools 5(2) that;
‘Each story aligns well with at least one of the dispositions mentioned in the five Principles of the Australian Early Years Learning Framework (EYLF), which guide current educational practice in the early years throughout Australia. The EYLF curriculum promotes Belonging, Being and Becoming as three pillars of early childhood experience which are scaffolded through experiences of inclusiveness, responsibility, respect, and fairness. The G&P characters clearly exhibit ‘dispositions for learning such as curiosity, cooperation’ and the situations they find themselves in enable them to explore ‘confidence, creativity, commitment, enthusiasm, persistence, imagination and reflexivity’ (EYLF 2009).
Some have questioned the idea of encouraging philosophical concepts at such an early age but children are never too young to discuss ‘morally complex ideas.’ Dr Poulton continues stating ‘Burroughs et al (2017, p. 77), summarising the work of a number of educational researchers, state that by age 3 children are clearly ‘capable of making distinct moral and conventional judgements’. That is, young children can not only identify actions which have harmful consequences (such as shoving someone may hurt them), but also distinguish these moral breaches from simple rule breaking’.
Whilst Ginnie & Pinney Learn & Grow tick many educational boxes, the stories are in no way didactic. Both illustrations and stories are engaging, whimsical and entertaining.
Taking Philosopher, Professor Laurence Splitter’s (2001 Pg. 1) advice to ‘Be interesting and accessible to students and connected, in some way, to their experience (so, not too general or remote)’ and ‘Be intriguing by focusing on situations, concepts or ideas which are problematic, unclear or puzzling, and so need further discussion and investigation’ we ensured the stories covered these ideas fully.
The nine characters are set in familiar environments such as home, garden and playground to ensure a feeling of comfort. We specifically chose a large group of characters to replicate a child’s experience of their social group.
Multiple perspectives are created via the talk and think bubbles and the characters different personalities mimic real life, demonstrating various ways of dealing with each other and the emotional themes of selflessness, responsibility, persistence, sharing, self-identity, inclusiveness, empathy and accepting differences.
The stories can be unpacked at a level to suit each child’s level of comprehension and maturity. Questions found in either the teacher resource or at ginnieandpinney books will help stimulate lively discussion between adult and child.
In 2018 Ginnie & Pinney, ‘Think Smart’ was chosen as a unique innovation by the prestigious global education not for profit organisation, HundrED, based in Finland, as one of 100 most inspiring K12 innovations across the world, selected from 36 countries to be recognized for 2019.
Ginnie & Pinney was also selected in 2020, by the Victorian Dept. of Education and Training as a recommended resource on its School Readiness Funding Menu.
Above all Winnie and I want you to enjoy the Ginnie & Pinney stories and have fun discovering the characters and the conundrums they face!
Harvard Graduate School of Education (https://mcc.gse.harvard.edu/parenting-resources-raising-caring-ethical-children/cultivating-empathy, 2018).
Book Review: Doctor Jeanette Poulton, 2018, Ginnie & Pinnie, Journal of Philosophy in Schools 5(2)
Splitter, L (2001) Using narrative and other resources to stimulate thinking and inquiry. Unpublished VPCA Notes for teachers. Adapted from L Splitter & A Sharp (1995), Teaching for better thinking: The classroom Community of Inquiry. ACER Press, Melbourne, Vic.
Burroughs, M & Arda Tuncdemir, TB (2017) Philosophical ethics in early childhood: A pilot study. Journal of Philosophy in Schools, 4(1), pp. 74-101.
Penny Harris is a multi-national and international award-winning animator, author and multi-media developer. She has worked with the Australian Children’s Television Foundation, Film Victoria as well as a number of Australian universities and institutions.
Winnie Zhou has a Masters of Multimedia Design from Monash University and is a talented illustrator and multimedia developer. Winnie lives in Melbourne and has worked closely with Penny to develop the series.