A positive perspective

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The Starfish Story, originally written by Loren Eiseley in 1969, is familiar to many, but it's worth repeating from time to time to remind us that everyone can make a difference.


Professor Cathy Nutbrown

One version of the story goes like this ...

A little girl was walking along the beach - there were thousand of starfish washed up on the beach, the sun was drying them; they needed the sea. They were dying. The girl picked them up one by one, and threw them into the sea.

A grown-up spotted her and asked, 'What are you doing?' To which the little girl replied, 'I am throwing the starfish back into the sea to save them.' Looking at the sand covered in starfish, the adult said, 'But there are thousands of starfish on this beach. How can you make any difference?' At which point the little girl simply picked up another starfish, threw it into the sea and said, 'I made a difference to that one!'

There are two reasons I remind you of this story. First, we can all make a difference to someone or something. We might feel that the challenges faced by those working with young children are too difficult, too complex, too entrenched for us to really make a difference, but in reality everyone has a voice, and everyone can do something.

Individuals can make a difference, but working with others is powerful too. The pioneers of early childhood education and care worked for young children over the years to change something for the better. They set out to provide state-funded nursery education, to ensure that children had a free meal, to bring together healthcare and education, to provide good training for people working with children. They saw something that needed to change to make a positive difference, and they worked to bring about such change - drawing on collaborators, and funders and lobbying politicians.

This story also reminds us that we can learn much from young children. If we tune into their interests and concerns, give them space to express themselves, and appreciate their play, they offer us important insights into how they see the world. And the world they see is often different from ours. Just like the little girl on the beach, young children can often offer a positive perspective on something that adults may find hopeless.

Throw a starfish - make a difference!

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