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Hilary Peak

Hilary Peak

Hilary Peak graduated from Wilson College with a degree in environmental studies. But her original major was equestrian studies.

Peak loved horses.

Horses, however, didn’t seem like enough to build a career on, and after Peak graduated, jobs related to her environmental studies major were hard to come by, so, following a stint as a Five Guys manager, Peak decided to work with children.

Which led her back to horses.

Peak volunteered at therapeutic riding centers, including Shepard Meadows Equestrian Center in Bristol, Conn., where volunteers work with children and adults who have special needs, including autism, depression, and multiple sclerosis.

From there, Peak took a job with a private company as a play therapist. She traveled to different sites to work with children. And what she saw in this job were teachers who didn’t have enough knowledge about children with special needs. It was a gap that Peak believed she could fill. (more…)

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KIDS COUNT Screenshot

 

The new 2021 KIDS COUNT Data Book is out.

Released by the Annie E. Casey Foundation, this 32nd edition describes “how children across the United States were faring before — and during — the coronavirus pandemic.”

“This year’s publication continues to deliver the Foundation’s annual state rankings and the latest available data on child well-being. It identifies multiyear trends — comparing statistics from 2010 to 2019.” The KIDS COUNT data center provides more details.

This year’s good news: Massachusetts ranks an impressive #1 among all 50 states in overall child well-being.

The caveat: Massachusetts and all the other states still have to do substantial work to create equitable systems that serve all children and families and that provide access to high quality early education and care to everyone.

“The rankings in this edition of the Data Book, which are based on 2019 data, show that despite gains since the Great Recession, the nation was not ensuring every child had the opportunity to thrive.” (more…)

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In a recent exhibition, the teachers at Charlestown Nursery School (CNS) shared the important lessons they’ve learned from leaving their building and running their preschool program outdoors in their Boston neighborhood.

The move to the great urban outdoors occurred last fall in the middle of the pandemic. Every morning staff packed supplies into red wagons and pulled the wagons to a local park that served as a classroom. Children arrived in masks and weather appropriate clothing. Being outside helped mitigate the spread of the COVID-19 virus.

How did it go?

The teachers say it was the best year ever.
 
Outdoor Exhibition
To heighten their point, they put together the exhibition — “The Qualities of High Quality: Why Reimagining School Matters Now More than Ever” – to engage policymakers in a discussion about access, quality, and how to optimize young children’s learning experiences. (more…)

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Photo: Pixaby from Pexels

The pandemic has forced schools to offer remote learning.

Now Massachusetts is promoting high-quality remote learning. State educational officials have put together a four-part webinar series focusing on children in preschool-through-third-grade classrooms.

Register today for Part II, which is tonight at 6:00 p.m. This webinar will focus on building strong collaborations between public schools and community-based programs.

Launched last week, the series – sponsored by the Executive Office of Education, the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (DESE), and the Department of Early Education and Care – covers a range of topics. (more…)

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Photo: Alyssa Haywoode for Strategies for Children

 

“We recommit ourselves to achieving racial equity in early childhood and school-age programs through advocacy, action, and policy change. Together we will stand up, speak out, and work to dismantle the historical systems of racism and inequity.”

These are the last two lines in our Collective Statement on Racial Justice that over thirty organizations signed on to in June 2020.

As we reflect on the horrific events this week – a violent assault on our democracy – we must redouble our efforts to work for the change we want to see in local communities, in Massachusetts, and across our country. 

NAEYC has resources on trauma, stress, and violence for early childhood educators working to support children in many different settings along with the guidance in NAEYC’s Advancing Equity in Early Childhood Education position statement to support your conversations with them, as well as families and colleagues. If you need more resources or would like to sign your organization on to our Collective Statement, email us.

Despite the trauma of this week, democracy continues. (more…)

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Photo: Caroline Silber for Strategies for Children

 

Early educators can be on the front lines of promoting social equity.

To show how, the Foundation for Child Development has gathered resources on equity and justice from a number of national organizations.

“Creating a coherent and equitable system that works for young children, their families, and the educators who serve them requires the ECE field to be explicit about the realities of poverty, racism, discrimination, and prejudice,” the foundation says.

The foundation hopes to “foster a shared understanding” of how to move forward.

Among the resources is a report from Arizona State University’s Center for Child and Family Success, which notes:

“The United States is at a crossroads. We can spend the next several years trying to get back to the broken, ineffective status quo in our learning systems, where children were falling—or being pushed—through the cracks at astonishing rates. Or, we can choose to address the core, structural inequities that have held generations of children, especially Black, Latinx, and Native American children, back. For the sake of our country, we hope policymakers respond to the multiple crises facing our nation, with the latter. The policy agenda presented here can help us get there.” (more…)

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A new policy roadmap charts a course for how states can help children thrive in their first three years of life.

The Prenatal-to-3 State Policy Roadmap 2020 was just released by the Prenatal-to-3 Policy Impact Center at the University of Texas at Austin.

The roadmap is “a guide state leaders can use to develop and implement the most effective policies to strengthen their state’s prenatal-to-3 (PN-3) system of care,” the roadmap’s executive summary explains.

“The science of the developing child is clear: Infants and toddlers need loving, stimulating, stable, and secure care environments with limited exposure to adversity. However, to date states have lacked clear guidance on how to effectively promote the environments in which children thrive.”

The roadmap calls on states to:

• prioritize science-based policy goals to promote infants’ and toddlers’ optimal health and development

• adopt and implement effective policies and strategies to improve prenatal-to-3 goals and outcomes

• monitor the progress being made toward adoption & implementation of effective solutions, and

track outcomes to measure impact on optimal health and development of infants and toddlers

The roadmap says states should have 11 effective policies and strategies in place.

The policies are: (more…)

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This Thursday, the Massachusetts Head Start Association (MHSA) will launch its virtual fall conference, “Adapting to Change: Head Start in 2020 and Beyond.”

“2020 is a time for change and adaptation for early educators,” Michelle Haimowitz, MHSA’s executive director, says. “Our conference offers short professional development opportunities throughout October to help address our changing environment.”

The conference features eight virtual workshops that will take place from October 1, 2020, to Tuesday, October 20, 2020, and touch on the challenging issues of the day.

Kristin Tenney-Blackwell, a psychologist will kick things off with a workshop called, “Wellness: Taking Care of Yourself.” This workshop will “focus on understanding the importance of health and wellness of adults in a child’s life. Educators and program leaders will explore strategies and approaches to enhancing adult resilience,” the conference website explains.

Another workshop, “Supporting Children to Embrace Race: How we can & why we must,” led by Melissa Giraud and Andrew Grant-Thomas, two parents who co-founded the organization Embrace Race, will feature a “presentation and Q & A that considers some of the evidence for racial bias and steps we can take to push back against it – in our children and ourselves.” (more…)

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“The message is essentially to read the right books at the right time. So when you are reading to infants when they are younger, and you name characters in a book with a proper level name like Betty, they tend to pay more attention to those characters, and they learn more about those characters. It seems they are a little bit more engaged when the characters have names.”

— Lisa Scott, psychology professor at the University of Florida, “Read The Right Books At The Right Time: A Learning Sciences Exchange Fellows’ Project,” New America, August 26, 2020

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Photo: Caroline Silber for Strategies for Children

 

One of the most powerful ways to help children succeed is through evidence-based family engagement efforts.

The challenge is how to do this work well, which is why a newly released state resource — “Strengthening Partnerships: A Framework for Prenatal through Young Adulthood Family Engagement in Massachusetts – is so important.

As this framework explains:

“Family engagement is crucial for healthy growth of children and youth in all domains of health and development.”

To help children achieve this healthy growth, the framework points to five guidelines:

• “Each family is unique, and all families represent diverse structures.”

• “Acknowledging and accepting the need to engage all families is essential for successful engagement of diverse families and includes recognizing the strengths that come from their diverse backgrounds.”

• “Building a respectful, trusting, and reciprocal relationship is a shared responsibility of families, practitioners, organizations, and systems.”

• “Families are their child’s first and best advocate,” and

• “Family engagement must be equitable.” (more…)

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