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Archive for the ‘Developmentally appropriate practice’ Category

Play is important for children.

However, what’s missing from this important idea, a new report says, is a clear understanding of how play can be an effective learning strategy in early childhood settings – and how best to share this concept with the public.

The report – “The Role of Play in Designing Effective Early Learning Environments and Systems” – explores “questions and debates” about play by drawing on interviews with experts and stakeholders. 

The report is the capstone project of Yael Schick, a Saul Zaentz Fellow and recent graduate of the Ed. M in Education Leadership, Organizations, and Entrepreneurship program at the Harvard Graduate School of Education. Strategies for Children served as the host site for Yael and offered project guidance.

Guiding questions for this project include:

• What is play, and what makes an early childhood program “play-based?”

• Why does play remain a divisive issue? What are the misunderstandings and misconceptions about play-based pedagogy?

• How do we ensure that all children have the opportunity to learn through play? And,

• How must we communicate with policymakers, practitioners, and parents about the effects of play in young children’s learning and development?

While there are no set definitions of play or play-based learning, there is a great deal of useful research on these topics. Among the findings:

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We’re continuing to highlight our Advocacy Network participants, and we’re excited about all the work they’re doing in the field and across the state. For past blogs click here and here and here

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Anna Ricci-Mejia is an example of how multifaceted a Bostonian’s life can be. She grew up in Boston’s North End neighborhood. She’s an early educator at the East Boston Social Centers. Her parents immigrated to Boston from Italy. Her husband is from Central America. She speaks English and Italian. And in high school she learned to speak Spanish. 

When Ricci-Mejia heard about Strategies for Children’s Advocacy Network, she was immediately interested. She wanted to speak up for people. In any of her three languages.

“I know a lot of people, especially undocumented immigrants, are afraid to speak up or even get quality childcare for their children. And I always say, it doesn’t matter what your immigration status is. Your kids have to learn, and they have to learn and socialize when they’re young, because if they don’t, it will be harder later on.”

In the classroom, Ricci-Mejia speaks whatever language children in her care respond to, creating the kind of supportive environment she didn’t have as a kid who went straight from her mother’s care into kindergarten. She didn’t speak English. Other kids teased her. But over time she learned this new language. 

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Walk into a preschool classroom and it can look like all the children are fine. But to understand how children are doing and how they are doing over time, it’s crucial to use developmental screenings.

A recently released webinar and issue brief from the United Way of Massachusetts Bay and Merrimack Valley drives this point home.

As the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention explains on its website, developmental screenings help early educators and parents monitor whether children are meeting “the typical developmental milestones in playing, learning, speaking, behaving, and moving.”

In its brief, the United Way points to the need to act now:

“Emerging from the COVID-19 pandemic, developmental screening will be more important than ever to support mitigation of long-lasting developmental delays and social emotional concerns for young children.”

“Early research out of Brown University and New York city indicates developmental impacts on babies under six months of age who were born during the pandemic, specifically on fine motor, personal social and cognitive skills.”

The brief draws on the United Way’s developmental screening initiative, called DRIVE (short for Data & Resources Investing in Vital Early Education), which grew out of a partnership with the city of Boston.

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Here’s an update on two of our Advocacy Network participants.

Stay tuned for more Advocacy Network updates in the coming weeks.


Gloria Valentin head shot

Gloria Valentin

Send Gloria Valentin an email that mentions a family challenge you have to deal with, as I did, and the email you receive back will be a small, electronic packet of sunshine and reassurance.

“I have an optimistic personality,” Valentin says. “I want to bring joy in times when everything is so daunting. I have days, trust me, when I’m like, I’m not feeling it today. But I have that energy and that outlook of just being positive and not allowing things I can’t control to take over my life.”

Valentin has been a family child care provider for 22 years, but she talks about her work as if she just started last month, and she’s got a dozen new things she wants to do.

She began her career as an early educator at a center-based program, then opened up her own business. Today, she’s also involved in advocacy, and she has participated in Strategies for Children’s Speakers Bureau and our Advocacy Network

“The time that we spent together each week, was a time for us to find our voices, to practice public speaking, and to move forward as advocates,” Valentin says of her experience in the Advocacy Network, where she drew inspiration from other advocates who spoke about forming relationships with elected officials and following up with them.

“That really stood out for me, making those connections and being proud of the work I do and sharing it. Family child care is a hidden gem. 

“But the work can be isolating, so I want to make connections and let people in government know that we’re here and that our work is so important. We should be included in conversations about quality child care programs and financial accessibility.”

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A Caregiver’s Promise

by Ronald Ferguson

With my heart I will love you
And shield you from stress.
With my mouth I will speak what I feel.

With soft words and sweet songs every time I behold you

I’ll show you that my love is real.
With my fingers I’ll point at the objects I name
And I’ll count them in groups to compare.
With my feet I will take you outdoors to explore
While we play and enjoy the fresh air.
With my eyes I will read as I show you the world
Through bright pictures and stories in books.
These are ways to make sure that your brain is prepared

For successes wherever you look.
This my promise I make from the day of your birth
That these basics I’ll faithfully do.
For my job is to help you grow happy and smart
Starting now when your life is brand new.
You will learn that your life is an artwork.
And that you are the artist in charge.
But before you decide what to do with your life

Listen now
To the beat
Of my heart.

From the Boston Basics Campaign

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State House

Photo: Alyssa Haywoode for Strategies for Children

The state budget process for fiscal year 2023 is entering its final stages. A six-member conference committee of legislators is meeting now to negotiate differences between the House and Senate budget proposals. For early education and care, there is $344 million at stake

That is the difference between House and Senate proposals, including $250 million for Commonwealth Cares for Children (C3) Stabilization Grants in the Senate proposal as well as $70 million in rates in the House proposal, which includes $10 million for grants to early education and care providers for costs associated with personal childcare. 

Click this link to email the conference committee today, and ask them to advocate for early education and care in the conference committee budget. Specifically, this email says:

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Next month, please join us for a movie night. 

On Tuesday, June 7, 2022, Strategies for Children is co-hosting the virtual screening of “Starting at Zero: Reimagining Education in America,” an exciting exploration of the value and potential of early education and care programs.

After the screening, there will be a panel discussion featuring Massachusetts community members who are actively involved in early childhood – and viewers will get to see the premiere of a Massachusetts companion video.

Register here to see the event live at noon.

Or register here to see a recording of the event – with Spanish translation — that will be streamed at 6 p.m.

As its website explains, “Starting at Zero” explores “the power of investing in high-quality early childhood education so that all children and families have the opportunity to attain the American Dream.”

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Center

Photo: Bruna Saito from Pexels

It’s time to tell a new story about early childhood development, but first a little bit about the old story.

For more than 20 years, Dr. Jack Shonkoff, a pediatrician, has been explaining brain science to policymakers. Specifically, Shonkoff and his colleagues at Harvard’s Center on the Developing Child, have pointed to three crucial concepts:

• how children’s early experiences affect their “brain architecture”

• the importance of “serve and return” interactions between children and adults, and

• how “toxic stress” caused by poverty and other factors can impair health child development

“Over the past two decades, the ‘brain science story’ has made a powerful case for investing in the early childhood period,” the center explains on its website.

But it is current events – the pandemic and the renewed public focus on systemic racism – that have “intensified the demand for fresh thinking about the future of the early childhood field.”

So now, the center is rolling out a new way of thinking called Early Childhood Development 2.0. The goal is to spark “science-based innovation” that transforms early childhood policies and practices. Building on “the strong foundation” of brain architecture, serve and return, and toxic stress, the center is adding three new concepts: (more…)

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“Federally funded universal pre-K has the potential to greatly benefit families, children, and the economy at large. A substantial body of research finds that high-quality pre-K can have a meaningful impact on children’s short- and long-term development, providing them with valuable skills to succeed in school and beyond. And two years of pre-K for the child also means two years of reduced child care costs for the parents. A study in Washington, D.C., even found that access to universal pre-K improved mothers’ workforce participation. And yet, despite such clear evidence of the benefits, six states still don’t offer state-funded pre-K programs for four-year-olds, and within the states that do, quality and access vary significantly depending on where a child lives, and very few programs offer universal access. But Build Back Better could provide states with the funding to improve the quality of programs and vastly expand access.”

“The Universal Benefits of Universal Pre-K,” by Aaron Loewenberg, Abbie Lieberman, and Laura Bornfreund, New America, January 4, 2022

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welcoming

Photo: Karolina Grabowska from Pexels

About 20 years ago, Wheelock College brought in trainers to teach a noncredit course for early educators called “Making Room in the Circle,” which covered how to welcome LGBTQ families into early childhood settings.

Some 50 early educators enrolled – and so did Wheelock professor Ellie Friedland along with other Boston area faculty. 

EllieFriedland

Ellie Friedland

“The idea was that Wheelock professors who took the course would then go on to teach a for-credit course for students,” Friedland says. 

“One of the stories I like to tell is that when I proposed the course to the faculty at Wheelock College, there were no questions. Everyone immediately said, of course.”

Friedland doesn’t teach the class on her own. 

“I’m straight and cisgender, so that’s something I use in various ways in my workshops. But I never teach the class alone; it has to be co-taught by someone who identifies as something other than straight.” 

“What we found was that there were always students who took the course because they were already immersed and active. And there were students who took the course because they didn’t know anything and felt the responsibility to learn. And there were students who took it because they were questioning their own identities. And for all students it was vital to have a professor they could identify with and feel comfortable with.” 

Today, Friedland is still a professor at Boston University Wheelock College of Education & Human Development, and she is still sharing the importance of welcoming LGBTQ+ families, teaching classes, running workshops, and talking to Strategies for Children’s 9:30 callers. 

We asked Friedland what barriers early educators face in welcoming families. 

Her answer: “Fear.”  (more…)

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