Attendees of the 2015 NAEYC Annual Conference await the Grand Opening of the Exhibit Hall.
By: Emily Warne
Being the daughter of an early childhood educator has some serious advantages. My mother, a NAEYC member, nurtured our sense of curiosity, understood the importance of meaningful play, and always made learning fun.
Not everyone is born with a formal educator as a parent, but that’s okay—because they have you. Every day, you provide children with high-quality early learning experiences that greatly impact their lives by developing the basis for later success.
Families recognize the important role you play in society, and they want the best for their children. That includes making sure that the professionals that shape their children’s futures have access to ongoing professional development and the latest in early childhood research and technology.
And while there are many ways that you can enrich your career, attending the NAEYC Annual Conference is simply the best opportunity to enhance your skills and connect with thousands of other professionals who share your passion for educating young children.
No one knows that better than NAEYC Member Christina Amato, who is determined to attend this year’s conference and decided to start a fundraiser to help cover the costs of registration and travel expenses to Los Angeles.
She downloaded the NAEYC Funding Tool-Kit and used its letter templates to approach the families of the children whose education she is responsible for every day at Ganon Early Childhood Education Center in San Mateo, CA.
“I used the letter to parents from the NAEYC website as a guide to inform supporters of what the conference is and how it would benefit not only their child, but the center as a whole,” she explains.
Then, she took it one step further, creating a GoFundMe page and sending the link to parents, as well as her own friends and family members via her personal Facebook account. “I also talked to as many parents as I could face-to-face to tell them about the exciting opportunity that I had to attend the conference,” she says. “With each milestone, I kept the families informed of the progress.”
It worked—in as little as two months, Christina has already raised over 65% of her goal, and she still has plenty of time to collect additional donations before the conference begins November 2. “I am ecstatic about the amount I was able to raise so far,” she says.
Her advice for other educators who may be thinking about fundraising to attend the conference but are unsure if it will be successful? Just go for it!
“I was scared at first that no one would support me,” she explains. “But, it turns out, I have an amazing support system and great work community. I am always looking for new ways to gain more knowledge in my career as an early childhood educator and by attending NAEYC’s Annual Conference, I can do just that.”
Thousands of early learning professionals agree, and amongst them are hundreds who creatively fundraise to attend the conference. Many “crowdfunding” platforms exist online to help collect donations from families, friends, and even local businesses. These include GoFundMe, the website that Christina used, as well as Indiegogo, Donorschoose and more.
With the help of these websites and the NAEYC Funding Tool-Kit, Christina was able to raise the necessary funds to attend the most important conference for early childhood professionals in the country, and so can you. Good luck!
Emily Warne is the Senior Marketing Manager at NAEYC.
“Class of ’27”: New Television Documentary Explores Issues Confronting America’s Rural Children and FamiliesFri, 09/09/2016 - 11:59 — NAEYC Guest Blogger
By: Cathy Grace
Barb Fabre knows something about children. She has served as the director of the White Earth Child Care Program for over 18 years and is nationally recognized for her work with Native American children in rural areas. The White Earth Nation in rural Minnesota is where Barb and her husband raised their children and are sharing the parenting duties of their grandchildren with their son. Over five years ago, Barb’s son Nathan became a single parent of two children, a 2 ½-year-old son and a 6-month-old daughter. The children’s mother had become addicted to prescription drugs, which led to heroin addiction, jail time, and the choice to give up custody of her children. Barb recalls that the hardest part of the ordeal was the months social services required Nathan to go to work and leave the children in the care of their mother, even though she was abusing drugs at the time.
Even with all the training and experience Barb had as a professional early childhood educator, she sought guidance from friends and colleagues about how to help her grandson understand why his mom was gone and not coming back. At times his anger flares, and he takes it out on the remaining parent and other family members. Barb says it is hard to know what to say, and she worries about how the loss will affect both children—but especially her grandson, because he remembers his mom. Simply put, there is no “how to” book for explaining the sickness of drug addiction to children as young as Nathan’s kids, and very few 0–5 mental health counselors in rural America to help them understand. Given that currently 300 children on the reservation are in foster care due largely to parental drug addiction, Barb feels very fortunate that her family is together.
Barb’s story and the lives of children of the White Earth Nation are told in the upcoming documentary, “Class of ’27.” Her story illustrates that life in rural America is not a one-size-fits-all situation or a combination of “The Waltons,” “Little House on the Prairie,” and “Lassie.” The documentary gives us a glimpse of the real lives of children in three rural locations in our country. While the locations are different, the messages are the same: children in rural America are the forgotten ones in our country, poverty is sucking the life from communities and the families who live there, and drug addiction is a major cause of family dysfunction in many rural communities.
Owsley County, in eastern Kentucky, is located 45 minutes from a four-lane highway, and with a population of 4,654, it is the second least-populated county in the state. The major employers are the school district, a nursing home, and the court house. Through the narration of Betsy Coomer, a Head Start teacher with 23 years of experience, and others, we come to know some of the children in Betsy’s classroom. We hear about the dissolution of the families due to drug addiction, and the toll hunger takes on the children as they try to learn. Betsy’s message to her children is, “We are learning, and you will be ready for kindergarten,” because she believes education is the only way out of the debilitating poverty that surrounds them and their families.
A migrant family from California allows us to follow their annual journey to Oregon, where they are seasonal workers picking fruit seven days a week, with no guarantee they will be paid. Through the eyes of the teenage daughter and staff members of a Migrant Head Start center, we follow the younger children in the family as they attend the nine-week session. We see the bus arrive and the parents place their still sleeping children on board at 5 a.m., and the bus deliver the children back to the living quarters at 5 p.m., making it a long day for all. For most of the children, this is the only school-like activity they have before entering kindergarten. The transformation of the teen's vision for her life and that of her child is presented in a way that highlights the most important message in the entire documentary: “Give it your all at school and don’t let yourself be stepped on.”
Rural children are no different from other children in America, but the circumstances in which many find themselves are unique. The challenges associated with the relationship between rurality and high percentages of families in poverty have largely been ignored when policies and budgetary decisions regarding early education, job training, and social services have been made in Washington, DC. This is not to say that poverty is unique to rural America, but that the solutions to moving families out of poverty in rural America are unique and have not been explored in an equitable manner.
Interested in the intersection of rural issues and early childhood?
Cathy Grace is gauging interest in forming an NAEYC Interest Forum to help the early childhood community understand the needs of rural children. Come to the interest forum’s exploratory meeting at the 2016 NAEYC Annual Conference in Los Angeles, or contact Cathy directly to express your interest.
How do I watch “Class of ’27”?
Premieres on Tuesday, September 13, at 8/7c, on the WORLD Channel series America ReFramed. For additional broadcasts Check local listings and your local PBS station.
Click here to stream online September 14, 2016–December 12, 2016. Spanish language caption versions will also be available online.
For more information visit the WORLD Channel's website.
Cathy Grace, EdD, is codirector of The Graduate Center for the Study of Early Learning at the University of Mississippi.
By: Jenifer Fuller
During my first few semesters of college, I devotedly searched to discover where I belonged. I knew I wanted to gain knowledge and skills so I could be a professional who worked with children, but I did not know in what capacity. Then, I took one of my first child development classes—infant development. I found my career and my passion in one beautiful package! The class shifted the trajectory of my life threefold: it was taught by one of my most influential mentors (who has helped to guide and propel me down my career path); it instilled in me a deep passion for educating and nurturing very young children; and it introduced me to NAEYC. Just as my mentor and my passion for early childhood education continue to inspire and motivate me, being an NAEYC member continually benefits my professional life.
As a student, you are constantly given new information. From the theories of Vygotsky and Piaget to positive guidance to creating enriching, child-centered environments, students are hungry for more knowledge as they work toward becoming early childhood professionals. You dedicate yourself to being an excellent student—balancing internships and jobs and trying to have some semblance of a social life (beyond conversations with the barista while ordering at your favorite coffee shop)! When considering this hectic agenda, what makes an NAEYC student membership worth the investment?
The latest research and literature
Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it's the only thing that ever has. —Margaret Mead
As an early childhood professional, you are passionate about ensuring that all young children thrive and learn in a society dedicated to ensuring they reach their full potential. In a society that seems to undervalue early childhood education, becoming a part of an organization that supports your core values and beliefs is critical to your success and well-being. Struggling to change the developmentally inappropriate trends in our education system without support is exhausting, and the impact is minimal. As a member of NAEYC, with a group of like-minded individuals, you can accomplish much more.
You are committed to staying current on research in the field but find it overwhelming to search for and review literature from multiple sources (not to mention, some of it could be more engaging!). As a student member of NAEYC, you have access to a curated selection of the latest articles, research, and blogs by both new and veteran professionals in a variety of disciplines. Furthermore, you receive a 20 percent discount on materials from the NAEYC store, including the latest must-read books in early childhood. With current, relevant research at your fingertips, you can be an active, up-to-date participant in the classroom.
Professional development opportunities that meet your needs
The art of teaching is the art of continuing to learn. Teachers are the most important learners in the classroom.—Donald Graves
Few experiences can be as frustrating as spending time and resources on professional development that fails to provide you with the knowledge and encouragement you expected to receive. NAEYC student members are privy to members-only professional learning opportunities, as well as discounts on registration to national conferences and events with student-specific sessions and professional development opportunities. These opportunities allow you to use your valuable time and money gaining professional development that is high quality and pertinent to your interests and needs.
You have likely heard that building a strong network is one of the most important strategies for creating a sturdy foundation from which to launch your professional career. As an emerging young professional, seeking knowledge from experienced colleagues is exceptionally helpful as you come to discover what those currently practicing know. A student membership in NAEYC provides you with a network of members—from your community and beyond—with whom you can connect and discuss questions, challenges, and successes. Having these connections with practicing professionals in a variety of early childhood roles provides you with invaluable experiences that will encourage you to find a career path that fits your unique passions and skills.
As a student member of NAEYC, you also have exclusive access to digital interest forums covering nearly 30 unique topic areas, including a student forum. Interest forums provide a digital means of expand your network of early childhood professionals who share your passions.
Expand your network and increase your opportunities
Follow your passion; it will lead you to your purpose. —Oprah Winfrey
You want to share with the world your passion for serving young children. A student membership in NAEYC provides you with a rich, incomparable organization, offering resources that prepare you to be a successful professional beyond graduation. Finding a program that aligns with your goals, respects you as the knowledgeable young professional you are, supports you in refining your skills, and enables you to put into practice the values and beliefs you esteem, all while aligning with NAEYC values and beliefs can be an overwhelming task. NAEYC gives its student members an advantage—the opportunity to utilize NAEYC’s online career center. The career center allows you to focus your search on positions that align with your passions and career goals and to clearly present your strengths and potential to prospective employers. Searching for a job through the NAEYC career center makes the task easier—you can apply for positions using features like saving required documents, maintaining your personal information, and more.
Beyond these tangible benefits, joining NAEYC means that you are a member of the most influential organization of early education professionals. Being a student member of NAEYC tells the world that you are an emerging young professional committed to providing high-quality early learning experiences for young children, and you fully grasp the immense importance of the work our field accomplishes.
Click here to learn more about NAEYC student membership, and take advantage of a limited-time student membership offer.
Jenifer Fuller, MS, CFLE, is the education specialist at Tulsa Community College, where the A.A.S. and A.S. programs in Child Development, as well as the Child Development Center, are all nationally accredited. She is active in her local AEYC chapter and serves on the NAEYC Young Professionals Advisory Council.
By: Kate Kane
When I describe the goals of my early childhood classroom to families, I share that social and emotional development is an intentional and significant part of our curriculum. Families need some information about how helping their children develop social and emotional skills is deeply connected to their learning. Kids need to experience being part of a group, regulating their emotions, and negotiating complex social conflicts in order to truly learn cognitive material like math concepts and early literacy skills.
In my classroom, we believe that the crux of social and emotional learning is creating a classroom where children feel both empowered and invested. We use a variety of strategies to facilitate children’s individual skills as they interact with peers and learn to navigate the complex issues around them.
The key to teaching children social and emotional skills is creating a classroom culture built on community. Strong communities have members who have shared goals and experiences, who feel empowered to contribute, who trust in one another, and who feel understood and capable as individuals. These attributes enable teamwork, cooperation, a willingness to negotiate, and the ability to draw on one another’s skills.
Translating this idea of community into reality in an early childhood classroom presents a unique opportunity. Young children are ripe for responsibility and for the chance to have some control over their own worlds. And as they experience their first peer relationships and a new world away from their families, the classroom can become a community in which each child is an active member.
The children in my class contribute to classroom rules and participate in discussions with teachers about fair consequences. Early in the year, we create a classroom manifesto that distills the community’s belief system. The statements in the manifesto are always in the affirmative—for example, “We use kind voices with one another,” “We keep bodies and feelings safe,” and “It’s okay to make mistakes.” Teachers guide the class and model empathy as the children collectively discuss breaches in the manifesto and encourage theirs peers to cooperate. The manifesto is meaningful to children because it is in their language and it is framed in the lens through which they see the world.
Focus on Trust and Relationships
Also early in the school year, it is important to offer opportunities to build relationships. Playing games and facilitating projects in which children can find out how they are the same and how they are different, and providing forums for each child to demonstrate his or her interests and strengths, are activities that lend themselves to future teamwork. In addition, having classroom discussions in which every child is encouraged to have a voice, and allowing ample time for unstructured play in which children can create their own networks and connections with each other and can experiment with conflict resolution, is ultimately the crux of community.
Setting the foundation of familiarity and trust in the classroom lays the groundwork for a group of children to develop intimacy and chemistry over time, and begin to function as a self-organizing system. Children feel more motivated to change, grow, and learn when they understand the wider implications of their individual contributions to the classroom.
Co-create Rules With Children
Members of any strong community must be invested in the rules of their environment. They also help nurture a feeling of ownership and accountability. A classroom community built with rules created by children (with the teacher’s guidance) enhances crucial social and emotional skills by holding children accountable. Co-created classroom rules foster individual students’ capabilities, requiring them to self-regulate, demonstrate flexibility, and see different perspectives and giving them the opportunity to create the world they inhabit.
Give Children A Say
Empowering children to have some influence over decisions in play and in choice of study means allowing children to have input in curriculum topics, parts of the daily schedule, and the physical space around them. When the class negotiates together, they begin to exercise their social and emotional skills in independent yet cooperative ways.
When teachers resist the urge to micromanage play and activities, they give children the space they need to explore, experiment, and make—and learn from—mistakes. The experience of working together to solve problems in both play and projects creates opportunities for children to learn important cooperation skills. It also requires children to rely on one another and to learn from one another’s individual capabilities. Of course the teacher has a role in guiding the children but the community is stronger when children can guide their play and participate in creating the class manifesto.
The classroom provides a unique environment for children to experience peer relationships and to create their own community of learning. A strong classroom community is one in which students feel empowered and valued, and one in which children will ultimately thrive.
Kate Kane is head teacher at Cambridge-Ellis School, in Cambridge, Massachusetts. She has a blog dedicated to classroom community at http://chronicleoftheclassroom.wordpess.com/ .
Readers may also be interested in the NAEYC-published book, Rituals and Traditions: Fostering a Sense of Community in Preschool.
Finding the Nuggets and Identifying White Noise: Making Sense of Recent Reports on Teacher PreparationThu, 07/21/2016 - 15:14 — NAEYC Guest Blogger
By: Mary Harrill
Looking for some summer reading to inform your thinking on how to advance the profession? Recent reports offer research, policy recommendations, and thought leadership about ways to advance the preparation of early childhood educators. Here are three for consideration.
The National Center on Education and the Economy’s (NCEE) recently released Not So Elementary: Primary School Teacher Quality in Top-Performing Systems. The report shines a light on the complexity of preparing elementary teachers—often dismissed in U.S. policy and public arenas—and identifies common features in other educational systems that have led to better-prepared educators.
The report focuses on education systems—Finland, Shanghai, Japan, and Hong Kong—that have distinctly different contexts than the U.S.:
- They have centralized K-12 curriculum
- Their K-12 student populations (and their teacher candidates, for that matter) do not reflect the broad diversity of U.S. classrooms
- Most have fairly centralized teacher preparation systems
However, the lessons learned from them are deeply relevant for U.S. efforts to improve the preparation of elementary school teachers. These countries system’s feature:
- Attention to candidate selectivity (whether it is entry to or exit from preparation programs and/or entry into the profession
- Specialization in content (for candidates during preparation and as an organizing structure for elementary schools)
- Teacher preparation program content that includes a deep focus on content knowledge, pedagogical content knowledge, and alignment with the elementary curriculum
- Professional development systems for teachers that reinforce and expand on preparation program content
What’s the Key Takeaway? In order to significantly improve elementary teacher preparation in the U.S., we need to incorporate a systemic approach that ties together the common features of the high-performing elementary teacher preparation systems identified in the report. A tall order, indeed, given highly decentralized U.S. elementary teacher preparation program systems, teacher licensure systems, and elementary school systems, but a vital order to fill.
Last spring, the Center on Enhancing Early Learning Outcomes (CEELO) released Early Childhood Teacher Education Policies: Research Review and State Trends. The report highlights the importance of promoting the baccalaureate degree as the standard credential for early childhood educators and examines the research, policies, workforce conditions, and other factors that serve as barriers to and reality checks and supports for advancing this goal. The report provides a generous range of early childhood educator preparation policies—based on a review of several states’ policies. Not surprisingly, it found wide variation across states in the required education credentials for early childhood educators and in state capacity to increase the number of early childhood educators with baccalaureate degrees. It also examined early childhood finance structures and the impact they have on education credentials. CEELO identified several different policy mechanisms that states are using to improve the quality of early childhood education credentials and to support educators in advancing their credentials.
What’s the Key Takeaway? Raising the level and quality of early childhood educators’ education credentials is complex and necessary, and should be undertaken through a systemic approach. Policy efforts in this arena must recognize that wages and working conditions in early childhood settings are inextricably linked to the pursuit of (and quality of) education credentials.
The National Council on Teacher Quality (NCTQ) recently released Some Assembly Required: Piecing Together the Preparation Preschool Teachers Need. Any NCTQ report on teacher preparation should be considered with a huge grain of salt, given the problematic research methodology (as noted here and here) the organization uses and its predictable negative conclusions about the state of teacher preparation programs. As with other NCTQ reports, it evaluates only a small fraction of preparation programs—in this case, only 5% (or less) of early childhood education degree programs at the associate, baccalaureate, and master’s degree levels—and uses NCTQ’s signature “research” methodology: a document review of syllabi, handbooks, and student observation templates. The focus of this report is on how higher education is preparing candidates for some of the knowledge and skills essential to develop in early childhood educators—such as understanding child development, having a strong literacy foundation, and understanding and introducing early math and science concepts. Unfortunately, the report doesn’t examine the preparation of early childhood educators in other necessary and significant areas of knowledge and skills—such developing strong relationships with families and communities, having a strong grounding in assessment and appropriate instructional practices, and developing the early childhood educator’s professionalism (these happen to be cornerstones of NAEYC’s Professional Preparation Standards).
What’s the Key Takeaway? While the report is not a helpful examination of the quality of early childhood teacher preparation programs, it does provide a window into some of the content found in early childhood programs and rightly points to wide variations in content.
NAEYC recognizes that there is much work to be done to strengthen the early childhood workforce, but the good news is that there are efforts within NAEYC (such as its higher education accreditation and recognition systems and the Power to the Profession initiative) and beyond to address this. It is important to celebrate the field’s progress to date and to continue to use the best of what we are learning from practice, research, and policy to improve the preparation of early childhood educators. This work is essential to our shared goal: that all young children have access to a high-quality early childhood education.
Mary Harrill is Senior Director of Higher Education at NAEYC.
By: David Lawrence
Almost two decades ago, still in the midst of a newspaper career that would last 35 years, I was recruited by then-Florida Gov. Lawton Chiles to be on the Governor’s Commission on Education, a two-year civic mission dedicated to assessing the critical education issues for Florida in the next millennium. There were six task forces, one of which was called “School Readiness.” This topic was new to me (though I was the father of five, and now a grandfather, too). What I came to understand re-energized my life; indeed, it led me in 1999 to depart a journalism career I loved intensely and to spend my energies on helping children get ready for school and life.
I came to believe that the topic of high-quality early care, development, and education spoke to the future of a country I love. My reading of history, and how social progress is achieved, gave me the philosophical understanding that doing right by our children is essential for our nation’s future. It requires building a “movement,” one for everyone’s child. A real “movement” can never be built just for “those children,” whoever they may be; it must be about all our children.
This is the central aim of our work at the Children’s Movement of Florida. What we — and so many others elsewhere — are trying to build won’t be completed in my lifetime or yours, but we already can see the momentum growing all over the United States and in so many other countries.
I try to travel to another country every year, at least partly to build a better understanding of the global “school readiness movement.” And so it was that my colleague Vance Aloupis and I traveled to Cali, Colombia, in October to see the growing early learning movement there. While there we witnessed:
- A high-quality early learning center in nearby[C1] Yumbo called El Caracoli that serves more than 400 poor children ages 6 months to 5 years.
- A mission to build a movement for all children. Roberto Silva, a retired corporate executive who now devotes himself to school readiness, said it best: “Every child deserves the opportunity to succeed; everyone deserves to be free.”
- The growing early childhood agenda of Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos. Considering investment in early learning among his greatest priorities, he has launched an initiative called “De Cero a Siempre” or “From Zero to Forever.”
There is much more good news in so many other places. But it gets far less attention than it should. Today the media are increasingly fragmented; everyone in the media is competing for a fraction of people’s attention. It seems the attention span of the American people is disintegrating. This is not a recipe for a thriving republic, or for the nurturing of thinking leaders. In the words of the great U.S. Supreme Court Justice Louis D. Brandeis, “The greatest menace to freedom is an inert people.”
The first five years—the time during which 90 percent of brain growth occurs—are key. Get off to a good start and you probably have momentum all your life. Fail to do so, and you may never have momentum. We know that already. So what do we do now? What is the basic “case statement” for building a movement? What would be the two- or three-page manifesto that embraces all our work? Assuming we could agree on that—and, yes, we can—what’s the strategy for getting it heard and heeded?
Thus far, we have done a truly poor job of telling our story. Consequently, we’ve made far less progress than we could and should. Many people working in civic, business, health, faith, and education communities are little aware of the power of early investment. Most of all, we have told our most convincing story to far fewer parents than we should and must.
The future of our country is being built on our work in early childhood development. We all must play a role in helping every child succeed. We are overdue, my friends. Nearly 120 years ago, The New York Times wrote an editorial with these words: “Given one generation of children properly born and wisely trained, and what a vast proportion of human ills would disappear from the face of the earth.”
Those words are as true today as they were then. Investing early is the best sort of nation-building, and our best hope of building a strong future for our children.
Editor's note: Learn about how NAEYC is collaborating to help both educate the public and empower early childhood professionals in the United States with the Power to the Profession initiative.
David Lawrence Jr. retired in 1999 as publisher of The Miami Herald to work in the area of early childhood development and readiness. He chairs The Children's Movement of Florida, aimed at making children the state's top priority for investment and decision-making. He is a member of the Governor's Children's Cabinet and twice chaired the Florida Partnership for School Readiness.
By Cate Heroman, Kerry Sheldon, and Sarah West
What happens when you give a young child a cardboard box? They turn it into a car, a robot, a doghouse, or a spaceship. Children are natural makers. In recent years, the “maker movement”--marked by enthusiasm for using your hands to invent, create, and use new tools and technologies--has bubbled up in schools, libraries, and communities across the globe. Fortunately, making and tinkering overlap with what early childhood educators have known all along: children learn by doing.
Prior to the beginning of this school year, the staff from the LSU Child Development Laboratory Preschool discussed the maker movement, what it means, and how they might weave it into their daily experiences. They decided to start small and yet be very intentional in looking for opportunities for making and tinkering during their everyday classroom experiences with three- and four-year-olds.
Getting Started With Making and Tinkering
Figure 1 Computer Take Apart
A parent donated an old computer to the class, and although they were a bit apprehensive, the teachers decided to invite the children to take it apart. They gathered real tools, goggles, and containers to hold small parts, and then set up a take-apart area for exploration.
Squeals of excitement could be heard as children made discoveries:
- Look, it’s a little fan!
- There are so many wires!
- This looks like a piece of ribbon.
- What’s that?
Figure 2 Keyboard Take Apart
They especially enjoyed popping the keys off of the keyboard using a screwdriver as a lever! Once they deconstructed the computer and keyboard, the children sorted the pieces and parts and took them to the art area for repurposing. The children felt very empowered when they learned to use a low-temp glue gun and experienced instant success in putting parts together to create something new! The keyboard keys, screws, ribbons, and wires were transformed into works of art.
Figure 3 Learning to Use a Low-Temp Glue Gun
Figure 4 Repurposing Computer Parts into Art
Making and Tinkering to Solve Problems
One day a child dropped a small metal car in a tiny space between the loft and the wall. It would have been easy for the teachers to retrieve it, but instead, they challenged the children to solve the problem. First, they brainstormed ways they might retrieve the car. Then, the children went to work gathering string, magnets, and other materials to create a solution. They tested out their ideas and revised their inventions. Did the string need to be longer? Was the magnet too big to fit in the space? After days of creating and testing different ideas, one group of children successfully retrieved the car. The process the children followed is similar to what engineers do:identify a problem; plan; build or create; try it out; revise or make it better; and share their ideas with others.*
Figure 5 Tinkering to Solve Real-World Problems
The Toy Store Project Unfolds
The new interest in making and tinkering continued to evolve, and the children began inventing many toys, such as jet packs, space helmets, toy birds, and dollhouses, in the classroom maker space. During a class meeting, the children decided they would create a toy store where people could buy and use the toys they made.
Figure 6 Organizing and Displaying Our Toys
On a site visit to a nearby bookstore, the children observed and investigated the inner workings of a store. They studied how the merchandise was organized and learned about the jobs of the people who worked in the store. They were especially intrigued and interested to find out how technology was used in the store--the barcodes and scanners, cash registers, security cameras, and control room monitors.
Figure 7 Naming Our Toy Categories
Upon returning to the classroom, the children applied what they had learned by organizing their toys into categories and labeling them: cars, musical instruments, babies, or small toys. They made price tags and created their own barcodes to add to their toys. They set up security for their toy store with cameras, monitors, and headsets created in their maker space. This dramatic play continued for weeks as children created and assigned roles for all who participated in the store: customers, salespeople, cashiers, baggers, carpenters, and control room workers.
Figure 8 Toy Store Security Camera
Figure 9 Working Together on the Security Monitor for the Control Room
The Grand Opening
After much planning and preparation, it was time to open the doors of the toy store to the public. All stores need a marketing plan, and the toy store was no different! A video commercial advertising the toy store helped spread the word about the grand opening. The children created a toy catalog for customers to browse before shopping. They set the date for the grand opening and made signs, flyers, and posters to advertise the event.
Figure 10 "Toy Shop Boxes Commercial" by Sarah West and The LSU Child Development Laboratory Preschool.
Figure 11 Toy Shop Catalog
On the big day, each child had a responsibility in the toy store: to hand out flyers, greet customers, demonstrate and sell merchandise, observe from the control room, work the checkout, or bag purchases. The customers (families and special guests) redeemed tickets the children had created to purchase the toys at the checkout register. It was a successful day of shopping and selling for all!
Figure 12 Toys for Sale with Price Tags
Figure 13 A Happy Customer Tries Out a Toy
Figure 14 Toy Inventor Demonstrates Proper Use
Figure 15 Customer Using Self-Checkout
This project shows how involving children in authentic, child-initiated activities provides opportunities for them to explore across a variety of learning domains. The children practiced how to ask questions and solve problems--everything from figuring out the parts inside the computer to how to retrieve a toy car that was stuck--using their own inquisitiveness. Once the children started to create toys(each the product of the children’s curiosity and creativity),the idea of setting up a store to share their work opened up new areas for children to practice solving problems and working together to come up with solutions. Plus, it was fun for everybody!
*For more on using the engineering design process with young children, see Cate Heroman and Paige Zittrauer’s blog, “Scribbling Machines”.
Cate Heroman is an author, early childhood consultant, and volunteer education chair at Knock Knock Children’s Museum, a museum designed for children birth to age 8.
Kerry Sheldon has been an early childhood educator since 1997, working in a variety of programs. She recently joined the faculty of LSU as the Lead Instructor at the Laboratory Preschool and an instructor in the PK-3 Program in the College of Human Sciences and Education.
Sarah West is in her first year of teaching as a teaching associate at the LSU Child Development Laboratory Preschool. She is a recent graduate from the PK-3 program at LSU.
By: Teresa Narey
As a first-time institute attendee, I did not know what to expect at NAEYC’s 2016 National Institute for Early Childhood Professional Development (PDI), June 5–8, in Baltimore. I left this year’s PDI feeling empowered. I left with the tools necessary to help make the future of early childhood education (ECE) brighter—in my own corner as well as in the larger society.
Let’s backtrack a little. I started my career in ECE a decade ago, while also working on my MFA in creative writing. A few years ago, I decided to take some time away from the field to write professionally and teach as a college writing instructor. As 2016 approached, I started to miss teaching young children. More important, the movement to professionalize the ECE field was palpable, and I wanted to be a part of it. January 2016 was a big month for me: I returned to the field as an assistant pre-K teacher and enrolled in Champlain College’s low-residency MEd program in early childhood education. Attending PDI fulfills the program’s residency requirement.
During PDI, I met my Champlain cohort for the first time at the Pratt Street Ale House, our designated meeting spot. The warm presence of the program director and my classmates quickly soothed any nerves I had. As we immersed ourselves in discussion about the PDI experience, I was reminded that ECE professionals are among our nation’s smartest, most innovative workers.
The best part of PDI is that the sessions are as applicable as they are informative. Here are my top three takeaways:
1. Loose parts play promotes open-ended learning. In a panel session on the play experience, I learned for the first time about the advantages of loose parts play. Using random materials, we engaged in solo and cooperative play. For most, this experience was calm and focusing. Loose parts play allows children to imagine, create, explore, and problem solve, and we felt this firsthand at PDI.
For more information on loose parts play, see this article and video entitled "Look Again!" from Teaching Young Children.
2. Make technology experiences interactive. The latest research on children and screens explains that the screens themselves aren’t bad, it’s what we do with them. In a session about their book Tap, Click, Read: Readers in a World of Screens, Lisa Guernsey and Michael Levine explained that many apps have features that can be advantageous to children’s learning. It is important to look for apps that have interactive features like narration and dynamic visuals. Most important, technology truly supports children’s learning when adults are there to play along with them.
Lisa Guernsey and Michael Levine’s recent article in Young Children, “Getting Smarter About E-Books for Young Children” offers more ideas from their book.
3. Families want to understand play. Laurel Bongiorno, Champlain College’s Division Dean of Education and Human Studies, explained that families often share educators’ beliefs about the benefits of play but need more information to support this understanding. Laurel recommended explaining child development terms like cognitive development and symbolic play to parents and other family members and giving them pictures that demonstrate each. When we help families understand the language of child development, they are better able to see that play is learning.
Interested in helping the families of children in your program understand play? See this model memo on the value of play from NAEYC’s book Spotlight on Young Children: Exploring Play, “Memo to: All Families of Young Children: Advocating for Play at School and at Home”. Another great idea would be to direct family members to Lisa Guernsey's article, "10 Things Every Parent Should Know About Play," on NAEYC's For Families site.
I can’t wait for next year’s PDI!
Teresa Narey is an assistant teacher at Beth Shalom Early Learning Center in Pittsburgh, PA, and a first-year student in Champlain College’s low-residency graduate program, working toward a master’s in education in early childhood.
By: Lauren Hogan
“For young children, the language of the home is the language they have used since birth, the language they use to make and establish meaningful communicative relationships, and the language they use to begin to construct their knowledge and test their learning...Each child’s way of learning a new language should be viewed as acceptable, logical, and part of the ongoing development and learning of any new language.”
--NAEYC Position Statement on Linguistic and Cultural Diversity, 1995
The National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC) celebrates and supports the joint policy statement and recommendations, released by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) and the U.S. Department of Education (ED), on supporting the development of children who are dual language learners in early childhood programs. From the cognitive benefits it promotes to the future professional advantages it confers, the scientific consensus confirms that bilingualism is a strength and an asset. Yet our early childhood education systems, policies and practices - from professional preparation to career pathways to child assessment - are not structured to support dual language learners, nor are they adapting quickly enough to respond to the long-anticipated demographic shifts that herald a generation in which over one of every four children under age 6 live in a home where a parent speaks a language other than English.
As we collectively move to define and advance the early childhood profession, NAEYC is animated by our core values and beliefs, and we are committed to achieving a vision in which early childhood professionals are diverse, effective educators and leaders working within a compensation and recognition system that supports their excellence. We commend the Department of Health and Human Services and the Department of Education for elevating the focus on dual language learners’ access to high-quality early childhood education that supports their specific needs and strengths starting from birth. We look forward to working with educators, families, policymakers and partners to invest in and transform our early childhood settings and systems so that they reflect the science, respond to the research and deliver on the promise of early learning for all children.
See our list of resources for dual language learners here.
Lauren Hogan is Senior Director of Public Policy and Advocacy at NAEYC.
By: Joan Lombardi
Every morning, dedicated staff around the world go off to work with young children and families. Throughout their day they have the opportunity to support young children in building a foundation for lifelong learning. NAEYC is committed to achieving a vision in which the early childhood profession exemplifies excellence and is recognized as vital and performing a critical role in society. This commitment extends to early childhood educators throughout the world. We are honored to feature a blog by Joan Lombardi, who provides an update on the global efforts to support early learning—including an exciting new initiative devoted to the global early childhood workforce.
–Stephanie Olmore, Senior Director, Global Engagement, NAEYC
There is ample evidence that the key to quality in early childhood programs are the interactions between children and the important adults in their lives, including the teachers and other caregivers who work with children every day. Yet we know that around the world, as is the case in the United States, the early childhood workforce has not received the recognition or support it deserves.
A recent review of research on early childhood care and education in low- and middle-income countries reveals some of the main issues and trends, including limited and inconsistent data on the early childhood workforce, the wide variation in required qualifications, and the lack of adequate resources and recognition (Neuman, Josephson, & Chua 2015). For example, as we have seen in the United States, the pay and status of early childhood teachers is poor relative to other teachers, leading to low satisfaction and high turnover (Whitebook, Phillips, & Howes 2014)—this and many other challenges are true also in the global context.
While there is a very long road ahead, in September 2015 the International Step by Step Association (ISSA) and Results for Development Institute (R4D), with support from the Bernard van Leer Foundation, hosted a meeting of experts from around the world to discuss the need to strengthen the early childhood workforce globally. Building on this meeting, the two partnering organizations recently launched an initiative focusing on those who work with children from birth through age 8 and their families around the world.
The new Early Childhood Workforce Initiative will take a holistic multisector approach, with a focus on a variety of roles, including teachers, home visitors, mentors, coaches, supervisors, trainers, and program managers. Through specific country studies and cross-country dialogue on topics such as competencies and standards, training and professional development, and support for improvement and recognition, this new initiative intends to shine a light on a topic that has been too long in the shadows of public policy. We are able to see a growing understanding of the need for high-quality early childhood education and development, and with that comes the hope that things might change. The importance of the early years to long-term health, behavior, and learning was reflected in several of the United Nations Goals for Sustainable Development agreed to by countries around the world in 2015. Specifically, Goal 4, on education, included the following important target:
By 2030, ensure that all girls and boys have access to quality early childhood development, care, and pre-primary education so that they are ready for primary education.
To fulfill our obligation to children worldwide requires a renewed commitment to building and supporting an early childhood workforce that has sufficient professional preparation, recognition, and working conditions; increased compensation; and ongoing support. These dedicated teachers are the heart and soul of a quality early childhood program. They deserve the support and working conditions that lead to effective programs and assure that all children learn and thrive.
Join us at NAEYC’s 2016 National Institute for Early Childhood Professional Development, where a panel of global experts will discuss current research and innovative approaches in low- and middle-income countries.
Neuman, M.J., K. Josephson, & P.G. Chua. 2015. A Review of the Literature: Early Childhood Care and Education (ECCE) Personnel in Low- and Middle-Income Countries. Part of the Early Childhood Care and Education Working Papers Series. Paris: United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization.
Whitebook, M., D. Phillips, & C. Howes. 2014. Worthy Work, STILL Unlivable Wages: The Early Childhood Workforce 25 Years After the National Child Care Staffing Study. Report. Berkeley, CA: Center for the Study of Child Care Employment, Institute for Research on Labor and Employment, University of California.
Joan Lombardi is a senior advisor to the Bernard van Leer Foundation on global child development strategies and to the Buffett Early Childhood Fund on national initiatives. She also directs Early Opportunities LLC, focusing on innovation, policy, and philanthropy.