Thrive Initiative Continues Trainings and Important Projects
Moving to Action Comments
Summit attendees were asked for feedback about the day's presentations, and what they would bring back to their work. The following are a small sample of the many comments submitted.
What is Kindergarten FOR?
Dr. Leonard Sax spotlights importance of gender, play, and outdoor exploration with early childhood and education professionals
The Northland Foundation was pleased to welcome a full house of 250 school superintendents, preK-12 educators and administrators, early care and education specialists, school board members, and other regional stakeholders to the 2011 Early Childhood Summit.
“Every year, the Early Childhood Summit brings together people, educators and others who care deeply about the well-being of children,” said Lynn Haglin, Northland Foundation's Vice President/KIDS PLUS Director. “It is our hope that they take away information and inspiration to support the good work that they do.”
Keynote promotes developmentally and gender-appropriate teaching, and champions kindergarten as a time for exploration, play, and inspiration
The Summit keynote speaker, Leonard Sax M.D., Ph.D. graduated Phi Beta Kappa from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), and earned both a Ph.D. in psychology, and an MD from the University of Pennsylvania. From 1989 through 2008, he was a practicing family physician. He's authored three books: Why Gender Matters, Boys Adrift, and most recently, Girls on the Edge. In 2002, he founded the Montgomery Center for Research in Child & Adolescent Development. Dr. Sax's credentials are impressive, but his straightforward message, backed by research, is even more compelling.
Dr. Sax's two-part presentation entitled “What is Kindergarten FOR?” began by outlining the changes to preschool and early elementary education over the past 40 years. In 1971, he explained, teachers didn’t teach phonics to 5-year-olds; today they do. The kindergarten curriculum of 2011 looks very much like first grade used to look. This acceleration of curriculum now extends from preschool through the early elementary years.
In decades past, most teachers thought kindergarten should be a mix of didactic instruction, experiential learning, and play, with a healthy mix of music and arts and crafts. Today, many North American school administrators, said Sax, believe kindergarten should center on literacy and numeracy. He shared research linking this change to more boys disengaging from school altogether, by 3rd grade or even earlier, and to the narrowing focus of some girls. The achievement gap by the eighth grade between white higher income girls and white higher income boys is greater than the gap between rich and poor students or white and minority students, as shown on America's Report Card.
The crux of Dr. Sax's intriguing presentation was to encourage gender-specific and developmentally appropriate strategies that teachers, caregivers, and early childhood professionals can use to ignite curiosity in young children, to help every girl and boy achieve to their fullest potential.
“I spent over 30 years working with young children; it was so reaffirming to hear that my instincts of what early education should be about are supported by research. What a wonderful opportunity to be able to listen and learn from someone of Dr. Sax's stature,” said Claudia Otos, a Northland Foundation Trustee, Thrive Initiative member, and retiree from Hermantown-Proctor Early Childhood.
Policy update from Ready 4 K's Todd Otis and Kat Kempe
Ready 4 K's president, Todd Otis, isn't predicting a timely end to the battle to balance the state budget. In his early care and education policy update, Otis described how various budget proposals include different levels of cuts and highlight different philosophies. Otis reported strong bipartisan support to limit Department of Education program cuts but said Department of Human Services, including child care, does not fare nearly as well. He predicted that an agreement is unlikely to be reached before July 1. Ready 4 K organizer Kat Kempe also urged attendees to contact their legislators now, as committees are meeting, as well as to maintain communication with them on a quarterly basis. Ready 4 K is Minnesota’s leading early education advocacy organization.
The Northland Foundation is offering grants up to $500 each to school/district teams that attended this year's Early Childhood Summit. The grants will support new or expanded kindergarten transition efforts in the region. Applications are due by May 31 , 2011. For more information, contact Shari McCorison at the Northland Foundation.
“Thrive has helped break down barriers between and among all sectors of community and has provided a catalyst for an array of projects that help to better connect the medical and mental health providers with early childhood and K-12 education to offer more family-friendly services.”
The Duluth-Proctor-Hermantown Thrive Initiative was launched in January 2007 as part of a joint project of the Northland Foundation and the five other Minnesota Initiative Foundations. The goal of Thrive is to strengthen local support networks to ensure the social and emotional well-being of children, ages 0-5. The three-and-a-half year statewide demonstration project was completed in June 2009. Among the important steps it has taken, Duluth-Proctor-Hermantown Thrive Initiative has:
• Developed a network of professionals that meet on a monthly basis to share information, participate in training, and craft projects that respond to pressing needs;
• Created an Infant and Early Childhood Mental Health Resource Directory with information contributed by 65 organizations; 550 directories have been disseminated to date;
• Provided more than 50 high quality trainings for nearly 4,500 people to increase knowledge and skills on an array of infant and early childhood mental health topics; and
• Implemented projects including the Early Childhood Mental Health Resource Team, a forum for Duluth area service providers to consult with other professionals from public and private agencies; and the Reflective Practice Project, which promotes relationship-based practice among early care and education supervisors and staff at eight sites.
Although the demonstration project period has ended, the Northland Foundation continues to host monthly Action Team meetings, offer training opportunities, and support projects developed as part of the initiative. Northland is committed to sharing lessons learned and promising approaches with its other Early Childhood Coalitions in the region, and doing whatever it can to further the progress Thrive has made.
Key Continuation Grant Successes
• Reached 219 FFN providers through 86 Play & Learn sessions.
• A total of 85 FFN Providers received 141 Home Visits across the four partner sites.
• Held Regional Child Care Provider Appreciation & Training, attracting 410 child care providers including 45 self-identified FFN care providers.
Northland Alliance for Family, Friend and Neighbor Child Care Provider Outreach and Support Initiative
Continuation grant delves deeper with outreach, education, support
The Northland Foundation was one of six organizations awarded a Family, Friend and Neighbor Grant by the Minnesota Department of Human Services in 2007. The 18-month demonstration grant was followed by a two-year continuation grant awarded in July 2009.
Since the launch of the Northland Alliance for FFN Child Care Provider Outreach and Support Initiative significant progress has been made. The four partnering organizations serving the cities of Duluth, Hermantown, and Proctor, and Carlton, and Lake Counties have been working on local efforts to increase the capacity of family, friend, and neighbor caregivers to promote the healthy development, early literacy, and school readiness of young children in their care.
An exciting outgrowth of the Northland Alliance is the FFN Expansion Project that was implemented in seven Early Childhood Coalition Communities. The Northland Foundation provided $20,000 to pilot Play & Learn sessions at seven sites to expand the reach of the Northland FFN Alliance to more communities and more providers.
For example, the Ely Early Childhood Coalition offered seven Play & Learn events reaching more than 30 grandparents, relatives, neighbors and friends caring for young children.
“The Play and Learns in our community were well attended by informal caregivers, especially grandparents. These events met an untapped need to help our providers learn new information while participating in a fun, educational event with the children in their care,” stated Ely Coalition Coordinator Mary Mattson.
Providers' Event Sponsors
The McKnight Foundation
Minnesota Department of Human Services
Child Care Resource & Referral
The afternoon activity demonstration was hands-on.
Dozens of drawing winners received wonderful donated prizes.
4th annual event attracts hundreds
On February 26th, well over 400 child care providers from throughout the region gathered in Duluth for the fourth annual Child Care Providers’ Appreciation and Training Seminar. Providers represented child care centers, home-based child care settings, early childhood programs, and those who regularly take care of children belonging to a family member, friend, or neighbor.
Anne Gearity, Ph.D., LICSW presented the morning program. Dr. Gearity is a clinical social worker and adjunct faculty at the University of Minnesota School of Social Work. She is also a consultant for Washburn Child Guidance Center's day treatment program in Minneapolis, where she is helping to develop a treatment intervention model for young children with trauma and attachment issues. Dr. Gearity talked about why consistent care and meaningful one-to-one interaction with young children is so critical, especially for children who have experienced trauma, neglect, abuse, a chaotic home life, or other difficulties. Children with challenging behaviors – the ones who may be the most frustrating to care for – are also the children most in need of nurturing and positive attention while at child care.
Following lunch, Nichole Polifka, the Education Development Manager at the Minnesota Children's Museum, presented an interactive session about early literacy. Tables of participants were invited to try out a half dozen simple, inexpensive, fun activities that child care providers can use to help build young children’s literacy readiness and skills.
Besides learning from the speakers, participants networked with their peers and received a free children’s book, informational flyers, and other resources.
“Child care providers play a huge role in shaping young lives,” said Lynn Haglin, Vice President/KIDS PLUS Director. “It is a privilege for us to host this event to show our appreciation.”
A prize drawing ended the day with smiles all around. Thanks to the generosity of the following businesses and nonprofit organizations, dozens of prizes were given away to providers from all across northeastern Minnesota.
Rural Initiative Accomplishments
• Eight individuals were trained in the Six Keys: Strategies for Promoting Infant and Early Childhood Mental Health Train-the-Trainer Program (four scholarships were originally planned).
• Six Keys Trainers provided seven community-based training sessions reaching 112 individuals working in family child care, Head Start, Early Childhood Family Education, and preschool settings.
• Technical assistance was provided to 10 Early Childhood Coalitions to do infant and early childhood mental health service mapping. Five infant and early childhood mental health service directories have been created encompassing 42 rural northeastern Minnesota communities in six counties.
“I will find the directory helpful for referrals for early childhood screening. It will also be helpful to share with parents and child care providers as needed. Many are unaware any resources are available for mental health care for young children.”
Rural Infant and Early Childhood Mental Health Initiative Accomplishes Great Outcomes
During the past year, the Northland Foundation worked with its northeastern Minnesota Early Childhood Coalitions to: 1) Conduct a series of high-quality training sessions focused on infant and early childhood mental health for a diverse cross section of participants from rural northeastern Minnesota; 2) Hold regular learning community meetings to share information, resources, and lessons learned among the early childhood coalitions and the Duluth-Proctor-Hermantown Thrive Initiative pilot site; and 3) Provide technical assistance and resources to assist 10 Early Childhood Initiative coalition sites with mapping infant and early childhood mental health resources and services. The service mapping project resulted in five new rural service directories covering the following areas.
• North Shore (includes Lake and Cook County)
• Aitkin County
• Carlton County
• Itasca County
• Northern St. Louis County (Hibbing, Virginia, Aurora, Hoyt Lakes, Biwabik, Ely, Mountain Iron-Buhl, Eveleth, Gilbert)
These directories, which are available for download on the Northland Foundation website, will help increase awareness, collaboration, and coordination among local programs and service providers. The service mapping process also served as a catalyst to spur ongoing community dialogue around how families who have young children with mental health concerns are referred to services and access resources. The Duluth-Proctor-Hermantown coalition had previously created a resource directory which is being updated.
A total of 1,750 of the new Infant and Early Childhood Mental Health Directories are being distributed across the 10 participating coalition sites. These directories will also be made available electronically through school and community websites.
Thanks to the generous support of the Medica Foundation, the Northland Foundation along with the Duluth-Proctor-Hermantown Thrive Action Team, and regional Early Childhood Coalitions have made great strides toward helping rural communities in northeastern Minnesota increase their capacity to promote the healthy social and emotional development of young children.
© Northland Foundation 2010