Clayton Early Learning

Culture Night at Clayton Early Learning Schools


Kelsy Petersen-Hardie

It is that time of year again for Culture Night, a special night that gives the schools of Clayton Early Learning a chance to celebrate culture in a meaningful way with staff, families, young children, and community members.  Each year we strive to offer an experience that is not only fun, but one that provides opportunities for young children and their caring adults to learn about and reflect on their own culture, as well as a chance to come together to celebrate as a community.  This year the planning committee got excited about delving deeper into an aspect of culture that all groups share.  Families and staff voted for their favorite cultural element from a long list of topics and music was nominated as the focus this year.

In reflecting on what music means from my cultural lens, I had visions of my facabinmily gathered together listening to old country western records as my grandpa took turns dancing the grandchildren all around the living room of my family’s cabin, a crackling fire in the background.  Images of practicing my violin and choreographing dance moves to Paula Abdul flooded my mind.  Music played a part in all special events I can recollect, like weddings, parties, and funerals.

When we talk about culture from a theoretical perspective, we lose children and adults alike. Have you ever heard someone say, “I don’t have a culture” or “I don’t know what my culture is”?  Culture is experienced every moment of every day, but we don’t necessarily recognize that we are living it because we are IN it.

I wanted to understand culture from my six year old daughter’s perspective so I asked her what she thinks about when she thinks of music.  She then gave me a laundry list of what music means from her cultural lens:  music as a school special, old country western records like Johnny Cash (that’s my girl!), music that people dance to, music from the Nutcracker, the rhythm and beats of jazz (she then proceeded to demonstrate the different tempos of jazz, illustrating the different lengths of notes with her stuffed animal collection).  There you have it, from the eyes of a young child.  Culture is lived.  Culture comes from experiences.  Culture is shared among people.  The special people in our lives touch us with these experiences, forever shaping our cultural lens.

What musical memories made the biggest impact on your life? What do you think about when you think of music’s impact in your family?

We hope you will join us at Clayton Early Learning’s Culture Night as we share the musical cultures of our staff, families and community, as well as engage in experiences that create new cultural memories among our children and our learning community.

Culture Night 2013:

Join us for an evening of celebrating culture through music as you mingle throughout the rooms, experiencing the movement, sights, and sounds of our School Family!

Tuesday, 12/17 from 5:30-7:00 P.M. at the Far Northeast Campus

Thursday, 12/19 from 5:30-7:00 P.M. at the Near Northeast Campus


Would you like to join our Blog conversation? How do you celebrate culture in your community? If so, you can leave your statement in the Comment section at the bottom of this blog.


Continuity of Care


Kelsy Petersen-Hardie

If you are a program or a practitioner working with infants and toddlers, or a parent of a child in this lovely stage of development, you may be interested in the topic of “Continuity of Care”.  In fact, I would argue that if you have a stake in the development of a young child in the age range of 0-3, you SHOULD be interested in this topic.

Continuity of care describes a care setting in which children stay with the same caregiver from the time they enter group care as an infant to the time they transition to a preschool classroom at the age of three.  Mother explaining to three years old son outdoor in spring garden.This concept is very different than what typically takes place in many centers across the United States, where children transition to a new classroom with new teachers when they reach new milestones like walking and toilet training.  Because infants and toddlers are establishing their identities and striving to make sense of their world at this stage of development, they need a close bond with a responsive, primary caregiver to feel secure enough to explore their world.  When they stay with the same trusted person and receive consistently loving care, they develop a schema that they are taken care of, therefore they are loveable.  The infant or toddler who develops this trust in their world can turn their attention to new discoveries in physical, cognitive, social-emotional, and language and literacy development and really thrive in a learning environment (Howes, 1998; Lally, 1995).

Although this concept has been accumulating positive data in terms of child outcomes since the early 1990s, it is an approach that brings many challenges in implementation.  Aside from the special waivers a center must obtain from the state licensing department so toddlers and infants can be in the same space together, there are a myriad of questions to consider:  Should we have mixed-ages of 0-3 together or should children be of the same age range (often called “looping”)? Teacher reading to 4 children at story time in a child care setting.In a looping situation, should the room set-up change as the children grow or should the children move with their caregivers to new classrooms as they develop into busy toddlers?  What trainings are needed for staff to feel comfortable working with both infants and toddlers?  In a mixed-age group, how should the environment be set up to ensure that both infants and toddlers have a space in which they can thrive?  How does a center attract and retain teachers who are responsive and in-tune with young children?  What does continuity mean for enrollment?  What are some of the challenges that may come up for families?

At Clayton Early Learning, we have begun to explore these questions as we embark on providing continuity of care on a new level.  This spring, Clayton opened a new classroom that is being enrolled to include up to three infants under the age of 12 months, as well as five toddlers.  In addition, two of our current infant classrooms will be exploring looping by retaining their children as they age and changing the environment to meet the growing needs of the children.  We are excited about these new learning opportunities and will no doubt share our discoveries as they occur.  What is your experience with continuity of care? Is this the type of environment that can most effectively help children develop a healthy identity?


Howes, C. (1998).  Continuity of care:  The importance of infant, toddler, caregiver relationships. Zero to Three, 18(6), 7-11.


Celebrating Culture: Our School’s Approach to Building a Community of Respect


Kelsy Petersen-Hardie

Teachers and Home Visitors huddle around tables in a conference room to learn about a program family’s subculture of “Southern Coastal/Beach” during a professional development day this month.  Down the hall, more early childhood professionals settle on bean bag chairs and large foam blocks to absorb the cultural traditions of how one family celebrates Carnabal and how another family celebrates Dia de los Muertos.  Across the campus, still more education and family service staff gather in a conference room to understand the cultural heritage of one family’s Hawaiian culture.  This interdisciplinary discussion and collaboration is taking place in preparation for Clayton Early Learning’s annual Culture Night celebration, a chance for families and staff to share their own and learn about others’ cultural heritages, beliefs, and traditions.  These three cultures were chosen by our families to be featured in this year’s festivities, although all families and staff will have opportunities through classroom experiences to explore and share their own cultures in the months and weeks preceding Culture Night.

This celebration that occurs in December every year is one of the ways Clayton Early Learning puts into practice Principle 5 from the guiding document, Multicultural Principles for Head Start Programs Serving Children Ages Birth to Five: Every individual has the right to maintain his or her own identity while acquiring the skills required to function in our diverse societyCelebrating Culture Night at Clayton Early Learning, December 2011This document highlights research that shows the strength that family culture brings to a growing child’s forming identity; self-esteem, healthy social-emotional development, and school achievement are all associated with one’s connection to cultural roots. Therefore, it is the work of the day for early childhood programs to foster a sense of cultural pride for families and children, while helping one another grow skills to function successfully in the diverse world in which we live.

From our experiences, this charge is easier said than done as we sometimes risk stereotyping the cultures we seek to honor and approaching cultural beliefs and practices that are outside the dominant culture’s “norm” in a touristy way.  Having individual families showcase the concrete ways in which they live out their cultures, along with investigating each child’s and family’s culture during classroom experiences, monthly parent meetings and home links, we hope to provide families and young children with an experience that will go beyond the one night of our school’s celebration, heeding the advice of Louise Derman Sparks in Anti-Bias Curriculum: Tools for Empowering Young Children:  “Have cultural diversity permeate the daily life of the classroom through frequent, concrete, hands-on experiences related to young children’s interests, …explore the similarities among people through their differences, [and] …begin with the cultural diversity among the children and staff in your classroom” (p. 58).

How do you grow a sense of cultural pride and identity among the children and families in your school?  How are families invited to share their cultures with children, families, or program staff? How does culture show up in the classroom to honor every individual?


Revisiting and Updating The Multicultural Principles for Head Start Programs Serving Children Ages Birth to Five (2010).  HHS/ACF/OHS.

Sparks, L. D.  (1989).  Anti-bias Curriculum:  Tools for Empowering Young Children.  Washington, D.C.: National Association for the Education of Young Children. (NAEYC Publication #242).