Clayton Early Learning
17Sep/16Off

Get Your Preschooler Talking With These 15 Questions

By

Candice Leary-Humphrey
www.d123.org

www.d123.org

 

When parents pick their child up from preschool, there are two questions that are most prominently heard as they eagerly greet children: “How was your day?” or “What did you do today?”

Unfortunately, this type of inquiry rarely results in the kind of discussion that parents are seeking. In fact, many preschoolers respond with “I don’t know/can’t remember” or “Uh, nothing.”

While open ended questions are a great way to learn more about children’s feelings, ideas and experiences, these end-of-day questions are typically too broad for a child to really engage in; especially if they are hungry or tired. Unless the child’s day included something very out-of-the-ordinary, it can be difficult for kids to immediately recall and report out on the day’s activities, which can be a real road block for parents who are seeking and engaging conversation with their young learner.

These fifteen questions are a bit more specific than ‘how was your day,’ but can prompt answers that will effectively tell parents all about the child’s activities and experiences for the day.

Try using just a few of the questions to start and follow the child’s lead in extending the conversation.

  • What is your favorite color? Did you see or use that color today?
  • Who did you play with today?
  • What book(s) did you read today
  • What was something funny that happened today?
  • Were there any parts of your day that were ‘blah?’
  • Did you have to use a pencil/marker/crayon/paintbrush today? What did you do with it?
  • Who is the first person that said ‘hi’ to you today?
  • Who was the first person that you played with?
  • What was your classroom job today? Which job is your favorite/least favorite to have?
  • What is the most special thing to you in our home? Is there anything at school that is most special to you?
  • Who is the nicest person that you know?
  • What is your favorite place in your school/classroom?
  • Is there anyone in your class that you’ve never played with before?
  • What was the easiest thing that you did today?
  • What was the hardest thing that you did today?

Do you have ideas to share with parents about questions that are great conversation starters with kids? Please share your suggestions or experiences

18Apr/16Off

Clayton is Speaking Up for Kids!

Lauren Heintz

Posted by Lauren Heintz

By

Lauren Heintz

Every year, Clayton Early Learning, the Colorado Children’s Campaign, and Children’s Hospital Colorado team up to host Speak Up for Kids, a complimentary event that provides an insider’s perspective of the policy making process including the training and support needed to speak up effectively on the issues that matter most to Colorado kids. Anyone who wants to learn how to be a voice for our state’s children are welcome to attend and this year we had a record breaking attendance of over 200 advocates and coaches!

Want to know what it’s like to participate in this annual event? Let’s hear from our guest blogger and Infant/Toddler Supervisor at Clayton Early Learning in Far North East Denver, Lydia McKinney.

"The first time I had the privilege to participate at Speak Up for Kids was three years ago.  I attended the meeting by myself.  I didn’t know anybody.  Of course, I was aware of who Children’s Hospital and Clayton Early Learning were, and I knew more about Children’s Campaign after I researched them.  That first day I went home with a pocket full of knowledge, an experience which opened the door to opportunities, and a goal to keep pursuing where my heart leads.

The following year I was invited to be an advocacy coach on behalf of Clayton Early Learning and this year I was a table captain.  An advocacy coach answers all the questions you have about your legislature, walks with you to the Capitol, and guides through the process of it.  A table captain initiates a conversation at the table where participants of all field attend.  Each time I attended the meeting I meet people, developed relationships, and connect with old friends.

A wide variety of people take time off from their busy work schedule to participate in the training, meet legislators, and reflect on their experience with fellow participants, advocacy coaches, or table captains.  It’s a day you meet people you thought would never have time for you because they are doing the important work of making policies.  The best part of meeting with policymakers is realizing you are the one they want to meet and listen to.  You are the most important advocate for our kids!

Now you may be thinking of yourself as your read this blog, “only people whose job it is can afford to advocate” or “they have lobbyists who advocate for causes”.  However, your role as an advocate didn’t start because you attended Speak Up for Kids, the event only re-enforced the need to follow your passion.  Let’s say you are a provider with a disabled child who you want to provide with the best care, but practically you cannot because there is no access to a playground that developmentally appropriate.  It’s your passion, so pick up your phone and call your city council man/woman, express your worries, ask for referrals, and make your mission public.  Advocacy is in all of us, we are all connect to children no matter what kind of jobs we have. Police officers, trash men/women, bus driver, city council women/ and men, the mayor, Senators and Representatives, the Governor – even you!"

Interested in learning more about Speak Up for Kids and other ways you can be an advocate for Colorado’s children? Contact Lauren Heintz, Policy Specialist at Clayton Early Leaning, at 303-393-5623 or lheintz@claytonearlylearning.org. Also check out pictures from this year’s event at www.facebook.com/ClaytonEarlyLearning/!

13Apr/16Off

Self-Care for Caregivers: A Smart Investment

By

Candice Leary-Humphrey

Parents and caregivers sometimes hear the reminder “Don’t forget to take care of yourself;” but wonder how self-care could be a practical part of their busy lifestyles. Further, most natural caregivers are uncomfortable prioritizing themselves because it feels selfish or unproductive. In truth, self-care is an essential skill that will only enhance the caregiver’s ability to effectively support others. Without the ability to nurture one’s self physically, emotionally, socially and spiritually; caregivers are at risk for burnout, fatigue and other barriers that will drastically impact the quality of care that they can provide for others.

What is Self-Care?

Self-care is the regular and ongoing way that a person actively participates in enhancing their health and quality of life. At the most basic level, self-care includes responding to your own physical and mental health needs such as illness, injury and chronic pain as well as symptoms of depression and anxiety. Caregivers who neglect their personal health are not as physically or emotionally able to effectively meet the needs of others and can risk developing much more serious health issues when personal care is neglected or postponed.

While personal health care is the foundation for an essential self-care routine, there are additional elements of self-care that must not be neglected. Social experiences, spiritual and creative practice, exercise and healthful eating habits are among the self-care basics that are most often overlooked by caregivers who falsely believe that spending time on these types of activities is selfish or indulgent. Instead, spending time with friends, attending church or participating in a book club all provide opportunities to rejuvenate the caregiver’s energy and ability to respond to the needs of others in a positive and intentional way.

Making Time for Self-Care

All kinds of caregivers can struggle with making time for self-care, though parents tend to be among the most resistant to prioritizing self-care; perhaps because their work is a 24 hour-a-day job. Regardless of the schedule, self-care can be integrated in a way that promotes the caregiver’s health and well-being while still meeting the needs of those in their care.

Find a space at home or at work where you can invest just 10 minutes in essential self care. (photo credit: madamenoire.com)

Find a space at home or at work where you can invest just 10 minutes in essential self care. (photo credit: madamenoire.com)

Small Doses Make a Big Difference

The most overwhelming myth that caregivers tell themselves is that they cannot spare any time for self-care. The truth is that every schedule can accommodate time for self-care; even if it’s only 10 minutes to meditate or write in a journal. Whether the time occurs before the caregiver’s day begins or during small blocks of down-time throughout the day; try starting with just 10 or 15 minutes for activities like walking, yoga, breathing exercises or a brief call to a friend. Even in small doses each day, intentional self-care boosts a caregiver’s energy, mood and resilience to challenging situations.

Ask For Help

Another story that caregivers tell themselves is that to ask for help would mean that the caregiver is less competent in their work or is weak. Nothing could be further from the truth. Effective caregivers know that by asking for help, they will have the support they need to overcome challenges and to maintain a positive approach to caregiving. Professional caregivers can ask colleagues for support and relief, even if it’s only a short break to take a walk outside. Personal caregivers and parents should reach out to family members and friends to ask for an hour of babysitting while they practice the activities in their self-care routine. Allowing loved ones to support self-care needs will not only provide the caregiver with personal time, it will also enhance personal relationships and model positive lifestyle habits for others; especially children.

Self-Care is a Smart Investment

When caregivers reach a point of burnout, chronic fatigue or depression, their work is no longer effective and the caregiver will need to invest a significant amount of time in self-care in order to regain the motivation, energy and general well-being that’s been lost. Instead of neglecting one’s self to the point of suffering, caregivers can integrate a regular self-care routine that only costs minutes per day and will enhance their quality of life almost immediately. Remember, self-care is not a single activity that one enjoys over the course of days, weeks or months. Instead, genuine and effective self-care is practiced daily to ensure that caregivers maintain the energy, desire, physical and mental health needed to perform such demanding work. Self-care isn’t selfish, it’s the most selfless thing a caregiver can do to ensure the quality care of others.

Tell us your experiences with self-care. Do you have any ideas about easy ways to integrate self-care into caregiver routines? Share with us below!

21Mar/16Off

The Process of Creating a Story Book

Peter Blank

Posted by Peter Blank

By

Peter Blank

Lorrel Esterbrook, Mentor Coach for Family Engagement at Clayton Early Learning, has years of experience working with various center and family based programs. In addition to overseeing the Play and Learn programs here at Clayton, she has a wealth of knowledge about the HIPPY program (read more about HIPPY here). She recently transformed this wealth of knowledge into a published story book rooted in the HIPPY curriculum, "What I Saw". I asked Lorrel about her experience in family engagement, her wonderful book, and life as a published author. The following is an edited version of our conversation.

PB: What drew you to a career in ECE and specifically home and family based instruction?

LE: While I was in college I started working for a community center in Denver’s Five Points/Curtis Park neighborhoods teaching art classes and job readiness skills to adolescents that were either already gang affiliated or at risk for drugs, violence, and gang affiliation. While doing that work the importance of family engagement became even more apparent to me. I also saw the critical role that programs like Head Start played in fostering parent engagement. Eventually I started working with a Head Start program and then I started working with a school based early childhood and family engagement program. That’s when I was introduced to home visiting. I was fortunate to work with a small but passionate team that was conducting home visits in three different languages to immigrant and refugee families from around the world. The families we served taught me about a wide range of wonderful family and parenting practices. Parents would sometimes ask me for “the right way” to parent their child. That broke my heart because it implied that they were in some way doing something wrong. My goal became honoring their cultural style of parenting while giving them a buffet of options they could try out as they learned the culture of their new home.

PB: When did you first get involved with the HIPPY program?

LE: As happens in our field, the grant for the ECE and parent engagement program I was working with ended. I stumbled upon a position as a HIPPY Coordinator for a county Head Start program. I knew HIPPY by name, but little else. Within a few days of accepting the position I was in Little Rock, Arkansas attending the HIPPY pre-service training for coordinators. By the end of the week I was hooked! HIPPY is rooted in some of my core beliefs. All parents want good things for their children. HIPPY strives to honor the parenting tools that families have already, and introduces them to new strategies to help their child learn and grow.

PB: You were a HIPPY coordinator for ten years and work as a National Trainer for HIPPY USA. How did you become involved with the program as an author?

LE: A few years ago the HIPPY curriculum underwent a major rewrite. That revision was led by a team from Clayton Early Learning including Michelle Mackin-Brown and Jan Hommes. My decision to apply for a position at Clayton was influenced in part by the positive experience I had working with this curriculum development team. Several HIPPY sites were selected to pilot the new curriculum and the site I was working with was one of those. In that capacity I had an opportunity to provide feedback to the curriculum revision team and helped rewrite the coordinators manual for the model. I attended a curriculum meeting at the HIPPY USA 2014 Leadership Conference in Washington DC. During that meeting there was discussion about updating the story books for the curriculum. We were asked for our thoughts on what was needed for a new story and I had a lot to say and a lot of ideas. A few weeks later I got a call from HIPPY USA asking me if I would like to try putting all of my ideas into book form. I was thrilled with the idea and jumped right on the opportunity.

PB: What inspired you to write “What I Saw”?

LE: “What I Saw” is about a kindergartner named Tasha who is nervous about talking in front of the class during show and tell. The teacher Mrs. Hart has asked all of the children to bring pictures of animals they have seen. Mrs. Hart provides encouragement and opportunities for the children to expand their language and learning around animals like birds, reptiles, amphibians, and mammals. Mrs. Hart accepts each child where they are at, while giving them opportunities for growth. This leads Tasha to feel more comfortable talking.Lorrel Esterbrook Book

I’m a huge animal and nature lover. When I was a kid I loved books about animals. I felt this was an opportunity to introduce some big vocabulary and science to preschool age children. I tried to pick a wide range of animals so that every child reading the book could identify with seeing at least one of those animals. But I also wanted to provide opportunities for children to be introduced to animals they might not have seen. I specifically chose the North American Wood Duck as one of the birds in the story. This type of duck was hugely important to me as a child and was considered endangered during the 1970’s. My family worked with and supported these ducks on our property as part of a species conservation plan. Because of the program my family participated in you can now see North American Wood Ducks living all over the country including Denver’s City Park.

All of the children in “What I Saw” are named and modeled after children in my own family and family friends. The teacher in the story is one of my HIPPY Mentors, Gayle Hart. Illustrator Debbie Clark, did an amazing job of portraying all of the characters. I wanted all of the children in my life to be able to look at the book and see a child that they could identify with on some level. Maybe they identify with a child because of the way they look, or they might identify with a personality trait, or the structure of the family.

PB: Why is it important that children have access to literature like this?

LE: There are three main points that stick out for me: First of all “What I Saw” is designed to prompt parents to talk with their children about the book. To ask children open ended questions. It models questions that parents can ask, it shows possible responses and how parents can build on their child’s response. Secondly it gives children an opportunity to learn some new big vocabulary in a very age appropriate manner. I love hearing children tell their parents “That’s a dog, it’s a mammal because it has fur”. Lastly, but maybe most important, I think it’s important for children to see themselves in the stories they read. As I said before, all of the children and the teacher are modeled on real people, people I love, respect and care about. Some of those individuals had expressed that they didn’t see people like them in children’s stories. I wanted to change that. I wanted those individuals to know how important they are and their unique qualities are to me.

PB: What advice would you give other education professionals who are interested in becoming authors?

LE: Have someone who can give you good honest and constructive feedback. Writing taps into your emotions. I put a lot of heart and soul into this story. Getting constructive criticism could have been a painful experience, but it wasn’t because the person in charge of filtering the feedback back to me took the time to honor and respect my feelings on my work. For every hour you spend writing you will probably spend ten hours thinking, researching, and problem solving. I think that might have been the biggest surprise to me. Children need to hear stories told from many perspectives and many voices. Add your unique voice and perspective to the world of children’s literature. Write about who and what you love.

PB: You are attending the upcoming HIPPY Leadership Conference next month. What is the focus of this conference? What is your role at this conference?

LE: The conference is held every other year and is an opportunity for HIPPY coordinators and staff to meet, engage in professional development and learn about new developments with the HIPPY model and curriculum. This year there will be a book signing event where some of the HIPPY authors and illustrators will be signing books for the conference participants. I will be co-presenting a workshop called “HIPPY Hacks”. We will be presenting and crowd sourcing ideas on how to save time, money, and sanity while running a HIPPY program.

 

You can find more information on the upcoming  HIPPY Leadership Conference by following the link.

 

8Mar/16Off

Clayton Early Learning is Ready to Read

Peter Blank

Posted by Peter Blank

By

Peter Blank

Overview

Clayton Early Learning has been working to increase early literacy skills with the help of the innovative Ready to Read (RTR) project since 2012. As the project moves into its fourth year let’s take a closer look at the various levels and true depth and reach of RTR.

Clayton received a grant to implement the Ready to Read project, in collaboration with our partner organization Mile High Montessori Early Learning Centers (MHM), from Mile High United Way. The goal of RTR is to foster early literacy skills through interventions, focusing on oral language and vocabulary, in children birth to three. RTR encompasses two different evaluation studies, one in center based care the other in informal care, in an effort to achieve this goal across various care settings. A variety of tools and unique curricula, including Dialogic Reading and Cradling Literacy, are being used to nurture these literacy skills in participating families and children.

Center Based Study

The RTR center-based evaluation study takes place at Educare Denver at Clayton Early Learning and four MHM early learning centers across Denver. Within these centers all participating classrooms are trained in and implement Dialogic Reading. According to Shelly Anderson, Project Manager of RTR, Dialogic Reading is an interactive approach to literacy “where the child becomes the storyteller and the adult takes on the role of active listener, following the child’s lead”.  By using picture books and letting the child direct the story, it focuses on developing oral language skills as well as a passion for storytelling and books. Dialogic Reading is designed for children birth to five, so even infants and toddlers can begin developing literacy skills at their young age.

In addition to Dialogic Reading, some center-based classrooms are supplemented by the Cradling Literacy curriculum. This additional intervention is an evidence based professional development curriculum for teachers. Developed by Zero to Three, it includes 12 two hour training sessions that cover various topics of literacy development such as the benefits of storytelling and working with families to foster emergent literacy skills.

Teacher reading to infant boy

Reading is for all ages!

Play and Learn Study

RTR isn’t just helping children in center-based programs develop early literacy skills. Five Play and Learn groups are also participating in the project. (For more information on Play and Learn, check out this blog.) Parents and caregivers at these Play and Learn sites also receive Dialogic Reading training and work on developing this practice during group sessions and at home.  Additionally, some Play and Learn families receive coaching and feedback on their language interactions with children via LENA recording devices. LENA devices are like a pedometer for words, capturing language interactions including child vocalizations, adult word count, conversational terms, and the audio environment like TV and radio. Understanding just how much and what kind of language children hear day to day is integral for emergent literacy and language development.

With a multitude of approaches and evidence based tools, the Ready to Read project has been truly innovative in its approach to early literacy. It will be exciting to continue reviewing the results for the remainder of the project, which ends in the fall of 2017.

For more information on Ready to Read, contact Shelly Anderson at sanderson@claytonearlylearning.org

18Feb/16Off

HIPPY: A Brief Introduction

Peter Blank

Posted by Peter Blank

By

Peter Blank

What is HIPPY?

There are many program options available to families at Clayton Early Learning. In addition to the numerous center-based options our schools offer, many families participate in various home-based programming.  One of these options is the Head Start Home Based* program, which employs the HIPPY model and curriculum. The Home Instruction for Parents of Preschool Youngsters (HIPPY) is, according to their website, “an evidenced-based program that works with families in the home to support parents in their critical role as their child's first and most important teacher”[1]The program follows a specific 30 week curriculum designed for children ages three to five.  This curriculum focuses on cognitive skill development, such as math and literacy, as well as social emotional development.

HIPPY at Clayton

The HIPPY program is no stranger to Clayton Early Learning’s campus.  Beginning in 1994, the model has been serving parents and children at Clayton for over 20 years.  At the time of publishing, 68 children currently benefit from this innovative home-based early learning program here at Clayton.  Nearly 90% of these children are identified as primary Spanish speakers. According to Michelle Mackin Brown, Team Lead of Family & Community Services at Clayton, participating families always express appreciation about the fact that the HIPPY curriculum is available bilingually in Spanish and English. Coupled with our bilingual home-based HIPPY staff, this allows the program to work seamlessly across varying demographics.

The model is adaptable not only across languages, but locations and settings as well. According to Michelle Makin Brown the activTalking-1-3ities included in the curriculum “can be done in the home, at the park, at the store and in the community throughout the week to support school readiness”.  This flexible approach allows parents to work with their children wherever they may be, bringing important early learning opportunities out of the classroom and into the community.

As previously mentioned, this curriculum is broken out across 30 weeks though at Clayton our home-based HIPPY program lasts 32 weeks. Each home visitor, or Child Family Educator (CFE), working with home-based HIPPY has a limited number of families on their caseload. Such small caseloads allow the CFEs to develop meaningful relationships with both the parent and child throughout their time in the program. During the 32 weeks, families participate in weekly 90 minute home-visits with their CFE to work on new aspects of the curriculum and check in on previous weeks’ goals and activities. In addition to these weekly visits, families come together twice a month for a socialization session. These group sessions are held on Clayton’s campus and offer a classroom experience for the children as well as the parents. During this classroom routine, children are able to socialize with each other and both the parents and children are exposed to social encounters and group learning activities. Transportation is provided to and from the group socializations. Although not required, some CFEs incorporate field trips into the program, bringing certain activities to new and exciting settings like the Denver Zoo.

 

How is it working?

In order to measure success and progress of the HIPPY program, it undergoes an evaluation process similar to that of Clayton’s center-based options. A combination of data from child assessments and parent interviews are analyzed every year in an effort to track the program’s findings.  According to the 2014-2015 Clayton Annual Evaluation Report, “Spanish-speaking HIPPY children tended to demonstrate strong receptive language skills and made statistically significant gain over time. By the end of the year, the majority of children scored in the average range or above.” Specifically, kindergarten-bound HIPPY children assessed in Spanish left the program with above average receptive language skills.

On a more anecdotal level, when asked how the home-based HIPPY program benefits families and children, had this to say:

“Parents become familiar with educational terms, important milestones for development, how to encourage language development and how to individualize for their child.  Families become more aware of their child’s interests, behaviors and learning.  Families have expressed that they have received positive feedback from elementary school staff about their child’s academic and social-emotional progress.”

A truly unique combination for both parent and child, Clayton home-based HIPPY continues to reach a wide audience across the Denver community. Here’s to 20 more years of bringing important early learning opportunities to families’ doorsteps!

 

For more information on the HIPPY program nationwide visit: www.hippyusa.org

For more information on the HIPPY program and other home-based services at Clayton Early Learning contact Tonya Young at tyoung@claytonearlylearning.org.

For more information on the HIPPY evaluation efforts contact Diana Mangels at dmangels@claytonearlylearning.org.

 

*Note: Clayton’s Head Start (HS) Home Based program follows the HIPPY curriculum with a few additional HS programming requirements. Based on HS requirements, these include an increased number of socializations (16 in total) and two additional weeks than the HIPPY curriculum (32, instead of 30).

The sample of English speaking children in the home-based HIPPY program was too small to permit valid statistical analysis. Therefore, data are reflective of Spanish speaking children only.

[1] www.hippyusa.org

29Jan/16Off

Clayton Early Learning Begins “I Love to Read” Month!

Peter Blank

Posted by Peter Blank

By

Peter Blank

Debbie Baker, Child Family Educator and member of the I Love to Read committee, shares with our blog readers the in's and the out's of "I Love to Read" month, which starts February 1st.

______________________________________________________________________________________________________________

By: Debbie Baker

 

February is “I Love to Read” month at Clayton Early Learning. Early Literacy includes such activities as reading, singing, and talking with your infant, toddler or preschool-aged child. At Clayton Early Learning, we celebrate Early Literacy in February by tracking how many books parents read to their children, inviting guest readers and Clayton staff to read aloud to children, and promoting book sharing with dialogic reading classes for parents.

Ample research demonstrates that reading aloud to young children promotes the development of language and other emergent literacy skills which in turn help children prepare for school. Reading aloud to your child from birth gives your child a true head start in school readiness.  Every time you read to your child you are improving their learning advantage.

Parent and child reading together

We All Love to Read!

In addition to improving your child’s language and literacy development, reading aloud also impacts social and emotional development, cognitive development, and fine motor development. Babies and toddlers learn about trust and secure attachment as they share a book snuggled in a lap. They practice attending to the book and can learn about situations that are outside of their regular sphere of influence by reading about them.  Fine motor development is enhanced by the child’s desire to help turn the pages as an infant or toddler.

Reading aloud to young children, particularly in an engaging manner, promotes emergent literacy and language development and supports the relationship between child and parent. In addition it can promote a love for reading which is even more important than improving specific literacy skills.

Look for our  “I Love to Read to You” poster in the piazza at Educare Denver at Clayton Early Learning, and add your child’s name to the heart every time you read aloud this month. There is even a cozy reading area for you to share a book with your child as you drop off or pick up.

Join us for the kick off on February 1. There will be lots of books to share and popcorn to munch as we celebrate “I Love to Read” month at Clayton Early Learning.

______________________________________________________________________________________________________________

 

If you have more questions regarding February's literacy celebration or how reading impacts child development, feel free to contact Debbie for more information at dbaker@claytonearlylearning.org.

21Jan/16Off

Another Successful Celebration of Culture

Peter Blank

Posted by Peter Blank

By

Peter Blank

December 18th, 2015 was a special day for all members of the Clayton Early Learning family, it marked the 10th celebration of Culture Night at our schools and wrapped up another great Culture Week celebration! This year, between 75-100 families participated in the event, which focused on stories and storytelling.

To get a better sense of Culture Night’s importance at Clayton, and the equally as exciting Culture Week, I asked Kelsey Petersen-Hardie, with some help from Charmaine Lewis, both of the Cultural Competency Work-group to share with us how it all began.

_________________________________

Peter: I know the big celebration has come and gone for this year, but I wanted to help clarify Culture Night at Clayton Early Learning for our readers. What is it exactly?

Kelsey: Culture Night is a night we invite children and their families, staff and our families, and community members to our schools to come together and learn about cultures and build our school community in a celebratory environment.  We have three objectives with Culture Night:

  • To create an interactive and visual experience for children, families, staff, and community members to explore the many cultures of Clayton Early Learning through the shared experience of a cultural aspect.
  • To prompt deeper thinking by delving more deeply into an element of culture that is shared by all families and staff, but experienced differently.
  • To provide developmentally appropriate experiences to build children’s foundational knowledge of culture.

P: And this year’s theme was Story Telling, correct? How was this theme chosen?

K: The theme this year was Stories and Storytelling.  Each year families and staff have the opportunity to vote on a cultural theme in September.  There are 10-12 cultural themes to choose from, all representing elements that all cultures share, yet experience differently.

P: That’s great. When did it begin? And why?

K: Because our community is so diverse, Culture Night was created to honor the diversity that each family, child, and staff member brings to our school family.  It has been a celebration that promotes curiosity and respect for differences, as well as similarities.

[According to Charmaine, culture night began back in 2005].

Blog 1

Enjoying the Storybook Parade!

P: Wow! This tradition has been around for quite some time. Has Culture Week always been part of the celebration as well?

K:  No, Culture Week was implemented 3 or 4 years ago to extend the learning opportunities that are available through preparations for Culture Night.  As Culture Night has evolved to provide meaningful and developmentally appropriate experiences in an early childhood setting, we learned that one night was scratching the surface (one week still is scratching the surface, but allows a little more time to get our community engaged in the content).  Currently, teachers begin planning for intentional experiences in their daily lessons in October and November.

P: I know firsthand that all this planning and hard work paid off -- I was able to catch the Storybook Parade at Educare during Culture Week and had a smile the entire time. It was so fun to watch each classroom parade down the hallway, dressed in their favorite storybook theme. What other activities were part of this year’s celebration?

K: This year we had some of our own Storytelling heroes share their own storytelling methods with our children and families during the week, like preschool lead teacher/puppet show master Paul Mezzacapo, and Community Mentor Coach/children’s book author Lorrel Esterbrook.  During Culture Night, guests were invited to experience a variety of activities to encourage reflection on their own cultural practices and beliefs about stories and storytelling, including making a recording of themselves telling a story for their children to listen to, going on a bear hunt, and exploring family stories through cuisine.

P: Sounds like there were plenty of activities for everyone, thanks for sharing!

bear cave

Beware of the bear! Bear cave at Culture Night.

_________________________________

All in all, Culture Night and Week was another huge success for all the children, families, and staff at Clayton Early Learning. As Kelsey mentioned, it is always important for our diverse Clayton family to come together and celebrate what makes us simultaneously unique and similar.  This togetherness helps make Clayton Early Learning such a special place for all. A big thank you to all of the hard work from staff and families that made this year’s Culture Night/Week celebrations a success!

 

Interested in other Culture Night stories?! Check out these blog posts from the archives, recapping previous years’ events.

http://www.claytonearlylearning.org/blog/culture-night-at-clayton-early-learning-schools/

http://www.claytonearlylearning.org/blog/celebrating-culture-our-schools-approach-to-building-a-community-of-respect/

30Jun/15Off

State Advocates Come Together for Early Education Policy

Lauren Heintz

Posted by Lauren Heintz

By

Lauren Heintz

Last week in Chicago, over 60 early childhood state advocates from 17 states gathered for the 2015 Policy Exchange meeting sponsored by the Ounce of Prevention Fund.  This annual meeting brings together state based advocates, national organizations, state government officials, researchers, academics and programmatic leaders to discuss the current early childhood policy challenges and opportunities in their states and learn from one another. Though each state is working in a different context of government, funding, and culture, commonalities can be found across the country in early childhood priority issues.

This year’s conference focused primarily on the reauthorization of the Child Care Development Block Grant (CCDBG), which was passed by Congress in 2014. CCDBG is the main funding source for many states’ child care assistance programs, including Colorado’s Child Care Assistance Program (CCCAP). In order for states to receive CCDBG funding, their state officials must submit a state plan that outlines how the funds will be used, who will be involved, and how the funded programs will be evaluated. The legislation that Congress passed last year made several changes to the requirements for state plans, including:

  • More of a focus on ensuring quality in child care programs and increased funding requirements for quality initiatives
  • Easier public access to information about child care, especially on consumer websites
  • Increased requirements for the health and safety of child care programs, including disaster preparedness plans
  • Increasing access for vulnerable populations to child care, with a particular focus on children with disabilities and homeless children
  • More supports for families receiving child care assistance, including a 12 month eligibility re-determination, allowing at least 3 months of assistance during a parent’s job search, and providing graduated phase out assistance to families that have increased their income

Other policy priorities that advocates from across the country discussed at the Policy Exchange included continuity of child care, mental health and social/emotional development, policy innovations in Early Head Start-Child Care Partnerships, funding for early childhood, marketing and communications messaging, and alignment between early childhood and the K-12 system.

The Policy Exchange also gives a chance for states to highlight their successes from the past year. Some of the policy gains for early childhood from across the states included:

  • California’s legislature and governor reached a budget agreement that added 7,000 preschool slots and 6,800 child care slots in the state, totaling nearly $400 million in new investments
  • Louisiana passed legislation requiring the Department of Education to find funding sources to increase early childhood care and education by $80 million
  • The Education Committee in Maine requested the Maine’s Children’s Growth Council, Maine Children’s Alliance, the Ounce of Prevention Fund, and the National Center for Children in Poverty at Columbia University to gather more detailed information on the social emotional development of children and develop appropriate policy recommendations for the legislature
  • Nebraska passed legislation which will allow a family to receive transitional child care assistance if an increase in family income puts them over the limits to receive assistance
  • Oklahoma’s legislature passed several bills to promote early learning and literacy for children through 3rd grade
  • The Washington Legislature is considering in special session the bipartisan Early Start Act to help parents find care and learning opportunities that are tailored for their children, enhance school readiness, and support providers to provide high-quality care that is culturally and linguistically responsive to the needs of young learners and their families

Image via Ounce of Prevention Fund website.

 

To find out more about the Ounce of Prevention Fund and the annual Policy Exchange, please visit http://www.theounce.org/involved/events/policy-exchange-meeting.

 

 

3Jun/15Off

5 Free Kid-friendly Festivals in Denver this Summer

Kristin Denlinger

By

Kristin Denlinger

1) Denver Chalk Art Festival

Kick-off your summer creativity with the Denver Chalk Art Festival! Chalk art is a fun medium that can be shared by kids and professionals alike. In the kids’ corner, kids can create their own art. Youth Groups will compete in a chalk challenge to help fund their school arts programs. The whole family can enjoy incredible works from award-winning street painters and live music throughout the festival.

When: June 6, 2015 (10am-10pm) & June 7, 2015 (10am-7pm)

Where: Larimer Square

More info: http://www.larimerarts.org/festival-info/denver-chalk-art-festival/

Image via Denver Chalk Art Festival website

Image via Denver Chalk Art Festival website

2) A Taste of Puerto Rico

A Taste of Puerto Rico is the largest Caribbean festival in Colorado! This festival is more than 10 years old and this year there will be a special tribute to the father of Salsa, Frankie Ruiz, by his brother Viti Ruiz. The whole family can enjoy musical act and cultural offerings, not to mention delicious Puerto Rican food.

When: Jun 14 (11am-8pm)

Where: Civic Center Park, E. Broadway & Colfax

More info: http://www.atopr.com/

Image via A Taste of Puerto Rico Facebook Page

Image via A Taste of Puerto Rico Facebook Page

3) Sand in the City

You don’t need to drive far to get to the beach this summer! Sand in the City is a family friendly beach party. Master sand sculptors will make giant works of art. Adults can enjoy local craft beer and music while the Kid Zone is jam-packed with obstacle courses, bouncy slides, magicians and buried treasure!

When: Jun 27-28 (12pm)

Where: Ralston Park, 64th & Simms, Arvada Co

More info: http://visitarvada.org/events/sand-in-the-city/

Image via Arvada Sand in the City Facebook page

Image via Arvada Sand in the City Facebook page

4) Colorado Dragon Boat Festival

In its 15th year, the Colorado Dragon Boat Festival has been praised as one of the Best Festivals in Denver! Festival spectators enjoy the ancient sport of Dragon Boat Races, traditional and contemporary arts performances that showcase Asian and Asian American talent and Taste of Asia food courts. A kids’ ‘Dragonland’ area includes children’s performers and storytellers and educational crafts. The whole family can enjoy ‘Gateway to Asia,’ described as a “portal into Asian culture” with demonstrations and performances.

When: July 18-19 (10am)

Where: Sloan’s Lake, Denver

More info: http://www.cdbf.org/

Image via Colorado Dragon Boat Festival website

Image via Colorado Dragon Boat Festival website

5) A Taste of Colorado

A Taste of Colorado is a great way to experience some of the best food in Denver and end your summer with some family fun. Five stages will feature regional and national performers and a large Arts & Crafts Marketplace will be present. The Kidzone includes free craft activities and play equipment with music and magic. Families can learn about Colorado history together in the Festival of Mountain and Plain Area.

When: September 4 (11:30am-10pm), September 5, 6 (10:30am -10pm), September 7 (10:30am-8pm)

Where: Civic Center Park, E. Broadway & Colfax

More info: http://www.atasteofcolorado.com/

Image via A Taste of Colorado Facebook page

Image via A Taste of Colorado Facebook page

Tell us your family's favorite Denver summer festival in the comments below!