Men in ECE Speak Up: Ugly stereotypes, the importance of male teachers and why we love this field of work
Before I begin, I would like to thank everyone who responded to the survey attached to the last blog on Men in ECE. Without your open and honest responses this second post would not be possible.
Your feedback from the survey has been incredibly helpful to me in formulating this post and has provided Clayton Early Learning with valuable data as we continue to advocate for excellence in the field of early childhood education.
Since my last post, I had been eagerly awaiting the results of the survey in hopes of gaining some new insight and perspectives from other teachers, both male and female, parents and community members. Some of the responses solidified my predictions from the last blog, while others presented a perspective I hadn’t heard before.
We will not necessarily try to debunk or support any specific point of view or stereotype here. My intention now is only to initiate conversations surrounding societal perceptions of men in this field so that we can support professional development and growth for all educators and to celebrate the contribution that men can make as ECE professionals.
Now, I am eager to share some of the responses that I received to the survey questions posed in my first post. For brevity, I have paraphrased the collected responses to provide a general sense of how those surveyed responded to each of the prompts.
Do you feel men in ECE are more sought after by employers?
A slight majority of replies to this questions suggested that yes, men are more sought after by employers to work in this field. However, this question received a variety of perspectives that suggest that employers attempt to remain unbiased in selecting their teaching staff. One respondent stated that the current trend in ECE is to advocate for more men in the field, therefore employers feel more obliged to hire men.
In your opinion, what importance, if any, do men play in the field of ECE?
Predominantly, the responses indicated that gender balance is an important benefit of having men in ECE classrooms. This balance can support positive modeling of communication and collaboration between male and female teachers. Responses also illustrated the benefit of having male role models for both boys and girls and the differences in communication styles, creativity and interaction that men display.
In your opinion, are there currently any stereotypes about men working in ECE?
This question elicited a variety of answers that many of the respondents were quick to include that they did not subscribe to. Some of the responses indicated that society perceives men in ECE as unambitious, that men choose to work in this field because they weren’t adept at working in upper level education classrooms, or that men in this field are choosing an easy job.
The majority of the responses revealed that ECE is still not considered a masculine profession, regardless of the push to employ more men in the field. One person stated that society believes “men should work with older children.” This leads into some of the more harmful stereotypes of male ECE educators. Several of the respondents wrote that society views men in ECE as predators. This stereotype is particularly harmful to the field as it often serves to discourage would-be male candidates from pursuing a career in early education. Conversely, a looming stereotype that male teachers have inappropriate interests in their work can be extremely harmful to the parent-teacher relationship. Knowing that a trusting relationship is critical in partnering with families, this stereotype is one that must be acknowledged and debunked.
It is disappointing, though not necessarily surprising, that the bulk of our responses indicate that those who participated in the survey believe men in ECE are generally viewed with skepticism and suspicion.
While the daily professional work of an educator is challenging in its own right, men in the field of early childhood education face the additional test of overcoming gender stereotypes that may impact their sense of efficacy as a teacher.
Despite the sometimes harsh reality of stereotypes of men in early childhood education, I was inspired to read the responses that men offered regarding their choice of profession. Though this is a small sample of what was received, it speaks volumes to the diversity of men in the field - their approach to teaching, philosophies on education and motivations for working with young children and families. The responses below have been edited for clarity and brevity, but are completely authentic in tone and message.
Why did you choose a career in ECE?
“For the joy of working with young children.”
“I have taught secondary, primary and ECE. It is the most important age for children's learning, and the development of their dispositions. My teaching philosophy and mission is to empower all through education.”
“I wanted a job that would be nurturing in nature and where I could use my talents for communication and working with children.”
“Because I'm good with children and I enjoy their company. Children are very intuitive. I am successful in my work as a teacher because children can sense that they are safe with me and that I genuinely enjoy working with them.”
“To inspire and tap into little minds. I believe children can do far more than the general population believes they can and so I push my students to show the world what they can do.”
“It was exciting to discover that I was good at teaching preschool students. Being confident in my ability at work is a great feeling.”
“I wanted to make an impact on the lives of young children.”
As I wrote in my last blog, male ECE teachers are a diverse group with many reasons for educating, impacting and improving the lives of young children. If you know a male early childhood educator, I encourage you to ask them why they have chosen this field. I guarantee you that their answer will inspire you with a new respect for their work.
We will continue sharing these stories, challenges, barriers and celebrations of men in early childhood education and hope that you will too. This is the first important step in overcoming harmful stereotypes and encouraging gender diversity in the field of ECE.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org. Also check out pictures from this year’s event at www.facebook.com/ClaytonEarlyLearning/!
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.
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.
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
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.
By Peter Blank
On March 18, Clayton Early Learning co-hosted the 4th annual Speak Up for Kids event at the Denver Art Museum and the State Capitol. Together with the Colorado Children’s Campaign and Children’s Hospital Colorado, Clayton sponsored the event to prepare partners across the state to advocate for children and build confidence in engaging their legislators. With great turnout and active participation, another successful Speak Up for Kids day is in the books!
The focus of the advocacy at Speak Up for Kids day this year was on supporting two generation strategies that promote self-sufficiency and student success. Specifically participants learned about House Bill 1194 and several funding bills for early learning that are currently being considered in the legislature. House Bill 1194 would authorize a $5 million state investment to the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment to continue an existing program that increases access to long acting reversible contraception as part of the CDPHE’s family planning efforts. This bi-partisan bill provides the opportunity to reduce unintended pregnancy and abortion in Colorado, support the health and education of women and children, and reduce reliance on government programs.
The investment bills that were discussed by the advocates and their state legislators focused on access to preschool, full-day kindergarten, and affordable child care which are some of our most cost-effective strategies to supporting children and families. Current legislation that was highlighted included:
- House Bill 1024 which would add 3,000 new slots for part time or full time preschool under the Colorado Preschool Program
- House Bill 1020 which would improve funding for full day kindergarten and help districts expand their kindergarten facilities if needed
- The School Finance Act which could likely include the expansions for the Colorado Preschool Program and Full Day Kindergarten
- The Long Bill, or the legislature’s appropriations bill, which could include line item funding for the Colorado Child Care Assistance Program (CCCAP) including an increase to help with the implementation of the CCCAP revisions from last year
The legislation discussed during this year’s event is of great importance for all members of Clayton’s diverse family– from the policy advocates to parents and community members, to teachers and kids. Sena Harjo, a community based Child Family Educator and two year member on the planning committee for Speak Up for Kids believes that the event “… gives parents and families an opportunity to speak up for kids and have their voices heard at the hill.” She also thinks that “…it gives the parents a chance to see how policy trickles down from the capitol to affect their daily lives.” Speak Up for Kids also offered a setting for Buell Early Childhood Leaders alumni and current cohort participants to come together to network, practice their advocacy roles, and even serve as advocacy coaches. There were 17 registered Buell leaders for this year’s event!
Each one of these unique perspectives is not only evidence of the breadth of work at Clayton, but also highlights how many people are positively affected by the continued advocacy demonstrated at this year’s Speak Up for Kids event.
It is important to keep in mind that this advocacy work doesn’t end with the Speak Up for Kids event – there is more work to do! All voices were welcomed at the event and everyone is encouraged to continue advocating for kids.
If you want to get involved and advocate on behalf of children in Colorado you can:
- Call and email your legislators. Reach out and share your thoughts on this year’s legislation. Everyone is welcome and encouraged to reach out and express their opinions with their legislators. Click here to find your legislators’ contact information.
- Testify in a committee hearing. If you have a passion for a particular piece of legislation or issue, you can testify at a committee hearing. To testify you just need to show up at the specific committee hearing for each piece of legislation and sign up. A calendar of the Senate committee hearings can be found here. A calendar of House committee hearings can be found here. More information on testifying at committee hearings can be found here.
- Sign up for KidsFLash! KidsFlash is a weekly e-newsletter from the Colorado Children’s Campaign that offers helpful analysis and discussions on all things kids, including legislation and advocacy. You can sign up for KidsFlash here or by visiting the Colorado Children’s Campaign website.
Contact Lauren Heintz, Policy Specialist at Clayton Early Learning, for more information or assistance on getting involved in the advocacy process. Email: LHeintz@claytonearlylearning.org. Phone: 303-393-5623.
- Legislator contact information: http://openstates.org/co/
- Link to the House calendar: http://www.leg.state.co.us/CLICS/CLICS2015A/csl.nsf/CalendarsFrameSet?OpenForm&chamber=House
- Link to the Senate calendar: http://www.leg.state.co.us/clics/clics2015a/csl.nsf/CalendarsFrameSet?OpenForm&chamber=Senate
- Link to sign up for Kids Flash: https://salsa4.salsalabs.com/o/50897/signup_page/kidsflash-sign-up
It is fitting to use this space and time to honor and celebrate the life of one of the world’s most influential and courageous leaders of whom we have recently lost-Nelson Mandela. Mandela, a South-African anti-apartheid activist and revolutionary, also served as the first black South-African President from 1994 to 1999.
Over the past week, as I viewed news clips of his life and legacy, one theme continued to shine through about who he was and the life and work that he lived. It was his legacy of forgiveness and resiliency. This legacy is one that many of those on either side of the former apartheid system attributed publicly to being the unifying factor of the 52,981,991 people who live in South Africa today. Being an African-American female in the U.S., who still feels the impact of racism, classism, and gender inequality; I am thankful to have an example such as Mandela to look to as I journey and grow towards cultural humility.
You might be asking, what is cultural humility and what does this have to do Nelson Mandela? Cultural humility, is a concept first birthed out of the health field to address the issue of lack of patient compliance to doctor prescribed treatment. In the article Cultural Humility versus Cultural Competence: A critical distinction in defining physician training outcomes in multicultural education, cultural humility is defined as being:
“A lifelong commitment to self-evaluation and critique, to redressing the power imbalances… and to developing mutually beneficial and non-paternalistic partnerships with communities on behalf of individuals and defined populations” (Tervalon, 123).
Mandela’s legacy embodies the very essence of cultural humility and its standing principles. One standing principle that I feel reflects the life and legacy of Mandela is that of self-reflection and the life-long learner model. Mandela states, “As I have said, the first thing is to be honest with yourself. You can never have an impact on society if you have not changed yourself…Great peacemakers are all people of integrity, of honesty, but humility.”
This principle deems it “imperative that there be a simultaneous process of self-reflection (realistic and on-going self-appraisal) and commitment to a lifelong learning process” (Tervalon, 119). One must first be willing to “consciously think about their own, often ill-defined and multidimensional cultural identities and backgrounds” (Tervalon, 120).
Mandela is characterized as a highly self-reflective individual, he shows what he has learned about himself and accepted through the following quotes:
“I am fundamentally an optimist. Whether that comes from nature or nurture, I cannot say. Part of being optimistic is keeping one’s head pointed toward the sun, one’s feet moving forward. There were many dark moments when my faith in humanity was sorely tested, but I would not and could not give myself up to despair. That way lays defeat and death.”
“There is nothing like returning to a place that remains unchanged to find ways in which you yourself have altered”
We also can see Mandela’s process of letting go and forgiving in the following quote, as he reflects upon being released after serving over 27 years in prison, due to his involvement in anti-apartheid activism, “As I walked out the door toward the gate that would lead to my freedom, I knew if I didn't leave my bitterness and hatred behind, I'd still be in prison.”
Mandela, with a firm foundation of understanding who he was, and the strength to accept what came, changed the course of a nation’s history and impacted the world. If we were to take a closer look at his life’s journey, we can see one who lived by the principle of self-reflection and the lifelong learner model, allowing his life’s tragic events to transform him from being not only an influential activist against the apartheid, but also an advocate for the cause of peace on behalf of all.
In conclusion, let us all be challenged to take more time to self-reflect and accept what comes, using it to strengthen ourselves and others in this journey called life. Together, we can have a hand in helping to shape the future for those little ones who will follow.
Tervalon, M., Murray- García, J. Cultural Humility versus Cultural Competence: A critical distinction in defining physician training outcomes in multicultural education. Journal of Health Care for the Poor and Underserved; May 1998; 9,2; Research Library pg. 117.
By Becky Keigan
We’ve heard it, the newspapers are reporting it, states and the federal government are addressing it, our universities are studying it and we in the field of early care and education see it on a daily basis… our preschoolers are getting heavier!
The Center for Disease Control and Prevention reports that “obesity now affects 17% of all children and adolescents in the United States - triple the rate from just one generation.” Obese and overweight children have increased incidence of risk factors associated with cardiovascular disease, such as high cholesterol, high blood pressure, breathing problems, joint problems, fatty liver disease, and Type 2 diabetes. Obese and overweight children also have a greater risk of social and psychological problems including poor self-esteem and are more likely to become obese adults. http://www.cdc.gov/obesity/data/childhood.html Sobering statistics for all of us who have been charged to ensure the health and welfare of all of the children in our care and in our communities!
As a Food Friends® Program Coordinator at Colorado State University since 2009, my work has focused on the research, development and implementation of a nutrition and movement program focused on establishing healthy eating and physical activity habits in preschoolers to prevent future weight gain. The Food Friends program received an implementation grant in 2009 from The Colorado Health Foundation to take the research based program in to 950 preschool classrooms and 600 family child care homes. In 2012 The Food Friends was awarded an additional $875,000 from The Colorado Health Foundation to implement a sustainability plan with all of the Food Friends participants. The grant was written based on my capstone project in the Buell Early Childhood Leadership Program where my Food Friends team and I were able identify the needs of the participants, write them in to the grant proposal and secure funding to help address those needs. The Food Friends program is in 58 out of 64 counties with a current cumulative reach of 50,924 children and families. This reach was made possible in part to the incredible networking with my Buell Early Childhood Leadership Program fellows. A fabulous representation of how the Buell Network supports children and families throughout Colorado!
Here is a brief overview of how The Food Friends program is addressing childhood obesity prevention. The Food Friends: Fun With New Foods® is an evidence base social marketing campaign aimed at increasing children’s willingness to try new foods in an effort to enhance food choice, and hence dietary variety. A physical activity companion program, The Food Friends: Get Movin’ with Mighty Moves® develops gross motor skills to improve the programs’ overall efforts to establish healthful habits that prevent childhood obesity early in life. Both programs have demonstrated significant behavior changes in preschool children and are published in the research literature.
In recognition of September as National Childhood Obesity Awareness month I would like to share The Food Friends 7 Simple Tips to Overcome Picky Eating and to Get Moving. These simple tips can be incorporated in early care and education centers/homes and shared with families.
Fun with New Food: 7 Simple Tips to Overcome Picky Eating
- Make trying new foods fun
- Keep offering new foods
- Offer one new food at a time
- Be a good role model by eating new foods with the children
- Let children choose new foods
- Avoid forcing children to try new foods
- Teach children about new foods
Get Movin’ With Mighty Moves: 7 Simple Tips to Get Moving
- Let children explore with movement
- Make activity fun
- Be creative with activity
- Add activity into daily life
- Budget TV and screen time
- Engage children’s imagination
- Be a good role model by being active with children
I have learned so much in my work over the past four years and my passion has grown to ensure that our precious little children have the opportunity to be healthy as they grow and develop! With that said, I want to emphasize it is we, the adults who are responsible for the health of our children! It is our job… our job! We are the adults, they are the children. We are the ones who are buying the food they eat and scheduling how/where they spend time. We owe it to the children to provide healthy food and beverage choices… to give them opportunities to move their bodies… build those gross motor skills… allow for free, glorious play throughout the day… to have fun learning about food and what their bodies can do! Join me in this critical cause, together we can join the national movement to address childhood obesity.
For more information on The Food Friends and/or program participation and healthy children please contact me, Becky Keigan at 970-491-3562 or by email email@example.com
The Clayton Early Learning Blog Team has multiple goals—(1) To educate and inform our community about critical early childhood issues, (2) To generate new ideas and increase our knowledge through the process of writing, and (3) To build connections with each other and our community. In light of these goals, this team has recently begun using short video provocations to spark new ideas and connections during our monthly meetings.
During our August meeting, we viewed the TED Talk by Simon Sinek on How Great Leaders Inspire Action http://www.ted.com/talks/simon_sinek_how_great_leaders_inspire_action.html. Simon Sinek argues the reason why some organizations are more successful as a leader in their industry (i.e. Apple Inc.) is because they follow a different formula for communication about their organization than the rest of us. They talk about what they believe first, then how they translate their belief into a product or service, and last about what it is they are offering at that moment. Sinek believes that we often begin our communications with what we are offering, and miss opportunities to inspire ourselves and others. When we start with why we are there in the first place, our passion for our work becomes evident and other people get excited and want to join our cause.
Through discussion, the team was inspired to think of our own “I believe” statements to communicate why each of us work at Clayton Early Learning and how our belief drives the type of work we do every day. Below are four “I believe” statements from members of the Blog Team:
Kelsey Petersen-Hardie, Mentor Coach, Education & Early Childhood Services
I believe we can positively impact the ill effects that poverty and toxic stress have on children and families and that if we begin when a child is young, we see better results. Because I believe this, I work in the field of Early Childhood Education. When young children receive high quality and responsive care and families receive support that is needed, children and families can experience better outcomes.
Wendy Allen, Buell Leaders Alumni Network Coordinator
I believe all people are born with the capacity to learn and that this capacity should be supported and utilized to the fullest across the lifespan. Because I believe this, I work to enhance the learning experiences of adults serving as leaders across our system of care and education for young children. The Buell Early Childhood Leadership Program and Alumni Network is an opportunity to transform how individuals, programs, and communities support and utilize their own learning capacities.
Nathan Pope, Research and Evaluation Program Associate
I believe that all children are capable of greatness and desire to be challenged. Because I believe this, I use research and evaluation to understand each child’s strengths and provide feedback to support the work teachers do in their classrooms. Research studies at Clayton Early Learning use data to connect the research, practice, and training loop so children reach their full potential.
Cheryl Comstock, Instructional Technology Manager
I believe that anyone willing deserves a chance at a good education, and that technology is one of the most important tools available to us within our educational spaces. Because I believe this, I am here to help Clayton Early Learning move forward into new and innovative spaces that embrace technology for education. Clayton Early Learning now has a thriving Blog, growing Facebook Page, and we are exploring how to incorporate online professional development opportunities for the communities in which we work and serve.
The Blog Team believes that social media, including blogging, is a new tool to support learning across communities. By embracing this new technology and form of connection, Clayton Early Learning is inviting our community to band together as we do the critical work of early care and education.
Would you like to join our Blog conversation? What is your “I Believe” Statement? If so, you can leave your statement in the Comment section at the bottom of this blog.
Images found online September 3, 2013, at http://www.dreamstime.com/and
Seamless Pattern Of Flower Illustration Background Stock Image courtesy of Sicha Pongjivanich/ FreeDigitalPhotos.net
By Brenda Hoge
One of the more challenging criteria to meet on the Infant-Toddler Environment Rating Scale-Revised (ITERS-R) is taking infants and toddlers outdoors to play for an hour every day. We often hear from providers that “parents don’t want their infant outdoors because they’ll get sick” or that “there’s no time to take young children outside when there are so many routines and individualized schedules.” So why is it important to take infants and toddlers outdoors? How do you set up a safe outdoor environment for them? And finally, what do you do with them once you get them outdoors?
Importance of Outdoor Play
During the first few years of life, infants and toddlers are trying to make sense of their world. One of the ways they do this is by soaking up every noise, every sound, and every experience that they have. They then take this information and come up with ideas about how the world works. So, not only is being outdoors an enjoyable experience for infants and toddlers, it’s critical for cognitive development. During the first three years of life, brain synapses form at a rapid rate. These synapses are formed based on the richness of the child’s sensory environment. So, it would make sense that childcare providers would want to provide a stimulating environment for infants and toddlers, both indoors and outdoors. In addition, the knowledge they gain outdoors provides a foundation to literacy and science learning (Dewey, 1938/1963).
Outdoor experiential learning also promotes early language development. Having a rich sensory experience gives young children something to talk about. When an infant feels the leaves or the toddler notices the airplane in the sky, they are more inclined to verbalize this experience because it will elicit a favorable response by their caregivers.
This verbalization to others also promotes social development. Even infants, who do not have the ability to physically play with others, are able to watch others, which is the first step in social development (Oesterreich, 1995).
Finally, outdoor experiences are critical for infant and toddler physical development. According to Gabbard (1998), the “window of opportunity” for acquiring basic motor movements is from prenatal to five years of age. During this time the brain gathers and stores information, and a solid foundation for movement activities is built. Infants need interesting things to look at from a horizontal and vertical position. They need materials and space to practice
crawling and things to pull up on, so that they can learn to walk. Toddlers need space and materials that will help them act out prepositions-over, under, on top of, inside, outside, behind, in front of, up, and down (Rivkin, 2000).
How to set up an Outdoor Play Environment
Infants and toddlers require constant supervision when they are outdoors. Because they are exploring their world, they often taste it first, which can result in more exposure to germs or to choking hazards. Therefore, it is necessary to make sure that all potential choking hazards are removed from the area and that caregivers are in close proximity to children so that they can remove unwanted objects from mouths.
Infants and toddlers also need a surface that will allow them to move around easily. This surface should be accessible to all children. It should be made of materials that will not get too hot in the summer or too icy in the winter. It should provide comfort, tactile experiences, and protect children when they fall. Because children are still mastering balance, there must be enough room to move without hitting a hard surface or sharp edges. The surfacing material should be around all equipment over 18 in. tall so that when children fall, it won’t cause any life-threatening head injuries or broken bones.
The outdoor equipment should challenge children, but should be based on realistic expectations about what children at this age can and cannot do. All anchored equipment should be designed for toddlers, based on the new ASTM F 2373-05 guidelines for children ages 6 months to 23 months. Many playground manufacturers are not aware of these new standards therefore, it is important to check with them before purchasing equipment. Also, keep in mind that young toddlers are just learning to walk. They do not need high equipment, ladders, or climbers because they haven’t mastered taking large steps. Walking across a low, wide bridge or balance beam is challenging to them. Playing with riding toys, trikes, wagons (where they can put other materials in it), and different sizes of balls are just as interesting as climbing onto a structure. For infants, providing grass, balls, push toys, tunnels, and a ramp for crawling is just as stimulating as having a slide or a baby swing.
“A playground should be like a small-scale replica of the world, with as many as possible of the sensory experiences to be found in the world included in it. Experiences for every sense are needed for instance: rough and smooth; objects to look at and feel; light and heavy things to pick up; water and wet materials as well as dry things; cool materials and materials warmed by the sun; soft and hard surfaces; things that make sounds or that can be struck, plucked, plinked, etc.; smells of all varieties; shiny, bright objects and dull, dark ones; things both huge and tiny; high and low places to look at and from; materials of every type-natural, synthetic, thin, thick, and so on. The list is inexhaustible, and the larger the number of items that are included, the richer and more varied the environment for the child (Greenman, 1988).”
So what do you do with infants and toddlers outdoors?
Beyond the activities already mentioned, there are many interesting and fun experiences that you can provide for both infants and toddlers outdoors.
For children 0-3 months:
Provide a blanket for the baby to lay on. Point out the leaves moving, let them feel the leaves or grass, and point out the nature sounds that they hear.
For children 3 months-6 months:
With the blanket, let the child explore on his/her stomach. Bring out objects to grasp, books, or activity gyms. Again, point out the things happening in nature and let them feel natural objects.
For children 6 months-9 months:
Create a texture path on the ground using assorted textures, such as carpet squares, rugs, grass, and resilient surfacing. The children can crawl along this path to explore large motor skills and sensory stimulation (Miller, 1989). Provide tunnels, balls, and safe sensory tubes.
For children 9 months-12 months:
Provide balls, bubbles, and toys that are sturdy enough for them to practice standing. For early walkers, provide simple push toys. Attach musical toys, activity centers, and mirrors to the fence at different levels for children who are still crawling and for children who are standing.
For toddlers: Continue to add more materials that reflect the variety of developmental skills. Bring out riding toys and trikes, wagons to pull, baby carriages with dolls, large trucks to push, etc. Bring some music outdoors so that children can practice dancing, jumping, and twirling outdoors. Set up simple games. The HAPPE (High Autonomy Physical Play Environment), provides a great list of games for toddlers that can be played outdoors. Set up obstacle courses where toddlers can climb over and under material and walk a curved path. And finally, provide a garden outdoors so that children can learn about soil, plants, and insects.
So what about the weather and the parents?
The ITERS-R does require that infants and toddlers spend an hour a day outdoors, weather permitting. “Weather permitting” can be subject to interpretation of course. Thelma Harms, who is one of the authors of the Environment Rating Scales, often speaks of an old Swedish saying that says “there is no bad weather, only bad clothes.” If you travel to different sites across Colorado you will see this reflected on the Western slope where infants and toddlers are dressed in snow suits, gloves, hats, and boots to go outside in the winter. If the mountain communities waited until the weather was “appropriate,” they would only get to be outside from June-October. The children are warm, happy, and excited to be outdoors. The only complaints are from the teachers who are often not dressed appropriately. Work with your parents on providing appropriate clothing for all kinds of weather and a change of clothes for when children get dirty. Also set up a clothing donation box so that parents, teachers, or other adults in the program can drop off winter clothing that no longer fits their child. You can then use that clothing for children who do not have extra warm winter clothes. Even if infants and toddlers are only out for 5 or 10 minutes because the weather is bad, it will help prevent illness and it will give them some of those sensory experiences that are so critical for their development.
Remember that the experiences that infants and toddlers have outdoors while they are in child-care, may in fact, be the only opportunity they have to really explore the outdoors. By taking infants and toddlers outdoors, you are providing wonderful opportunity and you are setting up a good model for parents to follow. If children learn to love being outdoors when they are young, it will make them healthier. It will also help ensure that they will take better care of our world when they are adults.
Dempsey, J. (2005) Outdoor play and playgrounds for infants and toddlers [Electronic version]. Available online. Accessed October 18, 2007.
Dewey, J. (1938/1963). Experience and Education. New York: Collier.
Gabbard, C. (1998). Windows of opportunity for early brain and motor development. Journal of Physical Education, Recreation, and Dance, Volume 69, pp. 54-55.
Greenman, J. (1988). Caring spaces, learning places. Children’s environments that work. Redmond, WA.: Exchange Press.
Harms, T., Cryer, D., and Clifford, R. (2006). Infant/Toddler Environment Rating Scale-Revised Edition. New York, NY: Teachers College Press.
Oesterreich, L. (1995). Ages & Stages-Newborn to 1 year [Electronic version]. In L. Oesterreich, B. Holt, & S. Karas, Iowa family child care handbook [Pm 1541] (pp 192-196). Ames, IA: Iowa State University Extension.
Parish, L.E. and Rudisill, M.E. (2006). HAPPE: Toddlers in physical play [Electronic version]. Journal of the National Association for the Education of Young Children. Retrieved October 18, 2007, from www.journal.naeyc.org/btj/200605/parishBTJ.asp.
Rivkin, M.S. (2000, December). Outdoor Experiences for young children [Electronic version]. ERIC Digest. Retrieved October 11, 2007, from www.ericdigests.org/2001-3/children.htm (ERIC Document Reproduction Service No. ED 448013).
As staff members of the Clayton organization, we often have one particular issue within the early childhood field that we are particular passionate about. In my case it is providing support to males who work in Early Childhood Education. In working with this topic, I began to look into what resources were available for males who work in the ECE field. I found that within the Colorado area the resources that a male working in the ECE field could access were limited or non-existent. In 2011, I began the creation of an organization with three other male ECE professionals that would have an active presence for males working in the ECE field called Men in Early Childhood-Colorado (MEC) www.mec-colorado.org. The organization is committed to developing a network that provides support, advocacy, and education to in order to retain and to recruit additional males to work in the field.
Recently, on June 1st, MEC held the 2013 Summer Conference at Clayton Early Learning. The conference began with a keynote address by Doug Gertner, The Grateful Dad, www.thegratefuldad.org. The keynote address was entitled, Understanding Men’s Lives: Theories of Masculinities, and the included the following discussions:What is it exactly that defines a man and makes masculinity distinct from the feminine? Why are men the way they are? These questions can inform the work of early childhood educators, both men and women, and help to encourage more men to enter this work, and more fathers to be involved in schools and classrooms. We’ll begin by examining several theories about male gender role development, review the major men’s movements, and seek a better understanding of male behavior, in order to deepen our ability to attract and support male teachers and serve fathers in our schools and centers.
Doug’s keynote provided some valuable insight into how we as an ECE community can continue to improve our ability to support males who work in ECE and of course, the fathers of the children in our programs. The remainder of the conference topics was ones that we are passionate individually as ECE professionals. We had a panel of three individuals (Andrew Goff, Ben Wilkins, and I). Andrew spoke about Boys in the Classroom and provided some quick and easy tips and strategies to help with those energetic and active boys in the classroom. Andrew specifically spoke about utilizing the different learning styles of boys and how we can equate them with the different child development theories. Ben spoke about Technology in the classroom and provided the participants some hands-on examples about activities that they could do in their classrooms. He share with the group about items that he has in his classroom and appropriate applications for early childhood setting I spoke on how logical strategies to support men who work in the ECE field. We ended our time at the conference with a guided discussion about, “What does School Readiness Mean.” Being that the participants were primarily all from ECE backgrounds, we had many of the same ideas and thoughts behind this question. The discussion revolved around how there is different aspects to school readiness. These aspects include cultural, academic, school setting, and home setting. . With the conclusion of this discussion, our conference was over. It was a good time for all and we look forward to seeing you at our next conference or possibly assisting us with our fall music event for fathers. How would having a male ECE educator benefit your child or school?