A New Perspective

Introductions are always a good place to start!

Hi, I’m Katie!

I wanted to use my first blog on the TLC page as a place to introduce myself. I live in Ralston, Nebraska with my husband Kent, our son Weston (7 months old) and our dog, Tilly.  I have been in the field of Early Childhood Education, working as a teacher with infants, toddlers, preschoolers and children with special needs, as a director and for the state licensing office.  I now work for Nebraska Extension with the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, as an Extension Educator.  My job is to utilize research based information to develop programs and help connect people to the resources they need relating to caring for children ages 0 – 8.  My extensive background in working with young children gives me a unique perspective on the experiences I now have as a mother.  In addition to my roles as mom, wife, and Extension Educator, I also am working on a PhD in early childhood at University of Nebraska-Lincoln, and try to get out to a local stable to ride horses in my ‘spare’ time!  Oh, and Kent and I are remodeling our 1922 home in Ralston!  So we have a LOT going on, and it’s a blast J.

Weston, Katies blog

I am really looking forward to sharing stories about Weston as he learns and grows that are both from a child development perspective, and from the ‘mom’ perspective!  For now, I will leave you with his most recent picture, his ‘7 month’ photo!  Yes, he’s got lots of healthy baby rolls.

Image source: Katherine Krause

KATHERINE KRAUSE, EXTENSION EDUCATOR | THE LEARNING CHILD

Peer Reviewed by Lynn DeVries, Extension Educator, The Learning Child and Lisa Poppe, Extension Educator, The Learning Child

Make sure to follow The Learning Child on social media for more research-based early childhood education resources!

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Applying Developmentally Appropriate Practices: Book Club Reflections

For the past several months, I have been participating in a book club with other colleagues reading Developmentally Appropriate Practice (DAP) in Early Childhood Programs Serving Children Ages Birth through Age 8.  Each week we have explored a chapter and asked ourselves the following questions:

linda DAP blog
Image source: Reposted with permission  www.littleravenheart.com/
  • What does the author(s) tell us about this particular period of development?
  • How do we see that period of development in action with young children?
  • What can we do in our role as adult educators to support those who are working directly with young children and families regarding DAP?
  • How do we lift up the work others are doing in order to spotlight educators in the field using developmentally appropriate practices?
    • A great example of this is Jaclynn Foged, Carrie Gottschalk and Dr. Holly Hatton Bowers’ work with child care directors.

We recently finished the book reviewing some of the Frequently Asked Questions when the following question bubbled up during our discussion:

How do you support an individual, particularly an early care and education teacher who finds themselves grappling with the implementation of developmentally appropriate practices with children?

Our team had a long pause, longer than usual.  Then we began sharing examples, some that we did when we first started teaching.  I shared that when I was teaching mobile infants and toddlers, I would try and make them sit during a circle time activity which involved reading long books.  I could not figure out why they would not sit and listen to the story.  As I continued taking additional coursework and specialized in infant-toddler development, I realized that mobile infants and toddlers developmentally needed to manipulate materials using all of their senses, and have the freedom to move about their environment.  As their caregiver and educator, it was my responsibility to respect their need to play.  It was my responsibility to have appropriate and reasonable expectations for what they could do, and be patient when they asserted their independence.  During those early years of teaching, I learned the art of balancing, like a mobile hanging above a crib, staying sturdy at the center as the children spun around me.  Sometimes I turned the dial to set the pace, other times they bounced around to their own tune, and every once in a while, the batteries just ran out, and the mobile stopped.  It was during those times I learned how to be patient and use those moments as opportunities to take a step back and observe the situation for what it was, with no judgment.

Patience.  Accountability. Reasonable Expectations.

It seems we are back at the first part of the question.  What do you do?

During our call, we agreed going back to the position statement which first, and foremost states no harm to children*.  From there, the rest of the document and principles serve as a foundation early childhood professionals can use to brainstorm and create strategies on how to begin the conversation around developmentally appropriate practices.

There are several resources, but there is one document I tend to utilize to when reflection and guidance are needed.  It was one of the first items I received during orientation when I became an early care and education teacher.  The National Association for the Education of Young Children Code of Ethical Conduct has several position statements that “offers guidelines for responsible behavior and sets forth a common basis for resolving the principal ethical dilemmas encountered in early childhood care and education.”

Personally, as an adult educator, I found the supplemental document Early Childhood Adult Educators helpful and I’ve included three insights I gained directly from the position statement:

  1. To adopt an attitude of continual learning and growth.
  2. It is important that any information shared, or teaching strategies recommended are based on present and accurate research when it comes to early childhood education, child development and adult learning theory.
  3. When early childhood educators present information that is contrary to your own beliefs and knowledge, acknowledge the different perspectives and if appropriate explore your own biases.

I invite you to review each of the position statements suitable for your particular role. There are statements for educators, administrators, and adult educators.  I hope that you find it as beneficial as I did and can utilize it to address any issues you may potentially experience in your work with children, families, and adult learners.

* If you are a early childhood educator and have questions regarding mandatory reporting laws, click here.

LINDA REDDISH, EXTENSION EDUCATOR | THE LEARNING CHILD

Peer Reviewed by Jaclynn Foged, Extension Educator, The Learning Child and Dr. Holly Hatton Bowers, Assistant Professor of Child, Youth, and Family Studies and Early Childhood Extension Specialist Extension Educator, The Learning Child

Make sure to follow The Learning Child on social media for more research-based early childhood education resources!

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Road Scholars: My Reflections

 

Last week, I had an opportunity to participate in a three-day tour that began in Douglas County and ended in Scottsbluff.  During the tour, I had an opportunity to visit the Raising Nebraska exhibit, the West Central Research and Extension Center, Cedar Point Biological Station, Lake McConaughy Visitor/Water Interpretive Center, Panhandle Research and Extension Center, Western Sugar Factory, Gudmundsen Sandhills Laboratory and the Wagonhammer Education Center.

As a state coordinator, I wanted to take this trip for several reasons. First, as new Extension Educator personnel I wanted to learn more about UNL Extension facilities throughout the state.  Second, I thought it was important to see local communities, and learn more about the strengths and challenges each faced.  Finally, as an early childhood professional, I also wanted to network and meet innovative people in the region outside of my field’s discipline.

My favorite location was the Raising Nebraska site.  If you’d like to visit the Raising Nebraska exhibit please join me August 26th, 2017 and The Learning Child team in the Raising Nebraska exhibit at the Presentation Stage during the State Fair! – http://www.statefair.org

Our team will have an interactive hands-on activity based on Head To Toe by Eric Carle.  We will have Kids Yoga and other physical activity games for children to participate in.

 Raising Nebraska

I learned this exhibit was a collaborative effort between three major partners including the Institute of Agriculture and Natural Resources (IANR), University of Nebraska-Lincoln, Nebraska Department of Agriculture, and the Nebraska State Fair. The goal of this exhibit was designed to help visitors understand the larger picture of what it takes to plan, prepare, and present food.  It was the first time I learned about how a pivot works and the various innovations currently at work in our state addressing economic impact and local hunger. Before leaving, I took a quick detour outside to see the natural playground exhibit. Check out some of the photos to explore the outside play spaces.

 

 

Image Source: Linda Reddish

LINDA REDDISH, EXTENSION EDUCATOR | THE LEARNING CHILD

Peer Reviewed by Sarah M Roberts, Extension Educator, The Learning Child and Lynn DeVries, Extension Educator, The Learning Child

Make sure to follow The Learning Child on social media for more research-based early childhood education resources!

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Code-a-pillar! Where Development Comes into Play

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Preschool teachers, imagine turning your room into an obstacle course and preschoolers working together for 45 minutes problem solving and programming.

The Code-a-pillar inspires little learners to be big thinkers by encouraging preschoolers to arrange and rearrange the easy-to-connect segments. This learning toy helps children to learn that the arrows indicate different directions. This is a perfect time to introduce the difference between right from left by using the color-coordinated segments that hook together with USB ports. Every time a child changes or rearranges the segments the child is working on learning directions, how to problem solve, planning and sequencing and critical thinking.

Teaching preschoolers about coding and the binary system foster curiosity, experimentation and problem-solving. Allowing the children to become engineers and robots all at once allows a child to work in a fantasy world while learning. The binary system has only two numbers so preschoolers can learn and be successful almost immediately. The number 1 stands for stepping forward and 0 stands for turning right. While one preschooler writes his code on the whiteboard, another preschooler follows the directions given through the coding. The children learn very fast that they can navigate the entire room using only the two codes.

Bringing the preschooler’s attention back to the Code-a-pillar is very easy. Their little brains are ready to arrange and rearrange the segments to get their Code-a-pillar to a particular place in the classroom. They soon realize adjustments (problem-solving) are needed so they can navigate around the tables and chairs in the classroom.

Once the preschoolers understand what a sequence is or program a path, the sky’s the limit. Thinking as they figure out how to get the Code-a-pillar to go wherever they want.

Coding is an excellent way to supports children’s curiosity and develop children’s inquiry skills by asking children to brainstorm solutions, or use open-ended questions like: How did you get that caterpillar to move?

Using open ended questions encourages children to listen, reflect, and then respond back how they made decisions or describe the actions they took to reach a specific goal.  This is an important scientific skill to learn and develop because it will allow children at an early age to practice using the scientific method! (Predict, Collect Data, Describe, and Reach a Conclusion, then… TRY AGAIN!)

As an early childhood educator, and interested in learning more strategies and specific ways to increase children’s scientific knowledge, please join us for an Early Learning Guidelines training on the Science Domain.  For more information visit: Fall 2017 ELG Classes

Image Source: Linda Reddish

RUTH VONDERHOE, EXTENSION EDUCATOR | THE LEARNING CHILD

Peer Reviewed by Sarah Paulos, Extension Educator, The Learning Child and Linda Reddish, Extension Educator, The Learning Child

Make sure to follow The Learning Child on social media for more research-based early childhood education resources!

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Mindful and Reflective Early Childhood Educators

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Image source: Vicki Jedlicka

Early childhood educators work with our youngest children, 6 weeks to age 8 and often work with a vulnerable population.  Sometimes, educators are asked to work long days making minimum wage and some have more than one job.   An early childhood educator is consistently busy throughout the day, attending to children’s learning, managing the classroom and managing daily stress.  Educators benefit from practicing mindfulness and reflection.

What is being mindful?

What is being mindful?  The Association for Mindfulness in Education describes mindfulness as “…paying attention here and now with kindness and curiosity.  Mindfulness reconnects students to their five senses, bringing them into a moment to moment awareness of themselves and their surroundings”.  Dr. Amy Saltzman defines mindfulness as paying attention to your life, here and now, with kindness and curiosity. Simply, it is the awareness and acceptance of the things that happen in the present moment.

What is a mindful early childhood educator?  Practicing mindfulness is one way for educators to maintain their well-being while nurturing the children in their care. It is also a way to foster more enjoyment when teaching. Research finds that early childhood educators using mindfulness benefits children by increasing their kindness, enhancing their self-regulation, increasing their working memory, and decreasing their anxiety.

What is Reflection?

Reflection is the capacity to recognize the thoughts, feelings and intentions in ourselves and others.  If we think about this definition, why would it be important for childcare teachers and directors to be reflective?   Jeree Pawl gives us the answer “…it is not possible to work on behalf of human beings to try to help them without having powerful feelings aroused in yourself.”  The work our early childhood educators do naturally elicits many emotions throughout the day.

I was lucky enough to land a spot as a toddler teacher right out of college.  The first emotion I felt daily as I walked into my classroom of ten children 14 months – 24 months was happiness.  Still today, I miss the children racing to hug me and welcome me to the classroom.  I often experienced many other emotions on the job.  Joy, reading a book for the hundredth time to 4 children all scrambling for a spot on my lap.  Sorrow, when I learned a child was leaving our program.  Disappointment, when we could not go outside due to the weather. Frustration, when I was not able to reach a parent of an ill child.  Delight, when a child learned to do something new (like put on their coat or use a cup without a lid).

The bottom line is that without being reflective, I would not have been able to see each situation for what it was – a learning experience.  I learned so much from each interaction I had with my co-workers, the children and their families.  I wanted my classroom and our program to have positive outcomes for the children and families who attended.  The gift of time for reflection is valuable and can help us make better choices if we find ourselves in a similar situation in the future.

Local Management Required Trainings

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Image Source: Jaci Foged

Earlier this spring I had the opportunity to work with 18 childcare directors who were participating in a mandatory management training.  These trainings were delivered twice a month over a period of four months for a total of 45 hours.

I was interested to learn if infusing brief guided reflection discussions and mindfulness meditations into the existing training would be both feasible and accepted.  I decided to reach out to Holly Hatton-Bowers, an Assistant Professor and Early Childhood Extension Specialist and Carrie Gottschalk, an Extension Educator in Early Childhood. Both have experience in mindfulness and reflection. We came together and talked about simple strategies for integrating these practices into the training.

During the first session of the training participants received an overview of reflective practice, mindfulness, the benefits of using mindfulness both personally and professionally, and were invited to participate in a guided meditation.  Participants were also invited to use a mindfulness meditation app (calm app) for at least 10 minutes 5 days a week.

Before and after the training the group of directors were asked to provide their feedback and share their experiences learning about mindfulness, practicing meditations and participating in guided reflection groups. Directors were asked, “What does mindfulness mean to you?” Reflection and being present were the most commonly stated words. (See Figure 1)

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Figure 1. What does mindfulness mean to you?

“Being present” was the second concept most used to describe what mindfulness meant to the group of directors.  When we are working with young children (or parenting children), it can be easy to become distracted with a task you need to complete which may make you miss something wonderful the children are doing.  We need to take time to stop and delight in their learning.  Just the other day my 8 year old was swimming.  We have struggled for several years now to get her to go underwater due to a crazy case of swimmers ear and an aversion to ear drops.  I was elated when she said she wanted to jump in the water.  Then, she started doing cannonballs.  Next, she wanted to dive into the water!  Each time she experienced success she would swim over to me, put her arms around my neck and squeeze so hard.  She whispered, “I love you mom” and then would swim away declaring that this was the “best day ever”.  I was so happy I decided to be present, not only at the pool, but in the water to celebrate in her joy.  I encourage you all to be present; you never know what you might miss.

Although our intervention with the directors consisted of only 20 minutes of the 6-hour training day, I was pleased to learn that 91% of the childcare directors agreed that they liked participating in the mindfulness meditations.  One director stated, “I like relaxing and getting in the moment with my thoughts.”  Another said, “It was hard to meditate.  But I like how mindfulness has made me more aware of the present.”   Eighty-two (82%) percent of the childcare directors agreed the activities for reflecting were helpful.  A director said, “It made me think about the way I feel and emotions and I typically don’t take the time to do that.”  Additionally, 64% of participants reported they use mindfulness in their daily life.  One participant stated, “I’ve always practiced yoga.  But now I take more time for myself and notice the waves of my emotions.”

New Childcare Program Focuses on Mindfulness and Reflection

The integration of guided reflection, learning about mindfulness and practicing guided meditations was well-received by the childcare directors. I am excited to now be piloting a program with Hatton-Bowers and Gottschalk termed Cultivating Healthy Intentional Mindful Educators (CHIME) with approximately 40 early childhood teachers. This twelve-week program meets every other week for an hour in small groups where we practice guided reflections, meditations, and learn different strategies for practicing mindfulness in the early childhood classroom. One week we practiced mindful listening while listening to sounds of different items being shaken in a plastic egg.

Moving Forward

So, where do we go from here?  How do we develop more mindful early childhood educators?

Let’s start by setting a goal for being intentional.  An intention is a guide for how one wants to live.  For example, “Today I intend to be more positive” or “Today I intend to be more present during drop off” You can set your intention at any time throughout the day, just be sure to check in with yourself and reflect on if you are following through with your intention.

I think we can all agree that we want mindful educators working with our youngest population.

JACI FOGED, EXTENSION EDUCATOR | THE LEARNING CHILD

Peer Reviewed by Dr. Holly Hatton-Bowers, Assistant Professor in Child, Youth, and Family Studies and Early Childhood Extension Specialist , The Learning Child and Carrie Gottschalk, Extension Educator, The Learning Child

Make sure to follow The Learning Child on social media for more research-based early childhood education resources!

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Nothing Can Compare to my County Fair

The sights, smells, tastes of the county fair will forever be a magical memory for the children and parents in my community.  I had the privilege as an Extension Educator to be a part of it all, working with Clover Kid 4-H youngsters from 5-8 years and their families at the Adams County fair in Nebraska.

What is a Clover Kid?

Clover kids are our youngest 4-Hers that enroll in the program at age 5.  At this age level, the focus is on helping the children to grow and develop physically, emotionally, socially and intellectually.  They learn by doing and can get involved in a variety of project areas including cooking, crafts, gardening small animals and livestock projects such as rabbits, poultry, bucket calves, or lambs to name a few.

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Involvement at the fair

In Adams County, I offer a Clover Kid day camp where the children can learn by doing as they create a few projects to display at the fair. This year the children made their own stick horses, hand print t-shirts, painted a hummingbird feeder, planted seeds to make a plant person, and created a spiral painting with a pendulum.  These fun activities offered a variety of sensory experiences, as well as encouraging problem solving and creativity.  I included a literacy component by sharing the books, “A Place to Grow” by Stephanie Bloom, and “In the Tall, Tall Grass” by Denise Fleming. The children also made their own lunch by rolling biscuit dough to make pigs in a blanket, spreading “wow” butter on celery for “ants on a log”, and building a “campfire” using grapes, pretzels and cheese.

 

The Clover Kid exhibits are non-competitive and are for exhibition only.  I was at the fair on entry day to greet the children as they entered their projects.  The children could “show and tell” by visiting with me about what they learned and sharing their favorite part in creating the project. Each child received a ribbon award.

 Clover kid static entry day

Parent/child activities

A family tradition at our county fair is making ice cream in a bag.  Parents help the children read the recipe instructions, measure and mix ingredients in a zipper baggie that is placed inside a larger bag of ice and salt.  The giggles and smiles say it all as everyone has a ball tossing the bag back and forth.  The best part is tasting the yummy ice cream together with their family.

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The day would not be complete without the stick horse races! The children go to the exhibit hall to collect the horse that they made and then bring it to the “race track.”  I had one of the 4-H Junior leaders demonstrate how to weave in and out of the cones for the “pole bending” race and how to maneuver around the buckets for “barrel racing.” I don’t know who had more fun, the parents or the children. I definitely had a fabulous day at the fair with my Clover Kids!

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If you would like to know more about 4-H or Clover Kids in your county, be sure to check out the Nebraska Extension website and click on Nebraska 4-H or check out the Learning Child website

Image Source: Lynn DeVries, Extension Program image

Lynn DeVries, EXTENSION EDUCATOR | THE LEARNING CHILD

Peer Reviewed by Linda Reddish, Extension Educator, The Learning Child

Make sure to follow The Learning Child on social media for more research-based early childhood education resources!

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Grape play dough made me want to become an early childhood teacher

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Have you ever heard this statement “So, I have a silly question.”

As an early childhood specialist, I listened to teachers ask this question only for it to lead into a richer discussion regarding their classrooms.  For many years, I coached infant and toddler teachers, and I used this statement as an opportunity to introduce the importance of responding to young children’s curiosity.  Whenever a teacher led with that comment, I would either start the coaching conversation or end the conversation sharing the following story…

When I was three years old, my mother attended ESL classes at the county’s local community college.  Adjacent to the college was a small childcare lab school that I attended for preschool.  It was an incredible program. Well-defined learning centers with warm, patient, and interactive teachers.  Now knowing what I know, the program was certainly a high-quality early childhood program.  I am confident my preschool experiences reinforced my aspiration to become an early childhood professional.

One day, I asked my preschool teacher if she was a magician.  Every day, my preschool teacher offered in the art center a fruit-scented play dough. I was perplexed by the possibility that play dough could smell sweet like grape juice, or citrusy like lemons. It was beyond my imagination.  I remember her response, and all these years I have carried it with me.  She said, “What a silly question, and I am so glad you asked it. Tomorrow you can help me make it, and I will show you the magical powder that goes into it.”  My preschool teacher met my curiosity responsively instead of dismissing it.  She relished in my joy; I can still hear her laughter as I helped her make the play dough.  That day my teacher taught me that play dough was not just pliable dough; it could be so much more.  It was beyond anything I could have imagined.  My teacher recognized this question as a teachable moment and an opportunity to strengthen our relationship by affirming my question instead of dismissing it.  This experience inspired the creation of my twitter handle @beyondplaydough (I invite you to follow me).

Have you ever wondered what it is like for young children when they ask adults questions? 

If we are hoping to instill a sense of joy in learning, it is up to us as early childhood educators to respond authentically to young children’s bids and questions, no matter how silly they may seem.

As the mother of a preschooler who is currently in this state, I can relate to my teacher’s delight many years ago.  The other night, while reading Duck on Bike by author David Shannon I paused on the hilarious page when all of the animals hop on the bicycles.  I wanted to focus on defining new words by using what he already knew about bikes and then conceptually map the different types of bikes while introducing new vocabulary.  As I pointed to each bike, I explained how Chicken was actually on a tricycle because it had three wheels.  I noted that Pig and Pig were on a tandem bike built for two!  Then, our son noticed one of the bicycles had a different shaped seat.  He pointed at it and I told him it was called a banana seat, and immediately giggling ensued.  He turned his head to look up at me and said, “You cannot sit on a banana Mama, it would be all mushy, that is just so silly. Why would anyone be so silly Mama and sit on a banana?”

Right on little guy, why would anyone be so silly?

What is the silliest question a child has asked you?  Did the question delve into a deeper level of learning? Were you able to use it to further a child’s understanding of a particular concept, if so how?

Comment below!

Source: Linda Reddish, personal image

Linda Reddish, EXTENSION EDUCATOR | THE LEARNING CHILD

Peer Reviewed by Lynn DeVries, Extension Educator, The Learning Child and

John Porter, Urban Agriculture Program Coordinator

Make sure to follow The Learning Child on social media for more research-based early childhood education resources!

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