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Ivy Marsnik

Different, but the Same

Different, but the Same 2100 1575 Ivy Marsnik

While February may be Black History Month, Way to Grow’s early learners in our Preschool Pals and P.A.L.S. (Parent-Child Activities Lead to School-Readiness) preschools celebrate diversity all year long as part of their day-to-day curriculum.

At the start of the school year, we talk about ourselves as being “different, but the same.” We may have different skin colors, we may come from diverse backgrounds, we may eat different foods, but we are all friends—and we are all here to learn! We play together, we help each other, and we treat each other nicely. We talk about the places that our parents or grandparents are from by placing our pictures on the world map. The students may not yet fully understand the states and countries or the significance of the map, but they learn about differences—and diversity.

Throughout the school year, we discuss the beautiful traditions of all our classmates: African Americans, Hmong, Somali, Native American, and Latino. From the books we read, the songs we sing, and the foods we learn about, our classroom is a rich tapestry of culture and customs. Every day, we learn new things from each other’s differences.

Recently, during our “Baby Project,” students brought in their baby pictures and shared them during show and tell. They proudly showed off their pictures, which demonstrated the diverse cultural backgrounds of Way to Grow’s children.

All these differences make our classroom rich and full of knowledge that we may not otherwise have gained!

Check out more photos from our preschool class:

Our children’s health and education: the best investment we can make

Our children’s health and education: the best investment we can make 2560 1707 Ivy Marsnik

“It was an accident,” Arthur J. Rolnick, Ph.D. says of coming to focus much of his economic research on children. “Since we [at the Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis] found the way states conventionally promoted economic development to be fundamentally flawed, we argued that we have to rethink economic development in this country. That led us to ask: What sort of policies and what sort of public investments were best to promote local economies?”

“If done right, high-quality, parent focused, early childhood education programs that begin at birth can make an extraordinary difference in outcomes for both the child and society.”

On a quest to answer that question, Art Rolnick and Rob Grunewald, his co-author and colleague, soon found themselves reading up on longitudinal studies of early childhood education programs and the latest brain development research. The evidence to support how critical the first years of life are in building a successful future was astounding.

What they found were very high public returns when investment in early childhood began at birth, and high-quality, parent focused programming was maintained through the preschool years. As the longitudinal studies suggested, when master level early childhood teachers are combined with regular home visits and increased parent engagement, children impacted are much less likely to repeat first grade or be placed in special education. Furthermore, they are much more likely to read at grade level by the third grade, complete high school, get a good job, raise a family, and much less likely to commit a crime.

“Essentially, we can show that if we do a much better job in getting a child ready for school, that child is going to perform much better through his or her life.”

“We have to rethink economic development, think of it in terms of investing in human capital,” Art explains. “And when you go down that road, and when you start to think about how important worker development and the quality of a workforce is, it leads you to early childhood development, birth to five– that’s where we need to be investing.”


Hear more from Arthur J. Rolnick, Ph.D. at the Way to Grow Shine Celebration, Friday, October 27. Art, a Senior Fellow and Co-Director of the Human Capital Research Collaborative at the Humphrey School of Public Affairs at the University of Minnesota. Art is working to advance multidisciplinary research on child development and social policy. He previously served at the Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis as a senior vice president and director of research and as an associate economist with the Federal Open Market Committee. Art’s work on early childhood development has garnered numerous awards, including those from the George Lucas Educational Foundation and the Minnesota Department of Health, both in 2007; he was also named 2005 Minnesotan of the year by Minnesota Monthly.

Register

Paying it Forward

Paying it Forward 150 150 Ivy Marsnik

Way to Grow is deeply thankful for the financial support we receive. In fact, gifts allow us to work with the most isolated families in Minneapolis, and ensure that children are born healthy, stay healthy, and are prepared for school. Last year, we served 2,432 children and parents through 11,563 home visits. With your continued support, we can reach even more families whose futures will be brighter because of your generosity.

Want to join our family of supporters? It’s easy! You can choose from several ways to give that will fuel our mission.

Go online: One of the quickest ways to give in a digital world is to use our website. With a few keystrokes, you can choose to make a one-time gift, or set in motion a recurring gift that happens automatically each month on the day you choose. Either way, we are grateful for your support which helps us serve families and children.

Mail us a check: This classic method works for many! Simply send your gift to Way to Grow, 125 West Broadway, Suite 110, Minneapolis, MN 55411. You’ll put a smile on our faces when the mail arrives.

Shares of stock: If you own shares of stock that have grown in value – and that you’ve held for one year or longer – it may be tax-wise to donate them directly to Way to Grow, rather than sending a check. Here’s why. First, you’ll avoid paying capital gains tax on the shares’ growth, and so will Way to Grow, which receives 100% of the proceeds tax-free as a charitable organization. Second, you’ll enjoy a tax deduction for the full fair market value of the shares, even if they cost you a lot less. Third, you can make a meaningful gift without tapping out your checkbook. For details, call us at (612) 874-4740.

IRA Charitable Rollover: This way of giving arose in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina in 2005, allowing Americans to tap their retirement savings to help others. If you are age 70-1/2 or older (an age when Required Minimum Distributions (RMDs) from IRAs must begin), you can re-direct your RMD to Way to Grow directly from your IRA. This bypasses your federal tax return, so it is not counted as income, nor deducted as a gift. Even better, you are not limited to sharing just your RMD; instead, individuals are allowed to give up to $100,000 each year out of their IRA to qualified charities. Way to Grow would be delighted to receive your IRA Rollover Gift! Check with your tax advisor or call us at (612) 874-4740.

Whichever form your gift takes, you have our heartfelt thanks for generously supporting our vision to ensure that every child has an opportunity to succeed in school and in life.

Strengthening Families: Hassan and Asha’s Story

Strengthening Families: Hassan and Asha’s Story 1200 800 Ivy Marsnik

“From the moment we met Shany in 2005, she was very respectful,” Hassan says thinking back to 12 years ago to the day when a neighbor introduced his family to Shany, a Way to Grow Family Educator. “The fact that Shany was a part of our culture and spoke our language made it very comfortable for my wife, Asha, who was often home alone with our children.”

Shany enrolled the family and began working with Hassan and Asha’s oldest son, Hamza, who was four years old at the time. Shany brought learning materials over each week to help Hamza with his reading and writing, and helped Asha find and enroll Hamza in a preschool program.

Hassan spent the next few years studying at Metropolitan State University in St. Paul to become a high school math teacher. Over the course of his studies, he and Asha had three more children. As the children grew, their reading and vocabulary skills improved with Shany’s guidance. Shany always explained how the children were doing, and helped Hassan and Asha understand where each child was developmentally.  Hassan was very pleased to see the improvements. He knew Shany was teaching his children the skills they would need to be successful in the classroom.

Over time, Shany became the family’s friend. “She served as an educator and mentor not only to our children, but to our entire family,” Hassan says. “Shany provided guidance and help to all of us. Whenever she made a home visit, she brought books, school supplies, learning materials and toys, and even bikes for our children. She also provided Asha and me with important community resources such as housing, library, and school choice information. Shany even went as far as to help my wife, whose English language is limited, translate documents, enroll in English Language Learning (ELL) classes, and complete a Child Development Associate (CDA) certificate program.”

“We began telling others in our community about Way to Grow the same way our neighbor had shared the word about the organization with us. It is such a great program, and our community needs it. It is so important especially in the inner city where schools are challenging for English language learners who don’t understand the system, how it works, or that our children need supplemental learning because what they learn in the classroom isn’t enough. Way to Grow helps families and immigrant communities new to the school system and brings them up. Having Shany in our home was a huge plus.”

In January 2017, Hassan and Asha moved from Minneapolis to a home in Bloomington, outside of Way to Grow’s current service area. According to Hassan, the family had two main criteria when finding a new home: having a high quality school district, and the overall safety of the community. Though Hassan and Asha miss the connections they made at Way to Grow, they could not be happier to have a place for their children to call their own.

Seeking Preschool Literacy Tutors

Seeking Preschool Literacy Tutors 500 334 Ivy Marsnik

If you are passionate about education and early childhood education, join us at Way to Grow! You can make a difference in the lives of young children by becoming a Minnesota Reading Corps Preschool Literacy Tutor. Tutors will work with our students in small groups and one-on-one using specific interventions developed by educational experts to develop early literacy skills. Previous experience working with children is not a requirement – Minnesota Reading Corps and Way to Grow will provide all the training you will need in addition to ongoing coaching support throughout your 11-month term of service.

Way to Grow has three part-time Reading Corps positions open for the 2017-2018 school year including one at our South Minneapolis preschool at Urban Ventures and two at our North Minneapolis preschool at Center for Families. The two positions in North Minneapolis could be combined to make one full-time position for the right candidate.

A Day in the Life

View the Job Description and Apply

Preschool Literacy Tutor – Way to Grow Preschool P.A.L.S. (South)
Preschool Literacy Tutor – Way to Grow Preschool Pals (North)

Contact:

Craig Allen
Way to Grow Education Coordinator
Minnesota Reading Corps Internal Coach
Cell: 612-267-6283
callen@mplswaytogrow.org

South Preschool Earns Full Accreditation and Highest Possible Rating

South Preschool Earns Full Accreditation and Highest Possible Rating 2560 1707 Ivy Marsnik

Congratulations are in order! Way to Grow Preschool P.A.L.S., located in South Minneapolis, was recently awarded both NAEYC Accreditation by the National Association for the Education of Young Children, and a Four-Star Parent Aware rating! Joining our already nationally accredited and highly-rated Preschool Pals classroom in North Minneapolis, our South education team developed a classroom portfolio to provide supporting program evidence based on high-quality early learning standards connecting practice, policy, and research.

Earning full NAEYC Accreditation reflects the high quality programming provided in Way to Grow’s center-based preschool classrooms when assessed on areas including student and family relationships, early learning curriculum, teaching methods, school-readiness assessments, health, community relations, physical environment, and leadership. Both the NAEYC Accreditation and a Four-Star Parent Aware rating reflect that Way to Grow is committed to implementing best practices and quality care in the areas of early development and school readiness for Minnesota children and their families as they prepare for kindergarten and beyond.

New Graduate, Restored Hope

New Graduate, Restored Hope 2560 1441 Ivy Marsnik

One year ago, Alicia came to us seeking help for herself and her 7 month old daughter. Struggling with the recent loss of her sister, Alicia had dropped out of school and lacked the confidence she needed to persevere. Knowing that she needed to finish high school, Alicia was as confused by the process as she was terrified of failure.

Alicia enrolled in Way to Grow and began attending our monthly Dream Tracks program. She blossomed. After getting a job at a local grocery store and finding a child care program for her young daughter, Carmen, Alicia’s Way to Grow Family Educator, encouraged Alicia to find out how many credits she needed in order to graduate. “I left that responsibility up to her,” Carmen says. “She was elated when she found out she only needed one or two credits. Once we knew that, we got to work setting up a plan.”

With Carmen’s help, Alicia enrolled in MNIC Unity’s diploma program. A few months later, before her family, friends, and support system, Alicia walked across the stage to accept her high school diploma. Acknowledging the life-changing experience, Alicia explains, “When my sister passed, I didn’t think I could graduate. I was like, ‘Yeah, I’m not making it.’ Then, people encouraged me like David [my teacher at MNIC] and my [Way to Grow] advocate.”

Her new diploma carries new hope. Alicia plans to go on to technical college for administrative assistance, continuing to set goals for herself and her family. “It has been a metamorphosis,” Carmen explains. “Over the last year, Alicia has grown more confident, open, motivated, positive, and best of all, happy again. We are both very excited for what’s next.”

Rallying for Minnesota’s Children – Advocacy for Children Day 2017

Rallying for Minnesota’s Children – Advocacy for Children Day 2017 960 638 Ivy Marsnik

Advocacy for Children Day celebrates early learning and gives parents, teachers, early care and education professionals, and communities from across the state an opportunity to stand up and be a voice for children. Led by the MinneMinds coalition, which Way to Grow is actively involved in, our staff and several families we serve are gathering at the capitol in support of equitable, child-centered, parent-directed, mixed delivery approaches to state policies affecting families and children. The 2017 policy agenda MinneMinds leads includes:

Ensuring Quality Care Through Parent Aware
  • Fully fund Parent Aware to continue the expansion of high‐quality early learning programs throughout Minnesota.
  • Support existing rated providers and grow from 3,000 programs to 4,400.
  • Ongoing support for rated providers and implementation of improvement strategies, with a priority on stronger recognition and incorporation of cultural competency.
Increasing Access to Quality Early Learning Through Scholarships
  • Increase funding and access of State Early Learning Scholarships for in need children birth‐to five to attend high quality early childhood development programs (Prioritize children with highest needs, including those facing homelessness and in foster care).
  • Complete efforts to fully‐fund scholarships for low‐income 3‐ and 4‐year‐olds to serve 7,000 new, at risk preschoolers.
  • Add funding for high priority groups for 0 to 2‐year‐olds (siblings, homeless, foster care, child protection) to serve 3,400 new, at risk babies and toddlers.
Assisting More Families In Need Through Home Visiting Programs
  • Increase access and funding for targeted home visiting programs to include 7,000 children in high poverty.
  • Provide community‐led solutions to high‐risk families to help stabilize them and give them a strong start.

What You Can Do

Attend the Rally

Join over 500 fellow early learning advocates as we fill the rotunda at the Minnesota State Capitol on Thursday, March 2, 2017. Activities for children begin at 9 am with the rally beginning at 9:30 am. From 11 am – 4 pm legislators will be available for visits.

Register Here

Submit a Letter and Children’s Art

Whether or not you are able to attend the rally, we encourage you to submit a letter to your senators and representatives and tell them why our state’s youngest learners matter to you. Greater Twin Cities United Way  will collect children’s artwork to accompany the letters submitted.

Mail your artwork to:
Lulete Mola
Greater Twin Cities United Way
404 S 8th Street
Minneapolis, MN 55404

Download Letter Template

Meet with Legislators

Meeting with legislators can be easier than you think. Follow these simple steps:
1) Find out who your legislators are
2) Set up a time to meet
3) Identify your main message and a personal story supporting that message
4) Follow these tips for holding a successful meeting

At-Home Learning Activities for Toddlers

At-Home Learning Activities for Toddlers 2560 1707 Ivy Marsnik

The world is one giant playground for toddlers, but it is also one enormous classroom! Toddlers love to learn new things and master new concepts, making it the perfect time for creating a solid foundation for future skills like reading and counting. One of the best things you as a parent can do is to continue to build upon your child’s interest in learning by engaging in lots of fun, everyday activities.

Learning Letters

Children generally begin to recognize the letters in their name around age two making the letters in their name a natural starting point. Display your child’s name nearly everywhere imaginable at home: on the bathroom step stool, in magnets on the fridge, on their bedroom door, in foam letters on the shower walls. Seeing their name displayed and pointed out to them will build recognition over time.

From there, you can also point out and say each letter in his or her name aloud, one-by-one. Once your child has their own name mastered, move on to learning the letters in words like mom or dad, and eventually to the other letters of the alphabet.

Learning Numbers

Numbers are easier incorporate in everyday activities than you may think. You can count buttons on a shirt as you get dressed, orange slices at snack time, or the number of bananas in a bunch the next time you grocery shop. Most toddlers will be able to recite numbers one through ten before they are truly able to count, so having them repeat those numbers aloud, recognize them on flashcards or in a book, or elsewhere may be a good place to start.

Once your child recognizes numbers and is able to count up to ten, you may be ready to move on to critical math skills such as grouping, sorting, and identifying more than/less than concepts. A good activity to try is sorting stuffed animals or other toys by type or color. After your child places all the bears in one pile, cats in another, and elephants in a third, you can then ask questions like, “Which pile has the most stuffed animals?” and “Which has the least?”. A good way to give a hint and to encourage an estimate is to ask which pile is the biggest pile and which is the smallest. From there, test your hypothesis by counting all the animals in each pile.

Learning Shapes

Shapes can be learned by relating them to everyday objects. Next time you have pancakes for breakfast, talk about the shape of a circle. On your next walk, look for things that resemble a circle, such as the wheels of the stroller or on passing cars. You may also cut foods into those shapes by, for instance, taking a square slice of cheese and cutting it into a circle. Be sure to take photos of all the objects in a particular shape you found throughout the day to review before bed. Being able to relate shapes to real-life examples will help in not only solidifying the lesson, but also in shaping critical thinking skills.

Learning Colors

A good way to start learning colors is to designate a color of the day. If the color of the day is green, maybe we wear green socks, eat lots of green beans and green grapes, drink green milk (with the help of food coloring) or out of a green cup, practice pointing out all the green toys we have or other green things we see, read a story about green alligators, and end the day with green fizzy bath tablets.
As you begin incorporating colors into your day, it will become a bit of a habit to point colors out throughout the day by asking your child questions like, “Would you like to wear a purple shirt, or a yellow one today?”, “Would you like more of the red apple or orange sweet potatoes?”, or “Can you find the matching blue sock?”

Once basic colors are mastered, you will be able to move on to hues. Talk about all the variations of blue from sky blue to midnight blue – so dark it’s almost black! Practice sorting items in various hues, or arranging items from lightest blue to darkest, and naming something else they can think of that matches that particular hue. For older children, experimenting with color mixing can be a lot of fun and easily done at home with paint or by using ice cubes and food coloring.

By incorporating learning activities in everyday life, you will see your child’s enthusiasm for learning continue to grow. The best part is, in doing so, you are preparing them for school and setting them on a path towards a successful future.

Availability of the Revised Early Childhood Indicators of Progress: Minnesota’s Early Learning Standards (ECIPs)

Availability of the Revised Early Childhood Indicators of Progress: Minnesota’s Early Learning Standards (ECIPs) 1161 736 Ivy Marsnik

In the first five years of life, a child’s brain grows to 85% of its full capacity. Children begin to form a sense of what is possible and attainable in their young lives, exploring the world around them and finding their place within it. We know the first years of life are critical to a child’s success, but because this complex and rapid development in young children is accompanied by a very diverse set of early childhood education and care programs, having a shared set of expectations and key milestones is the foundation of a successful early childhood education system. In Minnesota, this set of shared expectations is called the Early Childhood Indicators of Progress: Minnesota’s Early Learning Standards (ECIPs).

Recently revised, the state has just released its 2017 ECIPs now available on the MDE website. The revised standards now include ages birth to kindergarten entrance and are aligned with the Minnesota Kindergarten Academic Standards. The areas of learning covered by the ECIPs include:

  • Physical and movement development
  • Social and emotional development
  • Language, literacy and communications
  • Mathematics
  • Scientific thinking
  • Social systems
  • Approaches to learning
  • The arts

A basis for curriculum, child assessment, and program evaluation in Minnesota, the ECIPs are not only intended to be used by teachers and early childhood education providers, but by families as well. Since learning starts at home with parents serving as a child’s first teachers, the ECIPs also serve as a helpful tool and resource for parents interested in learning ways they can better support their child’s learning and development.

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