Early Education

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.

Meet Mr. Barry

Meet Mr. Barry 2055 1566 Ivy Marsnik

Every Wednesday for the past year, 12-15 Way to Grow preschool children cannot wait to see Mr. Barry’s friendly smile when they arrive at school.

Mr. Barry volunteers as a Preschool Literacy Tutor at the Way to Grow Preschool in South Minneapolis. “I love reading to the kids,” he says, “I get to the preschool before class starts, and before you know it” Barry cheerfully explains, “I’ll have several children crowding around me; excited to read, to learn and to enjoy a story!”

To say Mr. Barry has a passion for teaching would be an understatement. “I always wanted to be a teacher,” Mr. Barry goes on. “But, one thing led to another, and I wound up with a successful career in retail; but I never stopped thinking I would have liked to be a teacher.” So, even while working full time, Mr. Barry started his equally successful volunteer career as K-3 tutor at Emerson Public School where he served for over ten years. Though Mr. Barry enjoyed the one-on-one time, this school enjoyed a large number of volunteers. He credits this experience with inspiring him, and looked for more opportunities where he could make an impact.

“That’s when I saw a call to volunteer with Way to Grow in the newspaper,” Mr. Barry says. “I looked into the program and was very drawn to the idea of working with a population of students [where a large percentage are] assimilating to America, while simultaneously learning to navigate the school system. It’s hard not to tie this work to the achievement gaps everyone is talking about in Minneapolis, and, well, you can’t keep complaining that kids are undereducated, if you’re not going to do anything about it!” And so, Mr. Barry did, and has been with our Preschool P.A.L.S. ever since.

“I know that the families at the preschool are getting a head start, and that’s very profound throughout Way to Grow,” Mr. Barry concludes. “I, myself have learned a lot by watching these children and families progress and learn new skills. We are getting these kids ready to be successful and well educated. Seeing these results – let me tell you, I am so proud of how advanced these children are. It is what keeps me involved and inspired.”

Mr. Barry thinks about the impact his involvement may have in the future, “Someday one of these children might be our mayor, a successful CEO, a noted teacher or anything else they can dream of – even representing us in the White House!”  And Mr. Barry likes to think he is helping them get there; “Even if just a little bit!”

Now Recruiting Minnesota Reading Corps Literacy Tutors

Now Recruiting Minnesota Reading Corps Literacy Tutors 150 150 Ivy Marsnik

Would you love to help children grow their reading skills, succeed in school and get extra support? If your answer is yes, you can be trained to serve as a tutor with Minnesota Reading Corps at Way to Grow. Whether you want to explore an educational career, reenter the workforce, or give back to your community, you can succeed as a tutor. Last year, Minnesota Reading Corps provided direct services to over 30,000 children in more than 700 schools across the state.

As a Literacy Tutor, you’ll use strategies that help students believe in themselves and succeed. Positions available include preschool tutors at Way to Grow Preschool Pals and P.A.L.S. Offered four days per week, Preschool Pals is our NAEYC accredited and MN Parent Aware 4-star rated center-based preschool program designed to complement home visits for Way to Grow families. Preschool P.A.L.S. invites the parent into the preschool classroom for parent-child learning time. Both locations offer part time options, and tutors typically serve most of their hours during the regular school day.

In addition to extensive training, tutors will receive on-site support from specially trained school mentors. Tutors come from many backgrounds and include recent high school and college grads, career changers, stay-at-home parents, and retirees. Tutors may earn a living allowance, educational award, federal student loan forbearance, and other benefits, and have the chance to make a real difference in the life of a child.

To apply or learn more about the research based programs, position qualifications, and benefits, visit MinnesotaReadingCorps.org. Questions? Contact recruitment@servemnaction.org or 866-859-2825.

Invest in Us

Invest in Us 150 150 Ivy Marsnik

Making a Difference

Making a Difference 150 150 Ivy Marsnik

JaquelineMeet Jacqueline.  We hope to make Jacqueline’s holiday brighter by raising $2,500; enough to cover one full year of home visits and comprehensive programming with Way to Grow.  Jacqueline’s parents are from Togo, a small, tropical sub-Saharan country in West Africa. Edoh, Jacqueline’s mother has a goal for her children that many of us share. “Our educational goal for our daughter,” she says, “is that she will choose a career that makes her happy.” Jacqueline beams as she tells us, “I want to be a doctor so I can check my mom’s heart, teeth, ears, and mouth to be sure she is healthy.”

Jacqueline passed the school readiness assessment this past spring joining the 88% of Way to Grow children deemed ready for kindergarten! She participated in our Early Learning graduation ceremony this summer, lighting up her white cap and gown! Now in kindergarten, she is very excited to finally attend the same school as her big sister, Grace.  Grace has told Jacqueline so many fun and exciting stories about Bancroft Community School that she could hardly wait for it to begin this fall!

Jacqueline’s parents tell us they love Way to Grow for, “The way they teach. They come into my home and educate the whole family. They are flexible and are available to come when I am not at work, even if that is a Saturday morning.”  Sponsor Jacqueline as part of our My Scholar initiative this holiday season, and give one child the one gift that can never be taken back.

We cannot thank you enough for your support .
Together, we will make a difference!

Carolyn Smallwood to co-chair Mayor Hodges’ Cradle to K Cabinet

Carolyn Smallwood to co-chair Mayor Hodges’ Cradle to K Cabinet 150 150 Way to Grow

Photo by David Joles of the Star Tribune.

Mayor Betsy Hodges’ understands the value and importance of high-quality early education, as we learned from one of her major campaign themes of giving more attention to children from birth to kindergarten. In her State of the City address at the American Indian Center on April 24, Hodges revealed that Way to Grow’s own Executive Director Carolyn Smallwood will co-chair the Cradle to K Cabinet with Children’s Defense Fund Executive Director Peggy Flanagan.

In a blog post outlining the cabinet’s importance on her Betsy for Minneapolis website, Hodges says, “While there is a great deal of good work happening, the status quo is not acceptable. I want everyone to be a part of giving the best opportunities to all Minneapolis children, and the only price for admission is to be able, willing, and ready: able to approach this issue with urgency, willing to be challenged, and ready to take action for Minneapolis children.”

Carolyn Smallwood and Peggy Flanagan

We could not agree more, Mayor! And we’re thrilled that our Executive Director will play a key role in this crucial initiative.

For a full overview of the issues Mayor Hodges touched on in her State of the City address, check out this MinnPost article.

This press release outlines more about the cabinet and lists all members to date.

For parents and providers, MinneMinds pre-K scholarships are working

For parents and providers, MinneMinds pre-K scholarships are working 150 150 Way to Grow

By: Nicholas Banovetz, Deputy Director, MinnCAN

In just shy of two years, more than 80 organizations across Minnesota have convened and formed the MinneMinds campaign to increase access to high-quality early education for Minnesota kids. Following is a brief recap of the campaign’s work and how you can get involved!

The building blocks

In 2013, the Minnesota Legislature passed–and Gov. Dayton signed into law–historic funding of $40 million to provide low-income children pre-K scholarships so they can attend high-quality early learning programs. Way to Grow is a recipient of such scholarships, helping the top-rated Parent-Aware program reach more kids. But unfortunately this funding reaches approximately 9 percent of the need, which is why the MinneMinds campaign is back at the Capitol this session asking for two things:

  1. Additional funding to increase the number of children served; and
  2. Adjustments to the current scholarship cap of $5,o00 so these scholarships are more flexible and work better for families.

The evidence is clear

Every year approximately 15,400 low-income children arrive at kindergarten not fully prepared to succeed–about half of all kindergartners, costing Minnesota $56,000 over the lifetime of each unprepared child and approximately $860 million for every year this trend continues, according to Wilder Research. And according to the Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis, well-focused investments in early childhood development yield high public returns, as much as $16 to $1.

Learn more about the landscape of early education in Minnesota–and the opportunities within reaching distance.

In short, an abundance of local research tells us that when we connect children to high-quality pre-K programs, these students are far more likely to succeed across the K-12 continuum. They’re more likely to graduate from high school, more likely to enroll in post-secondary opportunities and more likely to avoid arrest for a violent crime.

MinneMinds investments are much needed for underserved Minnesota kids. They also hold promise for us all–helping sustain Minnesota as a thriving place to live and work.

And now that scholarships are rolling out…

MinneMinds scholarships are flowing out the door, from the Twin Cities metro to outstate Minnesota. And families and providers are responding. Here’s one story from a provider in Greater Minnesota, who’s witnessed firsthand a mother and father who have been hit hard by the economy:

With the father out of work, the mother became the sole income provider for their family. By the time the parents had paid for their three children to attend an early learning program at a local family childcare provider, they had absolutely nothing left of their monthly income. With no other choice, the family was forced to consider pulling all three children out of the early learning program.

Their family childcare provider was going through the Parent Aware program and was able to provide the mother and father with information about the early learning scholarships program. She even helped the mother and father apply.

News came later that their application had been accepted and all three children are currently receiving an early learning scholarship. The children were able to remain in the licensed family childcare provider’s early learning program, eliminating the possibility of a gap in their education.  Both the mother and father are so grateful for the early learning scholarships their children are receiving.

Lastly, take action!

The legislative session ends on May 19–please take two minutes before then and contact your legislators. Urge them to support MinneMinds and continue the momentum.

Learn more about MinneMinds at www.MinneMinds.com.

 

Breaking ground on the new PALS classroom

Breaking ground on the new PALS classroom Way to Grow

We broke ground on our new P.A.L.S. classroom at Urban Ventures in the Colin Powell Youth Leadership Center with sponsors, families, friends, staff and – of course – cake on Wednesday, April 9. The Redleaf Family Foundation is funding this new partnership, so Rhoda cut the ribbon with a shiny pair of yellow children’s scissors before everyone toured the beautiful classroom.

Here’s lead classroom teacher Meredith Skalko reporting on how the program is going so far:

“(The south side) P.A.L.S. is off and running! We have started Family Fridays programming while we patiently await our license application to be approved by the City of Minneapolis. We have had a really great response so far – 16 participants at our first Friday class, 23 at our second, and 26 at our third. It is really exciting to see the parent-child piece of the program underway. Parents and children are playing together, talking together, and learning together, which is really what Way to Grow is all about. I am looking forward to discovering the best ways to tie the preschool and parent-child components of the program together and to see how involving parents in their children’s learning first-hand can help foster school readiness and success.”

Assistant teacher Craig Allen thought the Ribbon Cutting Ceremony was enjoyable, but added that “the real magic happened two days later” at the third parent/child class. He is impressed and pleased that the kids have already grasped sharing, self-control, quiet voices and playing nicely with their new friends – all important skills for school success.

The next exciting endeavor for the preschoolers and their families – 59 of them, in fact – is a field trip to the Minnesota Children’s Theatre on April 25 to see “Balloonacy.” We can’t wait to hear how that goes. For now, click here for a full Facebook gallery of photos from the Ribbon Cutting Ceremony.

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