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Creating Affirming Environments

Creating affirming environments invites families to take part in the care and well being of their children. The setting provides areas for structured and creative play, rest areas, kitchen and dining area, quiet areas, and an area specifically for arrival/dismissal. More important that the dedicated areas are the materials and the visual affects that the classroom supplies support.

In Gremi’s Garden you will be sure to find that crayons, washable markers, pencils, note pads, construction paper, skin tone colored paper and crayons, and an assortment of fabric dolls and books reflective of diversity.  On the wall in the reading area there are shelves and tables where parents can share important, significant to the family, or cultural things about themselves and their heritage. There are chairs, couches, and various types of seating for the family members, as they too are considered. The quiet room has a few plush animal pillows, books, a loveseat and a rug area. This room is designed as a safe zone for children who are having difficulties with family leaving, or for children who may need a little time to themselves. It is also a space where children can rest if they are not feeling well.

The welcome/dismissal area is a working garden that is part of the curriculum, where families are encouraged to build a family box garden. There are designated cubbies for the children, and above it a message board where parents can leave messages or draw a picture for their child, and where we can write reminder notes, birthdays can be acknowledged, and news can be shared.

 In the center wall there is a crafted oak tree where families are invited to share pictures, and where pictures taken during class are posted. Family pictures through out help the children to see familiar things in unfamiliar places, and serves to better connect the child to the environment. The color palate and décor are in tune with the garden with vivid colors and a variety of textures.  The activity room is the largest area equipped with puzzles, books, memory games, and other sensory objects that reflect neutral or non-gendered identity, and support varying abilities. The visuals in this room are collages of diverse families gardening all over the world, collages of our class in gardening, and photos from other activities. Free play corner focuses on self-discovery. In this area there are books about different professions and gender-neutral hats. Nature shaped mirrors are available for holding and are also mounted. Diverse fabric dolls with various styles of clothing, playdough with a variety of themed accessories, picture books, and poster cards of different places in the world, and a rug with a map of the U.S on it.

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A Little Something to Share

There is so much room for growth. Nonetheless, my hope is that we as educators, never loose our spirit. Let us stay focused on the prize. Even if we do not get to see this global endeavor to fruition, we are the ones in the position to enhance the growth and development of early childhood learners and their families today. We are all different, even when we are all the same. Let us be a most formidable alliance for children and families of diverse backgrounds.

One goal that will broaden my proficiencies is to learn more about the issues that I am not very comfortable with, and those that I do not fully understand. At work, I will continue promoting anti-biased language and encourage team members to share their strengths and weaknesses much like we did in this course.

A brief note of thanks to you, colleagues. Your experiences, thoughts and opinions have been instrumental in helping me put it all together. A special thank you goes out to our Professor, Dr. Parrish for her commitment to social justice and equity, and for her interest in each of us.

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Team Building and Collaboration

Collaboration in group settings can be challenging as each person brings their own communication styles to the table. Different levels of communication anxiety, and aggressiveness, as well as their unique listening profile. In order for collaboration to be effective and goal oriented, team development must follow a linear path that begins with the formation of the group, during which roles are established, and individuals have the opportunity to reduce uncertainty by getting to know the members of the group (Abudi, 2010). Next, the group has the opportunity for conflict and conflict resolution. During this stage, the members of the group express their ideas and concepts, agree and disagree, and come to an agreement on roles, and processed. In the norming stage, member begin to form the group identity where roles are clear and mutual respect is established. The performing stage focuses on the goals of the task, where collaboration is constructive and ideas are examined, motivate, and are supportive to the end result. 

The adjourning stage is the final stage of the collaboration towards a common goal. At this point, members may celebrate their collective efforts and for some, the working relationships may blossom into new and exciting friendships.  Moreover, on the professional level, this group may hold its group identity moving forward in other endeavors bringing with them a new and vibrant perspective of effective teamwork. This end stage offers opportunities to reflect on the strategies used, offer and receive validation, honor strengths and identify the strategies that did not work as well. In this end stage member may also have an opportunity to exchange information and develop partnerships for the future.

Groups with clearly established roles and expectation are the hardest to leave because they are closer to my preferred methods of engagement. For me, this means that emotions can be left at the door, and there are less chances for conflict. This final stage is often celebrated casually where members get to tell their stories about the engagement, their struggles, and achievement. I find that celebrating adjourning bring back the individual’s contributions each member has applied to the project and to the team itself. Validation then serves a motivation for future engagement.

References

Abudi, G. (2010). The five stages of team development: A case study. Retrieved

from http://www.projectsmart.co.uk/the-five-stages-of-team-development-a-casestudy.htm

O’Hair, D., Wiemann, M., Mullin, D. I., & Teven, J. (2018). Real communication: An

Introduction (4th. ed). New York: Bedford/St. Martin’s

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Communication and Culture

Each of us is a product of our cultural background, including gender, ethnicity, family, age,

religion, profession and other life experiences. Our cultural inventory provides us with

valuable insights for understanding our beliefs, and attitude, our values and assumptions.

Thus, it is critical that we reflect on the various aspects of our own cultural identity and

examine their positive and negative impacts on our personal and professional development   (Kim 2001, p. 306).

Source: Vuckovic, A. (2008). Inter-cultural communication: A foundation of communicative action. Multicultural Education and Technology Journal, 2(1), 47–59.

            The manner in which we communicate differs in relation to the party we communicate with, and within the context of the relationship. Business communication sounds very different than communication with a friend, and communication with my family will be different than the business communication and communications with a friend. Nonetheless, communication will require respect for differing opinions, a level of mindfulness, and self monitoring.

            When relating with colleagues, respect is the shared code that validates our roles and opinions in our communication. In business communication there is a specific purpose that requires input from varying sources, in order to identify areas of concern, opportunities for collaboration, and discuss concerns or dilemmas that may interfere with our ability to perform our duties. These communications often require jargon specific to the field, role play, mindfulness, and a certain degree of self monitoring. In this type of communication I need to be able to understand how the information will impact my service delivery to families and their children with respect to their own cultural values.

            Communicating with friends is less stringent than the communications in the workplace, and requires simple language that can be understood by all. Jargon of any kind would lessen the messages of communication and may be insulting to those unfamiliar with it, who may also perceive it as purposed to alienate them from the conversation. In using plain language I am able to be more inclusive of the social circle, be mindful of the relationships, and thus self monitoring so that my non verbal communication is clear and intentional. 

            Conversations with family are also different, and may vary from one member to another. When communicating with the younger generation, the communication is inquisitive and purposed for understanding their point of view, and providing support and reinforcement for their endeavors. Self monitoring ensures that my communication represents heartfelt desires for their success and development, and my body language to be open and accepting of their views and opinions, not because they may be right, but because it is important to them. Communicating with the adults in the family is more challenging because of our competitive nature. Conversations are usually centered on our unique perspectives and personalities, and usually end up in debates, or in agreeing to disagree. Conversations are light hearted as we strive not to disrespect, self monitor as to not undermine, and be mindful of their struggles as to not offend or devalue.

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Words of Gratitude

There are many things that I hope for when I think about working with families of diverse backgrounds. I hope that one day we can all speak the same language in terms of moving forward together. I am hopeful that one day, politics and policies will serve the needs of society. I am also hopeful that my engagement and contributions to children and families helps to foster and promote a sense of wholeness that appears to be sinfully lacking. 

Early childhood professionals are in a position to break social barrier, and promote the new language of equity.  A genuine approach to self reflection will go a long way in helping others, as long as we focus the attention to understanding how history has shaped our thinking, we can move forward in ways that grant justice and equity.

I thank my peers, classmates and professional relationships for modeling and talking openly about the ugly issues that have perpetuated for centuries, and continue today. Your understanding and experiences are the most valuable resources for understanding the challenges that face educators everywhere.  Thank you all for your contribution for my personal growth.

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Welcoming Families from Around the World

It is prudent to enter this topic with a few statistical pieces in mind.  First, there are about “195 different countries” in the world; secondly, the US population includes members from “150 different countries” (Laureate Education, Week 7). Diversity then needs to be approached with the clear focus of a globally united supportive environment.  Every individual child will bring with them the cultural tools that allow them to navigate or detach in new environments. These transitions prove too difficult task for many marginalized groups within our society, and more so for those new to our dominant culture. If we are to advocate for diversity and help children to understand the importance of our individuals differences in working from an anti bias educational perspective.  The objectives being goal specific; “nurture each child’s construction of knowledgeable and confident personal and social identities”; “promote each child’s comfortable, empathic interaction…”  “Foster each child’s capacity to critically identify bias and will nurture each child’s empathy for the hurt bias causes”; Cultivate each child’s ability and confidence to stand up for oneself and for others in the face of bias” (Derman-Sparks, 2020, p.5).

The first step towards anti-bias education is self reflection, an inward look towards internalized oppression and privilege, how we react to indignities, both overt and unconscious, and how personal growth, influences our professional goals towards inclusion. I make the distinction in reference to ethical standards and code of conduct of the particular discipline engaged in early childhood education and promoting community wellness, safety, and potential for growth and development.

In my involvement with children as a behavioral technician, I interact with a diverse population.    In preparation for the initial visit and educational engagement of behavior modification to a child of a recently relocated from Brazil, I must explore some specific features about the country, such as disparities. I discovered that Brazil has 26states and is 5th largest country, and it’s an independent nation.  Yet the most relevant issues that I needed to concern myself with is the social disparities prevalent and marginalized through weakened social bonds. The World Health Organization (2006) emphasizes this nuance stating, “The weakening of social bonds caused by income inequalities incur in low levels of social capital and of political participation” (p.4). Further, “The burden is twofold in Brazil. Besides showing serious inequalities in income distribution, there are strata of the population living in such poverty that they cannot access the minimum essential conditions and goods for their health” (p. 4).

In understanding the prevailing issues of this country will allow me to have some understanding of the political atmosphere, and a concern about the health inequities experienced in many regions of the country. This information allows us to be more responsive of the potential needs. Culturally responsiveness in,1- sensitive support  to help them deal with their anxieties and fears, real or imagined of separation; 2- creating a workplace climate of respect and safety for both child and family; 3- Interact with the families and invite them to be active participants in the learning process; 4- Connect immigrant families with other supports; 5- Reaching out to colleagues, class peers, and others having experience with immigrant family complexities (Derman-Sparks, 2020). Generalized knowledge, white not specific to the individual, lends to understanding the wellness of the nation.

Ideally, we enter into the field of early childhood understanding that all children have the right to the equity being denied in many regions of the world. For me it is important to understand how the family identifies themselves within their culture in order to help them make use of the resources available, and being sensitive and respectful of the individual families. Growth and development occurs within, between, and as a result of our social interactions (Smidt, 2013). Having the conscious need to be sensitive, and asking the pertinent questions and employing clarification offers an overt demonstration of genuine partnership.

References

Derman-Sparks, L., Edwards, J. O.  (20201110). Anti-Bias Education for Young Children and Ourselves,  2nd Edition. [[VitalSource Bookshelf version]].  Retrieved from vbk://9781938113581

Smidt, S. (2013). The developing child in the 21st century: A global perspective on child development (2nd ed.). New York, N.Y.: Routledge.

World Health Organization (2006, March). Health inequities in Brazil: Our most serious disease. https://www.who.int/social_determinants/country_action/health_inequalities_bz.pdf

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The Personal Side of Bias, Prejudice, and Oppression

A recent encounter with bias, stereotype, and prejudice caused disruptions of grave magnitude, which challenged my belief and personal and professional expectations of the health services.  Circumstances directly impacted by covid led to a long distance relationship with my husband. We had planned on him relocating with me in upcoming months; however my husband began to experience difficulties walking, standing, and was progressively deteriorating physically.  I would make the inquiries from here, but he had to do the work on his own. He was seen by three different specialists, without the benefit of a PCP since there is no insurance and we self pay. Aside from the three different opinions, a few hospital trips made the list, he was diagnosed with three different conditions, but none gave a plan of care. By the time I connected him to a specialist here; he needed immediate intervention and was scheduled for direct admission to the hospital where the vascular team was able to provide a glimmer of hope by correcting the occlusions preventing blood from reaching his lower extremities. The larger culture in our little fishing town prescribes to the stereotypical and perpetuating assumptions that his appearance is somehow a product of drug use (Gorski, 2007).  

This incident perpetuated harm to the individual seeking medical attention. The assumptions made of this individual do not stand alone.  The stereotypes are perpetuated by the individuals who seek medical attention in search of a legal system of delivery for addictive pain medication that has value for the drug using members of our little town. We should all have equal opportunity to medical care, even those who may be use drugs in an attempt to create a better reality for them (Kennedy, 2003).  Drug use can often times replace or disconnect an individual from a real or imagined place of distress; just as debilitating as some advanced medical conditions. This situation made me question many things, and allowed me to see the implications unfolding before my very eyes. The emotional toll is astounding; a medical system that diagnoses your worthiness for service through the stereotypical indignities to gender, race, and afford.

The most disturbing part of this already stressful time was that I had to take the time to look up the information and read medical journals to understand what was happening in order to communicate with the doctors here.  My privileged experiences in language, and ability to research peer reviewed journals and studies made the process easier to express this reality with a qualified professional and the medical team affiliates. Every encounter since, has been an opportunity to be expressive, ask the questions, and not to allow assumptions to take the place of clarity (Laureate Education, 2011).

References

Gorski, P. (2008). The myth of the “culture of poverty”. Educational Leadership, 65(7), 32–36.

Kennedy, J. (2003, April). Psychotropic drug use in young patients is rising. Monitor on Psychology, 34(4). http://www.apa.org/monitor/apr03/druguse

Laureate Education (Producer). (2011). In her own voice: Nadiyah Taylor [Video file]. Retrieved from https://class.waldenu.edu

Laureate Education (Producer). (2011). In her own voice: Julie Benavides [Video file]. Retrieved from https://class.waldenu.edu

Laureate Education (Producer). (2011). In his own voice: Dr. Eugene Garcia [Video file]. Retrieved from https://class.waldenu.edu

Laureate Education (Producer). (2011). Microaggressions in everyday life [Video file]. Retrieved from https://class.waldenu.edu

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Family Culture

            My identity as a Puerto Rican woman has great meaning for me. We are a mix of people that is a product of its history.  From the native Taino tribes, the Spaniards, African, and to the more recent American influences on the island, every part of the island contains its own richness and cultural identity (Harris, 2008). There is a shared affinity for the land where farming and fishing hold steadfast in many small communities on the Island and the land is cared for, still today. In speaking of fishing and farming, there are certain cookware that is used to create the marvelous dishes of my native land.  The Caldero.  This generic looking piece of cookware is sometimes passed down through the generations along with the recipes of old can be used on a stove top, or  over a fire and the more you use it the better it gets. This tradition has died down through the ages as more and more families acculturate to the construct of individualistic characteristics of the dominant culture that also orient consumption choice. Music is a central part of the Puerto Rican culture, as we sing and dance to the voices that evoke memories and nostalgia (Harris, 2008).  I’m pretty sure you may have come across a video where music is the motivation for cleaning. These are a few of the things that grounded me within a shared culture within in our own family circles.

            In the hypothetical scenario where moving to a country whose culture is completely different from my own; I would have to draw upon these deep rooted identifiers of my culture, and hold a strong social identity with.  Understanding some of the nuances that are involved in how we perceive ourselves within [in-group] population is no easy feat. Our experiences continue to shape who we are and what we believe, to how we act and assimilate or not. My items would consist of seeds, a Caldero, and if affordable, my hand held device (phone is possible). As I enter the passage of the previous sentence, I have realized that it is difficult to pin point three items that have cultural relevance, as many of the shared aspects originate from the meaning that we give particular concept of the much broader population and dominant cultures (Derman-Sparks, 2020).

            When thinking of only being allowed only one item, I realized that my technological device would be what I would choose.  Our traditions will live on through what we teach the families of the future as they have for centuries. Taking on the challenge of this inquiry means that you have to look at the possibility objectively.  Who I am will probably not change, how I interact, what I learn and what I need will guide the assimilation of the dominant culture in an opportunity to learn (Bronfenbrenner, 1977), and be of use to my new community, and their young. Who I am allows me to integrate the student in me to go and explore, use my experiences and positive nature to continue to grow and challenge myself in the continuous study of my identity.

References

Bronfenbrenner, U. (1977). Toward an Experimental Ecology of Human Development.  https://d1wqtxts1xzle7.cloudfront.net/39743807/Bronfenbrenner_Toward_an_experimental_ecology_of_human_development_1977.pdf?1446806100=&response-content-disposition=inline%3B+filename%3DBronfenbrenner_Toward_an_experimental_ec.pdf&Expires=1615943131&Signature=WJvDQLuvJqr0T~HE9RoTW1~kmLkNNXrQ2Rb~uYqn4mzYx36ZPLfDK~A9TtF~k3d~Cjpzf7qqRHg9VK6rj4D6g7DZZ5rX22ZbaLqLgqC8jfNiIP9WoNufFkPDZr3T7mI3aXwkF1VCz7UJ1lkkgGSmLUaIDcBH1CubsnpXnYIQ2DLf~XoA7zuS83L3sAmDbqMD~HZJRlTm6bLsqiRn9~xqs56wFNxQti98yBGfGL91mKlPipwRwWlSbU6O01c6NpZn7GXPzo92T~zojOID0tf2JfbY4ZBN9qUfrTg3W8aaJARl2Ah2uICjDfiZ1o1AI8nJlXkpxs~fz0~VNVrfZA__&Key-Pair Id=APKAJLOHF5GGSLRBV4ZA

Derman-Sparks, L., Edwards, J. O.  (2020). Anti-Bias Education for Young Children and Ourselves, 2nd Edition. [[VitalSource Bookshelf version]].  vbk://9781938113581

Harris, S. R. (2008). What Is Family Diversity? Objective and Interpretive Approaches. Journal of Family Issues, 29(11), 1407–1425. https://doi.org/10.1177/0192513X08318841

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Issues around the World

Scrolling through the Child Research Net website, I came across a topic that I wrote about years ago; early childhood and media usage.  In light of the current usage of media in early childhood due to remote or hybrid learning, I thought it might be worth a look.  This symposium provided an opportunity for researchers and general participants in the hope of exploring the potential use media usage in childcare facilities. In the discussion, professionals, health administrators and child advocacy groups expressed concerns on issues such as obesity proposed that noninteractive media not be used in early childhood programs.

However, Wainwright and Linebarger (2006) “concluded that while critics have issued many warnings against television and computers and their negative effects on children’s learning, the most logical conclusion to be drawn from the existing scholarly literature is that it is the educational content that matters—not the format in which it is presented” (Wainwright & Linebarger 2006 as cited in NAEYC, 2012). Working with early childhood remote learners, I have noticed that early learners do not want to engage in school work using this format, and parents from home are having a hard time managing their responsibilities whilst trying to keep their early learners engaged in class work.

Technology has been filtering in to the educational model as this mode opens up opportunities for cognitive and linguistic development, and has the potential to tap into social and emotional development.

Aside from this self interested topic, Child Research Net provides up to date information on the trending topics related to children. It invites child advocates to take part in projects, and open forums and conferences.  The site is forward moving addressing many issues from different parts of the world, and is inclusive of the various sectors that maintain the interest in the development of children.

Source:

Child Research Net, https://www.childresearch.net/events/

NAEYC, https://www.naeyc.org/sites/default/files/globally-shared/downloads/PDFs/resources/topics/PS_technology_WEB.pdf

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Brainstorming the Topic of Interest

As many of you already know, Gremi’s Garden is not just a title, but an idea that I can make a contribution to the wellness and development of early childhood through gardening. In perusing through the recommended website in our book the National Library of Medicine (http://www.nlm.nih.gov/bsd/pubmed_tutorial/ m1001.html), there was a particular element of surprise in discovering that there is a large herb garden in front of the building that pays tribute to the healing properties of nature and its application to medicine throughout history. Let us not forget that in a land not so distant, apothecary, or the use of plants for medicinal purposes, was the only means of treatment for many.  Moreover, the continued use of apothecary in today’s societies, are referred to as herbal, holistic, and natural approach medicine.  New age books like Forks over Knives promote healthy living through vegan diets, with the notion that all we need to be healthy is available from the earth.

I cannot claim to be vegan or even vegetarian, as many of my meals include a portion of animal; as in cheese, yogurt, fish, eggs, turkey and chicken, and of course the occasional hamburger, but I do prefer plant sources over bread and pasta and steer clear of processed foods. I have to admit that I do feel a difference when my intake is free of meat products, though no significant difference has been noted with the inclusion/exclusion of eggs, or dairy products.  Getting back on track with the simulations for this course, I have chosen the following subtopic and reasonable expectancy of nutritional knowledge as a variable for the consumption of fresh home grown fruits and vegetables.

  • Malnutrition: The effects of malnutrition [independent variable] on psychological and physical development  [dependent variable] in early childhood.   
  • Understanding how nutrition effects the physiological and psychological development lending to conscious dietary consumption.  

There is a plethora of information surrounding this very topic, and many different studies that also entertain the idea that knowledge increases the likelihood of healthy dietary options. To further complicate the issue of malnutrition, access and affordability is of great importance in some communities. I certainly hope that I can narrow my inquiry even further, for I fear that I will certainly be swallowed up by the abundance of information I am sure to uncover on the matter.  

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Consequences of Knowledge

In reading and getting more familiar with the international early childhood field the sense of community becomes more apparent. As a consequence I have become far more knowledgeable about issues and trends in other parts of the world, and what different organizations are doing to tackle the challenges in the different communities.  To piggyback on this knowledge, another consequence relates to gained knowledge of the different communities as well as some of the cultural aspects, and how the helping organizations organize resources and services without encroaching on the beliefs of the citizens they serve. This particular consequence is important to note, as some of our own services are not always careful to respect dignity and diversity.  A third consequence of knowledge is that I have a better understanding of what it is to be a child experiencing and enduring long term struggles, particularly in areas of war, and underdeveloped nations. Having read about the achievements in the different communities, I came away with an understanding that the blanket of poverty does not look the same in all areas.

In order to create a strong and supportive community in early childhood, I challenge all who care about the wellness of children to keep an open line of communication.  Knowledge is power.  It is not a cliché, but a truth that can aid in creating a roadway for the wellness and development of our most vulnerable citizens. With well oriented direction and a sturdy plan, every single step with count in reaching the global goals for securing productive life.

To my peers and colleagues, I thank you for helping, and I am grateful to be learning with such caring professionals.  

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Professional Goals , hopes and dreams

I have considered myself as being quite fortunate, even though life has presented many challenges.  In becoming a grandparent, I knew that I needed to protect them, nurture, care for, and teach them, but I was not sure how.  To my surprise, I didn’t need to know, it was them who taught me what I needed to do.  In the garden, many stories were told, secrets were shared, safety was created, and love blossomed.  In the garden, life looked so different, untouched by disparities, socioeconomic barriers, racial boundaries, or gaps in equity; the garden always gave generously to those who tended it, as they would tend to themselves.  This magical and mystical place where everyone was welcome became the focus of my journey.  There is power in gardening, and engaging it provides a glimmer of hope that grows alongside the seeds we sow.

It is my desire to share this experience with all children.  The garden is the place that can elevate families from hunger, provide nutritious alternative, and is sustainable when tended to with care.  Gardens do not need to be grand or even outdoors. Community gardens have been popping up everywhere with a surprising outpouring of volunteers, donations, and instructions. That is my hope for my community. With the influx of people relocating from natural disaster areas into our nearby communities; and the curve ball from the novel corona virus, many of our communities have endured a very serious shift in economic wellness.  The neighboring community of South Side Bethlehem is no exception. Donagan Elementary school is entrusted with the care and education of 420 students, having 95% of its population eligible for free lunch. Donovan is not just an elementary school it is a community center, complete with family development specialists, community school coordinators, health clinic, and washers and dryers to facilitate laundering for families that cannot afford the Laundromat. Donagan prepares backpacks of food for the children to take home on Fridays so that they have food for the weekend. Donagan elementary provides the exact curriculum as all other schools in the district, yet they serve a population where English is a second language. (Source: The Morning Call, November 1, 2019).  Passion drives the educators here at Donagan, quality education is what they provide, and love is what makes it all come together.

This school could greatly benefit from having a garden. The educational opportunity to teach young children and their families how to grow vegetables, fruits, herb and spices would lend to promote stewardship and leadership.  Engaging the students in food preservation and canning will provide the families an opportunity to make the most of the foods they have.  Perhaps a full range garden may not be feasible given the space needed to serve 420 students and their families, but if every classroom could have window boxes, then that would be a start, after all it is with a single seed that process takes hold.  A garden can give back some of the green space that has been slowly disappearing, a space to grow, socialize and contribute to. In a world filled with fear and uncertainty, it would be a wonderful thing to give children a project they can be proud of, and a skill that can be maintained by the whole family, the whole community.

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Sharing Resources

Thinking back on my lifelong goals, and the early childhood studies, I was prompted to stop for a moment to see if my goals and purpose for my blog were in sync. In pondering the effectiveness of Gremi’s Garden Blog, I wondered if this was applicable to the current course of study.  The answer was a resounding yes. In my research of the world organizations advocating and providing resources for children, families and communities to improve the state of nutrition, have included back yard gardens and community gardens that help provide food as well as funding, through the sale of fresh farmed foods (Mason, 2016). 

            In the UNICEF report, education about nutrition and its effects on early childhood is also well established, partnering with local advocates and community members (Mason, 2016).  Malnutrition and food insecurities are not isolated incidents that occur only in underdeveloped or impoverished nations. It is a grim consequence of the disparities and barriers in access, affordability, and availability.  The Center for American Progress describes areas where malnutrition is high, as “food deserts”, having only corner markets in which nutritious foods are not readily available (Blackwell, 2016).  Blackwell reports, “Over the past century, the nation’s food system radically transformed from one sustained by family farms to an industrialized system dependent on toxic agricultural practices, farm consolidation, food processing operations, and distribution warehouses. Such a system often further elongates the distance between food sources and consumers”.

            Bringing the issue into living color, our capital, Washington D.C. had the highest rate of food insecurities of the reporting nation, having 1 in 3 children lacking consistent access to healthy food sources. Many initiatives have taken root as studies have driven the empirical data of nutrition and the balance it can provide in healthy, safe and equitable development.  Gardening Kids .Org, is one of these organizations that serve as an educational forum on gardening, stewardship, cooperation, that present an immediate response to the widening gaps of adequate nutrition for our children and the community at large. Gardening kids provide free information to those seeking to implement community gardens in low income areas, as well as gardens in schools. 

            My contribution to the early childhood field has not been swayed by the many barriers to healthy development.  Moreover, my determination for providing this simple assistance to my community is adequately increased.  It all starts with a single seed, a single hello, and a dedicated hand.  Although my plight may not be viewed initially as a social movement towards equity that is exactly what gardening has done for many communities.  Equity, access and availability all render barriers that can be transformed when food insecurities and malnutrition are removed from the equation.

Let It Grow

The long-lasting benefits of a school garden — supporting health and wellness, encouraging students to choose nutritious foods

https://www.gse.harvard.edu/news/uk/18/07/let-it-grow

Community gardens provide food, income for families

UNICEF Image
© UNICEF Niger/2005/Page
UNICEF-supported community gardens in Niger provide children with food; excess yields are sold to purchase medicines, school supplies and other staples.

By Kent Page

AGADEZ, Niger, 14 September 2005 – Niger is struggling to cope with a nutrition crisis. But in the village of Alikinkin, community gardens are an oasis of beauty and a source of food, helping children avoid the worst effects of the crisis.

In Alikinkin’s gardens, donkeys, goats and birds flourish among the grasses, bushes, palm and date trees. Neatly-planted rows of crops are irrigated with fresh water pumped from wells – a stark contrast to the situation in other parts of the country.

UNICEF’s office in Agadez, a town near Alikinkin, is supporting 50 community garden projects by helping construct water wells, providing gardening seeds, fertilizer, insecticide, fencing and tools.

The goal is to ensure that village children have access to nutritious foods. The gardens produce tomatoes, onions, carrots, peas, beans, cabbage, potatoes and wheat. (https://www.unicef.org/nutrition/niger_28266.html)

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Kidsgardening.org aids in my professional endeavor to use gardening as part of the developmental process for children and families.  Gardening provides hands on learning for children, with the added value of being able to teach children and families to grow many fruits and vegetables where ever they live. 

The Mission:

The Scotts Miracle-Gro Foundation, National Head Start Association and KidsGardening have joined together to combat some of the most pressing challenges facing today’s youngest generation, improving access to healthy food and increasing time spent outdoors connected to nature. The three-year partnership will work to bring the powerful, life-enhancing benefits of gardens to one million at-risk Head Start children and families across the country each year through the development of edible gardens and hands-on garden education. Gardens are an amazing resource in early childhood education classrooms. They offer hands-on learning experiences and provide the chance for inquiry-based exploration while also inspiring children’s natural curiosity and wonder. Garden activities can readily be integrated into the curriculum and designed to support the cognitive, physical, social and development of young children. Additionally, they provide ample opportunities to engage families and community members. Some noted benefits of garden-based education programs include:

  • Build an understanding of and respect for nature and the environment
  • Motivate kids to eat and love fruits and vegetables
  • Provide opportunities for hands-on learning, inquiry, observation and experimentation
  • Promote physical activity and quality outdoor experiences
  • Teach kids to nurture and care for other living things while developing patience
  • Offer opportunities for positive social interactions and team building experiences with students, families and community members

Source:https://kidsgardening.org/ece-resources-original/

Though this organization works in the United States, organizations such as UNICEF also extend the message of gardening around the world not only to help in sustainability, but in the respite and stress relieving effects of gardening.

UNICEF Syrian Arab Republic/2016/Ourfali

The children initially started their experiment to block the view of a garbage heap. Now, they eagerly tend their garden, a respite from the day’s challenges.

Source: https://www.unicef.org/stories/syrian-children-cultivate-some-happiness-communal-shelter

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Expanding Resources

Save the Children is an organization that was initiated in 1919, when the idea of children rights was not a common theme for the era.  History recalls “the health of young children was abysmal by modern standards, as about 1 in 4 children in 1900 died by age 5. Likewise, two million children between the ages of 10 and 15 worked in factories, on farms, and on urban streets” (Yarrow, 2009). Concurrently, the policy makers for educational were mediated the merits of education as a means for social and moral change, and a process by which to provide basic knowledge and skills.  Save the Children is not a governmental organization, it is a charity designed to help children in need in America and around the world.  Save the children work in the areas of most need, and those in desperate need of support. “Charity watchers, consumer advocates and donors agree: Save the Children ranks among the most trusted nonprofits and is a top charity for children” (Savethechildren.org).

In the U.S. and around the world, Save the Children does whatever it takes — every day and in times of crisis — to give children a healthy start in life, the opportunity to learn and protection from harm. When crisis strikes and children are most vulnerable, we are always among the first to respond and the last to leave. We ensure children’s unique needs are met and their voices are heard. We deliver lasting results for millions of children, including those hardest to reach. We do whatever it takes for children — transforming their lives and the future we share — because we believe every child deserves a future. 

Source:  https://www.savethechildren.org/us/what-we-do 

As advocates for children, Save the Children informs and challenges policy makers to provide policies that promote wellness for the world’s most vulnerable children and families. 

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Advocating for what Matters

Nutrition is at the forefront in the effort to provide children an opportunity for healthy growth and development.  Poverty underlines areas where children and families are in grave need of advocacy.  UNICEF (2013) published a report in which supportive strategies target the 1,000 days from conception to two years of age.  The interventions support, and practices help to educate and establish community involvement in the health, wellness, and development of child, family, and thus the community as a whole.  Through community engaged intervention, education goes a long way for everyone.  More importantly, UNICEF members devote precious efforts to move policy and legislations towards effective and proactive measure that can be applied for the long term wellness of their citizens.  It is important to understand that interventions is the guiding force for change, but policy, governmental support, and community involvement must move together to provide the best possible future.  The following is a highlight of key components and interventions of an infant and young child feeding strategy that promotes wellness from the very beginnings of life.

Legislation

• Marketing of breastmilk substitutes

 • Maternity protection skilled support by the health system •

Curriculum development for IYCF (infant and young child feeding)

• IYCF counseling and other support services

• Capacity development for health providers

 • Institutionalization of the Baby-Friendly Hospital Initiative

Community-based counseling and support

 • Established community-based integrated IYCF counseling services

 • Mother support groups

 Communication

• Communication for behavior and social change

 Additional complementary feeding options

• Improving the quality of complementary foods through locally available ingredients

• Increasing agricultural production

 • Provision of nutrition supplements and foods

• Social protection schemes

 IYCF in difficult circumstances

• HIV and infant feeding

 • IYCF in emergencies

As with all things UNICEF, research and data help to establish the focus of need in varying communities. The programs, practices and advocacy efforts move forward towards social change by enlightening and educating policy makers of the benefits of change.

Source: UNICEF (2020). Improving child nutrition: The achievable imperative for global progress. https://www.unicef.org/publications/files/Nutrition_Report_final_lo_res_8_April.pdf

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Measuring Intelligence

            As all things American, the use of Intelligent Quotient (IQ) testing during the early part of the 20th century was used to categorize individuals based on their intelligence, or more specifically, on the scores revealed by such testing.  In the advent, IQ scores were used in the military for the purpose of identifying individuals and their particular competences in job placement with in the varied roles at the time.  In later years, the IQ tests were used to leverage the position of the Eugenics movement, which held the idea society and prosperity could only rise for particular “stocks” otherwise known as race.  The use of the IQ test during this period gave rise to the assumption that persons challenged with socio economic status and race, particularly of African descent could not be educated because of some biological trait only found within these populations.  As erroneous and embarrassing as these theories are, they provided a gateway for the inception of court ordered sterilization of persons deemed by society as being developmentally disabled, feebleminded, and incapable of intellect (Bouche & Rivard, 2014).

            Fortunately for us, America has moved away from such practices, some which have been deemed unconstitutional, such as administering an IQ test to imprisoned persons burdened with intellectual disabilities, and of course forced sterilization. Current uses of the IQ tests perform well to identify that may need additional services for learning, but the test itself may not be particularly relevant in identifying domains where learning and healthy development may not occur.  Additionally, the Flynn Effect has evidenced that IQ test scores change over time and through generations, suggesting increased literacy, technological advances for education enable a broader audience to score higher than that of previous eras (Berger, 2016). To further evaluate the efficacy and utility of intelligence testing within the Flynn effect, we need to account for the increased availability of educational resources, knowledge of nutrition and the increase in services that provide for the underserved populations, as well as other environmental services that promote more abstract thinking in problem resolution. 

            When thinking of the child as the product of all of its parts, then we can surely understand that the ability to score well in testing is also a product of the society that rears him.  With these inclusions we are more equipped to understand Sternberg’ (1985, 2011) inscription of three general intelligences; analytic, creative, and practical (Berger, 2016, Chapter 11). Brain scans have the ability to further measure aptitude in providing real time activity in the brain, however; scans only reveal activity at the time of the scan and cannot determine or correlate with IQ test scores. Brain scans identify localized hubs which suggest that the different areas have specific utility for developing intelligence through different experiences.

                In essence, IQ testing or intelligence assessment tools inform us within the boundaries of the questions and reactions to the particular inclusions of the assessment.  They cannot fully generate a prognosis for future intelligence nor can they accurately gauge how experiences are processed within each individual child, emotion, self perception, and time of day notwithstanding. Many of the developed nations use IQ assessment tools in order to collect information about the community’s performance and most importantly for the opportunity to express the needs of particular areas.  The following chart allows us to see where intelligence assessment tools are used, however; it is more specific a representation in respect to the Flynn Effect, as where intelligence based on IQ scores, continues to improve over time and dependent on the time the testing were initiated in the particular region (Nagby, n.d.).  The different dates of initiation also give to the understanding that many countries may have had less availability for technology and literacy.

Flynn – world regions

                                   Source: https://ourworldindata.org/intelligence

        To reiterate, these measures are indicative of available data provided through research and do not measure the entire population, nor does it imply that the same assessment or score values were used.  Additionally, assessments for children are different than for adults, however, each may cover different areas such as aptitude, which does not render an accurate view of the examined (Nagby,n.d.) .  If nothing else, the data that comes out of assessments a sure indicators that the world is moving in the right direction towards making the health of our children a product of the competencies within their societies.

References

Berger, K., S. (2016). The Developing Childhood. (7th Ed). Worth Publisher.

Bouche, T., & Rivard, L. (2014). Genetics Generation:  America’s Hidden History. https://www.nature.com/scitable/forums/genetics-generation/america-s-hidden-history-the-eugenics-movement-123919444/

Nagby, M. (n.d.). Intelligence. https://ourworldindata.org/intelligence

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Nutrition

There is no need for me to lecture anyone or bring up statistics about the effects of malnutrition.  It is a sad, painful and pervasive reality for too many families right here in the land of riches and opportunities. Many organizations and generous contributors do what they can to provide food and monetary donations to help less fortunate individuals and families. However; despite all the efforts, many children and families are malnourished.  Taking an initiative to plant a vegetable garden at a community playground is a wonderful opportunity to inform curious bystanders of what you are doing and invite them to join.  So imagine my excitement when I came across an organization that was doing this very thing at a national level.  I came across KidsGardening.org , an organization that promotes wellness through gardening.  Resources in this site are free to use, and subscribing gains you free activities to try with young children.  Not only is gardening a fun way for children to interact, but it also promotes social skills, patience, positive self esteem, interest in our environment and gives them the power to grow foods for consumption. Rather than bogging you down with my biased opinions, I prefer to let you make your own determination of this program and hope you will explore the contents offered. What I will say is that organizations partnering with kidsgardening.org report an increase in student nutritional attitudes among other important statistics.  Giving children the power to change or even brighten their world view from the garden will have a long lasting effect for positive growth and positive industry.   

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Birthing

My pregnancy experiences were well within the context of western laboring practices of birthing in a medical setting, with competent teams to render aid and monitor wellness.  Though my idea was to have vaginal birth, my first child was birthed through emergency C-section, due to the length of dry labor and its impact on the unborn child.  Further, I must add that my frame was far too small to push the almost 10 pound baby out into the world.  Four years later, the second child provided another opportunity to experience the beautiful natural birthing process, however; complications from medical issues and infections prompted a medical decision for a scheduled C-section.  A year later, yet another opportunity presented itself.  This time, with added care from a multidisciplinary team, I was finally able to experience the complexities and joys from a natural birth.  Yes birthing is painful, but since pain holds no memory, the only experience is the overwhelming feeling of joy and awe to be able to bring a life into the world.

            Three births; three different birthing methods.  The only commonality was the level of attention placed in the different developmental stages of fetal growth. Proper nutrition and exercise, continual medical prenatal care and self care allowed me to carry my pregnancies to term.  

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Inspiration Motivation

My previous educational accomplishment lent to the understanding of early childhood in terms of the stages and critical points at which physical and emotional development occurs and of pervasive issues that compromise wellness.  Keeping my focus in the heart, I address family as the central point from which children evolve and grow.  The ideals and principles presented in the Division of Early Childhood (2000) and the National Association for the Education of Young Children (2005) align with my sentiments for a family oriented method of educating and promoting overall wellness.  The field of Early Childhood is community that engages the laden issues that befall our children and all families, one child and one family at a time.  In psychological terms, this equates to the Rogerian Person Centered Approach I learned through a serendipitous engagement in case management (McLeod, 2019).  Being person centered changes the dynamics of engagement and inclusion, which launches us to use current strengths, knowledge and resources that can effectively and positively allow for growth.  Being person centered, or family centered, allows us the opportunity to be learners. It provides for real focus, and real issues, that may get clouded with a universal blanket.  These principles and ideals help us make better choices, and keep us focused on the collective goal.  I have put myself at the chopping block many times in the desire to communicate researched and evidence based initiatives that can be applied to the everyday, if we just took the time to listen.  Children are the most valuable source of information because we learn to see the world from their limited perspective.  Included in Gremi’s Garden blog (http://blogging-for-good.com), the following ideals and principles are words to live by.

From The Division for Early Childhood. (2000). . http://www.dec-sped.org

Enhancement of Children’s and Families’ Quality of Lives Section III #3

 “We shall recognize and respect the dignity, diversity, and autonomy of the families and children we serve.”

Responsive Family Centered Practices Section III #1

 “We shall demonstrate our respect and appreciation for all families’ beliefs, values, customs, languages, and culture relative to their nurturance and support of their children toward achieving meaningful and relevant priorities and outcomes families’ desire for themselves and their children.”

From NAEYC (2005). https://www.naeyc.org/resources/position-statements/ethical- conduct

Section I Ethical responsibility to children.

I-1.1—To be familiar with the knowledge base of early childhood care and education and to stay informed through continuing education and training.

I-1.3—To recognize and respect the unique qualities, abilities, and potential of each child.

Section II Ethical Responsibility to families

I-2.4—To listen to families, acknowledge and build upon their strengths and competencies, and learn from families as we support them in their task of nurturing children.

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Changing Times — Muddling Through My Middle Age

Coping with change has never been my strong point, which could explain why I’m feeling a bit disoriented these days. It seems that the very second I adjust to one new “normal,” everything shifts and then I have to adjust all over again. In my weaker moments, I think that all I want to do […]

Changing Times — Muddling Through My Middle Age
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The Role of Passion in Learning and Teaching

Passion has a motivating factor; therefore, it is a significant need for high quality learning and teaching. Passion is seeking for the new, and experiencing new ideas. Passion is on the basis of effective teaching. Passion which is indispensable for learning and teaching facilitates learning thorough desire and enthusiasm it creates. Passionate teachers via creating effective learning environments endeavor to increase learning potentials of their students. This study focuses on differences passionate teachers make, and points out the effects of passion on effective learning and teaching.

https://www.researchgate.net/publication/320661401_The_Role_of_Passion_in_Learning_and_Teaching

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Why do we keep asking ?

Is early intervention effective?

U Bronfenbrenner – Teachers College Record, 1974 – psycnet.apa.orgReviews early intervention studies in the area of poverty and human development. It is
concluded that (a) such efforts succeed only with sustained family involvement, and (b)
ecological interventions must provide parents with a basis for such involvement (eg, health
care, housing, or employment). A sequence of interventions is suggested which would
prepare people for parenthood and provide support in phases as needed through
adolescence.

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Gremi’s Garden Grows

Good day fellow scholars: I began my road to profession during my high school years. I started at a day care center. During my stead, I pursued my love for hospitality and enrolled at the Hudson County Community College Culinary Arts program. Since then, I dedicated a good portion of time in the food and beverage industry. I was always too happy to work and be engaged in every aspect, including doing dishes and mopping to bathrooms and trash. I learned early on that hard work and dedication defined who I was, who I am, and who I will be. During a time of temporary relocation I took on a role as Case Manager for a mostly Hispanic community. Here I fell in love with psychology. Soon after going back home I enrolled in the Psychology program at Argosy University in Sarasota Florida. I applied much of what I learned to how I performed my duties, how I made hiring choices, and more importantly, how to be. On the home front, I applied what I learned when engaging with my family and friends, and in doing so, I have been privileged to inspire my grandchildren grow up with curiosity and a deep love for adventure. My family is my ultimate love, and my grandkids are my greatest motivators for wanting to pursue an educational path that allows me the opportunity to inspire a young mind. Taking a moment to reflect, I have come full circle. Evaluating the things that I have done, and the strides I have made towards positive professional growth, I return to the place where it all began, school and child care. 

Pruning, potting, and regenerating. I dare you😉
My personal cheer meister

Gender, Gender Identity and Sexual Orientation: The painted picture.

Homophobia and heterosexism permeate the world of young children including books, movies, toys, stores, culture of early childhood centers, and schools.  The readings in the course so far have discussed the manner in which family beliefs have influenced specific aspects of identity, particularly of gender, gender identity and sexual orientation. Heterosexism is the extreme social measure that propagates appropriate identities for social acceptance or expectations and are also strongly expressed in media, toy store marketing, books, and children’s programs.

Fifty five years of the prescribed princess image, of being of faired skin with rosy cheeks, beautiful blonde locks, and in need of protection. In 1992, Disney introduced Jasmine as the first princess of color since the debut of the first princess in 1937, Snow White.

Toy stores lavish sections designed to captivate female children with sparkles, fancy lettering, and colorful and gender role depicted packaging in areas that are in visual line for children to see. Boy’s sections are filled with combat, artillery, aggressive sports equipment, cars and trucks that distinguish they particular forms of engagement as gender specific, for males as depicted in the packaging.

Many of the recently visited educational centers now have anti-biased play areas where children can pretend to be whatever they choose. However, I recall many centers where dress up corners were separated by gender, without the opportunities for children to explore other alternatives in role play.

As innocent and as common place as these practices used to be, they open the door for mixed messages, conflict, dissonance, and impaired identity development. When children interpret these messages on their own, they can identify these stereotypes as some sort of truth about who and what they are supposed to be. When they discover that in the absence of such acculturation, growth may be stifled through low self-esteem, the inability to identify with such groups, and withdrawal. Supporting growth means acknowledging the multitude of influences and the multitude of identities that children will try on or discard as they attempt to find their own identity. Anti-bias education will open the doors to such discussions and inquiries that allow children the opportunity to be okay with who they chose to be.

My collaborative community

Entering this course, I did not truly understand communication or its processes as I understand it now. I am grateful to my colleagues for their contributions. Communication and collaboration requires mindfulness, commitment and effort, not only to understand other, but also to be understood. Miscommunication can present themselves even in the most productive communication scenarios, and it is our responsibility to be competent in the issues that we commit to be a part of, and always apply ethical consideration for others, both young and old. Even though time has not been on my side for the past several months, the contributions of my peers have provided a clearer picture of the varying factors that educators encounter, and the challenges that we face in light of all that interferes with the process of communication. Thank you all for sharing your stories and providing so much food for thought. Upon further reflection, the openness in which my peers have included and validated me as an educator in the early childhood field. I am very appreciative of the honesty in sharing the obstacles that are unique for teachers and administrators, which proved to be most beneficial when communicating with school personnel.