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

Thinking of Research

Nutrition has been at the center of much research.  It has been linked to future ailments, neonatal deficiencies (Fall, 2013), cognitive function, behavioral issues, physical developmental wellness, and emotional stress (Martins, et al., 2011; Schoemaker, et al., 2015; World health Organization, 2020), not to leave behind the chronic stress that food insecurities can express (Black, 2012).  During the past two political landscapes, the nutritional value of school meals have been redesign to meet the nutritional standards in the inclusion of more fruits and vegetables, whole grains, and a reduction in sugar and salt (USDA, 2014), and more recently during the previous administration to allow schools more control of food service, providing for the nutritional balance best suited for local preference (USDA, 2018).  In the spirit of advocating for early childhood and families, my simulation has the possibility of shedding light on what the local preferences is and how focused nutritional implementation can be attained that will service the particular population.  Population demographics will provide further agreement in understanding how the particular populations perceive of nutrition. Additionally, data acquired about mental wellness within its operational definition can lend to further inquiries or explorations about how to best apply the nutritional components necessary for healthy development.

I anticipate that conducting my simulation proposal will benefit early learners, educators, and families. I reason that my simulation will inform policy makers, educational administrators, and ultimately National School Lunch and Breakfast Programs. Blanket policy for the provision of nutritional components need to take the populations needs into consideration.  Further, my simulation proposal may benefit other inquiring minds that may want to study any of the other variables that may arise from the individual narrative that the participants will provide.

My perception of the early childhood profession has been strengthened as a result of this course. I am able to look at research and researchers in a whole new light.  As we move towards the endless need to stay informed, I am better equipped to understand the key components of the presenting studies.  What’s more, I understand that I may have to make Trochim, Donnelly, & Arora (2016) a daily companion to ensure competencies in this most important practice in becoming a more rounded agent of change.

Special thanks go out to my peers and professor for providing such interesting topics, perspectives, and personal reflections.

References

Black, M. (2012, June). Household food insecurities: Threats to children’s well-being. The SES Indicator Newsletter. http://www.apa.org/pi/ses/resources/indicator/2012/06/household-food-insecurities

Fall C. H. (2013). Fetal malnutrition and long-term outcomes. Nestle Nutrition Institute workshop series, 74, 11–25. https://doi.org/10.1159/000348384

Martins, V. J., Toledo Florêncio, T. M., Grillo, L. P., do Carmo P Franco, M., Martins, P. A., Clemente, A. P., Santos, C. D., de Fatima A Vieira, M., & Sawaya, A. L. (2011). Long-lasting effects of undernutrition. International journal of environmental research and public health, 8(6), 1817–1846. https://doi.org/10.3390/ijerph8061817

Schoenmaker, C., Juffer, F., van IJzendoorn, M. H., van den Dries, L., Linting, M., van deVoort, A., & Bakermans-Kranenburg, M. J. (2015). Cognitive and health-related outcomes after exposure to early malnutrition: The Leiden longitudinal study of international adoptees. Children and Youth Services Review, 48, 80–86. https://doi-org.ezp.waldenulibrary.org/10.1016/j.childyouth.2014.12.010

USDA, (2014). Proposed Rule: Local chools wellness policy implementation under the Healthy-Hunger Free Kids Act. 2010. https://www.federalregister.gov/articles/2014/02/26/2014-04100/local-school-wellness-policy-implementation-under-the-healthy-hunger-free-kids-act-of-2010

USDA (2018). Final Rule: Final Rule: Child Nutrition Program Flexibilities for Milk, Whole Grains, and Sodium Requirements. https://www.fns.usda.gov/cn/fr-121218  

World Health Organization, (2020). Malnutrition. https://www.who.int/news-room/fact-sheets/detail/malnutrition

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

Technology and Research

Autism is a neurodevelopment disorder that has come to be understood in terms of behavioral difficulties with social communication, social interaction, and activities, apparent restricted and repetitive patterns in behaviors, and interests (Weiss, Baker & Butler, 2016).  What is interesting about this diagnosis is that it has changed in name, and classification through the progress of research.  During the early 1900’s, Autism was believed to be a condition of schizophrenia in children (Parents, 2014). Rigorous and careful attention has gone into research that sheds new light for interventions, resources and support.

It is certain that the inquiry into Autism is far from exhausted, quite the contrary.  Technological advances through the eras have enabled the scientific community to peer further into this neurodevelopment disorder. The following links are recent studies that continue to illuminate on the condition now known as the Autism Spectrum Disorder.

The National Institute of Mental Health Information Resource Center (2017) Neuroimaging Technique May Help Predict Autism among High-Risk Infants. https://www.nimh.nih.gov/news/science-news/2017/neuroimaging-technique-may-help-predict-autism-among-high-risk-infants.shtml

The National Institute of Mental Health Information Resource Center (2018, May 30). Inherited Variations in Noncoding Sections of DNA Associated with Autism. https://www.nimh.nih.gov/news/science-news/2018/inherited-variations-in-noncoding-sections-of-dna-associated-with-autism.shtm

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.  

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.  

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.

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)

Expanding Horizons

In an interview with Meridas Yora, founder of an institution for Islamic education, also Director of 3 boarding schools established to house orphan children of conflict and more than 120, 000 orphan children as a result of the 2004 Indian Ocean earthquake and tsunami, speaks about the holistic approach that has made a difference in the lives of the children.  He first underscore that after having many psychologists working with the children, they realized that the teachers where the ones that could provide for the children.  Special training was required for the educators in the boarding schools as they needed to become the “mothers and fathers” before becoming the educators. Mr. Yora attributes the well being of the children to the holistic concepts that allow children to have a hand in their recovery and those around them.  Older children looking after the young ones, has been instrumental in creating a family dynamic that is present in the educational component as well as in the interactions within the dormitories.  Yora reminds us that the children experience their trauma every day, particularly the children of conflicts that witnessed the slaughter of their families, and who continue to be re-traumatized by their expectations of being reunited with their families.  

 Source:

World Forum Foundation Radio. Available at: http://www.viaway.com/category/2691-21490/world-forum-radio

The Center on the Developing Child: Harvard University (2006) offers a position similar to the holistic goals of Yora’s Institutions.  Understanding the current status of disparities offers an opportunity to look towards other more innovative opportunities by reviewing what science has to say.  To that end, the Center on the Developing Child, engages in a mission “to drive science-based innovation that achieves breakthrough outcomes for children facing adversity” (p. 2).  In moving forward there are some considerations to working from a different direction.  Science provides a fresh look into opportunities that may not have been possible, and available now through scientific advances. Science allows for new thinking.  Innovation is the mode for change.  Rather than relying on restructuring existing practice, innovation provides an avenue for tackling the slow moving change of policy and service delivery. Innovation provides the opportunity for risk, creative thinking, sharing, and adaptation. A distribution of leadership is the third application that centers on the common goal of doing better for children. This approach allows for the opportunity for the multidisciplinary field to take action and be responsive to our communities.  In their global effort, the Center on the Developing child takes its stand asserting that “Our Center is well-positioned and prepared to convene and lead this collective effort” (p. 3).

Source:

Center for the Developing Child: Harvard University (2006). A Strategy to Achieve Breakthrough Outcomes for Children Facing Adversity. https://46y5eh11fhgw3ve3ytpwxt9r-wpengine.netdna-ssl.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/05/Center-on-the-Developing-Child-Case-Statement-Executive-Summary.pdf

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