Jennifer Gioia, Communications Manager at Child Care Services Association
on November 20, since 1954, the world celebrates Universal Children’s Day to
spread awareness of improving child welfare worldwide, promoting and
celebrating children’s rights and promoting togetherness and awareness amongst
all children.  With Thanksgiving so close, we would like you to
join us in taking a moment and thanking those who work tirelessly every day to
improve the lives of our youngest children.
Whether that’s a parent, an early childhood
educator, a doctor, child care provider, government leader, grandparent,
volunteer, nurse, religious leader, an advocate for children, or a friend, we
at Child Care Services Association (CCSA) thank you for your dedication and
leadership to ensuring the mission that every child deserves access to
affordable, high-quality child care and education.
high-quality early childhood education?
High-quality early childhood education is
critical to a child’s development by creating a stimulating, safe and loving
environment for children birth to 5.  “A high-quality program
uses teaching approaches that support a child’s learning and curriculum goals.
Teachers modify strategies to respond to the needs of individual children, and
provide learning opportunities through both indoor and outdoor play.” 
“Quality programs are comprehensive.” 
High-quality child birth-to-five programs have lasting boosts in cognition and
socio-emotional skills driving better education, health, social and economic
outcomes.  Research shows that “high-quality birth-to-five
programs for disadvantaged children can deliver a 13% return on investment,”
which means children are more likely to graduate high school, go to college,
have a family and live a happier, more successful life. 
On Giving Tuesday (December 3), consider
investing in our children—our future. At Child Care Services Association, we’re
all about children. From helping children build healthy behaviors in what they
eat and how they play to making sure their teachers are qualified, trained and
adequately paid, CCSA focuses on a child’s early years, aiming to make them
happy, stable and secure.
all children have that start—a healthy foundation—we all do better.
Children are happier and more ready to enter
school, parents are secure in knowing their child is being cared for and
educated in a stable environment, and early childhood educators have the
resources they need to continue their education and can support their families
while pursuing the career they love.
At CCSA, we’re also all about making sure all
children have that healthy foundation. To have that healthy foundation, all
children need more stable relationships with better-educated and fairly
compensated teachers that stay in their jobs.
In fact, research shows that early experiences
are particularly important for the brain development of children of color and
children from low-income families.
“The highest rate of return in early childhood
development comes from investing as early as possible, from birth through age
five, in disadvantaged families. The best investment is in quality early
childhood development from birth to five for disadvantaged children and their
At CCSA, we use research, services and
advocacy to build a healthy foundation for every child because we believe all
children deserve the best start at their best life.
you invest in high-quality early childhood education?
Give to CCSA today! Your gift may help support
a parent who is starting a new job through our referral and scholarship programs
or a child care teacher who wants to finish an early childhood education degree
through our scholarship and compensation programs.
Our work results in enormous benefits for
children, families and the community. Help us make sure every child has a good
start to lifelong learning in a safe, nurturing, quality environment.
Care Services Association works to ensure affordable, accessible, high-quality
child care for all young children and their families by supporting our future leaders—young
children—and those that educate them. And we’re always looking for fresh ideas
and new ways to do just that. Each semester, CCSA hires interns from
surrounding colleges and universities to help drive our goals, better
understand our communities and support future leadership. This spring and summer,
we had three incredible future leaders here at CCSA.
We are pleased to share what our interns said about working with CCSA:
Katie Thayer interned spring 2019 as
a graduating senior from UNC-Chapel Hill working in our Family Support
department. After graduating in May with her bachelor’s in human development and family
studies, she was hired full-time as the family engagement counselor for
Durham PreK and now works alongside the Durham County Government initiative to
ensure high-quality pre-K for all Durham County 4-year-olds.
“Interning at CCSA has been an incredible education and work experience for me…Through my internship, I worked on many different projects throughout the organization. I was able to develop relationships with people from each department and other Durham-based organizations, and I learned so much about pre-K, early childhood and nonprofit organizations. Everyone at CCSA has treated me like one of their own since my first day, and they’re always willing to help when I need it.
“I spent most of my time helping the Durham PreK Senior Manager, Alex Livas-Dlott, with Durham PreK applications, screening children for pre-K, planning teacher events and surveying teachers on family engagement practices in the classroom. Now, I have added community outreach for family applications and social media to my list of daily activities as the family engagement counselor.
“Being an intern at CCSA was a wonderful experience, and I am so glad I have the opportunity to stay.“
Colleen Burns, a rising junior from
UNC-Chapel Hill majoring in anthropology and biology, spent her summer
interning in CCSA’s Communications department and spearheading the Anchors
Away! for CCSA Awareness campaign on our social media and blog.
“Almost every student’s concern when starting an internship is, “How much of this will be gaining experience versus me just being someone’s assistant?” Working at CCSA has truly been nothing but an enriching experience.
“This summer, I had the opportunity to create and launch a social media campaign to spread awareness about CCSA and its many different programs. This was a big undertaking as CCSA operates so many programs, projects and initiatives. At first, I wasn’t really sure how to cover this extensive nonprofit adequately, and when I originally came up with the idea for Anchors Away! for CCSA Awareness, even I was skeptical if the amount of workload needed to run this campaign was possible. However, I received a ton of support from the Communications Manager, Jennifer Gioia, and when we presented the campaign to Marsha Basloe, the president, she believed in us.
“As soon as the campaign kicked off, it was at full speed. A large process of the campaign was ensuring the other programs were on board and willing to work with us as we gathered information for daily content, including interviews and videos. Overall, we had a huge amount of support for this campaign as the staff and community were excited to not only see their own program featured but also learn things about the other programs CCSA operates.
“This has been an insightful and rewarding experience for me, not just for the communication and social media skills I earned, but also for learning about the issues that affect our community. Through the campaign, I was able to read and listen to the many testimonials given about CCSA’s efforts to strengthen quality child care for children, families and teachers. So many people appreciate the various resources CCSA provides. Even if only for the summer, I am grateful to be a part of something that is making a difference in the community.“
Our third intern to highlight is
Sarah Hanson, a Master of
Public Administration student at UNC-Chapel Hill. She has been interning at
CCSA since May in two departments, both in the Administration and the Systems,
Research and Development departments.
“In Systems, Research and Development, my main task is following up on workforce surveys that were sent out in April. Many of the surveys were missing crucial information and needed clarification in order to properly assess and analyze the data.
“In Administration, I had the opportunity to observe a Board Orientation. It helped me better understand the non-profit process. I am updating board committee descriptions and the Board of Directors Manual. I’m also creating an e-manual for Administration where the documents are all located in one e-manual making them easily accessible from anywhere.
“Throughout the summer, I have learned about the importance of research and accurate data collection in policy and program development and implementation. It is necessary to improve and expand the services the organization provides. I have also learned more about how policy and funding impact non-profits and the services they provide. Oftentimes, the importance of early childhood education is overlooked even though it plays a critical role in child development. CCSA is working to change that.“
My children were born in the late ‘70s, and I remember as a young parent having discussions with our realtor about whether there was lead in the paint of the very old house we were buying. Almost all houses built before 1970, at least in the U.S., contain some form of lead paint. The house we were buying was built much before 1970, and it was clear that we would have to sand and paint every room, change the plumbing and all the good things that come with owning an old home. And fortunately, we did all of that over time, very carefully.
I will admit, however, that I do not remember
if lead testing was one of the many conversations I had with our pediatrician
about the health and safety of our children. Today, however, it is an essential conversation to have!
Lead Poisoning Today
Lead poisoning has been in the news a lot over
the last few months due to the concerning levels of lead found in the water
supply of child care programs and its potential impact on the health and safety
of the surrounding community. Currently, North Carolina does not require
testing water for lead in child care programs, unless a child is found to have
elevated blood lead levels. The news has been especially alarming for parents
and families who work hard to keep their children safe and on a path to reach
their fullest potential. Lead in the public water supply threatens that daily
This issue is not only an issue specific to child care programs: An estimated 10 million Americans get drinking water from pipes that are at least partially lead.
Young Children are the Most at Risk
Young children are especially at risk of harm
from lead. Babies and young children’s bodies are still developing and are in a
critical life stage for brain development. When they are exposed to lead from
water or other sources, it enters directly into the bloodstream where it can harm
developing organs, muscles and bones. Infants who rely on formula get 100% of
their nutritional intake from water. If that water is tainted with lead, they
get an enormous dose of it compared with older children and adults.
Research shows there really is no safe level
of lead exposure for a child. Even at the lowest levels of exposure, lead can
reduce IQ and harm a child’s ability to concentrate and focus in school. These
effects are permanent and can affect a child’s education, health outcomes and
long-term earning potential.
Lead poisoning is preventable by identifying lead before children are harmed. The most important step that parents, teachers and others can take is to prevent lead exposure before it occurs. The North Carolina Commission for Public Health is proposing a change to a child care sanitation regulation that will significantly reduce exposure to lead for some of the youngest and most vulnerable children in our state. With U.S. Environment Protection Agency grant money to pay for the first round of testing, North Carolina can work to make drinking water safer for infants and young children without adding to child care costs.
Prevention: The Proposed Child Care
We all know that prevention is the best medicine. The proposed child care sanitation rule is an example of a good preventative approach to lead exposure. The following requirements included in the proposed rule will help ensure that it protects children from potential lead in child care drinking and food prep water:
for lead in drinking and food prep water every three years – Lead levels in water can fluctuate over time. Changes in water source
or chemistry can cause leaching of lead from pipes into water, increasing water
lead levels. This is what led to the Flint water crisis.
Additionally, unforeseen plumbing problems such as a dirty aerator or a partial
clog can release lead from pipes into drinking and food prep water. Finally,
improper maintenance of filters by child care operators can decrease the
effectiveness of mitigation measures taken to prevent lead exposure.
all buildings despite age – Buildings constructed
after the 1986 Lead Ban may still pose a significant risk of lead contamination
in drinking and food prep water. The ban, effective as of 1988, defined “lead
free” as materials containing less than 8% lead, which allowed lead to remain
in pipes that convey drinking water to homes and in fixtures and faucets in
homes. An amendment to the Safe Drinking Water Act, effective as of 2014,
redefined “lead free to require faucets and pipes to contain less than 0.25%
lead; as such buildings constructed between 1988 and 2014 can still contain
plumbing and fixtures with significant lead content.” Testing all
buildings despite age will ensure that no building poses a considerable risk of
all taps – The concentration of lead in one tap is not
indicative of the concentration of lead in all taps in a building. Lead
concentration across taps can vary because lead can originate from an
individual faucet, a dirty aerator or a filter that hasn’t been changed.
Therefore, it is critical to test all taps to ensure safe child care center
drinking and food prep water.
What You Can Do
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has information on lead poisoning that you can read and share.
Talk with your health care provider about lead
screening. Lead screening measures the level of lead in the blood through a
blood test in the finger or vein. It is important. Lead is a toxin that is particularly
dangerous for young children because of their small size and rapid growth and
development. It can cause behavioral and learning difficulties, anemia,
seizures and other medical problems. A lead test is the only way to know if
your child has lead poisoning. Most children who have lead poisoning do not
look or act sick. Talk to your doctor about this.
Child Care Services Association (CCSA)
provides free referral services to families seeking child care, technical
assistance to child care businesses and educational scholarships and salary
supplements to child care professionals through the T.E.A.C.H. Early Childhood®,
Child Care WAGE$® and Infant-Toddler Educator AWARD$ Programs.
Through the T.E.A.C.H. Early Childhood National Center, CCSA licenses its
successful programs to states across the country and provides consultation to
others addressing child care concerns. Ensuring that every young child can grow
and learn in a healthy and safe learning environment is central to our mission.
CCSA supports the adoption of this rule that
would protect thousands of babies and children from lead exposure in child care
drinking and food prep water. Additionally, requiring cost-effective mitigation
where elevated lead water levels are found will have the added benefit of
getting rid of other harmful toxicants such as copper and chlorine by-products.
In North Carolina, public health officials
have been working for more than 30 years to eliminate childhood lead poisoning,
and have come very close to doing so. Childhood blood lead levels have dropped
dramatically population-wide. Unfortunately, some pockets of high exposure
remain. Ending lead exposure in drinking and food prep water is an important
step to move us toward the goal of no lead exposure for our state’s young
children. The proposed amendment will help get us there.
The best way to protect kids from lead exposure is to be proactive about getting rid of lead, rather than waiting for a child to be found with elevated levels in their blood. To do so, we must be willing to get rid of toxic lead in children’s environments. This rule will help us do just that. You can show your support of this rule and submit your comment to the North Carolina Commission for Public Health by August 2, 2019.
PED was right – addressing the achievement gap requires much more attention to a child’s earliest years. While Pre-K expansion was recommended, research points to the birth to age 3 period of a child’s life as the time when the largest impact on a child’s development is possible. This period of early childhood must also be taken into account as we plan for the future for all NC families.
PED was charged with reviewing school districts nationwide with high poverty rates and at least average achievement by students to see if there were common strategies that could be used within North Carolina school districts. The project addressed three research questions,
are the characteristics of school districts that have high percentages of
economically disadvantaged students yet demonstrate high academic performance?
policies or practices are high-achieving disadvantaged districts implementing
that may contribute to student performance?
policies or practices could North Carolina implement in order to improve
performance in districts with high percentages of economically disadvantaged
The results were sobering. PED found that local school districts throughout the country struggled in attaining grade level or better student performance. In fact, PED identified only 5% of predominantly economically disadvantaged school districts that also had grade level or better student performance over a 7-year period. Within North Carolina, 45 of 115 school districts were identified as predominantly economically disadvantaged, which is about 39% of North Carolina school districts. Of those 45 school districts, only 7 (about 16%) met the bar of student performance at grade level (or above). While higher than the national average, 16% is nothing to boast about.
What PED found was that within economically disadvantaged school districts where students are performing well (at grade level or above), third grade is an important marker. Student growth occurs after 3rd grade but that efforts to address student competencies before grade 3 are most important in reducing the achievement gap.
PED conducted interviews within 12 economically disadvantaged school districts (comparable to school districts within North Carolina) with grade level (or above) student performance to see if there were any common strategies that led to higher student outcomes. One of the factors that the 12 school districts had in common was a significant investment in public pre-kindergarten (pre-K). Pre-K in two of the school districts (Durant Independent School District in Oklahoma and Steubenville City Schools in Ohio) target both three- and four-year-old children for enrollment. Four of the five North Carolina counties in which case study districts were located had 75% or more of eligible children participating in NC Pre-K.
However, PED notes that current funding enables only 47% of low-income eligible children statewide to participate in NC Pre-K.
The PED report makes two
Recommendation #1. The General Assembly should require low-performing school districts to include an early childhood improvement plan as a component of their required plans for improvement. PED calls for the development of specific strategies aimed at boosting achievement from pre-K to 3rd grade and lists expanding pre-K, improving pre-K quality, ensuring alignment of pre-K curricula with elementary school curricula, developing transition plans, providing professional development that focuses on early learning and providing instructional coaching focused on pre-kK through 3rd grade.
Recommendation #2. The General Assembly should require an assessment of early childhood learning as part of the Department of Public Instruction’s comprehensive needs assessment process for districts.
While those of us who have worked in the early childhood education field are glad to see the recommendations related to pre-K, and agree the NC Pre-K program should be fully-funded so all eligible children have an opportunity to participate, children are not born at age four.
Research shows that pre-K makes a difference in a child’s school readiness, particularly for low-income children. However, that same research also notes that a child’s gains in pre-K are directly related to his or her prior experiences before pre-K.
Neuroscience research shows that a child’s earliest years, from birth to age three, play a critical role in the development of brain wiring that lays a foundation for all future learning. In the first years of life, more than one million neural connections are formed every second.
This wiring frames the architecture upon which all future abilities are built. While people learn throughout their lives, a child’s earliest years are critical because they set the foundation. Genes and experiences help shape a young child’s brain development, which begin long before a child enters pre-K. And, remediation strategies are much more difficult as children (and adults) age.
According to the U.S. Census
Bureau’s latest data, throughout North Carolina:
356,007 children are under age three
465,783 children are under age six who also have working parents (young children residing in two-parent families where both parents work or in a single-parent family where the head of household works)
Young children with working mothers are in child care every week for about 36 hours according to the Census Bureau. Most of these children are not age four; they are not in pre-K. This is why any directive to the General Assembly to address the achievement gap, which rightly calls for addressing the early childhood landscape, has to not only focus on access to pre-K but also must focus on access to high-quality child care and the early childhood workforce that cares for our youngest children.
We applaud PED’s call for low performing school districts to include an early childhood improvement plan and an assessment of early learning opportunities as part of district comprehensive needs assessments. However, early learning is not limited to pre-K settings. High-quality child care programs are important early learning settings at all ages. Any needs assessment and early childhood improvement plans that are derived from such a landscape review must include our youngest children. Child development, school readiness and reducing the achievement gap depend on it.
As the President of
Child Care Services Association, a mother and a grandmother, I have been
following the advancement of HB 485, the Virtual Early Learning Pilot program, under
consideration by the North Carolina State Legislature. The 3-year pilot would
allow up to 10 school districts to offer online pre-k to at-risk, 4 year-old
children, at a cost of $500,000 per year for the next three years.
I know that every year,
state legislators are forced to make difficult decisions in allocating state
funding. I can imagine that there is great pressure with these decisions and
that legislators look for ways to save money, while still achieving intended
outcomes. With regard to state pre-k funding and the goal to have all children
throughout North Carolina enter school with the skills to succeed, it is
important for legislators to understand how young children learn and what
school readiness really means.
Decades of research show that the greatest gains made by children in pre-k occur where teacher interactions with children promote critical thinking skills as well as concept knowledge through warm and responsive relationships. This isn’t by chance. It’s by design. It’s in-person. It’s individualized to meet each child where he or she is at to build on strengths and build up areas that are not as strong.
have shown the importance of “instructional, social, and emotional serve-and-return
interactions that occur daily between teachers and children, as well as among
classmates” that result in
developmental gains across early childhood domains (e.g., social and emotional,
language and literacy, critical thinking and physical development). These
interactions “motivate and deepen
learning, enable children to organize and focus their attention and other
capacities needed to learn, and promote peer cooperation and support,”
which comprise the foundation for school readiness. It’s about soft-skill
development as well as concept development related to letters and numbers.
In my career, I’ve had
the opportunity to visit pre-k classrooms and talk to pre-k teachers. Too many
of our at-risk 4 year-olds haven’t been read to; they don’t know that books
contain words and pictures that tell a story, that letters have sounds and that
stories have a sequence – a beginning, a middle and an end. Some have never
held a pencil or colored with crayons or written their name. Some haven’t held
a pair of scissors or developed the dexterity to use a pencil or have ever put
together a puzzle. You would think by age 4, children would know colors and
basic shapes, but some do not.
The same children might know how to watch a video
on a parent’s phone, but they can’t wait their turn or share, they can’t
transition between activities and they don’t know how to use their words to
express their thoughts or feelings in a group setting – to lead, follow or just
get along with peers. They may or may not have consistent rules at home so they
don’t know how to manage themselves appropriately and follow rules in a
classroom. These are soft-skills that are learned in a hands-on experience that
can’t be learned through a computer lesson.
programs also screen children for vision, hearing, speech and physical
development and help identify children who could benefit from early
intervention services in areas where there may be a delay. None of this can
occur through an online preschool experience – at least not in an effective
The NC Pre-K program
works. Studies have found that NC Pre-K raises children’s literacy, math and
social-emotional skills not just for kindergarten entry
but also throughout elementary school and the most recent research shows gains
through middle school.
teachers are asked what school readiness means and what skills are most
important for school readiness, their top responses include: children who can
regulate their impulses, pay attention, listen to and follow directions, be
willing to try different tasks (e.g., have self-confidence), engage in self-care,
get along with peers and have motor skills such as the ability to hold a
Despite the strong
evaluations of NC Pre-K, current funding supports fewer than half of eligible
children. To me, the answer should be to adequately fund NC Pre-K so that 4
year-old children can attend, not divert resources to an online preschool that
misses the mark on what matters most for early childhood development –
effective interactions with children. Not screen time.
There is still time to course correct on state budget issues. We don’t need a 3-year pilot that diverts $1.5 million from additional pre-k seats for children. Let’s put every dollar possible into expanding what works. And, for 4-year old children, that’s a setting that promotes interactions with teachers and peers.
 The Current State of Scientific Knowledge on Pre-Kindergarten Effects, Deborah A. Phillips of Georgetown University, Mark W. Lipsey of Vanderbilt University, Kenneth A. Dodge of Duke University, Ron Haskins of the Brookings Institution, Daphna Bassok of the University of Virginia, Margaret R. Burchinal of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Greg J. Duncan of the University of California-Irvine, Mark Dynarski of the Brookings Institution, Katherine A. Magnuson of the University of Wisconsin-Madison, and Christina Weiland of the University of Michigan. (2017). https://www.brookings.edu/wp-content/uploads/2017/04/duke_prekstudy_final_4-4-17_hires.pdf
Millions of Americans live with mental illness. With May just passing as National Mental Health Awareness Month, it is important to recognize that prevention and early intervention are the solutions to a healthier, happier life. 1The National Alliance on Mental Illness records 1 in 5 (46.6 million) U.S. adults experience mental illness at least once in their lifetime, and “half of all lifetime mental health conditions begin by age 14 and 75% by age 25, but early intervention programs can help.” 2
One dependable way to intervene and prevent mental illness is recognizing it as early as possible, since even infants and young children can have mental and developmental disorders. 3 Healthy social and emotional development is the foundation for brain development in young children, and high-quality early care and education is a large piece of that development.
With this high-quality child care and education, infants and
toddlers, “who engage with responsive, consistent and nurturing caregivers, are
more likely to have strong emotional health throughout life.” 3
Supports such as T.E.A.C.H., WAGE$ and AWARD$ help child care teachers further
their education and receive additional compensation, allowing them to continue
teaching and caring for our youngest children.
While having happy, educated and stable teachers improves
the quality of care and education a child receives, child care can still be unaffordable
for parents, especially if they have more than one child in need of care. CCSA’s
free child care referral services simplify the child care search, helping parents
focus on what’s truly important for their specific child’s needs without worrying
about another expense. “Ensuring all families
have access to affordable, high-quality child care can help mitigate some of
the impacts of poverty and prepare children for success in school and beyond.” 4
However, even with affordable and positive early childhood
experiences and stable educators, mental health and developmental delays can be
seen as early as infancy. 3
“Children can show clear characteristics of
anxiety disorders, attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder, conduct disorder,
depression, posttraumatic stress disorder, and neurodevelopmental disabilities,
such as autism, at a very early age. That said, young children respond to
and process emotional experiences and traumatic events in ways that are very
different from adults and older children. Consequently, diagnosis in early
childhood can be much more difficult than it is in adults.” 5
It is important to identify and treat mental health
disorders as early as possible to reduce impairment, suffering and effects on
overall health and development. 3
However, it can be difficult to identify mental health illness in young
children, and parents may turn to their child’s doctors or teachers for
guidance. “If properly identified using diagnostic criteria relevant to infant
and early childhood development and experiences, many of these challenges can
be effectively treated.” 3
“It is clear that state agencies [also] must attend to the
mental health needs of infants and young children if they want to improve
health and developmental outcomes, prevent impairment due to early adversity,
provide trauma-informed care, and ultimately, see better returns on investment.
Adopting an age-appropriate diagnosis and treatment is a significant step
toward assuring better overall health for infants, young children, and their
and the teachers who educate and nurture our youngest.
Week of the Young Child is an annual week-long celebration with themed days hosted by NAEYC to spotlight early learning, young children, their teachers, families and communities. The themes are “Music Monday,” “Tasty Tuesday,” “Work Together Wednesday,” “Artsy Thursday” and “Family Friday.”
For “Artsy Thursday,” Mati Vassallo,
Family Support Bilingual Referral Counselor, visited Chapel Hill Cooperative
Preschool where Kathryn, a 2-3 year old teacher, and Silva, a 3-5 year old
teacher, shared how they celebrate through an annual children’s art show. They
invited families, friends and the community to celebrate and explore the
children’s creative expression.
“This art show is a celebration and a
great example of the work we do here at the preschool. It aligns with our
philosophy of celebrating each individual child, exploring their strengths and
abilities and bringing out their best work,” said Kathryn.
“It’s not only a time…to celebrate the
richness of the children’s work and their creations, but it’s also really a
time to celebrate art and to celebrate community. It goes so much beyond just
the artistic creations in the way that it draws us and everyone together…That
is something we really enjoy and love to do,” said Silva.
For “Family Friday”, Katie Thayer, UNC
intern and Family Engagement Counselor, visited Director Ada Terry and Lead
Teacher Crystal Boycher in the Durham PreK classroom at Childcare Network #57 to discuss their family
engagement strategies. In addition to having a School Improvement Team and
Parent Advisory Board, they send out daily newsletters, invite parents to
volunteer, provide resources to families and host celebrations for their
families and children.
Crystal’s favorite family engagement
activity at Childcare Network #57 is asking the parents to help with school
improvement plans, such as redoing the playground and painting the fence. “We
also invite parents out to visit the classroom. For Week of the Young Child, we
are doing an ice cream social on Friday,” said Crystal.
Save the date for next year’s Week of the Young Child April 13-17.
Written by Kayli Watson, Spring 2019 Communications Intern from UNC Chapel Hill
Health experts have always stressed eating healthy and being active. Instilling these values at an early age can be the first steps for a longer, healthier life for children. Children enrolled in child care may consume between 50 percent and 100 percent of their Recommended Dietary Allowances (RDA) while in care. Child care programs have a chance to provide the foundation for a healthy life, in terms of food consumption and levels of activity. Child Care Services Association (CCSA) has worked to create programs to help early care centers in multiple ways, including healthy eating and active play.
CCSA implemented Shape NC to increase the number of children starting kindergarten at a healthy weight. The project promotes healthy eating and active play for children from birth-5 years old by working with child care programs to instill healthy behaviors and create a solid foundation for a healthy life. Shape NC integrates multiple research-based models to provide an in-depth approach to childhood obesity prevention. It combines evidence-based programs to create a comprehensive approach in partnership with the following statewide programs: Be Active Kids®, Preventing Obesity by Design and the Nutrition and Physical Activity Self Assessment for Child Care (Go NAP SACC).
Little Engine Academy in Durham, N.C.
Like other centers, Little Engine Academy benefits from several of CCSA’s programs, including Shape NC. Kathy Smith, the center’s owner, shared how she became involved in early childhood education and created Little Engine Academy. “It was something I always wanted to do,” Smith said, “The previous owners contacted me to say that they were closing and to see if I was interested, and I jumped on the bandwagon thinking it would probably take a month to open. It actually took about three months.” While Kathy has been managing Little Engine Academy since November 2008, the center has only been involved in Shape NC for a year.
Little Engine Academy is also working to add more healthy meals to their menus through various programs. “We like to talk to the kids about what they eat, explain where the food came from and why they should be eating it,” Smith said.
Outdoor Learning Environment
For Smith and the children at Little Engine Academy, one of the most exciting aspects of Shape NC is re-building their outdoor learning environment. “We’re part of the natural learning initiative,” Smith explained, “We’re super excited! That’s one of the things about being part of Shape NC [that is exciting as it] is helping us get to have what is called an outdoor learning environment versus a playground.”
The outdoor area is a space for children to strengthen their cognitive, social and emotional development through playing games with other kids in an environment in which they can explore and learn. Additionally, outdoor play helps kids’ physical fitness as well as sensory skills. Little Engine Academy is excited to create an area for their kids to not only learn and explore but garden and learn exactly how food is grown. Now in its second year, Shape NC will help create these spaces for child care centers through funding and fundraising opportunities in its third year.
CCSA’s Other Resources for Little Engine Academy
Shape NC is not the only resource Little Engine Academy has used from CCSA. Chenille Coston, a teacher at Little Engine Academy, is also participating in a T.E.A.C.H. NC Early Childhood Scholarship as she works to obtain her master’s degree. There also employees who have received wage supplements from the Child Care WAGE$®️ Program. Both Coston and Smith talk about the value of professional development opportunities they have attended. “For me, it’s been really awesome. It’s always good to learn more and they provide a lot of new information for us,” Smith said, “We’ve actually incorporated a lot of things they’ve given us.”
“The trainings [have] provided new strategies that we’ve been able to use in the classroom,” Coston said as she explained a recent strategy they have incorporated to teach the kids movement. The center also participates in CCSA child care scholarships that make attending Little Engine Academy more affordable for parents.
The Future at Little Engine Academy with Shape NC
Parents will continue to be more involved with Little Engine Academy as the school gets closer to its third year of participating in Shape NC. Little Engine Academy is looking for volunteers to help remove playground equipment to make room for the new outdoor learning environment, which they will start fundraising for this summer.
If you’re interested in volunteering with Little Engine Academy to remove their playground equipment contact Jennifer Gioia at 919-967-3272.
CCSA is hosting Shape NC activities this Earth Day Festival Sunday, April 28 from 12 – 5 p.m. at theDurham City Earth Day Festival. Stop by Durham Central Park, 501 Foster St. to enjoy all day performances and tons of fun activities. Learn more here.
Learn more about Shape NC here or call us at 919-967-3272 for more information about the program.
To support the Shape NC project, click here and DONATE
Your gift to fund Shape NC workshops and events in Durham, N.C. will be matched
100% through a Social Innovation Fund Grant.