Archive for the ‘Early Childhood/Parenting’ Category

Working with Consultants

Wednesday, December 21st, 2016

Brain power

Most of our capacity building grants involve working with a consultant. There’s considerable value from such collaborations including gaining a fresh perspective or specific expertise. It can be especially helpful when previous efforts have stalled or stakeholders have wildly differing points of view.

But there are an equal number of headaches as well — from the resistance of staff or board members who shun interference from outsiders to the considerable added time it takes to bring the consultant up to speed about your organization.

Is it worth it?

Yes… IF you’ve thought it through, planned ahead, allotted enough time, gotten all your stakeholders on board and, most importantly, found the consultant who “gets” your organization and has the temperament to shepherd the project and your agency’s varied personalities through the process.

That’s a lot of “ifs”  – it does make your head spin — but it’s also a realistic view of what you should be thinking about before you jump in and hire a consultant.

One thing is for sure, the consultant doesn’t do all the work. In fact, most times you and your colleagues are the ones doing the deep thinking and heavy lifting. The truth is you’re the ones with the answers. You just don’t know it yet. Consultants facilitate the process and keep you moving forward. They steer you in the right direction and make sure no one is left behind. They help you get to the heart of what you need to do and to recognize how you’re going to get there.

When the stars align, the results of working with a consultant can be quite remarkable.

There’s much more to think and read about here:

Posted on December 21, 2016

2016 Winter Grant Awards

Tuesday, December 20th, 2016

images-1The following organizations received support during our September and December grant cycles. We are delighted to have them as grant partners.

Sudbury Grants

Gaining Ground, Concord, MA, $5,000
To support Gaining Ground’s work providing healthy produce to the Sudbury Community Food Pantry, and other local pantries.

Sudbury Valley Trustees, Sudbury, MA, $10,000
To develop a master landscape plan for Wolbach Farm, the agency’s headquarters.

Town of Sudbury – Council on Aging, Sudbury, MA, $18,000
To encourage residents to support their neighbors through continued funding of the Senior Volunteer Coordinator position at the Fairbank Senior Center.

Children Youth & Families (CY&F) Grants

Communities for Restorative Justice, Concord MA, $22,500
For a marketing consultation.

Employment Options, Marlborough, MA, $15,000
For a consultation to develop a computer training program for young adult clients.

Massachusetts Audubon Society/Drumlin Farm, Lincoln, MA, $19,975
A evaluation consultation to develop assessment instruments for three programs and to train staff in program evaluation best practices.

One Can Help, Newton, MA, $5,870
To work with a social media consultant for one year to develop and implement a social media communications plan.

Taly Foundation, Framingham, MA, $13,100
For a strategic planning consultation.

Wildflower Camp Foundation, Wellesley, MA, $25,000
For communications, rebranding and website consultations.

CY&F Invitation Grants

John Andrew Mazie Memorial Foundation, Framingham, MA, $20,000
General support during a time of transition.

Boys & Girls Clubs of MetroWest, Marlborough, MA, $100,000
A combination grant to support professional development and other projects.

Farm & Local Food Initiative Grants

Boston Area Gleaners, Waltham, MA, $25,000
To work with a consultant to create a customized inventory management system to expand the agency’s ability to glean and distribute local produce to food banks and food pantries.

The Carrot Project, Boston, MA, $25,000
To work with a senior fellow for one year on client coordination, tracking and evaluation.

See our 2016 spring recipients here.

Posted on December 20, 2016

Brainstorming: Thinking about Kids

Monday, July 25th, 2016

Brainstorming

Early Learners

How investing in Preschool Beats the Stock Market, Hands Down. Nobel laureate James Heckman, a professor of economics at the University of Chicago and the director of the Center for the Economics of Human Development, makes a strong argument to support early education programs in his paper, The Life-Cycle Benefits of an Influential Early Childhood Program.

11 Parenting Podcasts Worth Checking Out. Parenting: It’s the most important job of all and there’s no roadmap for how to do it best. Some good resources provided in this Washington Post article.

Read Aloud 15 Minutes. In an era of high-stakes testing and education reforms and revolutions, research has repeatedly proved that one simple parenting technique is among the most effective. Children who are read aloud to by parents get a head start in language and literacy skills and go to school better prepared.

The Joyful, Illiterate Kindergartners of Finland.  While American youngsters learn how to read, Kindergarten students in Finland play. Notes one researcher: “There isn’t any solid evidence that shows that children who are taught to read in kindergarten have any long-term benefit from it.” Food for thought.

Run-down schools trigger low test scores. Common sense says it’s so. (We’ve been saying it for years.) Now Cornell social scientists show why it’s true.

Teens & Young Adults

The Value of Mentoring. Whether formal or informal — mentoring is a powerful tool to keep young people on the right track, particularly kids who are disconnected from their community

Today’s College Students May Be Emotionally Unprepared. Findings confirm what we all know is happening. A survey of more than 123,000 students at 153 colleges by the American College Health Association in 2013 found that more than half experienced overwhelming anxiety and about a third felt deep depression during the academic year, as reported in the New York Times. Here’s one program that’s helping high school teens cope: Students returning to school after a serious mental health issue get the care they need thru “BRYT

The Real Reason College Tuition Costs So Much. Interesting findings reported in the New York Times. It’s not due to cuts in public funding but an increase in enrollment and administrative personnel.

The Cost of An Overdose. Facing the opiod-heroin crisis in MetroWest. In 2015 emergency personnel statewide responded to 11,884 opioid-related incidents, up from 6,315 in 2013.

Posted on July 25, 2016

Why Read Aloud?

Wednesday, March 2nd, 2016

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March is Read Aloud Month, a national promotional campaign to encourage parents and caregivers to read aloud to children at least 15 minutes every day. It makes a difference!

Posted March 2, 2016

 

Are We Thwarting Creativity in Kids?

Monday, December 7th, 2015

We recently came across this great 2006 Ted Talk by creativity expert Ink splat 150 x 150Sir Ken Robinson.

As Robinson describes it, we begin life full of creative potential, then we are “educated out” of our creative capacity. Much of this happens in school where the emphasis on being right limits our ability to think outside the box. “If you’re not prepared to be wrong,” Robinson says, “you’ll never come up with anything original.”

Worth listening to.

Posted December 7, 2015

Getting Kids “Ready to Read”

Friday, July 31st, 2015

Version 2We’re big proponents of early learning…getting those young brain cells fired up even before children are walking or talking. The more inspired young minds are, the more their cognitive potential increases.

That’s why reading to young children is so important and why we were happy to support the thinking behind the United Way of Tri-County’s (UWTC) Ready to Read program with a 2012 capacity building planning grant.Ready to read 1

The program, which celebrated its first anniversary yesterday at the Pusan Road Community Center, provides Framingham children with three new books every four months from birth until they enter kindergarten, for a total of 60 new, age appropriate books.

UWTC hosts the quarterly get together in partnership with the Framingham Housing Authority. Families stop by to pick up their latest trio of books, engage in a craft project, get their face painted or lounge on the sofa and read a story. Yesterday’s birthday event included pizza and cake. In its first year, 63 children participated. Parents report that they are reading with their children more often and for a longer time period and that their children are increasingly interested in and excited about reading. A good start to a worthwhile program.

Related Blog Posts:

Catch the Read Aloud Habit

Early Childhood Brain Building

Posted on July 31, 2015

Reading Aloud

Friday, May 29th, 2015

Great advice for everyone involved in raising children – parents, grandparents, caregivers, teachers and friends.

Seuss quote

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

We might add that you’re never too young to be read to.

Posted May 29, 2015

Catch the Read Aloud Habit

Tuesday, March 17th, 2015

Catch the Read AloudBabies are remarkable beings. Long before they begin school, infants and toddlers are learning at lightning speed.

From birth to age 5, babies brains will make trillions of connections between billions of neurons. Brain size doubles during the first year, and by age 3, a child’s brain has nearly reached its adult weight. Children build vocabulary, learn new concepts, gain pre-literacy skills and form the foundation for all future knowledge and learning.

But just how much babies learn before they begin school depends in large part on their parents and early caregivers. Nobody is in a better position to teach, nurture, talk, sing, or read aloud to young children than they are. Yet, many don’t realize how powerful a simple family/day care ritual – like reading aloud 15 minutes per day – can mean to the academic and emotional success of children.

According to Read Aloud 15 Minutes, a non-profit organization working to make reading aloud every day for at least 15 minutes the new standard in child care:

  • More than one in three children arrive at Kindergarten without the skills necessary for lifetime learning
  • More than 15% of young children are read to by family members fewer than three times a week.
  • Only 48% of children in the U.S. are read to everyday.

“We strongly believe if parents understood how important their role is as first teacher, and the difference that reading aloud for 15 minutes every day from birth can make, they would absolutely do it,” says Read Aloud 15 Minutes Co-Founder and Executive Director, Bob Robbins. “When parents understand that talking, playing, singing and reading aloud are not enhancements, but are instead requirements, for their child’s development, we will see huge leaps in children’s readiness for school and life.”

March is Read Aloud 15 Minutes Month. Is your early childhood  or parenting program encouraging reading aloud everyday to infants, toddlers and pre-schoolers? We encourage you to jump on the Read Aloud bandwagon. You can download some helpful posters and handouts here.

Posted on March 16, 2015

Early Childhood Brain Building

Thursday, November 13th, 2014

girl-wonder

More and more, researchers are convinced that early learning — the learning that begins at birth and continues through age 3 — is crucial to a child’s potential cognitive ability.  What’s key, they say, is to provide young children with rich and varied learning experiences – even before they are able to walk or talk.

A new exhibit under development at The Discovery Museums (TDM) in Acton will do just that.  Tentatively called the Brain Building Zone, the new gallery will help encourage early childhood learning through creative activities and parenting supports. The exhibit is slated to open in 2017 as part a planned renovation and expansion of TDM.

“The first three years of life are the most important for brain development because the majority of neural pathways are formed during this time,” said TDM’s CEO Neil Gordon.

According to the Harvard University Center on the Developing Child, Stanford University and other leading researchers*:

  • In the first few years of life, 700 new neural connections are formed every second.
  • Neural connections and the architecture of the developing brain are built through back-and-forth interactions with adults in enriching environments.
  • Brain building is disrupted by “toxic stress,” a term that describes chronic stressful conditions rooted in causes such as poverty, neglect, or maternal depression. Toxic stress increases the likelihood of developmental delays.
  • Several studies have shown that, as early as 18 months, there are notable disparities in vocabulary between children from language-rich, high interaction homes and those who are not. Recent Stanford research showed that by age two, this equals a six month gap in language processing skills and vocabulary. By increasing interaction, using richer language and child-directed talk, parents can help their child to learn more quickly.

TDM anticipates the gallery will have a distinctive look and feel, inspired by the early childhood centers in Reggio Emilia, Italy known for innovation in early education. An advisory committee of industry experts and local practitioners has been formed to work with staff over the next three years (and beyond) to plan and execute the gallery design and usage. A highlight of the effort is a focus on helping parents’ learn how to encourage and appreciate the curiosity and learning potential of their infants and toddlers.

TDM has received just under $300,000 in funding to create the new gallery/exhibit including  $150,000 grant from the Sudbury Foundation and a $149,447 grant from The Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS).

“With the support of the Sudbury Foundation and IMLS, our new exhibit will integrate current research on early learning and brain development into exhibit experiences that engage families in parent-child interactions to promote language development and emotional resilience in young children,” said Gordon.

For more information on early childhood learning, please check out the following sites:

Brain Building in Progress

Zero to Three

National Assn. for the Education of Young Children

Early Education for All

Read Aloud

Mass. Children’s Trust Fund

Photo courtesy of Bart van Maarseveen

* Source: Brain Building in Progress

Posted on November 13, 2014

 

Did You Feed Your Baby’s Brain Today?

Thursday, October 2nd, 2014

Read Aloud 15 MINUTES, a nonprofit organization promoting early literacy, has just kicked off a month-long awareness campaign called “Let’s Talk Nourishment” to spread the word about the importance of reading aloud to children from the time they are born.

“We want parents and caregivers to make the connection that babies’ brains are as much in need of food as their bodies,” says Dr. Candace Kendle, founder of Read Aloud 15 MINUTES. “We call it ‘brain food.'” That means exposure to vocabulary, knowledge-building, and rich interactions with loved ones.

What activity checks all of these “nutritional” boxes? Reading aloud.

According to the agency:

• Nationally, 37% of children arrive in kindergarten without the skills necessary to begin their learning journey.

• If a child is not reading at grade level by the end of the first grade, then there is an 88% probability he or she will not be reading at grade level by the end of the fourth grade.

• Even in higher-income households, nearly 40% of families do not read aloud every day.

• More than half the children in this country – 13 million children -will not hear a bedtime story tonight.

“One of the best activities for nourishing a baby’s brain,” Kendle says, “is reading aloud together for at least 15 minutes every day from birth.”

If your agency works with families of young children, why not spread the word? You can check out the campaign here and download the Let’s Talk Cereal poster here.

Posted October 2, 2014