Top 6 takeaways from the Educare Learning Network Meeting

“Our mission is bigger and bolder than the 3,800 children in our schools,” said Cynthia Jackson, executive director, Educare Learning Network. “We are committed to developing solutions for all children to gain access to quality early learning experiences.”

With the theme, “Learning Together: Reaching Higher,” the 2018 Educare Learning Network Meeting focused on how, through continuous learning and innovation, Educare can help create positive change for all young children and families.

Educare schools from across the country came together in Tulsa, Okla. on April 17-20 to connect, collaborate and explore early learning strategies.

The week was full of valuable takeaways, including:

1. Continuous learning is essential

Learning and innovation help early childhood practitioners, staff and parents improve practices so they can better serve young children and families. As part of a learning Network, Educare teachers, staff and parents are committed to continuous improvement to drive change for young children and families across the country. Watch how Educare staff are learning together and reaching higher.

2. Social and emotional strategies can help promote executive function skills

What is executive function? Regulation of self, emotions and behavior. Network Meeting keynote speaker Dr. Helen H. Raikes, Ph.D., Willa Cather professor of child, youth and family studies at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, shared how teachers can use executive function approaches to help build key social-emotional skills that children need for success in kindergarten and beyond.

“Kindergarten teachers are looking for children to have social and emotional skills, such as controlling emotions, solving social problems, paying attention and following directions,” Dr. Raikes said.

She added that it is important for early learning teachers to begin by implementing an executive function framework that sets the emotional tone, then build staff capacity and broaden the approach. Activities to promote executive function include pretend play, Simon Says, belly breathing and mindfulness techniques.

3. We can accelerate our impact through innovation

Educare schools and partners shared how they have been collaborating across the Network to create innovative strategies to improve early childhood education for young children and families. Projects range from engaging parent ambassadors in early learning advocacy to implementing new early science and language strategies. Read about the Educare Acceleration Grant projects.

4. Caregivers must also take care of themselves

Dr. Raikes, along with Educare school representatives, shared the importance of social-emotional support for both young children, as well as teachers and parents. Though their acceleration grant project, the teams implemented social-emotional strategies at their school to build teachers’ capacity to promote the young children’s social-emotional development and executive function skills.

To help support children’s social development and executive function, teachers and parents must first make sure they take care of their social and emotional well-being. The team discussed how when educators and parents can let go of self-judgment and treat themselves better, it can make a tremendous impact on learning environments.

An Educare parent also shared how a new mindfulness practice at her school, implemented as part of the project, helped her “mellow everything out and be able to manage it.”

5. Early science is powerful

Network Meeting attendees had the opportunity to explore early science from the perspective of children. They made play dough without any instructions to explore the power of early science to help children learn through exploration and discovery. The Early Science Initiative team shared how practitioners can help children focus on the process and experience of a science experiment and not necessarily the end result.

An Educare teacher who tried the play dough experiment in her classroom said, “It didn’t go where I planned it; it went where the kids wanted it to. They had fun and were learning.”

6. Educare schools are making an impact in the Tulsa community

Serving more than 500 young children and families, Educare Tulsa’s three schools feature beautiful quality spaces, innovative early learning ideas and enthusiastic staff. Attendees did a “go-round tour” of the schools, ending at Educare Tulsa at MacArthur for a warm greeting and fun celebration with Educare staff.

In addition to touring the schools, attendees met Alexa Rodriguez, an Educare Tulsa alumni who shared her accomplishments, dreams to become a surgeon and early experiences at Educare. “Educare has taught me how to be independent,” Alexa said.

For more takeaways from the meeting, follow #EducareMeeting on Twitter and check out photos from the meeting: