Smart Beginnings in the News

Future workforce talent demands exceptional early childhood programs

Written by Jim Dyke and Gary Thomson
Nov 5, 2018 Richmond Times-Dispatch

Of all the important public policy issues confronting Virginia, the need for exceptional early childhood education stands alone in its potential to significantly impact both current and future prosperity. As business leaders and passionate supporters of education, if we could only fund one program that would produce the highest return on investment for providing our future workforce, it would be early childhood education.

Research conclusively shows that a child’s prospects for future success are impacted by brain development and skill acquisition in the first years of life. The development of these skills is cumulative and sequential, meaning that everything builds on the earliest experiences.

Continue reading on the Richmond Times-Dispatch


Report shows mixed picture of kindergarten readiness among local preschoolers

Written by Adele Uphaus-Conner
October 26, 2018 The Free Lance-Star

Key risk factors for kindergarten-unreadiness among local preschoolers have changed little over five years and several of the risk factors are higher for local children than they are statewide, according to a report released this week by the Virginia Early Childhood Foundation.

Locally, some factors–such as the ratio of children born to mothers with less than a high school education–show Hispanic children to be at the most risk of being unprepared for kindergarten. Other factors, such as low birth weight, show black children to be most at risk of being unprepared.

Continue reading on The Free Lance-Star


What Makes a Level 4 Infant Care Room?

Written by Leigh Anne Van Doren
March 2018 issue of Fredericksburg Parent & Family Magazine

On a gloomy February Monday, my day was brightened by a visit to a Virginia Quality Level 4 infant care classroom. Outside was rain, galoshes and umbrellas, but inside a cheery large room covered with soft mats and interactive toys held almost twenty active infants and five teachers…mostly engaged and on the floor. Local childcare center Kindercare at 29 Greenspring Drive in North Stafford, recently earned the Level 4 rating from the state’s Virginia Quality program. Engaging with the babies and playing on the floor is just a small part of what it took to reach one of the highest levels available from Virginia Quality.

“As a regional rater I was so thrilled to see this center reach their Level 4 goal,” says Trudie Knapp, Virginia Quality Regional Rater. “It’s a significant achievement. Their teacher team truly operates as a family and it is wonderful to see their sustained efforts to create a high-quality environment be recognized.”

DON’T FENCE THEM IN

Kindercare7Pictures and toys on the floor enrich tummy time.

How does playing on the floor improve childcare quality exactly? “One of the things that strikes you as you come in, as a Virginia Quality Technical Assistance Specialist or Rater, is that the typical infant “containers,” like bouncy seats, exersaucers, or high chairs aren’t in use. All of these babies have free range of movement. Even the very youngest are placed on boppy pillows that allow them to reach and interact with the toys around them.” says Courtney Harris, Virginia Quality Infant/Toddler Coordinator. Kindercare center director Kristina Bell agrees with Harris that the lack of “containers” provides significant advantages to the babies. “Kindercare has had a company-wide policy of providing the least restrictive environment possible for eight years,” says Bell. “It felt really strange when we started the policy to not have exersaucers or high chairs, but our teachers quickly noticed how much faster the infants developed muscles and motor skills, especially pulling themselves up,” says Bell.

Continue reading on FredParent’s website…


Project Pathfinders scholarship helps preschool teacher earn Germanna degree

Mike Morones / The Free Lance-Star

Posted: Thursday, April 27, 2017
By ADELE UPHAUS–CONNER THE FREE LANCE–STAR

In Leah Spruill’s preschool STEM class at Growing Kids Academy in Spotsylvania County, little fingers tapped at the screens of tablets encased in green protective covers.

Sitting “criss-cross applesauce” on the carpet, the preschoolers were playing with learning apps during “technology time.” Soon, they’d transition to their next activity—finding numbers inside colorful, squishy “sensory bags.”

Spruill and her 3-year-old son, Shawn, made the bags at home the preceding weekend. They filled vacuum-sealed food saver bags with a mixture of tempera paint and vegetable oil. The children would use their fingers to push the paint around inside the bag until they found the number Spruill had written.

“So they’re learning numbers and colors and they’re getting one-on-one time with an adult,” Spruill said. “And it’s a good stress reliever!”

Spruill, 37, has been in the preschool/child care business for years and says she has a passion for the work. She said she’s also been enrolled at Germanna Community College for years but has struggled to complete a degree.

Now, as the recipient of a Project Pathfinders scholarship, she hopes to finally be able to finish her course work and earn her associate’s degree in education with a concentration in early childhood education from Germanna next year.

Continue reading on The Free Lance-Star…

 

 

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