Strengthening Our Understanding of Early Childhood Education Through Training
By Cassandra Martin Frazier, Early Childhood Education Chair, The Junior League of Atlanta Inc.
The Junior League of Atlanta, Inc. (JLA) is committed to improving the community through the effective action and leadership of our trained volunteers. With that part of our mission in mind, we offer learning opportunities to educate and empower our members about the JLA’s community impact areas – Generational Poverty, Commercial Sexual Exploitation/Human trafficking, and Early Childhood Education (ECE). During the month of February, JLA conducted an intensive four-part training series that focused on key topics ranging from brain development to quality early learning.
The first session included an in-depth discussion on the impact of ECE on quality of life. Wande Okunoren-Meadows, Director of Little Ones Learning Center, and Gary Bingham, Director of the Urban Child Study Center, Georgia State University provided their candid insights on ECE, moving beyond the statistics and discussing the real-world implications of quality early learning. They underscored the need for holistic and engaging learning environments in the classroom as well as supportive learning environments in the homes to set a strong foundation for young children. Next, JLA members took a field trip to the NAEYC-accredited and quality-rated Dean Rusk YMCA Early Learning Center for a hands-on exploration of a quality learning environment. Members toured the models of the STEAM and Reggio-inspired Head Start early learning classrooms currently being built in the new YMCA of Metro Atlanta headquarters. Robyn Tedder, Jennifer Scott, and Tatjyana Elmore of YMCA discussed the organization’s comprehensive approaches to quality early education, including operating Head Start classrooms, educating parents on early learning and linking students to health care and mental health services.
The training series then shifted gears to focus on the importance of healthy brain development during the early critical years, 0 to 5 years old. Dawan Barfield and Greg Barrett of the Georgia Early Education Alliance for Ready Students (GEEARS) facilitated the Brain Architecture Game, an interactive game experience that helps participants build an understanding of the powerful role of childhood experiences on early brain development. As session attendees worked together to build a healthy brain, they gained a unique perspective on how positive and negative experiences affect the brain’s functionality and ability to withstand stressors. The final session focused on being an everyday advocate for ECE. Glenda Davis-Canteen of DECAL and Vett Vandiver and Dawan Barfield of GEEARS discussed effective policies and programs that address the needs of ECE in Georgia, such as the Quality Rated program and CAPS. They offered concrete ways people can get involved, such as becoming an Atlanta Early Education Ambassador, participating in the First 2000 Days campaign or volunteering at an early learning center.
This interactive and informative training offered members a deeper understanding of the importance of early childhood education, and is only one example of the quality educational opportunities provided by JLA. To learn more about The Junior League of Atlanta’s Issue-Based Community Impact Areas click here or email [email protected].