Education and Early Childhood Development

Early Childhood Learning Initiatives

Background

The importance of early childhood learning experiences in shaping children's development throughout their lives is well documented. Current research indicates how children learn in the early years. This has led to a better understanding of the importance of quality early learning opportunities in building a strong foundation for learning and development.

From birth, children's experiences and opportunities are shaping their brains and, through the building and strengthening of neural pathways, are laying the foundation for all future learning and development. Because there are critical periods for development of some skills, such as language, it is important to partner with parents in a meaningful way to for them to engage and promote their children's optimal early learning and development. Parents are their children's first and foremost teachers. Parents who feel they are supported in raising their children and have ready access to accurate information and a variety of resources are more empowered and more likely to be engaged in activities (like talking, reading, playing, and singing with their children) that research has shown to promote children's optimal development.

Currently, provincial programs and services that support early childhood learning for children from birth to eight years and their families are provided by multiple agencies, organizations and service providers. The Department of Education and Early Childhood Development is identified as the lead department in collaboration with other partner departments. In addition to the Department of Education and Early Childhood Development, the Department of Children, Seniors and Social Development and the Department of Health and Community Services all have responsibility for policy, programs and services for children birth to age eight years with a broader early childhood development focus, with early childhood learning as one component. In addition, government departments that support early childhood learning include the Department of Advanced Education, Skills and Labour and the Office of Labrador Affairs. Provincial strategies that support young children and their families include: Early Childhood Learning Strategy; Caring for Our Future: Provincial Strategy for Quality, Sufficient and Effective Child Care in Newfoundland and Labrador (2012-2022), A Northern Strategic Plan for Labrador (2007) and Reducing Poverty: An Action Plan for Newfoundland and Labrador (2006).

A number of early childhood learning initiatives are underway to support children’s early learning and development and also support parents and the important role they play in supporting their children's early development and learning. The approved initiatives include: an early childhood learning framework, parent resources (including parent kits and website development), early literacy programming, promotional campaign focusing on the early years and play based learning; and evaluation, including implementation of the Early Development Instrument (EDI).

In addition to the initiatives listed above, the Department of Education and Early Childhood Development offers KinderStart/ Bon départ, a transition to school program which aims to enhance children's transition to school. All are described below in more detail below.

Children's overall development and early learning, including early literacy/numeracy, is a key focus for all initiatives.

Early Childhood Learning Framework:

  • An early childhood learning framework has been developed that outlines a pedagogical approach to early childhood learning with specific emphasis on play-based learning, the important role of adults in supporting children's early learning, a holistic approach to children's development and learning, and inclusion of children with exceptionalities.
  • This Framework includes a priority focus on parent and child interaction in relation to emergent literacy skills and child development targeting children from birth to age eight.
  • This Framework provides the overarching and guiding principles for the early learning of children across all learning environments which include home, child care settings, community, and school and outlines four goals for early childhood learning: Well-Being & Belonging, Communication, Play & Exploration, and Social Contribution.
  • The Early Childhood Learning Framework was piloted as an interim document in phases within various early learning settings. The pilot findings informed the development of a Reflection document as well as the orientation required for phase-in of the Framework when it is released.
  • The Early Childhood Learning Framework and its supporting documents are being finalized and set to be released in the near future.

Parent Resource Kits:

  • This is a partnership between the Division of Early Childhood Learning, Department of Education and Early Childhood Development and Child Health Clinics, offered through the Regional Health Authorities. Parent Child Health Clinic visits are universally available to all families and their children at age 2, 4, 6, 12, and 18 months, and during the preschool child health clinic at the age of approximately 3½ years.
  • Parent Resource Kits have been developed that include a variety of early learning materials. Materials have been selected and/or developed through an inter-departmental committee with representation from departments on the Ministerial Council as well as the four Regional Health Authorities.
  • Resources provided in the kits are complementary to those already provided by public health nurses, and support the existing work of public health nurses through the provision of take home resources, key messaging on child development topics and early learning materials that will help to extend the learning home.
  • Parent Resource Kits are provided at child health clinics throughout the province during regularly scheduled visits with public health nurses at the 2 month clinic (Infant Kit), 12 month clinic (Toddler Kit) and the 18 month clinic (Young Child Kit).
  • By the time children reach Kindergarten, parents/caregivers will have been provided with a range of early learning resources and developmentally appropriate materials to extend their children's learning and development through everyday activities that they do with their children, at key intervals during the early years. Language and literacy development through play-based learning is a priority focus in all Parent Resource Kits.
  • Materials in the Kits include children's books, play items, CD with music and nursery rhymes, along with age and developmentally appropriate information, resources, tip sheets and activity guides, focusing on all areas of children's early development.

Early Literacy Programming:

  • Provincial early literacy programming is provided through a partnership between the Department of Education and Early Childhood Development and the provincial public libraries. Many public libraries offer Story time programming and/or Every Child Ready to Read© (ECRR).
  • Story time includes rhymes, stories, counting, singing, plays and puppets, dancing and social time. Story time programming facilitates oral language and early literacy development and promotes good reading and research habits early.
  • ECRR is an early literacy program suitable for families with children from birth to age 5 that promotes the messaging that talking, singing, reading, playing and writing with children helps them to develop the early literacy skills that they will need before they are able to read and write.
  • The Department of Education and Early Childhood Development also partners with provincial public libraries to provide two free books to children who are involved in the KinderStart program, when they visit or contact their community library.

Early Childhood Learning Promotional Campaign

  • The Power of Play, a multi-year promotional campaign, focuses on key early childhood learning messages and play-based learning.
  • The objectives of this campaign include an increased awareness of early childhood learning and the importance of learning through play, as well as an increased awareness of the parent/caregiver role in children's learning and development during the early years.
  • The campaign includes television, radio and print advertising as well as posters and other promotional items that promote the importance of learning through play. All materials for the campaign are posted at http://www.ed.gov.nl.ca/edu/earlychildhood/power.html.

Website Development

  • The Early Learning and Child Development website has been updated to provide parents/caregivers and early learning professionals access to resources and information on early childhood development and learning. The main objective of this initiative is to improve consistent messages based on best practice research to support the early learning needs of all children.
  • The website has been developed in collaboration with interdepartmental working groups who are key stakeholders in early childhood learning, and includes materials developed for the Power of Play promotional campaign as well as other resources highlighting best practices in early childhood learning. The website will undergo regular updates and additions.
  • Community mapping of Early Childhood Learning Programs and Services is now available on the divisional website at http://www.ed.gov.nl.ca/edu/earlychildhood/guide.html. Families can view a complete listing of available early childhood learning programs and services at a glance, search by program/service type (e.g., regulated child care, family resource centres, public libraries, child health clinics), or search available programs/services by community.

Evaluation

  1. Early Childhood Evaluation Framework
    • A logic model and evaluation framework has been developed for each of the approved initiatives. The objective of this evaluation framework is to evaluate each initiative through data analysis to ensure the goals and outcomes of these initiatives are met.
  2. EDI Implementation
    • The Early Development Instrument (EDI) is a population based measure for communities. It is a teacher completed instrument which measures children's readiness to learn at school across five developmental domains: physical health and well-being; social knowledge and competence; emotional health/maturity; language and cognitive development; and general knowledge and communication skills.
    • Full provincial implementation of the EDI occurred for the first time in 2013.
    • The objective of this initiative is to monitor and report on children's readiness to learn by assessing children's level of development in their first year of school.
    • The data analysis of the EDI findings will give the Early Childhood Learning Division an ability to report on how children are developing in terms of their overall developmental health and school readiness. With this data, a comparative analysis of the EDI findings can be made with other provinces, as well as comparisons within the province.

KinderStart/Bon départ

  • KinderStart is a school transition program offered in the year prior to Kindergarten entry. The program currently consists of orientation sessions that are organized and promoted at the school level for children and their parents/caregivers. The sessions support children's adjustment to the school environment, and provide parents/caregivers with information on how to support their children's learning at home.
  • During the first KinderStart session, children and their parents/caregivers are provided with a bag of learning resources and suggestions for home activities. Items provided in the learning resource bags include two children's books and activity guides, with an additional two books provided when children visit or contact their local library; play items; a variety of writing utensils, art, and manipulatives; and activity suggestions for parents to engage in with their children as outlined in an 18 month calendar. These learning resources focus and promote early literacy and numeracy through play, creativity and inquiry.
  • Registration for KinderStart is automatic when parents/caregivers register their child for Kindergarten at their designated school.
  • Registration takes place in the calendar year a child becomes four years of age. Parents/caregivers should watch their local newspapers and school newsletters for more details regarding Kindergarten registration in their area. Parents who have questions regarding KinderStart registration should contact their school district.
  • School principals notify parents/caregivers of the times of all KinderStart sessions in the fall of the given school year. A parent/caregiver session is held to provide a program overview and help parents prepare for their child's first school year.

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