Celebrate Month of Young Child’
It’s once again April — the month designated as “Month of the Young Child” and all of the dedicated folks that comprise the Montelores Early Childhood Council are coming together to celebrate the youngest members of our community and their families. I want to highlight the work we’ve been doing, and are planning to do, as well as ways we are planning to celebrate during April.
MECC’s members dedicate time and energy to the task of helping families get the care and support they need for their children, in the most efficient and effective way possible, with the goal of strengthening Colorado’s statewide early childhood system. As one of 30 councils in Colorado working toward this goal, we just finished a six-month grant application and strategic planning process that really helped us focus on local needs.
There are four domains, or areas, that we address: early learning, health, mental health/social-emotional development, and family support and education:
In the early learning domain, many activities take place throughout the year. Six area childcare centers are currently working on achieving accreditation from the National Association for the Education of Young Children, which is an important process to improve quality of early care and education. Four others have recently received Qualistar Ratings, another quality improvement process that requires dedication and hard work on the part of the providers. MECC’s School Readiness Coordinator and Quality Improvement Specialist works with many early learning centers and providers in the area, to help them achieve these accreditations as well as improve quality of services. Southwest Colorado Community College offers a variety of early childhood education courses, and we have many professional development opportunities available for teachers and providers throughout the year. Last year we helped plan and sponsor the First Annual Southwest Colorado Early Childhood Conference in Durango, which brought 200 professionals together from around the Southwest. We are currently planning the second conference for October. In our grant application, we included a strong professional development component to work with teachers and providers on personal professional development plans, increasing attendance at trainings, and providing coaching and supervision to help them apply what they learn.
In the health domain, we are partnering with the Montezuma County Public Health Department to bring Bright Beginnings, a home visitation program, to the area. This program includes three home visits: one when the child is a newborn, one at a year, and one at 2 years of age. Embedded in these visits is oral health information. Additionally, we implement a program called Cavity Free at Three, which includes the application of a fluoride varnish to help protect teeth from decay, starting with the appearance of the first tooth through 8 years of age. We are working to provide this at all local early learning centers and licensed childcare homes. During our grant application process, for the next three years we decided to really focus on the goal of increasing healthy living for young children, so be on the lookout for information about nutrition and physical activity!
In the social-emotional/mental health domain, we are part of The Pyramid Model Partnership, teaming with other local agencies to work with local early learning programs to increase proactive teaching strategies with the goal of decreasing challenging behaviors. This includes teacher and parent trainings.
In the family support and education domain, we have just finished our third cohort of the Family Leadership Training Institute, where parents come together for 20 weeks and learn about themselves, their passions, and learn the tools of civic engagement. These parent leaders take on community projects and are engaged at many levels in our community. We have offered parenting classes based on The Pyramid Model. We hold family nights where families come together and learn about a specific topic. Our next offering will be in late April on “Getting Your Child Outside” with Gabi Morey of the San Juan Mountains Association.
Our third annual Early Childhood Fair and Celebration will take place Saturday, April 14, at the County Annex Building. This free event provides a variety of screenings for children from birth to 5, and local preschools will have many fun activities for children; there will be lots of resources and information, door prizes and great entertainment! Mary Vozar, our local Reach Out and Read coordinator, will have free books for children from the One Book 4 Colorado campaign.
We will once again be showcasing local young children’s artwork based on storybooks. Please watch for information as it is announced.
We will be hosting the third annual Early Childhood Professionals Appreciation Dinner — an opportunity to thank all those dedicated people who work so hard to make a difference in the lives of young children and their families. We are looking for nominations for a community leader to receive the award of “Voice for the Vulnerable” and an early childhood teacher who goes above and beyond for the “Master Gardener” award. If you have someone to nominate for either of these categories, email your nomination, as well as a story as to why they deserve the award, to firstname.lastname@example.org.
The Montelores Early Childhood Council’s normal meeting time is the first Monday of the month. If you would like more information, or would like to get involved, please email the coordinator at email@example.com.
Vangi McCoy is the coordinator of the Montelores Early Childhood Council. She is also a part-time instructor at Southwest Colorado Community College and sits on the Dolores School Board.