By SHEA STASKOWSKI
The Oktibbeha County Excel By 5 Coalition is one step closer to certification thanks to a recent training session for child care givers.
“This event focused on providing training to local child care providers, Head Start teachers and teachers from the Starkville and Oktibbeha County School Districts,” said Bob Clay, Excel By 5 site coordinator. “This also provides an excellent opportunity for care givers to establish relationships with teachers in the public and private schools to ensure children are ready to learn as they enter kindergarten and the first grade.”
More than 75 local child care givers attended the workshop held at First Baptist Church in Starkville to learn how to better educate children in order to better prepare them for kindergarten and first grade.
“Networking with the Mississippi Early Childhood Association and gaining the financial assistance from the Starkville Kiwanis Club were both important in providing the successful Saturday morning event for our area child care givers,” said Ellen Goodman, Oktibbeha County Excel By 5 certification manager. “The care givers were most appreciative of the event and left with many ideas to take back to their classrooms as they strive to provide the best loving, educational environment possible for their children. Our care givers have an important job everyday and understand the importance their role plays in providing for our future.”
The training session helped fulfill two separate requirement of the certification process.
First, the training session itself served as another installment of educational partner meeting, of which three are required for certification. Secondly, it provided approved training for child care givers. Excel By 5 certified communities require that 40 percent of child care centers have at least 40 percent of their employees with at least 20 hours of approved training.
Currently, Mississippi requires child care providers have 15 hours of approved training per license year. The training session provided four hours of approved training for the child care givers to help Oktibbeha County reach its certification goal.
Dr. Regina Brotherton, director of academic affairs with the Mississippi State College of Veterinary Medicine, delivered a keynote session about the importance of animal and human bonding for the academic development of children.
“The basic theme was that animals can be used in child development to help children build self-esteem and to learn independence and responsibility,” Brotherton said.
Brotherton explained that a simple classroom pet such as a fish or a gerbil can teach young children about basic science, dietary needs, basic hygiene and proper maintenance of the animal.
“Children can learn so much just by exploring animals in their own environment,” Brotherton said. “All these things together can help enlighten a child.”
Brotherton added that for teachers who prefer not to have an inside classroom pet, a good alternative is for teachers to place a bird feeder outside of a classroom window so that children can still observe the animals that visit the feeder.
Mental Health Technician Pam Mottley with the MSU Early Childhood Institute delivered a session called “Brain Smart Guidance.”
“It’s a borrowed phrase from Dr. Becky Bailey who has a program called Conscious Discipline,” Mottley explained. “It’s about how to guide our children in a way that is compatible with the way our children’s brains work.”
Mottley explained that there are three sections of the brain: The brain stem, which is the base of the brain where a lot of instinctual activity takes place; the limbic system, which controls emotional responses and the frontal cortex where reasoning and logic take place.
“The idea of the Brain Smart Guidance is that when a child is upset, they are functioning out the brain stem, and their skills available at the moment are about fight or flight,” Mottley said. “You might also guess that when an adult approaches a child in a state of upset, they are functioning out of their brain stem as well. So this whole idea of conscious discipline is asking that adults be conscious of where they are functioning from and be aware of where the child is functioning from... An out of control child does not need an out of control adult.”
Other sessions available taught child care providers about after-school care, planning healthy meals for children, the importance of art, developmentally appropriate play for infants and toddlers and transitioning to the preschool classroom.
After the training session, Oktibbeha County is now 80 percent complete with certification requirements.
“Oktibbeha County has a very strong coalition, which includes members such as Mayor Parker Wiseman, local businesses, community organizations, child care center directors and elementary teachers,” Clay said. “The Oktibbeha County Coalition recognizes the need and the benefits of ensuring children ages birth to five are prepared and ready to enter school.”
“Our coalition is busy scheduling events throughout 2011,” Goodman said. “As we communicate the many services already available to our families, add more opportunities and assist our area child care centers in providing the best care for our children, we see a stronger Oktibbeha County as our children begin kindergarten and ‘excel by five.’”
Once Oktibbeha County receives certification, the process is never quite complete. Excel By 5 requires yearly events such as continuing support sessions for parents, providing training opportunities for care givers to attend and community-wide family, health and early childhood education events.
The next planned event is an interest session on the Child Development Associate (CDA) national credential process scheduled for Saturday, April 16 from 11 a.m. until 12 p.m. at the Emerson Families First Resource Center.
“One of our Excel By 5 requirements still left for the certification process is increasing the number of care givers in Oktibbeha County who have either the CDA credentialing or college degrees,” Goodman explained. “The April 16 session will provide information about the CDA credentialing process and how to apply for scholarships to assist with the cost of the credentialing process. Those interested in the CDA process may call the Family First Resource Center at the Emerson Family School to register for this session.”