This past Saturday morning, I participated in a discussion about how best to support early childhood development as part of a Citizen Conference at the Science Museum of Minnesota. There were parents, educators, and many other interested people in attendance, and we had a great discussion. My group was especially lively as we bounced off the discussion questions about public policy related to families bringing in a wide array of related experience. We had a parent educator, an early intervention specialist, a teacher, and others. We were of generally similar opinions, and we were able to get right into our ideas for change.
My group was particularly passionate about duplicating programs and policies that have had proven success. We liked the idea of evidence behind our decisions. We also wanted to reach more parents with parent education in creative ways. We talked about wraparound services at schools and parent education programs at churches or community centers to make it convenient for families to participate.
As a bit of a tangent, I think that this conference was a great example of reaching out to parents in a way that is convenient. For one, it was on a Saturday. I have had to pass on so many parent oriented events because they were scheduled on weekdays (obviously geared to stay-at-home parents, which I am not) or early evenings (I have a long commute. I don’t get home in time to make a 4 or 5 o’clock event). Also, conference attendees could request museum admission for their families for the day. Chad and Ladybug were more than happy to explore the museum (for free!) while I did my thing at the conference. It was win-win.
Back to the discussion, it all seemed to come back to civic engagement. We talked about how people don’t always understand the connection between their vote and their families, and that we need to work to make sure that Minnesota public policy supports families. This means contacting our legislators to let them know that we do not want cuts to early childhood education. This means reaching out to families in our communities. Let’s keep the conversation open. Kudos to the Science Museum for opening the conversation. Now it’s up to us.
My suggestions: Read Kids First by David Kirp (I blogged about it here) and Nurtureshock by Po Bronson (I blogged about it here). They are great books to set a foundation for some of the issues involved. They will definitely keep the conversation rolling.
Find out more about the efforts to create strong early childhood education policy in Minnesota from Ready 4 K.