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Boston Children’s Museum
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Early Childhood Summit 2013 >>

Cross-Sector Innovation Sessions

1. Digital Media and Child Development
Christine Zanchi, Executive Producer, WGBH and Shelley Pasnik, Director, Center for Children and Technology and Vice President, Education Development Center gave a presentation on exploring the latest research and development in the use of digital technologies to support early learning and teaching. They discussed the breakthroughs and opportunities emerging from the Next Generation Preschool Math project, funded by the National Science Foundation, as well as the Corporation for Public Broadcasting and PBS’s Ready to Learn study on trans media learning.

During their session they discussed the intense phase of using media for children, both for education and for entertainment. They believe there needs to be a stronger push for facilitating learning within digital media and that there are too many barriers for adults using digital media. It was agreed that it would be beneficial to teach teachers different technologies for use school so they can connect and enhance the development of the children they teach. Members of the innovation group stated that there are too many standards in digital media and there needs to be a consistent guide line to follow.

Digital Media Child Development Zanchi, Pasnik
2. A Prescription for Playful Learning: How museums and libraries can reduce the experience gap for children
Jeri Robinson, Vice President, Education and Family Learning, Boston Children’s Museum and Tom Weber, Interim Commissioner of Early Education and Care, Commonwealth of Massachusetts discussed the current work of the MA Department of Early Care and Education and Boston Children’s Museum as they collaborate on the Race to Top – Early Learning Challenge Grant with Museums and Libraries across the Commonwealth. Jeri Robinson posed questions such as: How do we support parents in the role as their child’s first teacher? How do we encourage parents to visit museums and libraries where they can build their confidence while learning and practicing new skills and activities they can repeat at home? Museums and libraries are poised to deliver rich early learning experiences for families with young children. However, accessibility and affordability barriers often prevent MA families from fully connecting with these institutions. What will it take to fully implement a “Prescription for Playful Learning” for all of the Commonwealth’s children and families?

Some of the ideas introduced during the session included bringing museums to families, providing childcare for struggling families, and inviting parents to centers for education and training. The major obstacle that the group discussed was not having enough funding to support these types of programs.

A Prescription for Playful Learning Weber, Robinson
3. Addressing Barriers to Success for Public Health Initiatives: A community-based approach in Western MA
Linda Jablonski, RNC, MSN, Baystate Franklin Medical Center and Liz Friedman, MFA, Franklin County Perinatal Support Coalition discussed the idea that professional and departmental silos are one of the greatest barriers to implementing effective public health initiatives. They summarized that the Community-Based Perinatal Support Model (CPSM) has been successful in addressing these barriers. The model effectively partners medical providers with mental health, social service, and early intervention in a cross-disciplinary approach that enhances both access to care and quality of care. They explained that through a sequence of strategic interventions, key policy changes are implemented across systems to create a unified public health approach. The CPSM is being implemented in urban and rural settings, but their presentation focused on a rural application of the model in Western MA communities.

In order to achieve success it was discussed that professionals must train people at all levels. It was brought up a link must be made between accountable care and quality measures. They want to focus on screening care and follow-ups to discover where the link between each sector is falling short.

Addressing Barriers to Success for Public Health-Initiatives Jablonski, Friedman
4. Buffering Toxic Stress with Purposeful Parenting
Andy Garner, MD, PhD, Chair, Early Childhood Brain Development Task Force, American Academy of Pediatrics and Jim Perrin, MD, President Elect, American Academy of Pediatrics discussed the implications of frame-shifting advances in the basic developmental sciences for the clinical practice of pediatrics. Their goal is to build a strong foundation for healthy life-courses. They believe the pediatric medical home of the future must be integrated both vertically (providing different levels of care, including universal preventions, targeted interventions, and indicated treatments) and horizontally (collaborating with a wide array of community partners, including early intervention, home visiting, and early education / child care professionals).

The questions raised during this session were how to help parents? What can be done to alleviate situations in which stress can build in the home? A strength that needs to be built is the growth of cross collaboration between sectors and a strengthening of the relationships between all the sectors. It was suggested that there needs to be a common language around toxic stress so that all sectors understand what needs to be done. It was agreed that skills can be taught to buffer toxic stress through play.

Buffering Toxic Stress with Purposeful Parenting Garner, Perrin
5. Tools of the Mind Curriculum
Elizabeth Billings-Fouhy, Director, Lexington Children's Place, Kerry McIntosh, Teacher, Lexington Children's Place and Miriam Calderon, Chief Advisor, Tools of the Mind introduced and explained the Tools of the Mind Curriculum as an innovative national preschool curriculum designed to promote executive function skills in young children. They discussed the implementation of this curriculum at the Lexington Children's Place in Massachusetts.
One of the major hindrances discussed for implementing the curriculum was self-regulation and how to communicate with parents to enable them to successfully reinforce the program at home. During the session they also discussed adapting the curriculum as a resource and getting business leaders to use it in their work places. Tools of the Mind Curriculum Billings, Fouhy, McIntosh
6. The Cradle of Democracy
Felton Earls, MD, Professor of Social Medicine, Harvard Medical School, and Professor of Human Behavior and Development, Harvard School of Public Health and Mary Carlson, Neurobiologist, Harvard Medical School examined the idea that at birth, children are declared citizens, but are not realized by adults as such until they are old enough to vote and pay taxes. A view of children as deliberative citizens will be advanced. Rather than being relegated to the waiting room of society, socialization practices should aim to integrate children into public space and actions, while respecting their emerging capacities. Both speakers believe that the personal and collective benefits of this investment in child development will be argued. They discussed that neighborhoods have a major role in mentoring children and fostering their sense of agency and their session discussed the way neighborhoods can work collectively to optimize this outcome.

A few ideas that were discussed in this session were that communities must development strong relationships in order to strengthen their ties. It was discussed that facilitators must help communicate and teach skills to family members especially children and this should be taken very seriously.

The Cradle of Democracy Earls, Carlson
7. Family Engagement in Early Childhood
Jane Tewksbury, Executive Director, Thrive in 5 and Cherie Craft, Executive Director, Smart from the Start discussed research that discovered when families are engaged in their children’s learning and healthy development from birth, children’s long-term outcomes are improved. Smart from the Start, Inc., and Thrive in 5 Boston seek to leverage the success of their grassroots work and their unique public/private partnerships to collaboratively transform family engagement practices in Boston. The ultimate goal is to use local success from this innovative strategy to advocate for a statewide paradigm shift where parents become the change agents in increasing community capacity to support young children’s healthy development, kindergarten readiness, and success in school and beyond.

A few items discussed in the session were to ask families what they needed to support engagement in early education. It was thought that collecting data was crucial to aiding in the two organization’s success. They also believed that the people providing the support should reflect the families they are working with, people connect more with likeminded individuals. The question was also raised on how to increase high school civic involvement. Their final question was what do families need in order to be more efficient.

Family Engagement in Early Childhood Tewksbury, Craft
8. Breaking Down Silos to Inform State Policies for Children
Jeff Bernstein, Policy Analyst, Mass. Budget and Policy Center and Nancy Wagman, KIDS COUNT Project Director, Mass. Budget and Policy Center addressed the idea that because efforts to help children thrive require supporting the whole child, children's policies need to consider a spectrum of domains: physical and mental health, education and social development, nutrition and physical safety, and economic security. They stated that to strengthen our capacity to increase public awareness and build coalitions that take an integrated view of child development, their session will introduce MassBudget's KIDS COUNT Children's Budget, which provides easy access to detailed information on every state program for children.

There was a discussion within the innovation session about cross sector collaboration. Attendees believed that they first need to focus on collaboration within their own sectors before moving to cross sector collaboration. They also wanted to figure out a way to engage with business communities. How can they develop their own business models, how can they find funding that is sustainable and how they can use businesses to promote legislation, were some of the questions brought up in the session. A few members of the session were skeptical about the dedication of business leaders and they wanted to create a website that is publicized widely and make it the go-to place for information. This topic was also discussed at the Summit in 2011.

Breaking Down Silos to Inform State Policies for Children Bernstein, Wagman
9. Power of Play for All Families Donald Wertlieb, PhD, President, Partnership for Early Childhood Development and Disability Rights, Megan Dickerson, Senior Manager of Community Programs and Partnerships, Boston Children's Museum and Janet Rice Elman, Executive Director, Association of Children's Museums discussed the social-emotional and physical health benefits of family playtime that can be powerful and immediate. Dr. Wertlieb explored the integration of children with special needs into play settings that serve all children, followed by a provocative glimpse of how children's museums are currently approaching the role of play in families' lives: both Megan Dickerson with a short case study and in the future Janet Rice Elman, conducted or will conduct surveys on reimagining children's museums will address this topic.

They discussed the role of play in improving mental health and strengthening social capital to follow children throughout their lives. They also discussed the family engagement model and play for parents. During the innovation session they discussed how high school students can do community service in museums and libraries and how this will educate the next generation of parents.

Power of Play for All Families Wertlieb, Dickerson, Elman
10. Literacy: Aligning communities around research, policy and practice to ensure reading proficiency for children 0-9 Carolyn Lyons, President and CEO, Strategies for Children and Kelly Kulsrud, Director of Reading Proficiency, Strategies for Children discussed aligning communities around research, policy and practice to ensure reading proficiency for children age birth through nine years old. They discussed using lessons learned from both the community level and statewide perspective and they shed light on the challenges, potential levers, and policy opportunities using the frame of third grade reading proficiency. Attendees heard about and discussed opportunities for cross sector collaboration and engagement in both practice and policy.

During the innovation session the group focused on the role of families and how to include families in providing education and training to all children. The innovation session stated the importance of data sharing to improve cross-sector (education, health, to continue ongoing network share) collaboration.

Literacy Lyons, Kulsrud
11. Home-Based Interventions Robert Sege, MD, PhD, Division Director, Ambulatory Pediatrics, Boston Medical Center and Debbie Allen, Director, Bureau of Child, Adolescent and Family Health, Boston Public Health Commission explained that home based interventions offer unique advantages. They explained that they make services accessible to clients with childcare obligations, limited transportation and other constraints. It also provides the home visitor a view of the resources and constraints faced by clients every day. A home visit eliminates the discomfort that a medical exam room or agency office may evoke. However, home visitation is not magic. There are challenges to building a home visiting program that has the flexibility required to meet client needs and the structure required to assure quality. The innovation session discussed the logic of home visiting and reviewed its advantages and pitfalls, providing examples from two current Boston initiatives. There also is a need for repeated visits after the birth of a child in some cases.

During the innovation session they discussed the importance of breaking down silos through doctors, nurses, early intervention and school care. There is a strong need to stress the importance of the "warm handoff" referral, and to teach nurses to look for other signs, like violence, maternal depression in the families. The attendees stated the need for a universal family care record, ASQ survey to be accessible to all medical and educational providers.

Home-Based Interventions Sege, Allen
12.Health and Safety in Childcare Valora Washington, PhD, Founder and President, CAYL Institute and Tucker Levy, Chief Operating Officer, Associated Early Care and Education examined the key elements of high quality standards for teachers and high quality health and safety standards in early education settings with additional focus on the concept of wellness. The frame for health and safety includes conditions in the classroom and extends to the family and community. Successes, obstacles and innovative approaches to addressing these issues were discussed. They also discussed elements of a quality early education setting and their intersection with health, safety, wellness, family and community.

During the innovation session they stated that educators need pre-service training and the continued training needs more resources. All educators need to understand the significance of the behavioral science regarding children. They stressed that we need to invest in facilities to prompt better health and safety in childcare and that all educators should invest in trust building education.

Health and Safety in Childcare Washington, Levy

Summary of Policy Recommendations across Sectors


1. Recognize the value of positive relationships as the primary vehicle for all successful interventions, including parent-child, provider-parent, and across sectors (such as business leader with early childhood educator).
2. Engage entire community across sectors to build community and neighborhood responsibility for all children.
3. Engage parents as individuals, especially by peers best able to identify individual needs and tailor services accordingly; empower parents as change agents.
4. Use play to encourage family engagement:
  • Create tip sheets for parents that promote creative play as a way for parents to observe children actively learning while also developing parenting skills;
  • Encourage the development of executive function skills in both parents and children as a foundation for later success.
5. Encourage community service so that high school students volunteer with children and learn future parenting skills.
6. Use incentives to encourage collaborative teams to work together and decrease isolation both by team members and by parents.
7. Birth is an opportune time to intervene and set up a relationship that has long-term benefits, particularly for hard-to-reach high-risk families.
8. Create, maintain and publicize a centralized hotline and website for families and providers to access resources.


1. Better collaboration within sectors is needed as a basis for all important cross- sector collaboration. Barriers to collaboration are significant and require incentives and personal leadership to foster collaboration among groups.
2. Develop public-private partnerships around innovation and advocacy, and these are as important as funding.
3. Reach out to high-risk families, such as home visits:
  • Need to surmount obstacles to participation by providing assistance such as child care, transportation, money and emotional support;
  • Neighborhood support critically is needed; warm handoff starts in hospital after delivery.
4. Need for better information and data sharing across sectors and within sectors.
5. There is great potential for digital media for learning but it is now in a research phase, and developmentally appropriate standards need to be created.
6. Self-regulation and executive function skills curriculum need to be adapted for younger age group (0-3) and for parents to develop their skills.
7. There is great value in continuing the network of Summit attendees to share ideas within an online community.
8. Advocacy is needed for fundamental legislation to support family issues such as paid parental leave and earned paid sick time to allow parents to care for sick children.

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