How do you build “a more inclusive sandbox” where more collaborators can lend their support to early education?
Our own Titus DosRemedios, director of research and policy at Strategies for Children, provides good answers in an article that ran this fall in NAEYC’s journal, Young Children.
The sandbox metaphor comes from social justice activist Michael Skolnick, who was featured in a New York Times profile. Skolnick was making the point that the civil rights movement needs more allies.
The sandbox metaphor,” Titus writes, “could also apply to the field of early education, which currently faces a similar challenge. The early childhood education movement has grown steadily over the past two decades, plateaued in recent years, and currently is in dire need of reinforcements.”
“Don’t get me wrong, the early education and care sector already has many allies, like business leaders, elected officials and journalists. At times it seems everyone has climbed aboard the early learning bandwagon… But much more support is needed if we want to reach a point in our society where all children have access to high-quality early learning opportunities before they begin kindergarten.”
The goal of the article is to encourage the early education field to bring in new allies by taking three crucial steps.
1 – Tell your story. As we blogged last week, personal stories can be powerful.
“Articulating your story and professional journey can be an empowering experience, and it is essential for shining a spotlight on the early education and care field. Consider both online and traditional media outlets.”
2 – Invite people to the table. Look for new, nontraditional allies.
“Have you ever been at a planning meeting and thought, ‘It would be great if we could get X person to do Y for our program?’ Consider inviting that person to visit your program, and start the relationship.”
3 – Assign jobs. People who want to help don’t always know how.
“Partners, allies, and volunteers may get complacent or burn out over time if they aren’t engaged, challenged, and having fun. Think of approaching your allies as you would approach students—how might you differentiate the process to meet everyone’s needs, including your own?”
Looking for inspiration? Efforts to build a more inclusive sandbox are underway.
“Advocates in every state are working to improve this situation and persuade elected officials to invest more resources in high-quality early education, expanding access, improving quality, and supporting the workforce.”
And progress is being made in cities like New York, Denver, San Antonio, and Washington, D.C.
Anyone can join in. As Titus concludes, “Start by inviting just one new person to the table. Tell him what you do for a living, and see if he has any ideas for supporting children, families, and early learning. Imagine the possibilities.”
Our thanks to NAEYC for making this article available to nonmembers for the next three months.