From Sharon Smith
Program director for Dekko Foundation
The Dekko Foundation turns 36 this year. To accomplish our mission of fostering economic freedom through education, we’ve always focused on educating young people, especially during those all-important learning years from birth to 5.
For a long time, our early education investments were pretty traditional. We made grants to support things like classroom materials, teacher certification and program accreditation.
Then, we noticed something startling.
Classrooms had the equipment. Adults had the right words. But children, in their prime for curiosity and exploration, were often bored.
That’s when we changed our thinking. We started to put our resources into helping the people in early education uncover the principles and unchanging truths behind children’s development. We even found mentors who could help teachers explore this new understanding in their classrooms.
It didn’t happen right away but, before too long, classrooms were transformed:
• Children became pint-sized explorers.
• Teachers learned to respond to children’s learning needs with the power in their heads and hearts rather than directions from a manual.
• Classrooms literally hummed with the sounds of learning.
• Children became engaged – often to the point that they didn’t want to go home.
One early education teacher summed up the difference in her classroom by saying, “When I gave up control and let the children show me what they wanted to learn, because they know what they need, it opened up amazing worlds for the children and for me too.”
A different way of thinking about children is behind it all. Through our growth and research, we came to understand that all children are capable and richly-endowed learners. Even though they’re small, children have a natural desire to understand the world around them and an inborn need to be independent.
As a matter of fact, all young children really need adults for is rich learning environments. After that, we can step out of the way. Children’s natural desire to learn will take it from there. (To learn more, visit YouTube and search for Hear the Hum of Learning)
Listed below are some early education centers in southern Iowa that focus on taking full advantage of these new, old thoughts about children’s natural development.
• Family Resource Center, 302 N. Lincoln St., Mount Ayr, IA 50854, 641-464-3385
• East Union Early Childhood Center, 1916 High School Drive, Afton, IA 50830, 641-347 5790
If you have young children, you might want to visit centers close to you to hear their beliefs about how children learn and to witness children’s engagement.
If you’re a community leader or other decision maker, you’ll want to learn more about these unique assets in your community. These early education leaders are taking a risk to provide an outstanding education to young children. They need your respect, your advocacy and, yes, your financial support.
If you love to volunteer you may want to consider one of these impactful centers as especially worthy of your time and talent.
To read more, visit www.nextstepsearlyed.org.