Yesterday, the Partnership hosted community leaders and volunteers for another Early Childhood Bus Tour. This event, sponsored by Mechanics and Farmers Bank, is a way for us to invite participants to learn more about our work throughout Durham and view the community through the lens of early childhood.
Nearly 25 people joined us as we traveled to Early Start Academy, East Durham Children’s Initiative (EDCI) at Shepherd’s House, and Sandy Ridge Elementary. We kicked off the event by asking attendees to build Blast-Off to Kindergarten Kits, which is a key part of the Transition to Kindergarten Initiative and one of many volunteer opportunities here at the Partnership. After introductions and kit-building, attendees heard from Queron Smith, Senior Vice President/City Executive of Mechanics and Farmers Bank, about their commitment to the needs of Durham’s young children and community.
The first stop on the tour was Early Start Academy, one of three Durham Early Head Start (DEHS) child care centers. Attendees learned more about the DEHS center-based program, had a chance to see some children learning through play in the state of the art outdoor learning environment, and learned about the work of the Durham Touchpoints Collaborative. Touchpoints is an evidence-based theory of child development that is used by providers across disciplines to support parents and create a common language when working with families. In the last year, 100% of the DEHS staff has been trained in the Touchpoints approach, and DEHS classroom teachers will begin training this month as well. Several DEHS staff members spoke about how Touchpoints training has impacted their work with families and children in the program.
The next stop on the tour was EDCI at Shepherd’s House, where participants heard about the use of Touchpoints training in a very different setting. Just like DEHS, nearly all of the EDCI staff have completed Touchpoints training and spoke to how it has influenced their work in the community. Attendees then had a chance to witness Touchpoints at work! Providers, parents and children participated in activities depicting both a home visit and children’s story time, using key Touchpoints principles as a way to guide and inform their work and relationships with families.
Our final stop was Sandy Ridge Elementary, where guests toured a blended NC Pre-K/Title 1 Durham Public Schools classroom and saw some enthusiastic 4 year-olds in action! In addition to learning about the importance and indicators of a high quality NC Pre-K classroom, guests also heard a touching personal testimony from a teacher who’s completed the IY Teacher Program, which is funded by the Partnership through Smart Start. As she said, it helped her to become a “proactive, not reactive” teacher, and she emphasized what a wonderful professional development opportunity the program provides for early childhood professionals. Her skill and dedication to her students was apparent to everyone on the tour as they observed her classroom and saw first-hand how she’s implemented the IY program’s techniques.
All participants left the bus tour with a deeper understanding of the scope of the Partnership’s work, as well as the need for community-wide commitment and efforts to ensure that every child in Durham enters school healthy and ready to succeed. One way you can join this work is to become even more informed, involved and invested! Sign up for our email list for news and advocacy alerts, subscribe to this blog, follow us on Facebook, join us on a future bus tour, and contact Krissy Dunn for information about upcoming activities and volunteer opportunities at the Partnership.