Editor’s Note: The Early Learning Nation Studio recently attended the National Association for the Education of Young Children’s annual conference where we spoke with early learning researchers, policymakers, and practitioners. The full collection of video conversations can be found here.
As early learning science continues to deliver new insights around how children learn, the imperative next step becomes putting those learnings into the hands of people who need it most: Educators and parents. Senior Manager Erin Ramsey explains how Mind in the Making does that all across America.
Chris Riback: Erin, welcome to the studio.
Erin Ramsey: Thanks.
Chris Riback: So, Mind in the Making and Training the Trainers – bringing the Mind in the Making program to the world. What does that mean? What does that look like? How does it work?
Erin Ramsey: What we do is we invite community, states, early childhood systems, elementary education, all different factors of the communities together to really create a surround strategy so that the stakeholders are involved and create a common language around the seven life skills and understanding the brain science and the importance of executive functions.
Chris Riback: Who contacts whom? Do you reach out to the communities? Do they find you and how does that work?
Erin Ramsey: It varies how we develop our partnerships. A lot of people will come to us and have nice systems in place and they’re really ready for something to implement. Then some we reach out to that we hear about that are being innovative and progressive and have the right players at the table and can scaffold their resources to really make a big difference.
Chris Riback: Are there different levels of readiness? Are there different levels of where the communities are at, maybe that difference between aspiration and actuality? How do you need to evolve what you discuss with them based on where they are?
Erin Ramsey: There’s not real strict criteria, but we really look at the factors that are most important to us, which is cross sector collaboration so that it’s not just within early childhood or just elementary ed, but that lots of different people come together to make the difference. We could work with law enforcement, museums, mental health, families, so the whole gamut of the community comes together. That’s the number one thing that we really look at, and that people are ready for it and they’re ready to engage families in new ways. The way that we implement is that Mind in the Making kind of levels the playing field and give states and community something to actually do together.
Erin Ramsey: A lot of communities will come and meet, and meet and talk about the issues, and they want to work together, but there’s not one common thing that they can do. Mind in the Making creates that platform.
Chris Riback: Creates that platform… sounds like also creates that centering event almost or mission. Is it part of the mission or is it maybe an ancillary benefit that you help bring communities together?
Erin Ramsey: I think it’s a really essential part of our work, is that we really need to do away with the silos in the education system and the divide between professionals and families and bring professionals and families together on a learning journey. So one, they understand the brain science, two, they build trust and three, they can collaborate with common goals for themselves as adults. It really starts with the adult first and then how do we help our children?
Chris Riback: How do people react to the brain science and are they interested in the brain science or do they want to know, “Yeah, yeah, yeah, but how do you translate that into something actionable that I can really do with my kid right now or with the environment where I’m teaching right now?”?
Erin Ramsey: Yes. It’s both. People love the science and they feel very, very empowered by it. So it is about the science, but the way that we have the learning journey set up is we start with the adult, we talk about the life skill, we share the science and then we have two big paradigms that we’re trying to shift among people. One is that you can’t set a goal for somebody else. You can only set a goal for yourself. So through the process, the adults going through the training and the learning journey who are going to bring it back to their communities, set goals for themselves around their own life skills. Then they learned to set a goal for themselves and how they’re going to promote it and children.
Erin Ramsey: That’s where the research to action takes place. So we know things that they could do to promote executive function, we know things that we can do to promote executive function tied to the life skills in Mind in the Making, and then they get to decide, “How am I going to use this information for myself and then for myself and how I’m going to influence children.’.
Chris Riback: You touched on this a little bit, but you work with different sectors, don’t you? Tell me about the different sectors that you work with and why is the sector work important?
Erin Ramsey: The sector work is really about the surround strategy so that Mind in the Making doesn’t just become another program in a small program or one part of the community, but that actually becomes a common language, a common priority, and it gives people things that they can do together to build the common understanding of good child development and the impact that the adult has on the child.
Chris Riback: Now, I know you love all of your children equally, so I’m not asking you to pick favorites-
Erin Ramsey: Yes.
Chris Riback: … but is there an example that comes to mind of maybe some training or an area where you’ve helped implement the program recently that would help me understand and see what you’re talking about?
Erin Ramsey: Yes. I think one of the really unique things about Mind in the Making is really is a way to engage families. A lot of early childhood programs and schools have challenges with that because families have changed, or because there’s lack of time, or whatever it is. How do we get families really engaged in the process? A lot of communities are using Mind in the Making as a family engagement strategy. One of our really huge successes that just came to an end and they hope to carry on was Providence, Rhode Island. They got several million dollars from the Department of Education-
Chris Riback: Wow.
Erin Ramsey: … using Mind in the Making as a family engagement strategy. All the children that were entering this public school system, their families were invited to go to Mind in the Making. Some of the preliminary findings are that the families were way more engaged with the school after attending.
Chris Riback: You’re transforming communities.
Erin Ramsey: Yes, and people’s lives. The stories that I get to hear being the trainer of the trainers is that they’ve really feel transformed by the experience because they’re setting goals, they’re taking time to think about themselves, they’re understanding the science, and they have something that they could do when they leave, something tangible that’s directed by themselves, not told to them to do.
Chris Riback: Good for you, good for them as well. Thank you. Thank you for coming by the studio.