May 2018 Newsletter – Service-Learning Project Ideas: Infant-Toddler

It may be challenging to think of ways to connect infants and toddlers with the larger community in developmentally appropriate ways.

  • Community Art Drop – paint rocks and leave them in community spaces to brighten another’s day. You could also have children decorate small canvases and pass them out to people you encounter on walks in the community.
  • Art for hospitals – allow the children to create a mural or paintings that can be donated to a local children’s hospital.
  • Recognize community helpers – create thank you cards or treats for local police, fire fighters, mail carriers, etc.

Be sure to read the Director’s Corner to see a list of program-wide service-learning projects that can include the youngest learners and their families.


CLICK HERE to read the main article about Service-Learning

CLICK HERE for service-learning project ideas for Preschool

CLICK HERE for service-learning project ideas for School-Age

CLICK HERE for service-learning project ideas for Director’s Corner


May 2018 Newsletter – Service-Learning

Connecting children to the larger community is a beneficial practice for the children as well as for the community.  Service-learning is an excellent way to build empathy, build relationships with families, and reinforce many cognitive, language, social/emotional, and physical skills.

According to Vanderbilt University’s Janet S. Eyler and Dwight E. Giles, Jr., service-learning is:

“a form of experiential education where learning occurs through a cycle of action and reflection as students. . . seek to achieve real objectives for the community and deeper understanding and skills for themselves. In the process, students link personal and social development with academic and cognitive development. . . experience enhances understanding; understanding leads to more effective action.”

The National Youth Leadership Counsel has developed learning standards related to service-learning that help guide the development of meaningful and appropriate service-learning projects.  The standards are geared for K-12, however there are many parallels that apply to early learning environments as well.  Keep these ideas in mind as you plan projects for children in your care:

Meaningful Service
Service-learning actively engages participants in meaningful and personally relevant service activities.

Link to Curriculum
Service-learning is intentionally used as an instructional strategy to meet learning goals and/or content standards.

Service-learning incorporates multiple challenging reflection activities that are ongoing and that prompt deep thinking and analysis about oneself and one’s relationship to society.

Service-learning promotes understanding of diversity and mutual respect among all participants.

Youth Voice
Service-learning provides youth with a strong voice in planning, implementing, and evaluating service-learning experiences with guidance from adults.

Service-learning partnerships are collaborative, mutually beneficial, and address community needs.

Progress Monitoring
Service-learning engages participants in an ongoing process to assess the quality of implementation and progress toward meeting specified goals, and uses results for improvement and sustainability.

Duration and Intensity
Service-learning has sufficient duration and intensity to address community needs and meet specified outcomes.

From K-12 Service-Learning Standards for Quality Practice 


CLICK HERE for service-learning project ideas for Infant-Toddler

CLICK HERE for service -learning project ideas for Preschool

CLICK HERE for service-learning project ideas for School-Age

CLICK HERE for service-learning project ideas for Director’s Corner

May 2018 Student Spotlight – Mari Rudge

As a young girl I always dreamed of becoming a teacher.  The greatest influence in this decision was my fourth grade teacher Mrs. Susan Jones.  She made learning fun and exciting.  My career in education started after my service in the United States Marines Corp.  Even though I had a passion for education, I did try my hand in the corporate world.  Never feeling fulfilled in those roles, I left the corporate world and began my career as an early childhood teacher.  Within the first year, I knew that I had found my calling.

My favorite time of day with my students was when I could see the “aha” moment in their eyes as they connected what they were being taught to their everyday life experiences.   Knowing the impact early childhood educators have on children at such a young age, I wanted to share what I had experienced with other teachers.  I went from teaching in a classroom to becoming a Director of Early Childhood.  I received my Director’s Certification through CCEI.  The courses were very instrumental in giving me the foundation needed to become a successful Director.  My career as a Director has allowed me to spread my experience and knowledge to teachers who also have the drive and commitment to early childhood.  I encourage my teachers to take courses from CCEI to further their education.  The courses can be taken at their own pace and gives them the CEU credits they need yearly.

I am currently working as a Director at a The Goddard School where going to work every day is less like work and more like a fun place to hang out with teachers who have the same passion as I do. My future plans are to continue working as a Director while I take on more educational courses. I plan on using CCEI to further my education and would recommend them to anyone who wants to learn the most up-to-date information in early childhood.   An unknown author once wrote “A teacher’s purpose is not to create students in his own image, but to develop students who can create their own image.”  Knowing that we, as educators, have that responsibility is a great honor.  I can’t imagine having a job more gratifying than this one.

March 2018 Student Spotlight – Christina Soliman

I began my career in early childhood by babysitting for the kids in my neighborhood and I really enjoyed watching kids.  After I graduated, I got my first job in a child care center and haven’t looked back!  My favorite time of day to spend with the children is story time.  Their favorite time of day is outside time chasing bubbles and riding bikes.  I love watching the children learn new things.  I enjoy seeing their smiling faces when they come in, getting hugs from them, and seeing them learn something new.

I obtained my CDA through ChildCare Education Institute and it was a great program! I would recommend anyone to go through the CDA program with CCEI. I would love to continue to work with children by opening up my own child care center.

I currently live in Ft Myers, FL.  In my free time, I watch my boys play baseball and soccer and I enjoy crafts.  In the future, I definitely see my career continuing to work with children.

March 2018 Newsletter – Director WOYC Activity Ideas

The Week of the Young Child can be as big or as low key as you want.  Each program celebrates in their own way, based on the resources available to them.  Here are a few tips to help you plan your special event:

  • If you are interested in learning what others have done for WOYC, you can check out the #woyc site for ideas.
  • Set aside time during upcoming staff meetings to brainstorm ideas and plan activities for WOYC. Share some of the #woyc17 ideas to spark the creativity of your staff.
  • It may be necessary to create a budget for WOYC. Make sure staff are aware of the budget for activities and events.  Collect supply lists as early as possible to ensure that teachers have everything they need for the event.
  • Recognize that some activities may require more than one day to complete. These activities can either be kicked off during the WOYC or they can wrap up during this week.  Help teachers make decisions about the timing that is most appropriate for their individual projects.
  • Use this time to connect parents with community resources. Set up times for hearing and vision screenings during this week.  Invite representatives from early intervention agencies to come talk with families about general child development and what to do if they have concerns.  Host a resource fair for parents at your location.
  • Market WOYC events in your parent communication tools. You can also use the WOYC logos that are available here.  Spread the word to your early learning connections and the community at large.
  • Tie into the larger celebration by tagging social media posts with #woyc18. You are also encourages to share stories and images of your event at the NAEYC’s Facebook page.  Your local or state NAEYC affiliate may also have a Facebook page.
  • Be sure you have parent permission to share any images of children on social media. Do not share any images of children for whom you do not have written permission.
  • Get invitations out to community and government officials as soon as possible. Brainstorm a list of possible invitees. Ask family members if they have any connections that could be leveraged.  Include messages from children in your invitations as well as facts about the importance of early childhood education.
  • If a dignitary or official is able to attend, be prepared to document the event.  Perhaps there is a connection to a photographer among the children or staff.  Invite parents to visit while the official visits to share their support of early learning.  Prepare a press release, if possible.

March 2018 Newsletter – School-Age WOYC Activity Ideas

Music Monday

  • Encourage children to create songs about the program, their friends, families, or themselves. If children are willing, they can perform these songs for the other children in a concert or traveling band that visits the other rooms in the program. Record these performances.  Share them with elected officials and post them on social media (with parent permission).
  • Invite a dance instructor in to teach children the steps of popular dances. Tie this activity to a dance-a-thon charity event to raise money for a local cause.

Tasty Tuesday

  • Plan a meal for families or community members. Invite the cook or a caterer (possibly a family volunteer?) to work with children to plan the meal. Encourage children to take an active role in as many steps of the process as possible, including taking a fieldtrip to a grocery store to purchase supplies. This project may start on Tasty Tuesday and culminate at a later date.
  • Host a new food challenge. Ask children to identify foods that they have never had or that they do not like.  Encourage children to try new foods or to retry foods they did not like in the past.

Work Together Wednesday

  • Work together on a clean-up project. Look for opportunities to have children, families, and community members work together to clean up a park, garden, or playground space.
  • Collaborate on a letter to the editor of the local newspaper, highlighting the importance of the experiences children have had while participating in the program.

Artsy Thursday

  • Engage in performance art. Host a talent show, put on a play or puppet show.  Invite children and families from the program to watch the show and cheer on the performers.
  • Invite community members and government officials to come in to sit for a portrait. Spend time prior to the event exploring different types of portraits that have been painted in the past, including as many styles as you can find.  Children can use this time to ask and answer questions from the visitor.

Family Friday

  • Write thank you notes to family members. This can be done on a collaborative mural, in a video recording, or on traditional cards.  Encourage children to identify all the things they are thankful for about their families.  Assist children in creating their notes or scripts and share with families.
  • Encourage children and families to work together to write letters or postcards to the governor or state representatives asking for their commitment to supporting early learning.

March 2018 Newsletter – Preschool WOYC Activity Ideas

Music Monday

  • Introduce a brand new type of music to the children. Explore the different music from around the globe.   Ask parents for suggestions.
  • Invite a local musician or performer in to put on a show for children and families. Encourage children to create a list of questions to ask the performer about their work.  You may be able to identify family members who have musical talents to spend time with the children instead of a paid performer.

Tasty Tuesday

  • Sponsor a food drive for a local shelter or food bank. Encourage children to create marketing materials for the project and take part in collecting and dropping off the food at the end of the event.
  • Plant some seeds. Start your garden indoors by planting seeds, then transferring them to the outdoor garden once the conditions are suitable.

Work Together Wednesday

  • Encourage children to work together to create a nature collection. Provide cookie sheets and ask groups of children to fill the cookie sheets with items from nature that they find on the playground.  Introduce new vocabulary words and math concepts related to the objects that children find.
  • Invite family members, community leaders, etc. to come talk with the children about the importance of working together. Brainstorms a list of ways that children can work together in the classroom.  Create a class book about all the ways that children can work together.  Encourage children to illustrate and bind the book for the library.

Artsy Thursday

  • Create marketing materials for quality early learning experiences. Have children create posters, brochures, commercials, or advertisements highlighting all the things they have learned in the program.  Send these materials to elected officials at all levels of government.  Ask for their commitment to support early learning in their funding decisions.
  • Decorate sidewalks near your program with chalk decorations and WOYC facts.

Family Friday

  • Invite families to volunteer. Not all families will be able to participate and not everyone will participate in the same way. Find out from family members how they might be able to donate some of their time to your program.  If you don’t have a volunteer program, you could officially launch it on this day.
  • Share learning with families.  Talk with children about what they want to be when they grow up.  Work with individual children to think of things they are learning today that will they will also use in their job in the future.  Create a representation of this information to share with families.  Copies can also be shared with elected officials in your community or in social media (with parent permission).

March 2018 Newsletter – Infant-Toddler WOYC Activity Ideas

Music Monday

  • Introduce different musical instruments. Encourage children to explore the instruments and start a marching band that travels around the facility.
  • Sing in the park. Take a walk in the community and sing out loud.  Share copies of the resource 10 Ways Babies Learn When We Sing to Them with the people you encounter on your walk.

Tasty Tuesday

  • Encourage children to take part in making their own snacks. Take pictures of children making their own snack and share with families or on social media (with parent permission).  List the skills that children are learning as they make their own snack.
  • Introduce new vocabulary related to the foods children are eating. Talk about the colors, textures, and tastes of the foods included in the meals. Document the new vocabulary words and share them with parents so they can use them at home.

Work Together Wednesday

  • Create a Cooperation Castle. Use a large cardboard box to create a play space. Encourage children to work together to paint and decorate the play space.
  • Invite families to participate in an activity that they work on with their child. It could be a project related to art, music, science, or construction.

Artsy Thursday

  • Invite members of the community to visit your program and work on a community mural with the children. Point out the skills that children are learning as they engage in the art project.  Use language from your state’s early learning standards so community members can clearly see the connection between the activity and children’s learning.
  • Create mini paintings. Place facts about the benefits of open ended art activities on the back of each painting. Share the paintings with families or take them on a walk to pass out to members of your community.

Family Friday

  • Throw a surprise party for families. Welcome each family member who comes to pick up their child with an enthusiastic “Surprise!”  Have healthy snacks available and invite families to join you for an afternoon celebration.
  • Make Week of the Young Child 2018 Provide a variety of materials needed for homemade books that families can create with their children. Have pictures of children engaged in learning activities, sample works of art, and dictations of children’s language available. Encourage families to bring in images of their own to add to the book.

March 2018 Newsletter – Planning for the Week of the Young Child

Each year, the National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC) organizes a celebration focused on early childhood education, children, families, and teachers.  They have named the event the Week of the Young ChildTM (WOYC). The goal of the event is to raise awareness of the importance of high quality early learning experiences and garner support from stakeholders, both within and outside of the early learning community.

It is a time to share the valuable short and long term contributions that early learning provides to our society and economy.  While the event is organized and sponsored by NAEYC, it is implemented in individual communities in ways that reflect the unique nature of the programs and communities that participate.

Mark your calendar; this year’s WOYC event will be held April 16-20.

NAEYC has created suggested themes for each day of the event:

  • April 16 – Music Monday
  • April 17 – Tasty Tuesday
  • April 18 – Work Together Wednesday
  • April 19 – Artsy Thursday
  • April 20 – Family Friday

More information and suggested activities related to these themes can be found here and here.  Many of the resources can be shared with parents, members of the community, or local and state government officials. It’s important to start planning early, especially if you plan to invite government officials to participate in your event.  You want to get on their calendars as early as possible.

The suggested themes are just that, suggestions – you can plan different activities that highlight the important work that you are doing in your program.  Check out the links to the different age groups for ideas that might be appropriate for the children in your program.

April 2018 Newsletter – Director’s Corner: Helping Teachers Understand and Implement UDL

Whether you currently have children with Autism Spectrum Disorder, or any other disability, enrolled in your program, UDL is designed to help all learners succeed.  Some of the language included in UDL is geared more toward elementary, middle, and high school learners.  However, many of the recommendations contained in UDL align with the principles of Developmentally Appropriate Practice, with which early learning professionals should already be familiar.

It is recommended that educators become familiar with both UDL and DAP, in order to create appropriate learning environments for all children.

Access the UDL Guidelines at  Spend time familiarizing yourself with the different sections in the easy to read guide.  Once you have wrapped your mind around the recommendations, reflect on specific areas of your program in relation to the UDL guidelines.  This reflection will help you create a plan of action that will fit the unique needs of your program.

Consider the following list of recommendations for ways you can support your staff as they incorporate UDL in your program environment:

  • Introduce the UDL guidelines using a professional development community approach – create a plan to introduce one new guideline each month. Share information with teachers during a staff meeting and ask them to reflect and create a plan of action to incorporate the recommendations related to the guideline into their daily practice throughout the month. Establish a plan to check in throughout the month to support teachers and create accountability. Share successes and challenges at the next staff meeting before introducing the next guideline, or determine that more work needs to be done with the original guideline and rework the plans.
  • Assign each teaching team a different UDL guideline and ask them to create a presentation to share with the rest of the group during a staff meeting or professional development day.
  • Look for training opportunities that exist in your community. Arrange for a speaker to conduct professional development for your staff. Or look for online training options such as the special needs courses on CCEI, which contain many of the recommendations included in the UDL Guidelines.
  • Once the UDL Guidelines have been introduced, create a checklist for each area. You can start with the recommendations shared in the sections of this newsletter. Ask staff to conduct self-assessments using the checklists.  Work with each team to create a plan of action that will help them include more elements of UDL into their environments.

To view the article on Engagement – The Why of Learning, click here.

To view the article on Representation – The What of Learning , click here.

To view the article on Action and Expression – The How of Learning, click here.

Have you had success in implementing elements of UDL into your program?  Share your experience with us on Facebook here.