Sabbatical Reflection – Iceland

Blog – September 13, 2019

Hello friends of the Developing Young Hearts and Minds blog!

It was just one year ago this week I set off on a two and one half month adventure to visit early childhood programs in Iceland, Norway, Ireland, England and the Netherlands.  As the next weeks parallel my travels last year, I am posting reflections

First, a view from my “new” office window!  Bethel University is building a new science wing. Many of us had to move offices and I could not be happier! As my new office is located near Valentine Lake and a part of campus surrounded by trees. This is a view of the wild life that I’ve seen from my office window so far…in the summer a tiny fawn trying to hide, and this fall we have a flock of wild turkeys!

Iceland Reflection:

Iceland opening

One year ago, I made my  first sabbatical  stop Iceland. As I look back on my time with faculty from the University of Iceland and the directors and teachers at several preschools – I took with me so many things I have shared with my students here at Bethel University in St.Paul MN USA.  Thank you to the many folks in Iceland who made my time there unforgettable and helped me feel confident as I launched my journey.

Here are some ways my time in Iceland impacted my thinking and teaching…

First, we have discussed how the requirements for early childhood teachers in Iceland have been raised to a masters level. Here in the USA, early childhood teachers for child care centers do not need even a BA, though some have a college degree. As our early childhood system evolves in the USA there is a push to have early childhood teacher have a bachelors degree. This was first published in 2015 in the Transforming the Early Childhood Workforce – a 517 page exploration of the current states of our early childhood workforce and what is desired. You can read or download the report free from:

Second: We have discussed compensation of early childhood teachers. It was refreshing to learn that in Iceland, there is compensation for early childhood teachers similar if not the same as other teachers.  My students have been learning that while some positions in our public pre-kindergarten programs are on the teachers contract, many positions offered in the field are not – with teachers typically struggling financially. It is again, one of the highlights of Transforming the Workforce and our National Association of the Education of Young Children strive to raise wages.

Students were amazed to learn about the parental leave granted in Iceland – that extends to both mothers and fathers over the first year of a child’s life. It makes so much sense. Here in the USA, child care is not only very expensive for an infant but very hard to find an opening. We can learn a lot from the Icelandic way of caring for very young children and their families.

Outdoor education and time spent in nature: It was been exciting to share pictures of the classrooms and outdoor learning areas I took at three Iceland preschools.  Students were inspired by the photos of the outdoor play areas and learned how important it is  to plan the curriculum to include an ample amount of time outdoors. I’ve added content to my courses on the need for children to spend time outdoors as a result of what I  saw and learned in Iceland.

You are invited to a FREE webinar June 20th 1 PM EST USA : Pathways to Positive Parenting: Helping Parents Nurture Healthy Development in the Earliest Months.

via You are invited to a FREE webinar June 20th 1 PM EST USA : Pathways to Positive Parenting: Helping Parents Nurture Healthy Development in the Earliest Months.

You are invited to a FREE webinar June 20th 1 PM EST USA : Pathways to Positive Parenting: Helping Parents Nurture Healthy Development in the Earliest Months.

Pathways coverI will be hosting a live webinar sponsored by Zero to Three  featuring my book :  Pathways to Positive Parenting: Helping Parents Nurture Healthy Development in the Earliest Months. Pathways to positive parenting provides information and guidance for professionals working with very young infants in their work in hospitals, post-partum groups, early intervention and home visits.  I will be hosting a Summer Book Club webinar event (Thursday June 20  @ 1PM EST USA ) focused on the book and hope you will join me! Below you will find information on how to register for FREE if you are not a member of Zero to Three.

Pathways book club

When I was earning my master’s degree from Wheelock College in Boston, MA – I had the amazing opportunity to have an internship with Dr. Berry Brazelton who was then head of the Child Development Research Unit.  I embraced Dr. B’s philosophy and approach to working with families – and was certified in the Brazelton Neonatal Assessment Scale (NBAS). It was while working to become certified on the NBAS, I began thinking about and developing ways to use the concepts in my own work – which through the book I am able to share with others.

  I am posting it on this information on my blog site so those of you I met during my sabbatical and followed my blog would be able to participate in the webinar. Zero to Three provided me with a FREE registration code that can be used by non-members just for this event. It will be on Thursday June 20, 2019 at 1 PM Eastern Standard Time in the USA (so the same as New York City and Washington DC)  Here is the information to register if you are not a member:

Thank you for your interest in viewing Jolene dive deeper into her text “Pathways to Positive Parenting”. While this is a ZERO TO THREE Member exclusive event, we would love for you to join us as a participant in Dr. Pearson’s course. You may register using the link and coupon code below:

Individuals can contact me directly at if they have any issues or need any assistance.


Greetings from Minnesota!


The Developing Young Hearts and Mind  blog continues!

I am writing to you on what is expected to be one of the coldest days ever in Minnesota. Because we are experiencing weather generated by the polar vortex, many public schools and several businesses have closed. Not for just one day but three days in a row! I have  lived most of my life in Minnesota and this is the first time for such long closures.

How cold?  Well yesterday they were predicting that when the wind chill is factored in it may get to -65 F which the converter says is -53.88 C. As I write the temperature is dropping as predicted and the wind is picking up. I am very thankful to be able to work from home today and tomorrow.  I am hoping it does not get as cold as predicted.


 KEEPING CONNECTED:   Since returning form my sabbatical I have been corresponding with the program director from a school I visited in Iceland.  It was exciting  to hear from her as I hope to keep connections from my sabbatical alive. She wondered if I knew of any early childhood conference in the USA that might be helpful to her and her staff?  What came to mind was our National Association for the Education of Young Children annual conference – this year is being held in Nashville, Tennessee (this is the southeastern part of the USA).  Nashville is called the “Music City of the USA”   I was able to send her a link to the brochure from the 2018 conference so she could evaluate the types of keynote speakers and workshops they offer.  She decided it would be a good conference for herself and perhaps some of her staff to attend.

JOINT PROJECT: Upon thinking of all of the innovative environmental programming she had developed in her program, I asked her if she would consider submitting a proposal to present at the conference.  We submitted our proposal yesterday.  It will be based on her expertise in environmental education for preschool children and my vision for how such an approach might be adopted by preschools in USA .

Below is the link to the National Association for the Education of Young Children. It is our largest national early childhood organization. It has become more of an international conference in the past years – with some sessions offered in Spanish and Chinese.   If you are interested in the conference, click the EVENTS tab.

So while is indeed cold in Minnesota my heart is warm with memories of my time with new friends from Iceland, Norway, Ireland, England, France and the Netherlands!  Indeed the sabbatical was refreshing in so many ways.  Our spring semester begins on Monday Feb. 4th – and I am looking forward to teaching again.


Coming Full Circle…


Visiting the Bernard van Leer Foundation (­­­­BvLF) in The Hague, Netherlands


Bernard van Leer Foundation Mission:
To improve opportunities for children from birth to age 8 growing up in circumstances of social and economic disadvantage.

“At the Bernard van Leer Foundation, we believe that giving all children a good start in life is the right thing to do and the best way to build healthy, prosperous and creative societies.”  

My time spent at the van Leer Foundation was extraordinary because of the warm welcome a by Mr.  Leonardo Yanez ( one of the senior staff at BvLF) and all of the friendly staff he introduced me too. It is an amazing team of energized, creative and committed individuals from all over the world.




I specifically wanted to visit the van Leer Foundation because of the way in which it had supported early childhood initiatives in Jamaica when I was in the Peace Corps from 1977-79. At that time I wondered about why the Dutch would be involved in an initiative in the Caribbean?  At that time my wondering simply remained wondering.

Years later my curiosity was re-ignited and I began to research the Bernard van Leer foundation. Thanks to a reply email and invitation from Patrin my request to visit was granted.  What began as my first international early childhood experience 1977-79 came full circle in 2018 through this wonderful sabbatical opportunity.

I quickly learned the BvLF is not comprised of only Dutch staff but has an international team from Brazil, Colombia, Ecuador, France, India, Israel, The Netherlands, Peru, Romania, Singapore, Spain, Thailand, Turkey, UK, USA, Venezuela.  And the work of the BvLF has impact all over the world. I encourage you to take a look at their publication called Early Childhood Matters 2018 These stories make clear the need to attend to the needs of young children and their caregivers and innovative ways to do so.

Mr. Leonardo Yanez hosted my visit to the van Leer Foundation.  He kindly offered to meet me at the train station when I arrived in the Hague and together we walked to the BvLF office which was nearby.


As we walked and talked, I learned  about the BvLF perspective that to help  young children you must support their caregivers by understanding their stresses and needs.  As he spoke of the need to focus on the caregivers, it made me think about the important experience I have had in implementing Early Childhood Education in Minnesota where for over 40 years we have acknowledge that parents are the child’s first and most important teacher and the services are directed to educating and supporting parents.  This is also prominent concept in the work of the Harvard Center for the Developing Child . I mentioned to Leonardo that the perspective he was describing seemed much like that of the Innovation at the Harvard Center for the Developing Child.  Indeed there was a very specific connection! That very afternoon at 4 PM Dr. Charles Nelson from the Harvard Center for the Developing Child was meeting with the executive board of the Bernard van Leer Foundation and the next day meeting with the staff. Indeed they were not only on the ‘same page’ but actively work together!

I learned that over the years the BvLF  has evolved in it’s focus. They have  focused on to helping others recognize and implement changes in their community which ultimately improve child-caregiver interactions and care-giver well-being through sustainable projects. This powerful focus is revealed in their URBAN 95 PROJECT.  Y

Urban 95

Here is an example of the way they work to enhance the lives of children and their caregivers. On the day of my visit some of the team was having others in the office try out and give feedback for their Virtual Reality of a Three Year Old experience. We took turns donning the headset and experienced how a three year old would experience the world. The virtual environment was set in an area many children might encounter with some dangers and loud noises. The experience was very intense for me.  The question the project team asks is:


Here you see one of the team actively experiencing life as a 3 year old in an urban environment (complete with urban sounds)  with the team eager for feedback. They will present this experience conferences for urban planners.   It is hoped this virtual reality experience  can be used to help those who are involved community planning, quite literally put themselves in the shoes of a young child.



Staff experiencing  the virtual reality of a three year old in an urban environment.

While we, in early childhood education debate about the appropriate amount of ‘screen time’ for very young children, here is a use of advanced technology that can be used to help adults understand ( and remember!)  how a young child experiences the world.

A question I resonated with the in URBAN 95 booklet is:


A powerful way BvLF shares their work is making their projects available free on-line. The URBAN 95 starter kit has a plethora of ideas for stimulating ideas to enhance Public Spaces, address Mobility, integrate Early Childhood Services and use Data-Driven Management in city planning. The booklet describes 30 innovations that have been developed and used worldwide.

It was exciting to read The URBAN 95 starter kits opens up, literally, a world of ways to improve support for parents and children. Just a few  of the ideas and examples include:  safe and public  breastfeeding, pop-up play areas, planting a tree for every baby born, everything nearby, parent coaching bundled with health resources, integrated early childhood services, creating early childhood  data dashboards for city planners. For each idea they give real world examples and outcome areas. In additional, they have support for YOU to start these conversations through posters, power-point presentations, drafts of workshop agendas , case studies, etc.

uou can download a free copy of the starter kit to see all of the ideas and ways to start conversations in your community.   URBAN 95 starter kit address:


In addition to learning about the BvLF, I had an opportunity to hear informally from team members about their own experience as parents. This is a picture of a lively discussion over lunch.


I learned a bit about the teacher shortage in the Netherlands.  One mother shared that at her child’s school they are encouraging parents to consider becoming teachers. If a parent is takes this offer, there financial support for them to go back to school. This lead to our discussing the need to uplift teachers – both in status and pay. One person underscored the fact that without  good teachers at the foundation level, many children will not be inspired to study further. A really important point!

Another woman described the wonderful support available new parents right after the birth of their baby. A person came within just hours  to help coach the new parents through caring for their baby and helped with household tasks. I also learned that is common in the Netherlands to have a home birth. Hospital births are for those mothers who have some type of risk factor – yet the hospital stay is often just a day or less.

I will end this blog by giving you more information about the Bernard van Leer Foundation from their website…what began as Mr. van Leer’s desire to make a difference is indeed making a difference around the world.

From their website..

Who we are

At the Bernard van Leer Foundation, we believe that giving all children a good start in life is both the right thing to do and the best way to build healthy, prosperous and creative societies.

We are a private foundation focused on developing and sharing knowledge about what works in early childhood development. We provide financial support and expertise to partners in government, civil society and business to help test and scale effective services for young children and families.

Over the last 50 years, we have invested more than half a billion dollars and worked in all regions of the world. Our partnerships have informed public policies in more than 25 countries, led to innovations in service delivery and training that have been widely adopted by governments and non-profit organisations, and generated breakthrough ideas that have changed the way stakeholders from parents to policymakers think about the earliest years of a child’s life.


Bernard van Leer was an entrepreneur who built a large global packaging company. After witnessing the destruction of World War II, Bernard was inspired to invest in improving society and started the Foundation in 1949 with a wide range of philanthropic activities. After Bernard passed away in 1958, his son Oscar took over the packaging company and the Foundation.

Why invest in early childhood development?

Bernard’s son Oscar decided to focus the Foundation on young children in the mid-1960s. He was inspired by the idea that making small changes early in someone’s life could dramatically change their future. As a businessman, Oscar felt investing in young children was a compelling value proposition – one that could improve the state of the world.



Paris Blog!


My sabbatical journey has taken me to Paris France.  On this leg of my adventure I am not visiting schools or meeting with faculty rather just passing through on my way to The Netherlands. In the Netherlands   I will meet with staff of the van Leer Foundation which  has supported early childhood projects around the world . The van Leer Foundation was a part of my experience in the Peace Corps in Jamaica as they partnered with the Jamaican government to launch training for Basic School Teachers.

In this blog you will see some of the sites and views I am experiencing. There are so many grand buildings in Paris and the architecture is  different from the other places I have visited. Paris is indeed a beautiful, friendly city.

Carol, my childhood friend from Hibbing  joined me on this leg of my adventure.  We have literally been have been here, there and everywhere in Paris in the past four days!  From the Louvre to cruising on Seine to visiting the Picasso Museum…and more. ,  Thanks to my friend Kathy M. who is related to the manager,  we are staying at the ATN hotel.  It has been a delightful place to stay and well located for exploring Paris.




Here are some of the sites we visited. , Notre-Dame. It was built on the site of a Roman temple and was commissioned to have a cathedral built in 1159 by Bishop de Sully. The first stone was laid in 1163 and that began two centuries of work by thousands of Gothic architects and craftsman. The cathedral has been the site of great events in French history such as the coronations of Henry VI in 1422 and Napoleon Bonaparte in 1804.  When we arrived to enter there was no line. I was told that was remarkable. We simply walked right in. Upon coming out, the line had formed and what line it was!  A priest invited us to attend the 100 Remembrance Service of peace between France and Germany this Sunday.  He added not to be surprised to see a large security force presence.  That addition to his invitation is a reminder of the times we live inNotreDame



We returned on Sunday for the Remembrance Service and the lines were very, very, very long. Instead I opted to stand near the entrance for the dignitaries .

Not to be missed when visiting  Paris is the Louvre. It is a massive museum holding some of the most important collections in the world. It’s history goes back to medieval times when it was built as a fortress n 1190 to protect against Viking raids.   It was also royal residence and became a museum in 1793 during the French revolutions. The collections are on 5 levels and have three inter-connecting wings.   No way we could see it all in one day!  A famous painting that you will be familiar with is the Mona Lisa.  On the day we visited the Louvre, Carol noted we clocked over 7 miles of walking..and I think at least half of it had to be be inside the Louvre itself.  Here you will see the side of the Louvre and some of the beautiful items. Napoleon had his residence here and you can view his apartments.





Here are a few more images from the Louvre.






Very near the Louvre, is the Arch d’ Triumph.  As you may know this past Sunday was the 100 year celebration of the end of the first world war. There was a service at Notre Dame and also world leaders assembled to pay homage to those that lost their lives.  The Arch d’ Triumph is situated on a beautiful park.  Look carefully and you will see Carol in the lower right hand corner. It gives you perspective on how grand this structure is.


One memorable activity for me will be the cruise down the Seine River.  We passed under ornate bridges, and many of the iconic buildings in Paris.  We stared out from the pier at the foot of the Eiffel Tower.


One of the first places I visited upon arriving in Paris was The Sacred Heart Basilica on Montmartre,  It is known as the hill of the martyrs because St. Denis the first bishop of Paris was decapitated for his faith. It is built high on a hill (fabulous view of Paris!) It is unique because they have perpetual prayer night and day and have done this for over 130 years.  The Basilica is a sign of hope. The brochure said, “Up here the Lord is present. Up here someone is praying for me. “



And finally a wonderful picture taken by a passerby who then emailed it to us!

Paris Carol jolene


Next stop Amsterdam!