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Norway!

Norway – Trondheim Queen Maud University 

DM

I am here in Trondheim, Norway visiting Queen Maud University  (Dronning) is the Norwegian word for Queen)  I have been made to feel so welcomed. Already in week I  have been able to visit two Barnehagens (Norwegian name for the schools that serve children from one year of age to 5/6).

In addition I have met with two wonderful people who coordinate the International Student programs (Siri and Rasmus) and three faculty members who have shared both information about their teacher preparation programs and perspectives on early childhood education in Norway. ‘One of faculty I met with is the distant cousin of one of my students at Bethel. He shared with me the remarkable story of how they reconnected.

As everywhere, there are restrictions on taking photos of the children. I am taking as many pictures as possible to give you and idea of the environments and best practices here in Norway. even though I cannot take pictures of the children in action.

I am a guest of Queen Maud University. They have kindly given me an office which is a cute loft above the bookstore. This has been a wonderful place to reflect and read as I learn about their program.

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This is key information from Queen Maud’s website which helps you understand they hold a unique position within early childhood teacher preparation.

Queen Maud University College of Early Childhood Education (QMUC) was established in 1947 as a foundation built on Christian values.

  • We have currently about 1400 students and 150 professional employees.
  • A lot of effort has been made to encourage men to start in Early Childhood Education and Care. Queen Maud University College has received The Gender Equality Prize for its successful work in recruiting men to the profession.
  • QMUC are participating in several research projects regarding Early Childhood Education and Care, both nationally and internationally.
  • QMUC participates in the ERASMUS program.
  • QMUC is leading the Network for Preschool Teacher Training and Preschool Development in Southern Africa, namely Zambia, Namibia, Swaziland, Botswana, Mozambique and Tanzania. We also take part in several other national and international networks.

First I want to share with you some information from the Norwegian Preschool Framework. As in Iceland, there is an agreed upon national guide that all barnehage follow whether pubic or private.  All children can attend a barnehage….the directors of both schools I visited explained the cost is very low and there are discounts for families who have lower incomes. In any case the government subsidizes preschool care and education.

Here is how the government funding impacts families:

 The parent payment for the first child in kindergartens shall amount to a maximum of six per cent of the household’s total personal income pursuant to the Tax Act, Chapter 12 and taxable capital income, and be limited to the maximum limit for parental payment pursuant to section 1. This means that the care and education for children between ages 1-5/6 is very affordable and provisions are made to make it affordable for all families – even those new to the country.  Everyone is expected to learn Norwegian but their is a deep understanding of the importance or retaining one’s native language as well.

FRAMEWORK VALUES TO BE EMBEDDED IN THE BARNEHAGEN….

Values

Norwegian framework plan (new in 2017)  I am hopeful you can hear  this audio of my host translating some of the framework for me. It is not easy to translate these concepts and I really appreciated her doing this so I could better understand the deep thinking reflected in the values in the framework.  You will better understand how values are then reflected in the programs.    Click on the link. This is my first time trying to add an audio link to my blog and I am hopeful you will be able to hear the translation.   🙂

The education will help to promote understanding of human dignity and democracy, especially through child participation and in line with the value basis in the kindergarten’s purpose clause.

The education will promote understanding of Sami culture as part of the national and emphasize indigenous status and rights, both nationally and internationally. (The Sami are the indigenous people who live not only in Norway but across Scandinaiva. I learned that Sami children have the opportunity to learn the Sami language in addition to Norwegian. This is critical for the Sami people…just as it is for our Native Americans in the USA.

The kindergarten teacher education will qualify the candidate to practice the kindergarten teacher in a society characterized by diversity and change. Learning outcomes are formulated based on the national qualifications framework for higher education, bachelor degree.

Norway has a great deal of diversity – many new immigrant groups have settled in Norway. Last night I attended a festival performance of young people called Fargespill . To celebrate the diversity in Noway these performances gather up  students from 8-20 years of age and create an international performance. In Trondheim this year it included Norwegian  young people performing with their Syrian, Somali, Kenyan, Burmese, Egyptian, Vietnamese, Kongolese, Eritrean, Phillipino , etc classmates. It was AMAZING!  The Faregspill  project is being nominated for a Nobel Peace prize. This is a picture from the last scene in the performance which I thoroughly enjoyed. Thank you to Oddrun for the tickets.

festival Norway

SCHOOL VISIT: What did I see at  Laeringsverkstedets DoRiMi  This school for children 1-5/6 had an emphasis on music as the name implies!

Humlehaugen DoReMi – Barnehagen

Ratio in 1-2 year old class.  5 staff with 17 children. One of the five teachers was a male. He said he had come to enjoy working with the youngest group. The teachers follow the lead of the children and extensive exploration is encouraged with little re-direction from adults. Free play and exploration is highly valued and this is evident as one observes.

I noted a  child who was  not walking (all of the other children were) and I wondered about early intervention type services.  The teacher explained they will wait another 2 months and have parents check with medical provider. Treatment (if needed) will be taught   to staff and parents so they can help the child in the best manner.

One of the children is this group understands/speaks 4 languages. Her mother  is Chinese,  a father who Italian and they speak English at home.  At age 2 this little girl speaks Chinese , Italian, English and Norwegian! A testimony to the ability of the brain to respond to  what it experiences.

The Kitchen, children were kneading small bits of  dough for rolls. There was a big mixer out they had used/observed to make the dough.   Later, two infants were brought into the kitchen  and were sitting in high chairs with wooden spoons…watching, smelling the bread baking.

The Infant sleep room.  30 strollers lining the room, Kept at a cooler temp. Same all year. At nap time children get into their strollers and sleep in this room.

Assembly room.  The school has a very large auditorium. While I was there  ­­children were learning about dinosaurs and had  light shadow puppet stage.  They use this room to gather once per week to build community.  On this particular day  there were    83 children 21 staff on-site.

Art room There were so many materials! Children have art lessons where a teacher gives them opportunities to work on project – also there are times when this room is open for free art. The teacher is herself an artist. There were beautiful art projects. Sticks wrapped in year with googly eyes,   bumble bee foot prints,  water color of self-portraits  displayed in frames.

Math room – set up for teaching math through hands on materials. Again, there were many kinds of well organized materials.

Outside EVERY DAY  Note the large play area – Children are  allowed to climb and expected to have some minor mishaps. Teachers do NOT  provide written  reports if there is a bump or scratch like we do…it is an expected event of childhood.

Classroom for 4 year old children.  Health Care/ Hospital.  Teacher (male) teaching children how to do CPR on a stuffed animal.  Children carefully resuscitated their ‘patient’.  The children were so serious about procedure and all of the stuffed animals were revived! Later free play and children were very engaged taking temperatures, listening to heart beats. It was fun to observe.

Children here having a field trip walking towards the fjord.  They wore bright vests that have the school telephone number listed. I learned that  sometimes teacher wears a large rucksack with and brings along the children’s lunches…some days bring along a portable BBQ, start a fire and cook lunch in the forest. At the sea gather crabs, shells, rocks to be brought back and investigate. In the forest they gather materials to be used in art.  The picture included here was not taken at the barnehagen but was a photo op when we were walking in Trondheim…it shows children wearing their vests walking with their teachers.

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Mealtimes. Children have special dishes designs to engage them in conversation – They sing and talk about the story depicted on their dish or bowl. They used to use ceramic plates but decided to use these heavy plastic dishes that with a gummy ring on the bottom to cut down on clatter and noise.

dish stories

Food cooked on site every day: breakfast, lunch and snacks , Trude is shown here in the kitchen where small groups of children may eat or help in the preparation of food. Trude explained they   changing art work in here in the kitchen and throughout the school  so that it spurs conversation with the children.

Kitchen conversations

This banehagen is for children of students who attend the Norwegian Technical University (NTNU)  in one of the satellite campuses of this large university.  What struck me was the array of services provided to the parents of the attending children. An example was the fact that during exams, staff provided longer hours of care for children and will even go to the home of the child to provide care so that the student/parent can study. There is a high value placed on university study and students who are parents are afforded the support of the barnehagen staff beyond the regular school day. I found that extraordinary.

Parent collaboration is so well embedded into the program. In addition to seeing many parents enjoying the morning music assembly, I learned that  the day before I visited they had a parent event. Parents had spent time out on the playground arranging materials in a way they thought the children would enjoy and learn from.  As you see in this picture this included pallets, tires, long boards. The children also use these daily in their outdoor free play and teachers help them move items into the positions the children desire. Through the parent event, parents experienced what they children see and do.

Another part of this parent event was to learn more about the values of the barnehage.  They had an opportunity to reflect on the value of community.   After discussion they had a fun on-line quiz using their cell phones about what they had covered during the sessions. See below how they arranged the playground:

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It is Friday Sept. 28th and all of the children had gathered for an assembly that included persons playing an electric piano and guitar. Two male teachers were playing  the music for the children. It was wonderful music, children very excited to participate. In several classrooms I noted they had piano, guitar or ukulele – real instruments meant to give the children a high quality music experience.

Director explained that like to create small interesting spaces for the children and I did not see large groups of children in any one space. Instead many children were outside or they were using spaces throughout the school such as the art or math room. They have a much greater ratio of staff to children then we typically have – so there is much adult support though the goal it to allow children freedom to chose their activity.

Children in this barnehagen also  spend a good deal of time outdoors. As I was observing, a group of 4 year olds were donning their gear (coats, hats, waterproof pants and boots) along with a small rucksack in which they had their lunch. They were headed out to the forest where they would spend some hours. They would be enjoying nature searching for things to bring back and explore more. What was impressive to me it was not only raining but the first snow flakes were falling. Weather does not prevent teaching/learning outside – it is simply part of the experience. (I have adapted too. I am  heading  out in the pouring rain to catch the bus and am grateful for a water-proof jacket with a hood.  They  say there is no bad weather only bad clothes).

While I there I noted two babies became tired. The teacher got their strollers out and bundled them into the stroller and wheeled them out to the covered porch outside. Eventually during the day all of the infants and toddlers will be out on the porch taking their naps. Teachers use a ‘baby caller’ (monitor) to know if any child is awake and they monitor them visually as well. This is also how these little ones take naps at home – outside in their strollers. As you can see they use a warm mini-sleeping bag type bunting and the bunting has inner straps so that the child cannot get out of the stroller.  It was explained to me that sleeping outside provides the opportunity to sleep very well. I had read about this and it was interesting  to see how It was actually done. These strollers are outdoors under a roof of an open porch.  Each of these strollers has a baby getting a good rest.

 

Next week I will be meeting with more faculty members and making more school visits. My biggest insights (and admiration for) are the  very intentional way values drive the curriculum.

 

 

 

Reynisolt – A wonderful playschool in Reykjavik and the National Icelandic Preschool Curriculum

 

­I learned that the best term to use in describing preschools in Iceland is the term playschools and in Icelandic this is: leikskóli.  While I have been so grateful everyone has spoken English, I have come to realize that not all concepts and terms are easily translated.  Bryndis, the Preschool Education Department Chair loaned me this book, Nordic Childhoods to help me gain more insights into these concepts and ideas that are rooted in culture.

Nordic childhood (2)

 

Reynisolt: In addition to having the large play area that other playschools had, this school also had a fenced in forested area. They explained that due to the trees breaking the wind – the children can use this area during windy weather. Parents volunteer to keep it up. I especially liked the outdoor circular  group gathering area.

forest circle

 

This is an area where a fire is built and children sometimes cook food outdoors.

Forest cook

Arora and Helena

 

I  noted some excellent ways they documented children’s skills. In the picture below you will see a page for each child and on the page, they take pictures of the child attempting (at their level) writing their name, they scan in the child’s attempt and also write down all of the things the child says during this activity.  A portfolio of child’s work and picture of the child ‘in action’ are kept by teachers and given to parents when the child leaves leikskóli. 

documentation (2)

THE NATIONAL CURRICULUM  Iceland has created a National Preschool Curriculum that is built on six pillars. This comes directly from the guide as translated into English:

These fundamental pillars are:

  • literacy,
  • sustainability,
  • health and welfare
  • democracy and human rights,
  • equality,
  • creativity.

 Each of the fundamental pillars derives from laws on preschool, compulsory school and upper secondary school. There is also reference to other laws which include legal provisions for education and teaching in the school system, such as in the Act on Equal Status and Equal Rights of Women and Men, No. 10/2008. In addition, government policy in various issues is taken into account, as, for example, published in Welfare for the Future regarding important policy issues on sustainability. International conventions to which Iceland is a party are taken into consideration, for example, the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child and the policy of international institutions of which Iceland is a member

It was easy to relate to the pillar of literacy as it is also a priority in our country. Sustainability  was one that I would desire all preschools around the world adopt. Here is how it is described in the Icelandic National Preschool Curriculum:

Education towards sustainability aims at making people able to deal with problems that concern the interaction of the environment, social factors and the economy in the development of society. 18 The Icelandic Curriculum Guide for Preschools 2011 The most common understanding of the concepts sustainability and sustainable development involves that we leave the environment to our descendants in no worse condition that we received it, and that we endeavour to meet the needs of the present without reducing the possibilities of future generations to meet theirs.

 

Another pillar that I thought was admirable is Democracy and Human Rights.  Here is how this pillar is described:

When a matter of ethical opinion arises in a democracy, people take a stand and, moreover, they take an active part in shaping society. In a democracy the citizens enjoy human rights and decide on all major issues collectively. The prerequisite of democracy is collective responsibility, consciousness and activity of the citizens and this makes them capable of participating in shaping their society and influencing it, both at home and away. Respect for the human value and health of children and youth involves both respect for their human rights and acceptance of their talents and possibilities for development.

It is interesting to note that the United States has not endorsed the United Nations Rights of the Child. There is a very deep root commitment to equality and the notion that all must participate here in Iceland..

On Thursday night, I met with a group of graduate students who are in the Parent Education license program. The PE program is new in Iceland and came about when their professor Hrund studied for her PhD in MN. Here you see six of us meeting and five were participating via the computer. We had a wonderful time discussing how a program like ECFE could be embedded into programs in Iceland. Note, several students plan to come to the MN Association of Family and Early Education in April 2019! Icelandic people are no strangers to travel all over the world.

Parent Education Meeting 20_Sept_2018

I am already missing Iceland and the many people who have been kind and generous with me.  Thank you so much for all you have shared!

Next I travel to Trondheim Norway where I will be visiting Queen Maud University.  Queen Maud has 1200 students who are all studying early childhood education.

 

 

 

 

 

Akrasel: An Icelandic preschool with an environmental theme.

Monday September 17, 2018

If I lived in Iceland, I think I would enjoy living in Akranes! It is a small town (40 minutes) northwest of Reykjavik with beautiful vistas (see below).  There are 4 kindergartens in this community.   Anney , who is the  director of the  Akrasel kindergarten   program  has enormous  devotion and enthusiasm for her work. (NOTE THAT IN ICELAND, KINDERGARTEN SERVES PRESCHOOL AGED CHILDREN)

PROGRAM VISITED TODAY: Akrasel serves 148 children and their parents from ages 2-6 and employs 40 staff. Truly in Iceland no child is left behind!  96% of the children 3-6 attend kindergarten.  The national system supplements the low fees paid by parents to attend kindergarten. Fees and grants make is possible for every child to attend a kindergarten in their community. This includes the many immigrants who are here working because they can  find better employment here than in their country of origin. All of the buildings were specially  designed to serve children.

In addition to early childhood teachers and assistants there are specialists in early intervention, speech and physical therapy, and on-site cooks who are part of the school team. They are equipped to serve the need of every child – thus offers an inclusive setting. They also collaborate with the other kindergartens in town. One of the other kindergartens has staff who specialized in working work children with autism and uses ABA therapy. If a child with autism enrolls in any of the kindergartens these specialists stand ready provide consultation to the staff at the other school.

The kindergarten highly values social emotional development and well-being. Not only for the children but for all of the adults working in the program. To support this, staff have planning time and enjoy  events together outside of work. This Friday they are going to go bowling.  The teacher’s lounge, like the rest of the school facility was well designed and coffee and water is available at all times. Teachers have break and planning time.

There are big hearts on the wall, and Anney explained they have one for each staff and others write a positive word about that co-worker.  I heard the notions of belonging and emotional safety being high priority  for everyone. The bottom line?  Anney wants her school to be welcoming and encourages staff to always present their best version of themselves. She wishes for her staff to be non-judgmental towards parents – and if they encounter issues to ‘kill the other person with kindness” and ask for her help to intervene. It touched me deeply to hear such an intentional approach to treating others. In also wanted to show you the bright open rooms which are also a part of the planning for health and well-being for staff and children.

CURRICLUM:  Akrasel has been accredited as a  Green Flag school Their school theme is Nature, Environment and Well-being. Today I learned that each kindergarten in Iceland has a theme and parents chose the school based on the theme ( if space is available in that school).  What is a Green Flag school? This status is earned by joining the initiatives of the Eco Schools organization.  This international program is working in 67 countries. It is designed to help children, beginning in their pre-school years, to learn how to care for our planet. It is something, I believe, should be part of the curriculum in every school. I hope you will follow the link above and learn more about this critical initiative.

green schools

green flag

Arna, one of the teachers who was my hostess today explained one of her children attends the Music Kindergarten because there was an opening when she needed it for her child. Arna described the many ways in which music is woven into the curriculum for example the children interpret the music, the children play instruments and have performances. Some of the teachers in the music themed school are specially trained in music.  The other kindergartens in Akarnes had these themes: Music, Mathematics, Healthy Environments. Each and every school has a full early childhood curriculum but has also a special emphasis.

As you can see in the pictures below, there outdoor area is very large.  Rather than having a ‘sandbox’ as we might have – they have a whole area devoted to sand. Children and teachers in Iceland go outdoors everyday – it is a high priority to have time outside in nature. Given the climate (mind you it has been warm and sunny everyday for me so far) they have specialized clothing so that they can go out every day. Children and staff alike have clothing at school for all weather. I asked if I could take a picture of the heavy snowsuits I have seen at each school I have visited. Every kindergarten teacher is issued one of these suits so they can be outside no matter what the weather is like. This area of Iceland does not get a lot of snow that stays but rather sleet, high winds and cold rain in the winter and there is very little day light during the winter.

INTERNATIONALISTS:  I am also learning that Icelanders are travelers and love to learn from others. Example, Anney has lived in Boston, MA and Tulsa, OK, Denmark and has attended/presented at international conferences in Europe.  They collaborate with many other countries around early childhood initiatives (Sweden, Norway, Portugal, Italy, Poland, Latvia, Estonia, etc). The Icelandic state system and teachers unions (along with funds through the EU) support kindergarten teachers to attend conference outside of Iceland every 2-4 years. One of the faculty at the University of Iceland pointed out that because they are a small, isolated country, travel abroad and study abroad becomes very important.

CARING ABOUT OTHERS:  On the wall at this school I noticed a world map and a town in Philippines  was marked – and there was a photo of young child.  Akrasel ,as a school body, supports the schooling of this child.  Parents, children and staff make contributions The children learn about the location of the child’s country and about school this child attends.

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FINALLY:  I happened to visit on the day when staff bring treats to share. Oh my! What an amazing buffet I was invited to share in. This another  intentional way the staff build relationships with one another.

teaher food

 

My sabbatical adventures have begun!

 

From Minneapolis to Reykjavik:  I departed from the Humphrey Terminal in Minneapolis on Sunday Sept. 9 just as the sun was setting over the Twin Cities and flew into the sun rising over Reykjavik on  Monday Sept. 10.

Ben
Benjamin- Icelandic Angel

Getting oriented: Arrangements had been made for a young man named Benjamin (the son of one of the faculty members at the University of Iceland)  to meet me at the BSI bus station. There he was ready to help me wrangle luggage and a heavy backpack; took me to the University to pick up my apartment keys – which I could not use for several hours.  Benjamin’s mom, Hrund,  arranged for him take me to their home where they had a bed prepared for me to rest (the recommendation was to sleep about 4 hours)  with the next  recommendation I swim in the geothermal pool (it is like 5 Olympic sized pools)  that is only a 10 min. walk from their home. That is just what I did. I did not experience  jet lag!

Benjamin then took me to the apartment and helped me get my computer on the wi-fi and download the local bus app and taught me how to use it – including knowing how to get Icelandic vowels typed in.  He  then dropped me off a little store to pick up a few groceries. Benjamin made me feel welcomed and taken care of.  My little studio apartment is perfect. I could not ask for more in terms of a home base in Reykjavik.

What I’ve learn so far: Tuesday Sept. 11th was my first visit  Háskóli Íslands / University of Iceland. I meet with the Department Chair. What I learned from Bryndis  since 2008 Icelandic law now requires all teachers (including preschool teachers) to have a masters degree  and that by law 2/3 of teachers in a EC settings should have their masters degrees.  There is a shortage of prepared  early childhood teachers in Iceland – so municipalities (like our districts) get involved in supporting individuals to get their degrees.  Bryndis introduced me to many faculty members. I was especially  touched to be shown a desk that was  reserved for me.

Wednesday Sept 12, I visited a lovely ‘kindergarten’ at the invitation of Ragnhildur Gunnlaugsdottir. I put kindergarten in quotes because here in Iceland kindergarten is serving children ages 18 months up to age 6. (In the USA we would term this preschool.) Just a different use of the term.

This kindergarten serves 93 children. The children were in groups in different room and all were happy and productive. Because of the lay out and organization of the physical space, you would never imagine there were so many children present. The building was designed by an architect in conjunction with the teachers. It has many windows and every room is cheerful and bright. Part of the design including sliding doors and walls with built in sound barriers, bathroom with fixtures sized for both 3-5 year and an even smaller versions for toddlers. The office space for teachers had been worked into the planning. There is a teacher’s lounge where there was coffee, tea and water available at any time. It seemed that the needs of the adults were considered along with the needs of the children  making it a supportive space for all. One of themes for the school  ‘restitution’  in which the needs of children (and adults) are considered. They have posters us reminding that everyone has a need for belonging,  power,  fun and  freedom. (this was inspired from a workshop Agga attended in Canada by Diane Grossen.)

Ragnhildur (who said she goes by Agga) has recently graduated with her parent education license. She visited Minnesota last spring to observe ECFE classes. She is launching an ECFE type of program in the kindergarten. She found parents loved the program and Agga plans expand her parent education program. She shared that every  2-4 years teachers are encouraged to attend conferences and take new kinds of training which is supported by the school. Agga’s enthusiasm for her work was a joy to behold!

I look forward to more time at the University and other school visits here in Iceland.

Why I am launching this blog…

I am an early childhood teacher educator at Bethel University in St. Paul, MN – USA . Students can earn their BA and qualify for the  Birth to 8 license or add a pre-primary endorsement (pre-school) to their elementary education (K-6)  license.

As I was working on my dissertation, I came across articles from early childhood researchers around the world.   Many things they wrote about caught my attention. For example…

  • In  Iceland, a law was passed  in 2009 that all teachers must be licensed at the masters level – this includes their pre-k teachers.
  • At Queen Maud University there are  1200 students  all studying early childhood education –  from countries around the world.
  • In Dublin they have created an International Early Childhood Research Center.
  • Roehampton University in London is the home of the Froebel College 

I have an amazing opportunity to visit these programs.

Thank you Bethel University for your support of faculty sabbaticals!

 

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Sabbatical proposal becomes a reality!

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Developing the plan. Last summer (2017)  I spent a great deal of time creating a sabbatical proposal to submit to my university.   When I began dreaming about what I would like to do, I hoped to visit an early childhood teacher preparation program at a university  in another country.  Early childhood education has become topic of global interest – and at the center of the conversations is the training  of early childhood teachers. 

The amazing way it unfolded: As it worked out, I will be visiting programs in four countries:  The University of Iceland in Reykjavik , Queen Maud University in Trondheim, Norway, Dublin City University and Dublin Technical Institute in Ireland and Roehampton University in England. What a  blessing it has been  to contact early childhood teacher educators in these universities and receive such  positive warm welcomes to visit  learn about their work.

My timeline: I will leave Minneapolis  on Sunday Sept. 9th and arrive in Reykjavik on Monday Sept. 10th. On Sept. 24th I depart for Trondheim Norway then on Oct. 19  on to   to Ireland. On  Oct. 29th I depart for London England. On Nov. 7th I  will visit Paris (for fun meeting up with my childhood friend from  Hibbing, MN ). One plan yet to be developed it is to get  an appointment to visit the van Leer Foundation in Amsterdam, the Netherlands between Nov. 12 or 13th. (more about why  I hope to visit the van Leer Foundation in another blog) I will return to the USA on Nov. 19th – in time for celebrating Thanksgiving with family and friends. 

Research agenda: My research will focus on learning about the best practices, priorities opportunities and challenges in early childhood teacher preparation in each of these programs/ countries. I will be sitting in on classes, interacting with  students, observing in infant, toddler and pre-k settings. In return I will do some guest teaching and sharing information about our model of early childhood teacher preparation.  I will be sharing all I learn and experience along the way.