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By Jennifer Hilgendorf
Digital Marketing Manager at Wisconsin Early Childhood Association 

New Glarus Learns Early Care and Education is "No Small Matter"

 

September 19, 2019

Photo courtesy of Jennifer Hilgendorf

Ruth Schmidt, Executive Director of Wisconsin Early Childhood Association, shares child care issues focused in Wisconsin during the screening of "No Small Matter."

It was a packed classroom at The Growing Tree in New Glarus last Thursday where families, early childhood educators, community stakeholders, and policy experts came together for a special screening of No Small Matter, a documentary that explores the progress on preschool education in America.

Corrine Hendrickson, owner of Corrine's Little Explorers, along with Brooke Skidmore, owner of The Growing Tree, hosted the event with a goal to increase awareness of the importance of investing in early childhood education.

According to Center for American Progress, 54% of people in Wisconsin live in a child care desert, compared to 68% of people who live in rural Wisconsin. (https://www.americanprogress.org/issues/early-childhood/reports/2018/12/06/461643/americas-child-care-deserts-2018/)

"If we are going to invest in our children, it is imperative that we invest in developmentally-appropriate child-led and teacher-supported play-based programs until at least age eight," Corrine said. "It needs to be where assessment is based on observations of the children. Then the teacher uses that information to create a stimulating environment based on the childrens' interest and developmental needs. Because when children are engaged and interacting with each other, this is when all the learning happens."

No Small Matter highlighted, through powerful stories and amazing facts, the "human capacity for early intelligence and the potential for quality early care and education to benefit America's social and economic future." The documentary showed how we as an American society are raising young children; how the first three years of a child's life are most critical for learning; and what we can do to change the perception of when learning begins. Most notably, it answered the question, "When the importance of quality early care and education is so widely accepted, why do we continue to fail?" (https://www.nosmallmatter.com/about-the-film)

After the screening, a panel of professionals were on hand to facilitate a conversation, answer questions, and offer suggestions on what folks can do to take action.

Panelists included: Ruth Schmidt, Executive Director of WECA; Tim Markle, Southern Regional Center Director at Waisman Center; Amanda Ehlert, YoungStar Coordinator of 4-C; Dr. Dipesh Navsaria, University of Wisconsin School of Medicine and Public Health and Stephanie Beaulieu, MA, BCBA, Julie Wilmot, and Kassity Senf from Center for Behavior Intervention™.

For many people in attendance, No Small Matter was an eye-opener. Some reflected on how access to quality early care and education is connected to many societal issues today.

"When the film touched on the fact that 71% of new military recruitments are not qualified to join because of education requirements, that really stood out to me," said one viewer. "Even though it doesn't affect many of us in this room, maybe we do need to pay closer attention to child care, because that is a lot...a whole lot."

"After watching this video, it really made me stop and think about how crazy it is that we publicly fund 4K-12, but not the early years," Stephanie Meier, a parent, shared. "The comment in the video about finding adequate child care is like being in the wild west really struck me."

"What type of political backing is there right now to invest in early care and education?" asked Justin Andreas, another attendee.

"We are largely at a tipping point at the federal and state level," said Ruth Schmidt, Executive Director of Wisconsin Early Childhood Association (WECA). "The key is that we need folks like you to make your voices heard by contacting your elected officials. It's also important to pay attention to the presidential candidates for the 2020 election, as several include early childhood education as a key talking point."

"Even a handful of calls to your legislators in favor of investing in early childhood education can make a big impact with influencers on policy and funding decisions at the capital," added Dr. Dipesh Navsaria, Associate Professor at UW-Madison School of Medicine and Public Health.

Photo courtesy of Jennifer Hilgendorf

New Glarus and neighboring residents enjoyed Casey's and Ticino's pizza and snacks and networked prior to the screening of "No Small Matter" on September 12th.

"WECA is leading the charge for bold change in early care and education," said Kelly Hook, Director of Donor and Partner Engagement at WECA. "If you were inspired by the video and/or panelists tonight, we invite you to accelerate WECA's work by joining our Forward for Kids advocacy network. (Sign up at wisconsinearlychildhood.org/get-involved/forward-for-kids) We also welcome donations to WECA, which directly fund grassroots advocacy across the state."

For things to change, we have to remember that our elected officials represent us. We must be informed, engaged, and we need to vote. The New Glarus Public Library has blank postcards for anyone who wishes to make their voice heard about investing in our children. They will be collecting them over the next few weeks for Corrine to mail to elected representatives.

"When children in our community fail to thrive, it's not only an economical set-back, but an ethical set-back as well," stated Brooke Skidmore.

 
 

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