Analysis of the Vermont Northern Lights Career Development Center

 

In Vermont, early childhood and after school professionals have a tremendous resource in the Vermont Northern Lights Career Development Center. Northern Lights, as it is commonly referred to, is an organization that continues to evolve and change in order to provide current and relevant information for professional development and career planning. The organization strives to be “consistent, accessible, and comprehensive in meeting the needs of early childhood and afterschool professionals from entry to advanced levels” (VNLCDC p.1). There are a wide variety of tools and resources available through the Northern Lights’ website so at first it may seem confusing and cumbersome to new users. I think the best way to understand the wealth of materials on this site is to spend time searching around and reading the content. Luckily, Northern Lights is also staffed by a great team of individuals, so you can reach out and discuss your questions with a person if you cannot find what you are looking for on the website. As of January 2018, there is a new “Northern Lights at CCV Team” which is comprised of the director, managers, and local resource advisors who are all working towards creating a strong workforce for Vermont’s young children. This team is located around the state, so individuals can also make in person appointments to meet their local resource advisors which is a wonderful tool for individuals who are weary of technology.

The primary purpose of Northern Lights is to serve as a hub to provide resources for the variety of individuals in the field of early childhood and after school within the state of Vermont. As seen on the home page of the website, there are navigation tools for three main areas: career pathways, training and coursework, and roles. By clicking into any of these three broad categories web users will be directed to another page that further explains the topic and provides a wealth of links and printable resources. For individuals exploring their role as a director it would be imperative to read the Vermont Competencies for Program Directors (VNLCDC p.2) and use it as a self-assessment for all five knowledge areas the document outlines.

It is important to understand that Northern Lights works with many different partners and aims to unify and enhance the professional development system, but Northern Lights does NOT provide every resource so professionals will need to know where to go for that information as well. Northern Lights does not list current professional development opportunities, but there is a link on site that will take you to the Bright Futures Information System (BFIS) Course Calendar. Northern Lights also offers links to BFIS so individuals can see their quality credentialing and program accounts, where their professional development is documented and credentials are stored. Northern Lights is not ‘licensing’ so individuals need to go to Vermont Child Development Division to read the child care licensing regulations that pertain to their program. Lastly, for early childhood teachers who are licensed through the Agency of Education, such as myself, there is another set of parameters for maintain a teaching license that is outside of the scope of Northern Lights. Efforts are underway to ensure that less duplication is happening so that licensed teachers are not having to submit course work and their IPDP to both BFIS and the AOE, which saves professionals time.

            Northern Lights is an online tool that serves a critical component in the career success of individuals who work in both early childhood and after school programs. My suggestion is that individuals should begin by looking at the Vermont Career Ladder img_0619(https://northernlightscdc.org/career-pathways/early-childhood-pathways/). Individuals can begin at any level on the career ladder depending on their prior coursework, credentials, degrees, and years of experience. A career pathway provides professionals with defined routes to improve their qualifications, recognize professional possibilities that exist in the workforce, and assist individuals in being compensated appropriately (Sciarra 45). This ladder serves as a tool for an individual to use to navigate how to progress in their career, which I feel can be empowering to someone just beginning in the field. At first glance it seems like a lot of work to climb the levels of the ladders, but the Child Development Division offers bonuses ranging from $100 to $1200 dollars as recognition of the hard work it takes to attain a level within the ladder. Program administrators need to be familiar with this process since they will have many staff members who have questions and concerns. It is important to note that climbing this career ladder increase the salary potential for individuals and therefore is worth investing the time and energy into attaining higher levels. For programs who participate in STARS the career ladder is tied into the arena of Staff Qualifications so the higher level that staff members attain, the higher the score for the program.

Over the course of the last eight years working in the early childhood field in Vermont, I have used the Northern Lights website in a variety of ways. Over this time the content and clarity of the information has changed and evolved. I have occasionally emailed or called to ask clarifying questions for myself, my staff, or my college students and have found the Northern Lights staff to be very responsive and helpful. Most often I go to the website to refer to the career ladders and to access the core competencies. I find that the core competency documents to be well written and great resources to answering questions. Northern Lights has also served me as an Approved Instructor, with password protected portions of the website pages that allow me to access course materials and resources when teaching the Fundamentals course.

In summary, I feel that Northern Lights is a great resource and will continue to refer to it for professional growth and learning. It is worth investing the time and energy to be familiar with the layout and content for both myself as professional and as a resource to share with my staff.

 

Works Cited

Sciarra, D. J., Lynch, E. M., Adams, S. M., & Dorsey, A. G. Developing and Administering a Child Care and Education Program. Boston: Cengage Learning, 2016

Vermont North Lights Career Development Center. Competencies for Program Directors of Early Childhood and AfterSchool Programs. 2009 Retrieved on January 21, 2018 – https://northernlightscdc.org/wp-content/uploads/2011/07/competencies_program_directors.pdf

Math PLAY – Bean Sticks!

Bean Sticks are simple to make, frugal, and oh so much fun!

A bean stick is simply a Popsicle stick with 10 beans glued to it! Easy right? I love frugal teaching tools!
When making this set I decided to use tongue depressors with lima beans that I had spray painted green. I like to spray paint the beans outdoors at least a week or so ahead of making them, this way the smell dissipates.
To attach the beans I used white Elmer’s glue. Hot glue would likely make a stronger hold but I wanted to do this project WITH the children, not FOR them. When children are engaged in making their own learning materials they have a greater sense of ownership and pride in them.
We will be using the bean sticks for counting, place value, adding & subtracting groups of ten, and skip counting by ten.
Extra beans that are spray painted on just one side will also be used as individual counters. We’ve been using these this past year to play a fun game called “bean toss addition”.
Food education ~ many educators choose NOT to use food as play materials and I respect that choice. For me, I use a small amount of food for play and use it as a time to talk about where this crop comes from. Many children dislike beans but after having a Bean Taste test or making a crock pot of homemade Maple Baked Beans they often change their minds!
Looking for more resources:
If you are looking for more ideas on using your bean sticks check out “Count Your Beans” mat that Fran over at Kindergarten Crayons has posted.
If you are looking for math activity ideas check out the website, Math at Home, which focuses on teaching early math skids for children birth -five! I love how they focus on no or low cost materials!

Play Resolution 2019

Happy New Year!

Today is the day that many of us set intentions or create resolutions for ourselves for the coming year. We examine the past year and take a retrospective look at ourselves and our work with children and families. We bring into focus what is most important and try to reorient our work and personal lives in that direction.

Each year I select an individual word that captures my intention, and put a lot of thought and focus in deciding the word. (Drum roll please…)For 2019 my word is:

PLAY

As an early childhood educator I feel that I have taken on a new role as a “Protector of Play”. I haven’t yet made a cape or designed an action hero costume, but I feel a sewing project coming on soon!

We know that ample research shows that play is an essential part of the healthy development of children. We know that child-directed play is a primary contributor to the mental, physical, and social-emotional wellbeing of our children. Yet as teachers or care providers of young children we feel like we need to continue to defend the rights of children to have time to play. WHY?

Sadly, time for play has been eroded away for most children and it’s time to take a stand for PLAY!

Outdoor play, unstructured play, open ended art, and play for all ages…

I won’t get on my soapbox today, but I am eager to share specific strategies for how to put PLAY at the center of the curriculum. And will also be reminding you that grown ups need PLAY and self-care to make 2019 the best year yet!

 

 

 

Pop Up Art Studio ~ December 18

Local Teaching Artist, April Zajko, will be offering a series of “Pop Up Art Studio” sessions in the Northeast Kingdom of Vermont. These open studio sessions are for everyone! Pop Up Art Studio is a welcoming space, that creates opportunities for dialogue, skill sharing, and art making between people of differing backgrounds, ages, cultures and abilities. If you would like to host a Pop Up Art session at your business, organization, or circle of friends please contact April at aprilzajko@gmail.com

April’s unique perspective as an early childhood educator makes participants of ALL ages and artistic abilities feel welcomed and at ease. With a focus on enjoying the process of art making, participants can feel the gentle transformative power of creating art in a cozy and encouraging space where ALL are welcome.

The December 18th session will focus on card making with mixed media & paper collage. Participants are invited to drop in for an hour (or several hours) to sip tea, chat, and create unique paper collages. Bring a friend or family member or come meet new friends in your community.

POP UP ART STUDIO ~ Card Making

December 18th

12:00-8:00PM

Location: 142 Eastern ~ St. Johnsbury, Vermont

$10 suggested donation per person

No one turned away for lack of funds

All ages (Children 8 and under must attend with a responsible adult)

 

Live Music from 5-8 p.m. with “BOBBY FARLICE SOUND SYSTEM”

With a long history of music in Los Angeles and the San Francisco Bay area, Bobby Farlice was a member of Nobuko Miyamoto’s band Warriors of the Rainbow and the Change Band with Flip Nunez and Michael Howell. He was also a contributor to music for the progressive social scene at San Francisco’s Glide Memorial Church. His set is jazz, blues and Latin, all with a touch of soul, and all for your listening pleasure. Having played the nightclub scene for many years, he prefers playing community gigs like First Night, which he generously supports. The sound system in the Bobby Farlice Sound System is his Roland FP2  keyboard with Session Partner, which turns Bobby into a one-man band.

Art Series: Gifts from the Heart

Art Workshop Series: “Gifts from the Heart”  ~ for children ages 5-8

art materials close up color pencil colors
Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

This children’s art series is designed for ages 5-8. The classes will give children the space to explore a variety of art materials and the opportunity to create four unique homemade gifts. Projects will include: jiggle-scribble bots, keepsake painted canvas, eco-sculptures, and paper collage. Children can choose to wrap their projects so they can be given as gifts from the heart to their loved ones.

Where: Catamount Arts Center Classroom in Saint Johnsbury 
When: Wednesday, December 5, 9:30 am – 11:00 am

Fridays, December 7 – December 21, 9:30-11:00 am

Instructor: April Zajko, M.Ed.

Class fee: $60. Catamount Arts is committed to offering quality arts activities for children, regardless of ability to pay. Please call 802-748-2600 ext 108 and speak to Anne to inquire about scholarship availability or working out a payment
plan.

Registration Deadline: November 30

To register, head over to the Catamount Arts website:

http://www.catamountarts.org/shows/details/gifts-from-the-heart-ages-5-8

 

Early Childhood Courses in St. J ~ Register Now!

April will be teaching two early childhood courses beginning in January for the Community College of Vermont at the Saint Johnsbury location. The two courses are Introduction to Early Childhood and Curriculum Development. Both courses are “hybrid model” so half of the content is in person and half is online. Each course meets every other Tuesday, which means a student can enroll in both and only be out of the house one night per week.

The Saint Johnsbury CCV site has a team of instructors who want to help you map out a plan for your career in early childhood education! The new year is a perfect time to start!

boy child childhood happiness
Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

For more information about the CCV Early Childhood Associates degree check out the website at: https://catalog.ccv.edu/preview_program.php?catoid=9&poid=335&returnto=855

To talk to the local CCV Coordinator of Academic Services contact : Leanne Porter, phone – (802) 748-6673  email – leanne.porter@ccv.edu

To get a pep talk from April about taking your first college courses, going back to school, or deciding to go for a degree…email her at-  april.zajko@ccv.edu

 

 

EDU 1030 – Introduction to Early Childhood Education  (Credits: 3)


This course is an overview of early childhood education and the ways in which early childhood experiences can enhance the development of the whole child. Students will examine the provision of early education and services for children from conception to age eight. Topics include child development, national and state standards, curriculum development, early intervention, regulation, and career exploration.

Prerequisites: Students must meet basic skills policy requirements. No other course prerequisites required.

 

EDU 2045 – Curriculum Development for Early Childhood Education (Credits: 3)


This course explores philosophical principles and practical demands of building curricula for early childhood education. Based on integrated state and national standards, emphasis is on developing a child-centered and developmentally appropriate curricula for the early years from infancy to age eight. Recommended Prior Learning: a course in child development.

Prerequisites: Students must meet basic skills policy requirements. No other course prerequisites required.

Creative Schools Initiative Teacher Institute

April’s Teaching Tree is excited to announce that we will be partnering up with the Vermont Creative Schools Initiative (CSI). April Zajko will be the Early Childhood Educational Consultant for the CSI Teacher Institute for the 2019-2020 school year. The institute will have a tailored strand for teams of teachers in grades preschool – 3rd grade, and we are actively recruiting Vermont schools who would like to be involved.

art backlit dark dawn
Photo by Matheus Bertelli on Pexels.com

Teams of teachers attend a week-long professional development institute the last week of June and then meet again for a fall retreat. Teachers are able to earn three graduate credits for their participation. Teams also get to work closely with national leaders in the field of curriculum integration to learn how art and creativity can be woven throughout the school day for children. Schools then get to partner with teaching artists and receive either a 7 or 10 day teaching artist residency.

During the 2016-2017 school year I was able to attend the Creative Schools Initiative Institute with a team of teachers from the school that I was working for at the time. The CSI experience helped me reorient the focus of my classroom to be a hub of creative play, curiosity, engagement and open ended exploration….and helped re-awaken my creativity and passion for teaching.

For more information about the Vermont Creative Schools Initiative check out this link: https://www.communityengagementlab.org/teacher-institute