Adriana M. Chavez
LAS CRUCES – Early last year, the brand new Glass Family Research Institute for Early Childhood Studies at New Mexico State University planned one of its first projects – delivering culturally relevant activities for children. children.
But after the start of the COVID-19 pandemic in March 2020, finding project participants has proven difficult for the team, which consists of Wenjie Wang, a postdoctoral researcher at the College of Health, Education and Social Transformation, two master teachers who focus on creating activities for families with toddlers; and two student assistants in NMSU’s teacher training programs.
However, thanks to the team’s strong collaborative efforts, they were able to quickly pivot the project to include partnering with local community agencies and reaching families through social media.
Today, the institute’s Family and Friends project, funded by the Brindle Foundation, attracts dozens of families to Doña Ana County who receive activity kits that encourage cultural engagement. The project is expected to end in early December, but could potentially be extended until early next year.
Wang said the institute team hopes to collect information on whether families feel their toddlers’ knowledge has grown after participating in the activities and whether, overall, their cultural understanding has improved. is thorough.
“We try to focus on different areas of toddler development and provide families with songs and stories that focus on science or sensory development, and incorporate those elements that connect them to different cultures,” said Lizette Monge, early childhood educator at the NMSU School for Young Children.
Christina Morales, also an early childhood educator, added: “Most activities focus on toddlers, but some can be more difficult depending on their level. We’ve had food, sun catchers, activities inspired by recent vacations, but we always brought it back to their culture and how the activity can relate to culture. For example, we had a science experiment that involved pepper and soap, and the activity asked what spices are used in their cultivation. “
Wang said the activities help raise awareness of diversity and community knowledge, while promoting the development of learning in children.
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“We are trying to include very important issues and get parents to have these conversations with their children,” Wang said. “Cultural engagement is important, especially during COVID, to update our understanding of what is culturally relevant. “
To distribute the activities, the team collaborated with the Kids Can Boom Box program, leveraged community events like the Hatch Literacy Fair and the City of Sunland Park’s National Night Out event, and partnered up to organizations such as Ngage New Mexico, Southern New Mexico Community Action Agency, Jardin de los Niños, La Clinica De Familia, and Tresco. They have also used Instagram, Facebook and Twitter to spread the word.
“We had a good response on Facebook and Instagram, and we received more phone calls from the daycare brochures we distributed,” said Luzia Manuel, team student assistant and secondary education major. at the NMSU. Emmarie Heredia is the other student assistant on the team and is a major in early childhood education.
Feedback from families also shaped the types of activities the team offered, such as creating leaflets and instructions in English and Spanish.
“We’ve finally reached the point where we reach 300 families, and that’s with only five members of our team,” Wang said. “I am so happy and so proud of our team for what we have been able to accomplish. “
For more information on the Family and Friends project, send an email [email protected]. The project can also be found on Twitter at @AggiesTiny, Instagram at tiny_aggies, and Facebook under Tiny Aggies.
Adriana M. Chávez writes for Marketing and Communications at New Mexico State University and can be reached at 575-646-1957 or by email at [email protected].