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College of Human Ecology, School of Education partnership with University of the West Indies benefits early childhood education

November 26, 2008

Michele Barrett
(315) 443-6172

Michele Barrett

A month-long visit to Syracuse University in October by Carol Logie, chair of the National Council for Early Childhood Education and lecturer at the University of the West Indies, marked another important step in a collaborative global partnership linking SU's College of Human Ecology and School of Education with colleagues in the Caribbean. The collaboration aims to change the landscape of public education in the West Indies to serve all children in the public education model. Bringing SU, the College of Human Ecology and the School of Education together with another nation working innovatively and collaboratively to create change will also yield exciting opportunities for faculty and staff in the United States and in the Caribbean.

Diane Lyden Murphy, dean of the College of Human Ecology, notes that this collaboration between the two SU academic units draws on the important legacy of one of the most successful programs for early childhood education implemented in the nation's history.

"Head Start, one of the 'Great Society' programs of the late 1960s, is recognized by most educators and early childhood experts as both an early intervention program of enduring success and a landmark of social policy," says Murphy. Bettye Caldwell, professor emerita in SU's Department of Child and Family Studies, was an early architect of this program, developing it at the Children's Center in Syracuse as one of the first national models of preschool enrichment programs. Today, Alice Honig, professor emerita of child development, and other colleagues maintain that area of expertise and research specialization in early childhood development with the annual Quality Infant/Toddler Caregiving (QIC) Workshop, now in its 33rd year, and the Third Annual Jack Reilly Distinguished Lecture Series in Infant and Toddler Caregiving.

"The rich scholarly tradition and model programs offer best practices to draw from in future collaborations within early childhood development programs. The partnership with our colleagues in Trinidad offers a unique experience for our faculty and students to collaboratively build enriched early childhood programs within the context of early inclusive education models in an international culture," says Murphy.

The most significant aspects of the SU-University of the West Indies partnership include the expected availability of internships through the University of the West Indies for students majoring in child and family studies in the College of Human Ecology and in inclusive education in the School of Education. Additionally, it will offer faculty and student exchanges for both SU and the University of the West Indies. The partnership will also present numerous opportunities for research collaboration on issues dealing with early childhood education and family relationships, including joint publications and grants.

"We are especially interested in the opportunity this provides for our faculty and students to partner with Trinidadian scholars and practitioners in developing courses that include attention to the education of children with disabilities," says Douglas Biklen, dean of the School of Education.

Jaipaul Roopnarine, professor of child and family studies and a leading scholar in early childhood education, was awarded a Fulbright Scholarship to the University of the West Indies this past spring. Included in this research/lecturing award were two detailed studies on early childhood socialization and childhood education practices in multi-ethnic groups of families with young children. Additionally, he taught a course in the School of Education at the University of the West Indies.

Through Roopnarine's earlier work in the West Indies that initiated contacts, SU's School of Education is working closely with the University of the West Indies on the development of a first-ever inclusive education program in the West Indies. Currently, the School of Education is consulting with June George, head of the School of Education, Faculty of Humanities and Education, University of the West Indies, on the initial stages of this program.

"The primary goals of this partnership are joint collaborations with colleagues in the West Indies to address some of the educational needs of families and children there and in the U.S. through research, teaching and scholarship in action," says Roopnarine. "Our partnership also offers a great opportunity for SU faculty, students and staff to further learn about our diverse world." SU currently has a Memorandum of Understanding with the University of the West Indies to engage in cooperative programs of education and research, and to promote exchange among faculty and students.

The scope of activities that took place during Logie's visit to SU, her first, included meetings with colleagues in the College of Human Ecology and School of Education to share vision and best practices in early childhood education. In addition to meetings with graduate students in the Department of Child and Family Studies and its chair, Ambika Krishnakumar, Logie was focused on exploring opportunities with faculty members from that department to consider joint research collaboration, setting up internships with the University of the West Indies, and arranging joint grants and publications with early childhood education faculty in the College of Human Ecology and the School of Education. Time was also spent meeting with the deans of both colleges.

"This visit has been incredible. What struck me the most was the number of departments working together on campus with the ability to look at the holistic view of the family," says Logie. "The depth and range of offerings across so many disciplines at the graduate and undergraduate levels-all focused on young children-were truly impressive."

In addition to focused discussions on special education, Logie visited inclusive education classrooms, working closely with Corinne Smith, professor of inclusive elementary and special education, and Gail Ensher, professor of early childhood special education, both from the School of Education.

Logie was also able to visit inclusive early childhood programs in the Syracuse community. "I spent considerable time with Carol, taking her to Jowonio and the Early Education Program of the Main Street School," says Ensher.

According to Logie, the visit to Jowonio was helpful on many levels, including the hands-on ability to review physical learning spaces conducive to student learning. "I was so impressed with Jowonio, I went back for second and third visits," says Logie. She wears many hats, and one of them is as a child advocate. At Jowonio, Logie literally measured the physical spaces and will bring back this information to model similar space at the Family Development Center, which is currently evolving in partnership with the government of Trinidad & Tobago and the University of the West Indies.

She was also able to spend time at the Bernice M. Wright Child Development Laboratory School and the Gebbie Speech Language Hearing Clinics. Additionally, she was a guest presenter on many topics, including special education around the world.

Logie's area of specialization is early childhood care and development. As an international consultant she has worked for the Inter-American Development Bank, World Bank, UNICEF and the Bernard van Leer Foundation. She has more than 20 years of experience in the field and worked as a consultant to teachers and policy makers in the Caribbean, Europe and Hong Kong. With experiences as a preschool teacher in Canada, Spain and the United Kingdom, Logie is the administrative director of the University of the West Indies Family Development and Children's Research Centre on the St. Augustine Campus. She also serves as the Caribbean representative and executive member of the World Forum for Early Childhood Care and Education-the international association for early childhood policy makers, educators and administrators.

"The value of this trip has been tremendous," concludes Logie. "The opportunity to see inclusive education at its best, as well as the development of related programs, will help educators and students committed to children have the critical focus necessary to speak to the needs of all children."

The College of Human Ecology will host the 33rd Annual Quality Infant/Toddler Caregiving (QIC) Workshop at Syracuse University, May 11-15, 2009. The Third Annual Jack Reilly Distinguished Lecture Series in Infant and Toddler Caregiving will feature Holly Brophy- Herb, Ph.D., associate professor of child development, Department of Family and Child Ecology, Michigan State University, on the evening of May 13.

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