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March 2014
In This Issue

March is National Nutrition Month!

It's a perfect time to log onto the federal government's great resource: Choose My to gather more information and ideas to do with children. There are wonderful resources for providers and families! 


 Here are ideas for each part of the plate. In addition to helping children learn about the Health Awareness and Practice Early Learning Foundations, these ideas can build fine motor skills by practicing chopping, mixing and spreading; mathematics and discoveries by graphing, noticing and sorting differences; and build vocabulary by describing tastes and textures.   


FRUITS: Experiment with the different textures of fruits. For example, apples are crunchy, bananas are smooth and creamy, and oranges are juicy. Make graphs or use new vocabulary words.


VEGETABLES: Put out cherry tomatoes, cucumber or zucchini slices, carrot sticks and other cut-up vegetables. Ask children to count how many of each fit into a cup. Talk about size and which vegetables fill up the cup faster than others.


GRAINS: Make smiley faces with rice cakes. Give children plastic knives and peanut butter or cream cheese to spread.  Then use









shredded carrots or cheese for hair, cherry tomatoes or olives for eyes, raisins for the nose and strips of red pepper for the mouth.


PROTEINS: Make egg salad together. Children can peel the eggs, smash them with a fork or spoon and stir in the mayonnaise and other ingredients. They can also stir the finished recipe onto a cracker or slice of bread. You can also try deviled eggs!


DAIRY:  Have a cheese-tasting activity. Put out small cubes or amounts of cheddar, mozzarella, American, cottage and blue cheese. Ask the children how each one tastes; which one do they like better? Are there any they don't like at all?




This is an exciting time for Delaware Stars. Based on the feedback and input from our Stars stakeholders, including many Stars programs, as well as study findings, Stars Enhancements 2014 will roll out continuous quality improvements that will begin to come online in 2014 and apply to both centers and family child care serving, infants, toddler and preschool age children.


"When it comes to things we can do as a state, I don't know that there's anything that gets us as much bang for our buck as early education," Governor Markell said during his visit to St. Michael's School & Nursery, where he spoke about the Stars Enhancements 2014. "These are improvements to continue the progress we've made over the last few years."
Helen Riley, executive director at St. Michael's School, expressed her appreciation of the process leading to Stars Enhancements 2014. "As a participant in some of the focus groups, meetings and other settings designed to gather feedback, I really must say that I am impressed with how responsive the Delaware Stars Enhancements are to the ideas and suggestions from stakeholders. The enhancements really put the focus on what's best for children by encouraging intentional teaching, professional development for teachers and higher reimbursement rates so that centers can target money for the quality improvements they need most."


The enhancements are in three key areas: Financial Incentives, Standards & Supports and Program Quality Verification & Assessment.


Quality improvement grants and tiered reimbursement are already provided, but beginning in July 2014 those financial incentives will be more targeted to improve tiered reimbursements for infants, toddlers and preschoolers in Star 4 and 5 programs, and make the grant awards more equitable by recognizing increased costs for larger programs. In addition, new financial incentives will be implemented for infant enrollment for Star 4 & 5 programs.   


Cheryl Clendaniel, administrator at The Learning Center in Milford, said research increasingly shows that even infants go through important brain development, picking up social and language cues. Providing Infant care requires more staff, making it prohibitively expensive. "Programs that offer infant care have to take a loss, so we're hopeful that this will make it easier for programs to afford infant care."




Governor Markell's February 28 Weekly Message  


CLICK HERE for an Op-Ed applauding the Stars Enhancements 2014 by Michelle A. Taylor, President and CEO, United Way of Delaware, and Chair, High Quality Programs and Professionals Committee, Delaware Early Childhood Council and Kim Pridemore, Director, Del Tech Child Development Center; Faculty, Del Tech, and Board Chair, Delaware Association for the Education of Young Children.    



Check out our newest resource for families and early learning professionals - Great Starts Delaware's Pinterest Page!


The page contains information on everything from Brain Development to activities for infants, toddlers and preschoolers and even a board with helpful information for new parents.  And, just like our Facebook page, we will be continually updating the page with tips and other useful content. 

  Top 10 Reasons To Expand High Quality Learning


The Department of Education has produced a short handout entitled "Top Ten List of Reasons Why the Expansion of High-Quality Early Learning is Inevitable," which U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan read at the National Governors Association Winter 2014 meeting. Read more here.

 President's FY15 Budget Proposal Includes Funding for Early Education


President Obama released his budget request for Fiscal Year 2015 this week, calling for a $68.6 billion increase in education spending generally. Early education received particular attention in the budget requests for both the Departments of Education and Health and Human Services. The President's budget proposes $500 million-double last year's funding-for Preschool Development Grants plus another $250 million through the Opportunity, Growth, and Security Initiative, for a total investment of $750 million.  These grants will be available to states, local education agencies, and local governments and can be used to build the foundations of a high-quality preschool education system or to expand systems that are already well developed. Details are available from the Office of Early Learning. The budget also reintroduces the Preschool for All initiative, with an initial $1.3 billion investment; the 10-year plan, introduced in last year's budget request, would be funded by an increase in the federal tobacco tax.

The HHS budget includes a slight increase of $120 million for Head Start and notes that Head Start grantee recompetition will continue in FY 2015. It also calls for increasing funding for  Early Head Start-Child Care Partnerships from $500 to $650 million (plus another $800 million in the Opportunity Fund), which would provide access to high-quality infant and toddler care. Other investments in early childhood include an additional $200 million in discretionary funds, which would be available for improving child care quality, as well as a 10 year, $15 billion, mandatory investment in home-visiting programs.

  Interested in a Early Head Start - Child Care Partnership?

Webinar Series Outlines Available Opportunities 


As part of President Obama's Early Education Plan, states and communities will be able to expand high quality early learning to infants and toddlers through the Early Head Start - Child Care Partnerships.

State and local government, non-profit and for-profit organizations, including child care providers, along with Head Start and Early Head Start organizations, can all participate in these new partnerships.  These organizations can apply to become Early Head Start grantees through a new competition that will reward Early Head Start-child care partnership.  Center-based and family child care providers who agree to meet Early Head Start Program Performance Standards and provide comprehensive, full-day, full year high-quality services to infants and toddlers from low-income families will provide the services.

Delaware has a great opportunity to participate.  The federal government is hosting a series of webinars on this topic . We encourage you to

For more information, go to­-webinars.

  The Science of Children Birth to Age 8: Deepening and Broadening the Foundation for Success.  


The Board on Children, Youth, and Families of the Institute of Medicine and the National Research Council is undertaking a study on The Science of Children Birth to Age 8: Deepening and Broadening the Foundation for Success. Information on the project is available on its webpage:  On February 7, 2014, the Office of Early Learning sent out an e-blast announcement to broadly spread the news that public input was being actively sought to inform this work.  We hope many of our readers contributed their comments!
At a meeting of the Committee on the Science of Children Birth to Age 8:  Deepening and Broadening the Foundation for Success on February 28, 2014 Delaware was invited to present some of its work and experiences.  Daphne Evans, Lead Facilitator, Delaware Readiness Teams  and Harriet Dichter, Executive Director of the Delaware Office of Early Learning were invited to participate on the opening session,  "Perspective from Example Initiatives on Opportunities and Challenges for a Birth to 8 Continuum."  Daphne Evans reports that she learned from the work of the other panel members from Invest Early Minnesota and the Hartford Blueprint for Young Children.  She is bringing back to Delaware her affirmed commitment and focus on creating equity for teachers in early learning and teachers in elementary education.  This was sparked by a discussion on early childhood teachers and the working poor.   Other sessions included Perspectives on the Workforce for Birth through 8.   During a session called Perspectives from Stakeholders, Malik Stewart of the Red Clay Consolidated School District submitted his name to give public comment and was selected to do so!  It is great to see Delaware so well represented as the Committee seeks to gain information and perspective for its work.


  Teachers' Union Joins Brandywine School District in Giving  Preschoolers a Head Start on Reading


The Brandywine School District and American Federation of Teachers Local 762 kicked off their version of Reclaim the Promise at Brandywine's Early Childhood Assistance Program (ECAP) on Friday, March 14. Reclaim the Promise is an AFT initiative that seeks to give all children access to quality education through partnerships between teachers, school districts, and the community. The event coincided with the start of Reading is Fundamental week and was designed to help inspire the love of reading at an early age.


As part of the event, special guests read interactive and engaging books to the preschoolers.

Among them was Brandywine Superintendent Mark Holodick (pictured above) who says it is incredibly difficult to be successful in any grade if you are a struggling reader.


"Having been a high school principal, I know firsthand that by the time a child reaches 9th grade, if they are a struggling reader, closing that gap is incredibly difficult," said Holodick. "We want to close that gap and we need to do it early on and the best place to do that is in the earliest years in preschool programs."


Through a partnership with Firstbook, each student at the event received three books to take home. By the end of the school year, they will receive another two books.


Holodick believes that the free books will help promote parent involvement in early reading education.

"The most important thing you can do at this age is spend time with your children, especially reading," said Holodick. "As a parent reads the story they can work on critical thinking skills by asking questions about what's happening in the story. Depending on what kind of book you are utilizing there are certain follow up questions that you can use to help develop a child's critical thinking skills and really engage them in the story that you are reading to them."


AFT Local 762 President Karen Kennedy adds that it's critical that Firstbook is giving these books to schools that serve large low income populations.  "These are children that otherwise wouldn't have these books," said Kennedy. "They aren't going to develop that love for reading if they don't have the books."


ECAP is a free preschool program for income-eligible families who reside within the Brandywine School District.  



By Ben Szmidt


March 14, 2014


  Marsini Op-Ed Calls Early Childhood Education a Proven Economic Tool


An op-ed by Nicholas Marsini, Jr., Delaware Regional President of The PNC Financial Services Group and Co-Chair of the Delaware Business Roundtable Committee on Education's Commission on Early Education and the Economy takes the position that early childhood education is a powerful economic strategy.  He argues that smart economic development invests entirely in preschoolers so that as adults, they have the skills to become successful in the workplace. Some might even emerge as business owners who themselves create jobs. Unfortunately, early childhood education as economic development, however, does not grab the same headlines as news that a new company is coming to town with a promise of hundreds of jobs.  CLICK HERE FOR OP-ED


  Home Visiting Programs At Risk


An article in the most recent issue of CLASP warns that funding for the Maternal, Infant, and Early Childhood Home Visiting Program (MIECHV), an evidenced-based federal and state partnership that supports family- and child-related home visiting programs in every state could expire at the end of 2014 if Congress doesn't act to extend it.  Failure to act would threaten a host of programs that have proven effective for strengthening high-risk families and saving money over the long run.* 

MIECHV targets high-risk families who are most likely to benefit from intensive home visiting services, through which trained professionals (often nurses, social workers, or parent educators) help parents acquire the skills to promote their children's development. The home visiting programs help families connect to necessary services, such as health care or community resources, and monitor child development and progress on developmental milestones. MIECHV provides the federal funds to support the programs, while states and localities implement them. Congress provided $400 million for
MIECHV this year.

*NOTE: Programs impacted in Delaware include home visiting programs led by Delaware Division of Public Health in collaboration with the Delaware Healthy Mother and Infant Consortium and partner organizations throughout the state.



PIC Program for Parents 

SUNDAY, APRIL 6, 20144-7 PM




PIC has partnered with Fiona Vivar, DOE liaison to Child Development Watch, to present our series for parents preparing to transition their child to the school system. The event is at The Little Gym of Wilmington. Parents can bring their child to play at the gym, while they learn about the school system and The First IEP.     

Rising Stars Shining Bright!

Three early learning programs attained 5 Star program status in the past month! Star Level 5 is the highest level of achievement for programs in Delaware Stars.  


The new Star Level 5 programs are: Bear Glasgow YMCA - Cedar Lane, Boys & Girls Club @ Seaford, Helping Hands Learning Center/Daycare.


Programs achieving Star Level 4 are: Bear Glasgow YMCA - Carrie Downie, Bear Glasgow YMCA - Pleasantville ElementaryBear Glasgow YMCA - Southern Elementary, Bear Glasgow YMCA - Wilmington Manor, Brilliant Little Minds Learning Center. Carmen Benetiz, Marleny Castano, Shannon Murray, Diana Ramirez, Orissa Williams. 

We also congratulate the Delaware Stars programs that have attained new status as a Star 3 programs during the past month!  As Delaware families look to the Stars when searching for early childhood programs for their children, they find quality early learning programs such as the Stars programs that have moved up in quality rating!   


  See the complete list of who is moving up!    

Good Nutrition to Quality Early Learning
-Contributed by Heather Wentz

There are many aspects that contribute to the quality of an early childhood education program. However, often it's the most obvious facets that become the focal point: quality of education, dedicated, well qualified teachers and age-appropriate environment. Health, nutrition, and physical activity are not as often associated with quality in early childhood education, but they are indeed an essential part of any quality early childhood learning program.


Sylvia Davis is the Health-Nutrition Specialty Technical Assistant for the Delaware Stars program. Davis

Sylvia Davis 

works with Stars early childhood programs across the state to help to ensure that every child is getting the proper nutrition and physical activity they need.


One of Davis' main responsibilities is providing technical assistance to early childhood educators and programs on how to effectively integrate health, nutrition and physical education into their classrooms. For example, Davis says she instructs teachers that you can have a meaningful discussion on nutrition with your early childhood program children during circle time.


"The goal is to get out into the programs and observe to make sure early learning programs are implementing health and nutrition in appropriate ways," Davis said. "For example, I often give suggestions and take along resources to demonstrate how an early childhood program can do a cooking activity with the young children."


Currently, Ms. Davis is creating two professional development sessions called Nutritional Building Blocks and One Size Does Not Fit All. She expects 20-30 trainees to come and learn about nutrition and physical activity. She says people don't usually realize how some foods and drinks are so high in sugar. For example, at her last training, she used various drinks to show "hidden sugar content."


"We had juice, sport drinks and soda and we read nutritional facts on back and broke it down using sugar cubes," Davis said. "Once they saw how much sugar is in one can they were like, 'Wow, we may want to rethink drinking that.'"




The Montessori Method:
One Model for Early Childhood Programs

Armed with breakthroughs in brain science and faced with increasing global competition, the country continues to talk, and in some cases, implement, educational reform to better prepare our children for the future. From the emergence of STEM education curriculum to the child-centered classroom, different teaching methods and philosophies are becoming widespread.


While it may all seem new, as Pascal-Emmanuel Gobry wrote in the January 22, 2014 edition of Forbes Magazine, the future of education was invented in 1906, which was the year Dr. Maria Montessori introduced her revolutionary new education method.


Montessori is a philosophy and method of education that emphasizes the potential of the young child. The Montessori Method recognizes the child's natural curiosity and desire to learn.


"We discovered that education is not something which the teacher does, but that it is a natural process which develops spontaneously in the human being." - Dr. Maria Montessori.


Dr. Montessori, the first woman to attend medical school and the first female medical doctor in Italy, developed her unique educational method through observation and experimentation. Her early observations of children have led to many of the current day trends and commonly accepted developmentally appropriate practices of early childhood education.


She was one of the first educators to realize that the most important and fastest brain development occurs in children from infancy to age six. Additionally, Dr. Montessori is credited with scaling the classroom environment to size introducing child-sized furniture and counters and sinks that young children could reach to create a safe and accessible setting which she believed encouraged exploration. She also observed that children learn through play, now well-documented as an important step in brain development for young children.


Modern day interpretations such as social intelligence, emotional intelligence, creative intelligence and multiple intelligences all have a direct alignment with Dr. Montessori's observations and conclusions of human brain development.


The Montessori Method is one approach that early childhood programs may elect.  Please contact us at to share other approaches.


CLICK HERE for Letter to the Editor from Lisa Lalama, Head of Wilmington Montessori School.Among the Montessori schools in Delaware, Wilmington Montessori is currently the only Delaware Montessori school which holds a 5 Star Quality Rating.

Why Preschool Critics are Wrong


Steve Barnett's article on where critics are getting the facts wrong on preschool ran in the Washington Post February 28th, and is available on the Preschool Matters . . Today! blog 



New Online Discussion Board about Transition

The Harvard Family Research Project, in partnership with Shannon Wanless, of the SEED Lab at the University of Pittsburgh, has just launched a new online discussion board, Let's Talk Transition!Family Engagement During the Transition to School.  


The board will provide educators and administrators who serve children of transition age (ages 4-6) a platform through which they can locate, react to, and share relevant resources as they work to improve the transition to school for children and their families.  


Participating in the discussion board is easy! It is  hosted on the WordPress platform, where registration is not required.  check it out here:  





NIEER's blog, Preschool Matters. concluded its two week series about the importance of play in early learning with a comprehensive Resource Guide.  CLICK HERE to check it out. 

Golinkoff and Hirsch-Paskek Review Research on Play

Roberta Golinkoff, H. Rodney Sharp Professor and Director of the University of Delaware Infant Language Project teamed with Kathy Hirsch-Pasek, Director of Temple University's Infant Language Laboratory to present a review of research on play-based learning in early childhood education and provide recommendations for finding the right balance through playful learning. 


Great Resources from ZERO TO THREE 


Your Child's Development is a set of nine age-based handouts that includes a "what to expect" chart for each age range, suggestions for supporting healthy development, and information about common parenting challenges.

The resources are available in both English and Spanish.


CDF Report Shows Alarming Numbers of Children at Risk

The Children's Defense Fund released the State of America's Children 2014, a comprehensive analysis of national and state data on population, poverty, family structure, family income, health, nutrition, early childhood development, education, child welfare, juvenile justice, and gun violence. The report provides key child data by state showing alarming numbers of children at risk.

With the U.S. reaching a tipping point in racial and ethnic diversity, an overview of the report reveals highs and lows for America's children. 

Read Full Report Here



Building Blocks for a Healthy Future 

A new Building Blocks for a Healthy Future (Building Blocks) PowerPoint presentation is now available for download.  This presentation is a free training tool for parents, educators, school administrators, and/or health educators to showcase Building Blocks as an evidence-based initiative and to promote the value of early childhood prevention.


The Building Blocks presentation topics include:

Overview of the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration.  Resources include lesson plans, training tools and more.


CLICK HERE to download your free PowerPoint, from the Building Blocks website   



How Babbling to Babies Can Boost Their Brains

The accompanying video is also available on the GREAT STARTS DE website.

Statistical Portrait of Young Children State by State

Recently, Child Trends produced a statistical portrait of infants and toddlers nationwide for the Robert R. McCormick Foundation.  This report focuses on infants and toddlers, their parents, communities, and the resources that exist to support them. This generation is more diverse than any in recent history, yet it is characterized by multiple inequities.




Receipt of SNAP Benefits (Food Stamps)

The Department of Agriculture recently announced that it has revamped its supplemental federal food assistance program for low-income women and young children (WIC) so recipients will have greater access to vegetables, fruits, and whole grains. In 2011, 96 percent of eligible low-income households with children received assistance from SNAP (formerly known as food stamps), another federal Food and Nutrition Service program. But there's work to do in facilitating the optimal health of children and youth. In 2011, for example, more than one in five U.S. children lived in households that were food-insecure at some point during the year.



How to Best Support the Development and Learning of Multilingual Children

A report from the Society for Research in Child Development (SRCD) examines how to best support the development and learning of multilingual children with recommendations for policy and practice.  The report addresses the myth of multilingualism being harmful to children, and offers guidance for parents, teachers, researchers, and policymakers on ways to promote positive language development in children from multilingual families. To best influence language and literacy development of multilingual children, the report recommends the following:
    *    Development of collaborations across disciplines of early childhood professionals, researchers and practitioners.
    *    Development and delivery of clear messages around support for learning in and out of school and that are mindful of cultural factors.
    *    Federal support for research that further advances an understanding of basic developmental processes in multilingual children, identifies and evaluates best practices regarding support of language and literacy development, and optimizes delivery of messages regarding these best practices.
    *    Development of strategies to address practical issues related to the adoption of recommendations by child care professionals.

Long Term Benefits of Early Art and Music

According to new Michigan State University research there are strong links from early childhood participation in arts and crafts activities to patents generated and businesses launched as adults.  

Maternal Conversations Yield Benefits for Premature Babies

Researchers at Brown University found that premature babies in the neonatal intensive care unit (NICU) benefited when their mothers spoke to them in attempts to engage them in conversation rather than stroking them, or if the babies were primarily around nurses who talked about or around them but didn't address the babies directly.

 Click HERE for REPORT




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