While most students and faculty were away on Spring break, little kids covered the sidewalks with colorful chalk and twirled under iridescent bubbles, soaking up a sunny spring day.
On April 2, the Castleton Education Department, Rutland County Parent-Child Center, and Student Education Association collaborated to host “Loving and Learning,” a kickoff event to Week of the Young Child, a week dedicated to celebration of young children, their families, and their early childhood programs.
Located in the Campus Center, kids 1 to 6 years old were given various activities to promote development of social-emotional and motor skills, along with a free book by Todd Parr as a parting gift. The objective of the event was to inspire kids and their parents to follow along with the rest of the WOYC’s themed challenges, arranged by VTAEYC and NAEYC.
Each individual table was dedicated to a specific skill, and further divided into three sections based on age range, including 1 to 2, 3 to 4, and 5 to 6.
Early Childhood Education students and coordinators of the three levels of activities, Kathryn Coolidge and Olivia Cook, ran one of the social-emotional tables, focused on strengthening emotional intelligence and empathy.
“For years one and two, they can build little faces with separate pieces of expressions,” Coolidge said. “Three and fours can look in the mirror and think about different emotions shown through their face. And for the 5 and 6 years old, there’s association of different emotions with colors.”
Coolidge confidently added that “it’s one of the most important tables,” especially in the context of COVID when masks have long hidden people’s faces.
For motor-skills, one popular station was the “pink table,” which participant Madalynn succinctly described as “her favorite,” while having a snack break with her friend, Charlee.
At the pink table, kids were tasked with matching corresponding objects. They could build blocks based on same-colored stickers, corresponding small stars into larger ones, and items to their first letter categories.
After the children were done with games and activities, Assistant Professor of Special Education and host of the event, Lauren Weiss, concluded the afternoon by reading a Parr book aloud to them.
“I love Todd Parr’s books,” she later said. “It’s just such a good message of inclusiveness, acceptance, loving yourself and others, and being very supportive. Now that we’re starting to emerge from COVID, we need to be reminded to treat others well and treat ourselves well.”
Afterwards, she stated that the event went “really well,” with a turnout of 24 kids and their families out of 30 total reservations. She also elaborated on her gratitude for the VTAEYC mini grant that funded the project, and that there will likely be another Loving and Learning next year.
Professor of Education, Monica McEnerney, agreed on the project’s success and said, “I think people were thrilled to have an opportunity to come out and celebrate. Young families deserve all the support they can get, especially the last few years being so difficult.”