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Our story is one of connecting the dots. The first dot came in 2013 when the Obama administration made early childhood education part of our national agenda. Finally, there was enough conclusive research that supported the belief that quality early childhood education (ECE) can change the trajectory of a child’s life. But who provides that quality? With whom does the responsibility rest? Teachers, of course, yet often teachers are wholly unprepared for the challenges they face in classrooms that are underfunded and over-crowded. 

 

Dot two. We knew if we wanted to positively impact children’s lives, we had to begin a dialogue in our own community. We understood that to affect policy, practice, and funding we first had to establish the importance and rights of all children. We started with a fundamental question - one that we knew would lead us to the next dot: How can schools and their teachers make visible the importance of children as vital members of a democratic community?

 

 

 

 

 

The first dot came in 2013 when the Obama administration made early childhood education part of our national agenda. Finally, conclusive research supported the belief that quality early childhood education (ECE) can change the trajectory of a child’s life. But who provides that quality? With whom does the responsibility rest? Teachers, of course, yet often teachers are unprepared for the challenges they face in classrooms that are underfunded and overcrowded. 

 

 

Dot two. We knew if we wanted to positively impact children’s lives, we had to begin with a dialogue in our own community. We understood that to affect policy, practice, and funding we first had to establish the importance and rights of all children. We started with a fundamental question - one that we knew would lead us to the next dot: How can schools and their teachers affirm and make visible the importance of children as vital members of a democratic community?

Our story is one of connecting the dots.

This question, never answered but always percolating beneath the surface, fueled numerous endeavors by the West Los Angeles Collaborative (a group of local schools interested in Constructivist education): TEDx talks, workshops, public installations. While impactful and often bold, these initiatives fell short in creating true cultural and societal recognition of the rights and competencies of young children.

 

 

Dot three came in the spring of 2014 when a group of 30 Los Angeles educators traveled to Sweden and discovered how a community there had answered our question. The Pedagogical Institute of Skarpnäk – an educational research and documentation center, had not only made children a visible priority in their municipality, they also understood that teachers must be supported if they are to truly “change the trajectory of a child’s life.”  They had indeed connected the dots.  A well-prepared, inspired teacher with adequate support is directly linked to student success.

Dot four. We returned home from Sweden with a mission: to create a Pedagogical Institute in Los Angeles that would support children by preparing teachers. In celebration of its 30th birthday, Evergreen Community School generously funded the Institute through its initial stages. We began by offering educators a place to come together, to research, learn, discuss, debate and share their work. Throughout our first year, we offered over 75 learning opportunities for teachers and served over 1500 educators from our local community, as well as national and international networks. Through community research projects, book studies, workshops, lectures, study tours, documentation labs and exhibitions, teachers gathered regularly to hone the art of teaching.

 

 

Dot five. In 2015, The Collaborative Teacher Project was created with the goal of providing equal access to quality early education, often undermined by economic disparities in our Los Angeles communities. Partnering with public Transitional Kindergarten and Kindergarten teachers in Title 1 schools, we work with teachers to transform classrooms and rethink outdated educational practices. Since 2015, the project has grown each year and now includes nine classrooms in seven schools throughout Los Angeles. 

 

In 2018 we opened our first Nest, a play space for young refugee children living in Lesvos, Greece. In 2019 we opened our second Nest, on the Greek island of Samos. We continue to support both Nests through upkeep, volunteer recruitment and training. 

In 2019 we also opened a Nest at the Congo Peace School, in Mumosho.

 

Additionally, to serve teachers in all communities and to raise the bar for early educators, we continue to offer public workshops, study tours, and lectures throughout the year.