Early Childhood in Nebraska: Stepping Up Our Commitment







 

Early Childhood in Nebraska:
Stepping Up Our Commitment

For Nebraska to be successful, its children must be successful. Without a strong, strategic response, the gaps in our early childhood resources will jeopardize our state’s future.

Message from the Dean

The College of Education and Human Sciences (CEHS) has a long history of teaching, research and community work that addresses the needs of young children and their families. Early childhood is not all we do, and certainly others at the University of Nebraska–Lincoln and across the University of Nebraska system study young children. However, early childhood has been a CEHS priority for the past 10 years, and we have an impressive body of work.

Yet this is not enough to have the impact we desire, so we are stepping up our commitment to early childhood at UNL. I’m pleased to announce the following advances in our ability to address the grand challenges facing young children in Nebraska and the world.

We are:

  • Creating the Nebraska Early Childhood Research Academy to focus campus research activities and enhance collaboration
  • Adding nine faculty to complement the 65 existing faculty leading our early childhood efforts
  • Creating cross-disciplinary teams of faculty to address issues of poverty, school success and child wellness
  • Engaging with Nebraska Extension to bring early childhood programs to all corners of the state
  • Providing training to early childhood professionals and increasing resources to parents of young children
  • Improving access and information on affordable, nutritious and safe food for young children and their families
  • Working internationally in Brazil, China, Turkey and elsewhere on issues of early childhood development and education
  • Collaborating across the University of Nebraska system

With these additional efforts, CEHS is expanding its breadth, depth, multi-disciplinary opportunities, systemic orientation and emphasis on linking theory and research to practical solutions in the community. All of this is designed to make life better for Nebraska’s children and families and to strengthen our state’s reputation for the good life.

FACT: 

ONE IN FIVE YOUNG CHILDREN GROW UP IN POVERTY

Sincerely,
Marjorie Kostelnik
Dean
College of Education and Human Sciences
University of Nebraska–Lincoln



Nebraska Early Childhood Research Academy to be a game-changer

A grand challenge demands a grand enterprise. The formation of the Nebraska Early Childhood Research Academy qualifies. NECRA is stepping up UNL’s commitment to early childhood by pursuing game-changing research to help policy makers, early childhood professionals, researchers, educators and others improve the trajectory of all young Nebraskans—especially those who face challenges in achieving academic and life success.

A grand challenge demands a grand enterprise. The formation of the Nebraska Early Childhood Research Academy qualifies. NECRA is stepping up UNL’s commitment to early childhood by pursuing game-changing research to help policy makers, early childhood professionals, researchers, educators and others improve the trajectory of all young Nebraskans—especially those who face challenges in achieving academic and life success.

Housed in the Nebraska Center for Research on Children, Youth, Families and Schools (CYFS), the academy is a strategy to bring together a critical mass of researchers, resources and collaborators with a common purpose focused on early childhood.

“We’re bringing together researchers from traditional and nontraditional sectors who may not regularly contribute to the dialogue within early childhood,” said Susan Sheridan, director of CYFS. “This collaborative environment will help us create solutions—innovative, transformative approaches to better understand what works, for whom and under what conditions.

We now know a lot about the early years and their impact on developmental trajectories that last a lifetime. A child’s early education and development predicts almost every aspect of his or her life. We are committed to further researching, inventing and sharing the best ways to get children off on the right foot and to enhance their development.”

“The academy will provide an enhanced means through which UNL scientists can pursue their research on early childhood systemically,” said Marjorie Kostelnik, dean of the College of Education and Human Sciences. “It is interdisciplinary, it builds on UNL’s proven track record in early childhood research, and capitalizes on the many valued relationships we have established with early childhood professionals across the state, nation and globe. It will also be a supportive partner to other NU initiatives such as the Buffett Early Childhood Institute and the Rural Futures Institute.”

The Academy will be directed by Lisa Knoche, research associate professor at the Nebraska Center for Research on Children, Youth Families and Schools.

For additional information on NECRA, please visit go.unl.edu/necra.

Stepping up staffing

Why is early childhood so important to Nebraska? Quite simply, our children are our future. For Nebraska to be successful, our children must be successful. The growing number of Nebraska children in poverty and the changing demographics of our state demand a strong and strategic response. Left unaddressed, the status of our most important, yet most vulnerable, population is in jeopardy.

As part of our expanded effort, the College of Education and Human Sciences is adding nine new faculty members dedicated to early childhood. They join 65 plus individuals on our campus who work in this field. These positions will help UNL respond to gaps our faculty have identified in our teaching, research and outreach efforts.

  • Early Childhood Coaching
  • Early Childhood and Educational Neuroscience
  • Early Childhood Initiative for Academic Success (2 positions.)
  • Early Childhood School Leadership
  • Infant/Child Mental Health
  • Early Childhood Education Mathematics
  • Early Childhood Learning Science - STEM
  • Early Childhood Education Extension Specialist

For more information on these key positions please visit go.unl.edu/ecjobs.

FACT: 

IN THE LAST FIVE YEARS THE NUMBER OF SCHOOL CHILDREN WITH DISABILITIES HAS GROWN 72 PERCENT




Stepping together

Nebraska has a spirit of working together to accomplish great things. The College of Education and Human Science’s new strategy to address gaps in early childhood support involves partnering with others to make a greater impact. We are working closely with the Buffett Early Childhood Institute at the University of Nebraska, Educare of Lincoln, other colleges at UNL, Nebraska Extension, and partners at the University of Nebraska at Kearney, University of Nebraska at Omaha and the University of Nebraska Medical Center. We are also reaching out internationally.

For example, our early childhood footprint is extending to Brazil where we are developing a relationship with early childhood leaders and researchers. Brazilian economist Ricardo Paes de Barros recently visited Lincoln and shared his research and the status of child development in Brazil. We look forward to mutually beneficial collaboration on research in a variety of areas and opportunities for students to exchange learning experiences.

FACT: 

LESS THAN 10 PERCENT OF NEBRASKA’S AT-RISK CHILDREN BIRTH TO AGE 3 ARE SERVED BY HIGH-QUALITY EARLY CHILDHOOD PROGRAMS




Stepping out

Stepping up means stepping out. UNL’s reach in early childhood has always been beyond campus, but we know the impact we seek will only come with more active engagement. Nebraska Extension is a great partner in early childhood and reaches into every corner of the state.

Nebraska Extension is ramping up its work in early childhood with the hiring of 15 Extension Educators focusing on young children and building the capacity of communities to meet the needs of these youth and their families. This strengthened focus provides the opportunity to expand the research and teaching occurring on campus to all 93 of Nebraska’s counties.

Additionally, a strategic planning process has identified key issues that focus on young children. Cross-disciplinary teams of faculty will be working on:

  • Creating community, school and home environments that promote healthy lifestyles for children including partnering with schools to implement wellness policies, reducing childhood obesity and encouraging healthy choices among young children.
  • Increasing the quality and frequency of learning experiences for children with an emphasis on providing training to early childhood professionals and increasing resources available to the parents of young children.
  • Improving access to affordable, nutritious, and safe food focusing on improving knowledge of and access to food choices that will benefit young children and their families.

Each of these teams will be developing programs and resources to reach targeted outcomes that have been identified by Nebraska stakeholders. Benchmarks will be established to determine our success at meeting targeted outcomes and moving the needle on making a difference for children statewide.

For more information on Nebraska Extension’s work in early childhood, visit child.unl.edu.

FACT: 

THE NUMBER OF CHILDREN AGED 0-5 AT RISK OF FAILING IN SCHOOL IS ESTIMATED AT 42 PERCENT