Community Schools and "Mind in The Making" A Win-Win Collaboration

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“Mind in the Making (MITM)  and Community Schools: Crossing Boundaries and Creating Strong Linkages for Children Birth through Eight and for their Families,” is a collaborative project among The Families and Work Institute, the Institute for Educational Leadership  and The Children’s Aid Society’s National Center for Community Schools that began in 2011 with generous support from the W. K. Kellogg Foundation.   

The partnership aims to develop and implement a strategy for using the Families and Work Institute’s Mind in the Making (MITM) and the Seven Essential Executive Life Skills (a research-based approach to improving children’s life skills and success) as a framework for connecting early childhood practices and community schools, as well as promoting teaching and learning innovation. The ultimate goal is to create a seamless 0-8 system, which can only help the cradle to career, or “P-20”, goal of community schools.  The P-20 continuum (or pipeline) in youth development recognizes that all educational levels are connected and must contribute to preparing young people to succeed and thrive in adulthood.  

Children’s Aid has been a very active partner from the start, not only by helping choose and train national sites but also by piloting the framework in some of our community schools.  Janice Chu-Zhu, NCCS, senior director of national capacity building, who is in charge of the project at our end, says that administrators and staff from across the agency’s centers and community schools have been part of intensive master training institutes. Their goal is to turnkey the training so that, eventually, the MITM becomes the common framework not only across schools but across the agency.  “Our work together continues to expand. We already have a plan to roll-out the trainings throughout the School Age Division during school year 2013-14. And later this month, we’ll be part of their national convening in Hartford, Connecticut," Chu-Zhu says.

Erin Ramsey, MITM senior program director, says that Families and Work Institute is particularly excited about the partnership with Children’s Aid because of the substantial work we have done to engage families as well as for our solid relationship with teachers and administrators at our community schools.  “This fertile ground will facilitate the joint learning journey proposed by MITM which will give parents, teachers and childcare providers better understanding and a common language about how children learn, not so much on what they learn,” Ramsey says.

Besides other win-wins, Ramsey points out that the partnership provides a prime opportunity to align Common Core State Standards and Early Learning Guidelines with the Executive Function Life Skills. “We are applying this common language and common priorities across sectors, families and professionals. This emerging focus is a direct result of community schools, early childhood education and community partners creating a foundation and action plan by being involved with this initiative. The learning journey together and the common language have moved this work ahead and partners realize that by promoting Executive Function Life Skills they will be increasing the opportunity to meet Common Core State Standards,” she says.

“Families and  Work Institute is thrilled to be partnering with Community Schools throughout the country, using the Learning Modules we have created from my book, Mind in the Making: The Seven Essential Skills Every Child Needs,” says Ellen Galinsky, president, Families and Work Institute. “Community Schools are a natural fit in our work in promoting birth through eight seamless systems, more effective teaching and learning, new forms of family engagement, school readiness and school success because of their holistic, strengths-based, and innovative approach to working with children and their families and their strong community partnerships. We strongly believe this work together will help set a new direction in helping children and families thrive.”  

“We don't want children to ‘lose the fire in their eyes,’” adds Galinsky, and we cannot agree more.  We are also looking forward to continuing our mutually productive and robust collaboration.