Over the last two years, Kidspace has spent a lot of time and energy revamping and rethinking its early childhood space and curriculum. You may have noticed the new design of our S. Mark Taper Foundation Early Childhood Learning Center which has placed a huge emphasis on nature and dramatic play. You may have also noticed some new programs pop up along with updates to the current ones we offer playing on our nature theme. These changes naturally lead us to think of new ways to prepare our staff to facilitate the programming in the new Early Childhood Center that would enhance our new direction. In addition, considerable thought and effort went into how we develop and conduct our Baby and Me Classes in order to take advantage of the new facility and philosophy of nature-based play. The result of all this effort has been that our classes have doubled along with full wait lists of parents and caregivers that recognize the need for parent/children combination classes. Clearly there has been a growing demand for early childhood education and more parents are growing aware of the significance and long term impact that it has on them and their children.
With demand in mind, parents are not only looking at quality of programming, but the type of programming being offered by early childcare facilities and the philosophy behind it. No doubt about it, early childhood education is immensely important and there’s plenty of research out there to support that claim. But what about the parents who don’t know yet? What about the children who are not getting the leg up they need in order to become confident, happy, independent learners? In this world where we are inundated with a deluge of information, where we are also left to sift through it all unguided so we can find the golden nuggets, where if we’re lucky someone points us in the right direction, it’s a wonder we can make any sense of it at all. Some of us have the advantage of knowing where to look and how to do independent research. However, not everyone wants to dig up all the info or even has the time and resources to do so. How has looking for the right preschool, let alone finding anything reliable on the internet or any other information outlet become so complicated? Why has this blessing of living in such a full dispensation of information become our curse as well? At the same time, one can’t help but wonder, isn’t this the joy of learning? Isn’t that what an active learner does? We desire to know and to search, we want to find out the truth, and be well informed so that we can make good choices and live healthy, happy lives. The Kidspace mission makes it clear that we intend to “nurture the potential of all children,” and that through “kid-driven experiences that are relevant and inspiring and that involve [parents],” we can help them become, “joyful active learners.” That statement literally means all children and that is the focus of a new early childhood outreach program that has sprung up over the past few months. The goal of the outreach program is to reach the economically disadvantaged and underserved communities surrounding Kidspace and beyond. We aim to provide families with dynamic, researched based early childhood education that they would otherwise not be privy to.
Kidspace's Education Department has chosen one of their own educators, who has been making early childhood, family learning, and music a large focus for vocational and personal development, as the new Early Childhood Outreach Coordinator. My name is Daniel Ramirez, a Los Angeles native, who has played a major role in the Baby & Me program for the past year. I have co-written and co-produced a short album of companion music for early learners entitled “Glurp Glurp.” I am happy to say that parents absolutely love our CD!. I also curated and compiled all the music heard in the Early Childhood exhibit space. The music is unique and creates an atmosphere you may not find in other early childhood centers. A lot of the soundtrack revolves around the sounds of nature and indigenous music. You may have had the pleasure of participating in one of my unique music or story times in the museum, and my contributions along with those of the entire Early Childhood department to Baby & Me have no doubt had an impact on the success of that program as well. Outside of Kidspace I performed with the band Just Kidding for Free Family Night and the recent Pumpkin Festival. I have studied music extensively in school and have combined my love of music with the study of early childhood development. I love playing music for kids of all ages and they’re enthusiasm for music is a huge motivation as an informal teacher.
For the past few months, I have been really wondering what we could do outside of the museum that would have a truly lasting and significant impact on the community. So when the opportunity presented itself, I felt the EC Outreach Coordinator was a sign for me to move in that specific direction. My passion for serving the community outside of Kidspace is largely driven by personal experience. I have always wanted to provide the learning experiences and the example of the positive male role model I lacked growing up as a child. I never knew my real dad. I never saw a male teacher until I was in seventh grade. I wondered why there were no guys in school besides the token P.E. teacher or the principle. I remember really wanting there to be a cool guy to look up to and learn from. On average, 5.2% of early childhood professionals are male and that figure astounds me. Seeing more dads in our classes is really encouraging and ideally I would love to see more fathers involved with not just providing for their kids, but teaching them and involving them in what they do. What I am looking forward to the most, though, is providing all parents with ways to nurture their children at home and outside of class so that those parents become the pride of their children. I want to give them tools to encourage nature play and to use developmentally appropriate activities on their own. It’s extremely rewarding that a huge part of what I’ll be doing in the community is helping hundreds of families get access to early childhood programs. I really believe in what we’re doing with the outreach program and can’t wait to get out there and support the families who really would appreciate how Baby & Me can enrich their family time. These are the types of services that improve our neighborhoods and change the physical landscape of our communities, especially with recent cuts to Head Start and other preschool programs.
It is no coincidence that Kidspace has grown into the experienced museum it is now and support for our mission is only growing. In the past year, Kidspace has been recognized with several awards including: City of Pasadena Green City Award, Tierra del Sol Foundation Community Partner Award, Almansor Academy Workability Employer of the Year, and the Child Education Center Community Award. The Pasadena Unified School District has also made early childhood development a major part of their “2013-16 School/City Work Plan” and has expressed their interest in the role they hope Kidspace will play. Moreover, parents who have been concerned about their children becoming confident, expressive, and independent learners have found programs like Baby & Me invaluable for their child’s emotional, social, physical, and cognitive development. We are also so grateful to have a facility like the new S. Mark Taper Foundation Early Childhood Learning Center for researching and developing the programming that will ultimately be used offsite to serve communities in need. Truly, Kidspace is delivering on its promise to nurture all children’s potential in such a time as this where the world is growing more complicated and challenging. I’m genuinely proud to be a part of this endeavor and look forward to meeting and working with our community partners and their local families.
Daniel Ramirez, Early Childhood Outreach Coordinator, has been with Kidspace since 2013 providing guests with fun and memorable learning experiences as well as enhancing programming and staff training. Currently he is a member of the band Just Kidding who performs a unique blend of music for families.