High-quality child care produces a stimulating, secure and loving atmosphere for the little one.

Focusing on children's wellbeing and ecological exposures in child care centers is Essential for several reasons: Since they display exploratory behaviors that put them in direct contact with contaminated surfaces, they're more likely to be vulnerable to some contaminants found. They're also less developed immunologically, physiologically, and neurologically and are more prone to the negative effects of toxins and chemicals. Children spend a whole lot of time in child care settings. Many babies and young children spend as many as 50 hours each week, in child care.

Nationally, 13 million children, or 65 percent of U.S. kids, spend some part of the afternoon in child care and at California alone, roughly 1.1 million children five decades or younger attend child care. In this exact same condition, many adults might also be subjected as roughly 146,000 employees work 40 hours or more a week child care centers. Child care environments include substances which may be harmful for kids. Recent studies suggest that lots of child care environments might contain pesticides, allergens, volatile organic compounds from cleaning agents and sanitizers, and other contaminants which may be toxic to children's wellbeing.

Nevertheless, little is understood about what environmental and chemical exposures they might be getting in these configurations. To fill this gap, we quantified. Outcomes of the study were reported on the California Air Resources Board. Our findings help inform policies to lower accidents to children, encourage training and workshops to educate child care providers about methods to lower children's environmental exposures (ex. Using integrated pest management to decrease pesticide usage ), and search for future research.

Washing Your Baby’s Clothes
Washing Your Baby’s Clothes
Washing Your Baby’s Clothes – How to do it Rightly
Washing Dishes
Washing Dishes
Cleaning up after oneself is an important life skill
Make a Bed
Make a Bed
It might be a dying art, but learning how to make a bed is a valuable skill.
Sweep a Floor
Sweep a Floor
Give a kid a broom, and you are likely to see dirt flipping everywhere except in a pile.
Mop a Floor
Mop a Floor
Be sure to give them instructions on how to mop different floor types you may have in your home.

Reggio Inspired Space For Teachers And Families

Episode 151 – As the demand for quality child care increases, parents often find themselves starting their own child care businesses to fulfill their needs. In this episode, Bernadette Testani,...

The post Reggio Inspired Space For Teachers And Families appeared first on HiMama Blog - Resources for Daycare Centers.


Episode 151 – As the demand for quality child care increases, parents often find themselves starting their own child care businesses to fulfill their needs. In this episode, Bernadette Testani,...

The post Reggio Inspired Space For Teachers And Families appeared first on HiMama Blog - Resources for Daycare Centers.

Episode 151 – As the demand for quality child care increases, parents often find themselves starting their own child care businesses to fulfill their needs. In this episode, Bernadette Testani, Head of School at Atelier Kids, shares her experience opening and running her Reggio-inspired centers. We talk about how she developed her passion for the Reggio Emilia philosophy and how she implements it for both programming and teacher training. She gives us tips on building a collaborative environment that balances the needs of her teachers and families.

Resources:

  • Connect with Bernadette on LinkedIn
  • Learn more about Atelier Kids

Episode Transcript

Bernadette TESTANI:

When I speak to my parents, they say, “Yeah, I get why we have to pay what we have to pay for childcare because we’re getting all of these things.” So as long as you deliver on a quality people will pay for it because they know that they’re getting the best education for their children.

Ron SPREEUWENBERG:

Bernadette welcome to the Preschool Podcast!

TESTANI:

Thanks, Ron. I’m really pleased to be here today!

SPREEUWENBERG:

So we’re lucky to have on the show today Bernadette Testani. She is the founder of a Atelier Kids in Toronto [Ontario, Canada]. Bernadette, let’s start by learning about what [the word] “atelier” means. I remember we had this conversation before and I found it quite interesting.

TESTANI:

Yeah, “atelier” is a French word which means… it’s different things. It could be a studio, a workshop or a laboratory. And although the Reggio-inspired pedagogy hails from Italy the Italians chose the word “atelier” as a way to provide an ideal learning opportunity for the children.

SPREEUWENBERG:

Very cool. And so it’s a Reggio-inspired early learning program. Can you tell us about how you got here, your journey to founding Atelier Kids?

TESTANI:

Yeah, you know, quite an interesting journey. I’m not an ECE [early-childhood educator], and nor did I start off in the educational field. I started off in the business world or the corporate world, specifically in recruitment. But I, at one point, after having children needed to find childcare and I couldn’t believe how difficult the task was. And I was lucky enough to find a daycare near my house and essentially was asked to volunteer on the parent board. It was a non-profit daycare, it was a very small one. But that’s really how I dipped my toe into childcare.

And one thing that I came to realize and understand is the huge need for childcare, but more importantly the huge need for quality childcare. And I really felt that there really wasn’t anything addressing the needs that I wanted as a family. Now, we’re going back 12-13 years ago. And so being the type of person that usually takes a takes the reins I decided to open up my own daycare center, and that was co-founded with a partner. And we built a very successful organization called Green Apple kids.

And the unique thing about my background, I think, and part of my journey is that I’ve seen daycare and childcare from all sides. So, I’ve been involved in non-profit and I’ve been involved with for-profit. I’ve had a nanny, I’ve had my mother raise my kids, I’ve stayed home. And so I believe I have a unique viewpoint in terms of what it takes, I think, to take care of children and more importantly educate children.

SPREEUWENBERG:

And why did you focus on a Reggio-inspired approach for Atelier Kids?

TESTANI:

That’s a really good question, and it took a while for me to really dig into Reggio. I’d always heard about it and I’ve heard about different pedagogies, whether it was Montessori or Waldorf. But quite honestly one day I walked into my son’s school and they were running a Reggio nursery program. And I was amazed at how the children were really independent. They were all engaged in the activities that they were doing that were doing. They were working collaboratively.

The teacher wasn’t talking a lot. She was more kind of guiding the kids. And I asked her, “What is it that you’re doing here?” And they said, “Well, we’re doing this Reggio pedagogy.” And I said, “That’s incredible.” And so that was really the beginning of my journey.

But the other thing that was happening at the time is I have an older daughter who is at the stage now where she’s applying for university and getting her first job. And what I realized is those qualities that make us successful – however you define it – are not things like being able to recite and rote learning, but it’s more things like communication skills, collaboration skills resiliency, creativity.

And it kind of struck me that the Reggio pedagogy really focuses on those things and that’s where it just brought it all together. And again, just having experience with my older children and my younger son and being able to say, “Ah, I get it, this is what I should be focusing on, not necessarily what I’ve been told in the past, which is traditional play-based daycare.”

SPREEUWENBERG:

It’s interesting because of course with HiMama while we’re working in the software and technology world and you’re seeing now more and more software in the HR [human resources] tech world for larger companies and organizations to test these types of things like resilience and creativity and collaborative working in prospective candidates, as opposed to sort of a traditional interview style, which of course is very hard to understand somebodies capabilities, but more so these traits that you develop even at that early stage. So you could even take that connection from early-childhood right through to the workforce later in life. So that’s pretty cool.

TESTANI:

Yeah, and it translates into success and happiness and being a good person. All of those things like… you’re in the technology world. I do a lot of work in the tech world as well, and it’s a huge sort of mediator. So what are those unique human qualities that we have that will allow us to be happy and successful? And it’s those things that we should be imparting on our kids. It’s not how to recite things.

Now, rote learning has its place – I’m not saying it doesn’t. But our education system unfortunately focuses on those things that are very easy to measure, which are very quantitative. But at the end of the day are those are things that help you in getting a job and getting that first job and getting along with your co-workers and finding a life partner, having children all of those kinds of things?

So that’s where I get really excited about this because it’s amazing to me. They’ve been talking about this for 100 years – this isn’t new thinking, but it’s just amazing that it’s coming to the forefront now. And all the families that I talked to, the minute I start giving them what the Reggio philosophy is, they’re, like, “Yeah, I get that. That’s what I want for my child.” So it’s quite exciting.

SPREEUWENBERG:

Yeah, it’s almost surprising that more childcare programs haven’t taken a quicker approach to adopt this philosophy, which, like you said, as soon as you explain it to your parents they’re, like, “Yeah, it makes a ton of sense.” Now, what about the impact of the Reggio-inspired approach on culture?

TESTANI:

That’s an excellent question, and that’s one of the big reasons why we’ve chosen to adopt it as well as. Because as we all know, in childcare – and you’ve talked about it on many podcasts –the childcare environment can be a toxic environment. It’s hard work. It’s hard work, what these people do. And you need to kind of create an environment that is what you call “best in class”. You have to pay people well; you need to have good benefits; you need to provide professional development. But above all you need to have some guidelines in terms of how people relate to one another.

So if you look at the Reggio pedagogy – and all of this stuff is on my website as well – and you look at creating an environment for staff, all of those things about creating an ideal learning environment for children, you actually can take those principles and create an ideal environment for staff as well. So in terms of listening to one another, in terms of being democratic, in terms of allowing people space to learn and to make mistakes.

So the staff right now are highly regulated, and so we obviously, in order to be licensed, need to follow the regulations put up by the Ministry of [Education] to keep us safe. But I find that some centers take it to mean black-and-white. And in fact there is some flexibility to allow programs like Reggio to create a positive environment for people.

And so one of the things that we always will do with the children is we use what we call the “wonder statements”. “I wonder why plants flower in the spring? I wonder why leaves fall off of the trees in the fall?” The other thing you can say is, as a staff member, “I wonder why we’re doing it this way? I wonder why I am speaking to a child in this manner?” And so if you apply that to staff and educators it’s amazing the answers that come back.

And when you start thinking about things differently you start thinking about your role differently. So you’re not just meant to discipline the children and make sure that they never cry. It’s so far beyond that. It’s about creating an environment where they catch this love of learning and it stays with them for the rest of their life. And so you need to be a little bit like that, too, I think, if you want to inspire children.

SPREEUWENBERG:

Yeah, it’s sort of a theme that comes up in the Podcast quite a bit, of practicing what we preach in early-childhood education. We want our children to be learning but then we need to be learning all the time as well. And it certainly seems to create that type of environment with the Reggio approach. And then you’ve talked a bit about your educators. What role has Reggio played – if any – in attracting talent to Atelier Kids?

TESTANI:

I think it’s been really, really positive. And I’ve had… I know it’s positive when I have people just out of the blue sending me an e-mail saying, “I saw your website and I love the type of culture that you’re building.” So most early-childhood educators, as I understand – at least in Ontario – they do go through a module or two of Reggio-inspired learning and they love the idea of it. And I think it resonates with educators. But then when they go to see an end practice, that’s where I think we’ve fallen down as an industry, is really implementing a true Reggio program.

Obviously the Ontario kindergarten curriculum is Reggio-inspired, as we know, and they call it “emergent curriculum”. But it could be plucked right out of the Reggio philosophy, of course. And it really is something that educators want to model. But I think the key there is the professional development and the training. And that’s why, for me, I can’t just hire someone who says, “Oh, I’ve done Reggio,” or, “I’ve done Montessori.” We have to do a complete… it’s going to be, like, a month-long training session before our staff even welcome any families. And we’re bringing in special educators and special people that are trained in the Reggio methodology. And I’ve had to create my own proprietary training because it just doesn’t exist in Ontario.

SPREEUWENBERG:

Ah, okay, this is interesting. Let’s continue talking about this. So you’re doing a full month of training for new educators at Atelier Kids? And you’re creating this effectively from scratch? But then I guess you’re also bringing in some external folks to support you?

TESTANI:

Yeah, I’ve been to Reggio several times now, I’ve taken training courses there, I’ve seen the Reggio schools in Italy. I’ve spoken extensively to different Reggio centers in the U.S., and I’ve also taken some master level courses at York University with Dr. Carol Anne Wien, who is the foremost expert in Reggio-inspired learning, if you will, in Canada. And I’ve definitely learned a lot.

But the one thing you learn about Reggio is everyone has something to contribute. So I have reached out to some really great Reggio programs in Ontario – unfortunately they’re not in the GTA [greater Toronto area] – and we’ve partnered with them and they’re going to come in and work on a collaborative approach with training the staff.

SPREEUWENBERG:

And what’s your response to the question of, “It sounds great, Bernadette, but turnover is really high and I don’t think I can afford to spend a month of time training my new educators if they might leave in six months?”

TESTANI:

Yeah, and I’ve heard that question – I’ve heard that for so many years. And people always say, ”Well, what happens if those people leave in six months?” And then I always say, “Well, what happens if they don’t leave in six months?” So it has been proven time and again that any money, time and energy you spend on training and development, it comes back to you… I don’t know, four-fold, five-fold, ten0fold, whatever the numbers are.

So there is always an opportunity for professional development and you do need to invest in it. There are funds that are available, as well, through the government that allow you to upgrade professional skills. You just need to look for them and find them. And it is important that you spend whatever percentage it is of your profits on training and development. And it is going to help to reduce turnover significantly. I mean, obviously you have to pay people well and you have to treat them well. But I think that professional development is, in fact, key to reducing the attrition rate.

SPREEUWENBERG:

Yeah, it’s interesting because it’s a very practical example of professional development and training at Atelier Kids that you can apply more generally to early-childhood education to say, “Look, if we want to bring up the professionalism of early-childhood education and we want to have quality education out there, we have to provide educators with the resources, the tools – that being, in this case, the training – to be successful.”

And so I think yeah, it’s a great thought leadership for everybody out there to think about how we can do more for educators on the training and professional development side. Like you said, I think there is a lot of opportunity for some funding on those aspects as well. And you talked a bit about Ontario, specifically, but I know a lot of other jurisdictions have various programs in place as well.

TESTANI:

Yeah, and the other thing is that time is important during the day. One of the things with the Reggio pedagogy is, because it’s not a program plan that you do two weeks in advance and just follow it, it is an emergent curriculum. And so you can’t just do this stuff on the fly. You need to remove yourself from the daily childhood classroom situation and reflect on what the children have been doing and what direction you may take the learning in.

And so for me, I build in planning time in the middle of the day so that all three teachers or all two teachers can be removed from the classroom and can sit and collaborate and figure out what is the next stage to take in terms of a provocation that you’re working on, etc. “What mood are the children at? What else can we do to scaffold their learning?” All of that just doesn’t happen overnight. You really think about those issues.

And so in going to Italy and seeing how they work, I realized, “Okay, now I know how I can implement this program time during the day. Just like teachers have time to do programming during the day, early-childhood educators should be given the same opportunity to do so. All of that of course increases your staffing cost, increases all these costs. But I do believe if you provide a quality program, when I speak to my parents they say, “Yeah, I get why we have to pay what we have to pay for childcare because we’re getting all of these things.” So as long as you deliver on the quality people will pay for it because they know that they’re getting the best education for their children.

SPREEUWENBERG:

Yeah, and that’s where we’re lifting everything up for everybody in terms of educator wages, quality of the education, etc. One theme that seems to be clear here is you’ve been very thoughtful and you’ve planned a lot of aspects of what you wanted to deliver to tell Atelier Kids. How much time have you spent on this? I’m curious to know.

TESTANI:

Well, I’ve been working on it for a couple of years now, in terms of… I mean, I had 12 years experience in childcare already. And for the last couple of years, I think… quite honestly I could have easily opened up another daycare in a shorter period of time if I would have continued along the traditional model. But I really wanted to do something special.

So it has taken a lot of time. I’ve reached out to the community. I have a parent advisory board that I talk to whenever I’m thinking about ideas, because you can’t work in a vacuum. Parents today are different than even when I was raising my children. So all of that does take time.  Construction, of course, takes time. I’m not just putting together a daycare center again, [traditionally].

Even creating things like… I need to have a proper reception area. In Italy it’s called a “piazza”, where people gather in the morning. And it’s meant to be a place where people can talk about their day and that sort of thing, not just, like, a quick drop-off and pick-up, [but rather] a comfortable place where, when the parent comes in at night, they can take a deep breath and go, “Okay, I feel good right now. I might have a cup of coffee,” or something like that, or “I might have a tea. I just need a couple of minutes before I pick up my child.” So all of those kind of things, you can’t do that after the fact. You need to design all of that into the program ahead of time.

SPREEUWENBERG:

Yeah, absolutely. Bernadette, you have many years of experience in early-childhood education. Any advice for aspiring childcare business owners out there who are listening to this podcast?

TESTANI:

It really is… to be successful, I think you have to have a long-term mindset. It can’t be something that you’re in and out [of] quickly. I think that you need to invest a lot of time and a lot of money. It’s a huge capital cost, so you need to make sure that your financial house is in order because with construction and things like that costs can balloon.

And you also need to create a model where – I can’t stress enough – you need to be respecting the educators and the staff. Your job, I think, as an operator is to remove obstacles every day from the educators. If you do that well then families will be happy and then your centre will be full. If you don’t get that formula right then you’ll never have a successful business. And I think, as with any business, you need to focus on the people. So that would be my advice to anyone getting into childcare.

SPREEUWENBERG:

Great. Great advice. And if I want to learn more about you Atelier Kids or get in touch with you, is there a place where I can go to get more information?

TESTANI:

Yeah, if you go to our website – www.AtelierKids.com – there is a blog section there where several of my staff highlight different articles of the day or different interesting topics. We have a robust social media platform on Facebook and Instagram and Twitter. It’s just pretty easy if you type in www.AtelierKids.com you can find everything you want to know.

SPREEUWENBERG:

Very cool. And the other thing I’m actually going to promote, if you don’t mind, is you can look up Bernadette on LinkedIn. One thing I find interesting – especially in early-childhood education – is not everybody has a LinkedIn profile. But it’s a great tool to connect and learn from each other. So also you can check out Bernadette on LinkedIn.

TESTANI:

I’m so glad you brought that up, Ron, because I’ve actually done a lot… some of my very successful recruits have come through LinkedIn. And for educators to raise their profile as professionals I think everyone should be on LinkedIn, for sure.

SPREEUWENBERG:

Absolutely. Bernadette, wonderful, wonderful having you on the show. Thank you so much for taking the time to join us today and share your wealth of knowledge with us on the Podcast.

TESTANI:

Thank you. Anytime, Ron, I really, really had a good time.

The post Reggio Inspired Space For Teachers And Families appeared first on HiMama Blog - Resources for Daycare Centers.


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