Area children ready for school success according to study

By Stephen Dafoe

Sturgeon County – Children in St. Albert and the Sturgeon Region are more prepared to succeed in school when compared to provincial and national norms, a new study claims.

Between the 2009 and 2011 school years, the Early Child Development Mapping Project Alberta, a partnership among communities and the provincial government, assessed St. Albert and Sturgeon Region Kindergarten students according to the five developmental areas: physical health and well-being, emotional maturity, language and cognitive development, communication and general knowledge and social competence.

“We are proud of our results, but we know that we can do better,” said Susan Evans, co-chair of the St. Albert Sturgeon Early Years Coalition. “With strong community support we can build on our strengths and move forward with a plan that will ensure our children continue to succeed in school.”

Evans said the tool used to collect the data is known as the Early Development Instrument (EDI). “It was designed to be interpreted at the group level,” she said “It is a population-based measure, similar to a census, and no individual child is identified. Kindergarten teachers are given the EDI to complete for each child in their classroom upon approval of the parent/caregiver. It is a reflective process – teachers fill out the forms while considering where each child fits in the five areas of development. Children are not tested, asked any questions or even in the room while the teachers complete the survey.”

EDI results showed approximately 80 per cent of Sturgeon Region children have adequate skills in the five developmental areas when entering Kindergarten. While the study shows children are doing well overall; it also shows one in five children in the region are struggling with playing with others, exploring the world around them, talking about how they feel, and having compassion for others.

[SUBHEAD]Opportunity to learn and help

Evans and her group are planning a number of community celebrations in conjunction with the Week of the Young Child to demonstrate St. Albert and the Sturgeon Region’s commitment to positive childhood development.

Parents, caregivers and community members will have the chance to learn about opportunities to be part of the plan to help area children reach their potential.

Evans said the events will be the official public release of the study data specific to the Sturgeon Region, will involve a number of activities for families and the community related to each of the five development areas, and will provide ideas on how activities supportive of the developmental areas can be incorporated into home and community.

“With this data we all have the ability to better understand how our children are doing and what factors that may influence their development,” Evans said of the study and the upcoming event. “Children’s early experiences shape actual brain structure during a critical period of development – from birth to about age five. These experiences have a lifelong impact on school, work, health, relationships, and well-being. Socio-economic conditions and community resources, as well as children’s relationships with their immediate family and other caregivers, are among the factors that affect children’s early experiences and thus development.”

Evans said by individuals, families, services providers, governments and businesses working together to build strong developmental foundations in children, they will be better prepared to face a future where they will take on jobs that don’t exist yet, and live in a social and physical environment we cannot yet begin to envision.

The Morinville event is planned for Apr. 16 from 5:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. at the Morinville Community Library. Another event will run at the same time at the Gibbons Community Centre (5016-50 Street). For more information contact Susan Evans at 780-939-4321 ext. 206.

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