In a stroke of serendipity, I was invited to the Glazer Children’s Museum to connect with potential community partners for building collaborative relationships with USF—“matchmaking” work that the USF Office of Community Engagement and Partnerships helps facilitate. The Museum is an amazing community resource for the Tampa Bay area, providing children under 12 and their families a chance to learn, play, connect, and grow together.
This week, the Museum is celebrating the national “Week of the Young Child,” which is an initiative of the National Association for the Education of Young Children to draw attention to the kinds of hands-on activities that parents and educators can do with their kids to enhance their learning during the crucial 0-5 years. “The more people that participate, the louder and stronger our voice can be heard,” remarked Kerry Falwell, the Director of Education and Outreach for the Museum, in regard to how vital it is that very young children receive a quality education well before they reach kindergarten.
Each day this week focuses on another aspect of a child’s learning, including Music Mondays, Tower Tuesdays, Dig into Wednesdays, Theatrical Thursdays, and Play Dough Play Day Friday. What seem to be simple games and adventures for young kids are essential to the development of their minds as well as their social and behavioral skills. In other words, play dough, dress up, and digging in the sand are activities that are both fun and beneficial! On Saturday, the Museum is hosting a culmination event with 60 child educators on site providing demonstrations, yoga, zumba, finger puppets, and an art lab, among other things. To learn more, check out the Museum’s schedule at http://glazermuseum.org/events/woyc.
Additionally, every first Tuesday of the month, the Children’s Museum offers free admission from 2-7pm called Target Tuesdays, an accessibility initiative to expose more families, many of whom are first time visitors, to the museum. Most months, children also get the chance to meet their favorite PBS characters, such as the Berenstein Bears, Wyatt from “Super Why,” Curious George or the Cat in the Hat, thanks to the local WEDU station.
Every April, Target Tuesdays is co-sponsored with the Children’s Board of Hillsborough County for Pinwheels for Prevention. Our office has a strong working relationship with the Children’s Board, an organization that promotes the well-being of children and families. The Pinwheels for Prevention event at the Museum provides community agencies focused on children and families the chance to share information about their services with families, the “targeted audience,” if you will, who have come to the Museum to share special time with their children.
At the April event we met representatives from an array of organizations providing important services for children, including the Hispanic Services Council, which works with Latino children to ensure their educational well-being; Positive Development, which provides wrap-around services for children at TGH Health Park Pediatrics and USF Pediatrics; SEEDS (supporting and empowering educational and developmental services, a program of the Children’s Home), which provides tutoring, assistance to families with special needs, and networking advice; Healthy Families Hillsborough, providing parenting training and support services; as well as so many other dedicated individuals providing much-needed support to families.
These organizations need our help and students and faculty can be an excellent resource for them in program evaluation, for example, or assisting with tutoring services. The USF OCEP is a resource for these organizations: we serve as a portal to help them gain access to faculty and students who can work hand-in-hand with them toward a common purpose.
Two faculty members from the College of Education, Dr. Stacy Hahn and Dr. Jennifer Jacobs, will each be working with the Children’s Museum to give their students the opportunity to connect with and provide service to the community. Hahn’s students will be designing activities for the Museum’s “Sunshine Sundays” for children with special needs, and Jacobs’ students will be working as educational docents this summer.
We hope this connection with the Children’s Museum will continue to bear fruit and that new partnerships will form with the other organizations with whom we connected. Stay tuned for more in-depth features on these stories and more.