Community-Based Innovation to Reimagine Early Childhood Education in Action

A group of hands gathered like the spokes of a wheel

In October 2022, Treehouse Learning was awarded a $45K competitive CIRCLE Grant to pursue and implement innovative solutions to make early childhood education more equitable, inclusive, and sustainable. 

In partnership with the Colorado Department of Early Childhood, Early Milestones is leading the Community Innovation and Resilience for Care and Learning Equity (CIRCLE) Initiative. This initiative will provide nearly $23 million in grants to childcare providers and other community, education, or governmental partners pursuing innovative solutions to challenges worsened by the pandemic.

Our grant initiatives at Treehouse Learning focused on addressing the systemic challenges of improving workforce retention, supporting workforce preparedness, and innovative practices for improving early childhood outcomes. In many ways, our grant initiatives are simply an extension of our value proposition, vision, and mission. Treehouse Learning supports whole-person development and integration through intentional, responsive, and respectful experiences. We exist to help humans thrive and co-create the kind of world we’d wish for our descendants to inherit. 

We often refer to the integration of our minds, hearts, and bodies, or our thoughts, feelings/emotions, and actions/behaviors. We refer to a whole-person approach that encompasses well-being for a whole Self, community, culture, and world. We refer to the integration of a functioning and thriving community ecosystem where all parts are interconnected, interdependent, and thriving. 

We do this by building skills that lead to thriving and well-being, like strong social-emotional literacy and intelligence. We do this by building inclusive and diverse communities of belonging. We do this by healing generational trauma, building self-awareness and skills, and actively seeking to empower humans with adaptive and skillful behavior by engaging the concept of integration between all of the parts of our Selves. None of us are just brains walking around with legs. We’re whole people with complex thoughts, feelings, and actions. Relationship-based interactions shape the development of our brains, and we believe that optimal development, or the sweet spot of thriving, occurs within the integration of our minds, hearts, and bodies. 

How is Treehouse Learning investing our CIRCLE Grant funds?

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Our CIRCLE grant financial resources are applied to directly support us with 4 specific funding streams during the grant period of October 2022 – May 2023:

  • We have embedded three consultative and coaching partnerships with early childhood professionals to support optimal whole-person development and integration.
    • Jeannette Abshire/ Integrated Learning Academy / Brain Gym: Intentional community-based movements to organize, engage, and activate all parts of the brain for joyful learning experiences; provides classroom and all-staff coaching support; development of innovative community-based delivery and teaching methods via songs at Big Circle. Also providing parent and community resources and learning opportunities.
    • Mandy Sangha/ Speech & Language Pathologist + Zones of Regulation:  Provides classroom coaching, observation, and support, engages children in small group activities, and improves screening process related to speech and language development, as well as providing a framework for understanding children’s emotional landscapes and building emotional literacy through Zones of Regulation. Also providing parent and community resources and learning opportunities.
    • Sara Hill/ Occupational Therapist:  Provides classroom coaching, observation, and small group activities related to sensorimotor needs, and improves internal screening process related to sensory-motor development and integration of our sensory processing systems. Also providing parent and community resources and learning opportunities.
  • Also included in our CIRCLE grant funding streams are Diversity, Equity, Inclusion, and Belonging projects led by published children’s author Nyasha Williams, who has begun curating into a curriculum a collection of representation-focused, holistic, children’s literacy and learning activities for guided stories and hands-on experiential learning activities with preschool children. Additionally, we’re actively working to improve the cultural competency and responsiveness of our entire program and all of the individuals within it through a Book Audit and other project-based initiatives.

In an apt metaphor for a CIRCLE Grant, which has truly had a positive and reciprocal impact throughout our entire program, we’ve experienced many indirect grant benefits as well, with many more unfolding with each passing month. Additionally, we’ve also found natural synergies and opportunities to advance our overall grant objectives outside of the technical scope of funded grant activities. Our hope with the CIRCLE Grant is to innovatively collaborate to improve workforce retention, support workforce preparedness, and create other innovative practices for improving early childhood outcomes. Here are some of the innovative practices that emerged out of CIRCLE Grant activities or Inspiration which have supported these grant objectives.

Image of a cross section of a log | Treehouse Learning Early Childhood Education Daycare Boulder Lousiville East Boulder County
The Circle is a beautiful metaphor for the positive feedback cycle we’ve experienced in attempting to improve childhood outcomes

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