From Lori’s Laptop

From Lori’s Laptop

We Can See The Future From Here!

“Thank you for visiting my monthly blog where I share what motivates me to ensure school readiness, build strong futures and empower families living in the Treasure Valley!” Lori Fascilla, Executive Director

 

Like us on Facebook

[custom-facebook-feed]

Follow us on Twitter

[ap-twitter-feed]

Executive Functions

I hope you were able to attend our Futures Begin Here Premier! It was a roaring success and fun to be together without being near one another. Thank you to all of our supporters who were able to attend, and for those that couldn’t, the video is up on our website now and can be found here. We can’t thank our sponsors, our donors, our teachers, and staff enough for making this event possible and we had some good old-fashioned fun in the process. 

I’m wondering if you’ve heard of Executive Functions and if so, do you know what they are? We hear these things often without really understanding all of the details, so we thought we’d spend a little time talking about how these skills are linked to self-regulation. They are particularly important in early childhood as young children are still learning about self-regulation every day. 

During this remarkable 2020 year, parents and grandchildren are home with children more often, so we hope this helpful guide will give you some concrete ideas on how to work on these skills from infancy through the teen years. Yes, children keep developing into their teens, and as we all know the impulsiveness of a two-year-old can be difficult, while the impulsiveness or ability to make important life decisions as a teenager can be life-altering. Developing these skills earlier on is critical to raising competent adults. 

The website explains it like this:Executive function and self-regulation skills provide critical supports for learning and development. Just as an air traffic control system at a busy airport manages the arrivals and departures of many aircraft on multiple runways, executive function skills allow us to retain and work with information in our brains, focus our attention, filter distractions and switch mental gears.There are three basic dimensions of these skills: 
Working memory — The ability to hold information in mind and use it. 
Inhibitory control — The ability to master thoughts and impulses so as to resist temptations, distractions, and habits, and to pause and think before acting. 
Cognitive flexibility — The capacity to switch gears and adjust to changing demands, priorities, or perspectives. These skills help us remember the information we

One can see how these skills come in handy in a school setting, virtual or otherwise, in the workplace and in relationships. I hope you find some helpful hints in this downloadable PDF. The website can be found here if you’d like to focus on just one age group. Let us know what you find! Happy Fall everyone. 

Read more

Quality Education

When we talk about the importance of early childhood we often think in terms of Social Determinates that can predict with some accuracy the path a child’s development and future success will take. 

Children that have abundant food, adequate shelter, and their family lacks financial stress, their determinants are strong and consistent. They often have access to quality childcare and education, premium healthcare and are encouraged to engage in extra-curricular activities. 

For low to moderate-income families, and often those living in ALICE (Asset Limited, income constrained, employed) the access to food, sometimes shelter, quality childcare, and preschool along with basics such as healthcare, can mean the difference in not only academic success but overall lifetime health. 

The development and educational opportunities that children have access to in their early years have a lasting impact on their health as adults according to the Office of Disease Prevention.

Our aim at Giraffe Laugh partners with the belief that every child is worthy of a wonderful life regardless of their economic circumstances. Every family deserves factors that strengthen their lives in our community. Every community deserves happy, healthy, and thriving families. With that in mind, our goal is to continue to expand opportunities for children.

We opened the Garden City Preschool the Idaho Way program this week and are thrilled with the excitement from children and parents who are attending. All of the students will be entering kindergarten next year and many of them have never attended preschool before. In Idaho, only half of all children entering school are prepared. Our aim is to move that dial land to ensure that children are more than prepared for their future academic careers.

Without the support of many important partners, this would not be possible. It is our joy to be able to launch this opportunity for Garden City children, but also to have an even bigger impact on outcomes for children as they enter kindergarten next year and the years after. We appreciate all of you that made this a reality and for the realities, you create for all of our children in all of our programs. 

Read more

The Answers We Wish We Had

Summertime brings with it the promise of hot days (some more than others) sunshine, vacation, and abandon to enjoy the things we love outdoors with family. The summer and year of 2020 however has been a unique one that has challenged all we know about the world. Boise is in the dreaded red zone during a pandemic. We argue over masks, civil liberties, and health. Race issues are bubbling to the surface causing harm to persons of color. Add to that an extremely divided country over a presidential election that has everyone from both sides of the aisle on edge, and the word unique really doesn’t cover the half of it.

I don’t know how to fix any of it. I wish I had answers and guidance that I could give to others to put all of our minds at ease. I’m in this as much as all of you and the underlying anxiety of it all is pervasive. I’m an action kind of person, so this is what our Board of Directors and our centers are doing to address what we can in the above collection of worries, and we invite others to join us on this journey should you wish. 

  1. We are taking any and all precautions outlined by the CDC and CDH (Central District Health) in Idaho and applying them consistently in our programs. This includes the wearing of masks for children 3 and above. We continue to do our part to slow the spread of Coronavirus and protect our children, families, and teachers as much as we are able to.
  2. All of our leadership, the board of directors, the directors of each center are participating in the Wassmuth Center for Human Rights, Human Rights Certificate. We know we need to continue the work and never stop insuring that we are living the values of our organization and embracing diversity and humanity in meaningful, intentional ways. Our goal is that every person in our organization has an opportunity to take the training in the coming year.  
  3. We are committed to promoting everyone’s right to vote and encouraging voter registration for our supporters, parents, and families. 

It feels good to have a plan. It feels good to know what actions we can take to right the world. It takes courage to face many of the issues we are dealing with today and in the future, but seeing a path forward is half the battle. I hope your path forward is visible and if it isn’t that making a plan is on your radar because once a plan is in place, the focus becomes about what one can do instead of what is happening that is out of our control. 

Happy summer of 2020. I hope we see you at our Drive-in Event on September 30th out in Caldwell! It should be some good old fashion fun.

Read more

Preschool The Idaho Way

Opportunity gaps start early for children living in poverty. A child who enters kindergarten unprepared is 25% more likely NOT to finish high school and 60% more likely to skip college. With only half of the children in Idaho entering kindergarten prepared we have work to do. Of those unprepared at least half are living in low to moderate-income families without access to quality early care and education. 

This fall we are opening the Garden City Preschool the Idaho Way morning program for children 4/5 who will enter kindergarten in the fall of 2021. It is our aim to move the dial for 20 underserved children in our community and to ensure school readiness for future students that might not otherwise thrive without a program like this. We can’t wait to share the excitement and the program from a distance of course. 

Our centers all opened almost 30 days ago now and it’s been a learning curve for all. The children and teachers adjusted quickly and parents have all been amazing by keeping us informed, wearing masks when dropping off, and taking extra precautions when illness is suspected. The children are learning and thriving even with the changes, and masks don’t seem to be an issue anymore. While they can be uncomfortable, our staff is committed to keeping the children and community safe that we serve. We have the most incredible teachers and directors in the Valley!

We wish you a safe and peaceful holiday and that you stay healthy while enjoying some quality family time with those you love most.

Read more

We Need YOU!

Irish Proverb: May you have the hindsight to know where you’ve been, the foresight to know where you are going, and the insight to know when you have gone too far.

We are deep into Strategic Planning at the present time and we need YOU to help us out. You have great ideas about what we are about, what we could be about and what we should do about it. That’s a lot of abouts!

Here (insert in the word Here) is a survey to give us your input. We are in the final year of a five-year plan that we did in 2015 and continued to update throughout the ensuing years. We are proud of the progress we’ve made but recognize too that we need to keep responding to the community need, the needs of our teachers, parents, and kids and the need to continue the great work we’ve been doing now for 30 years.

Please take a moment of your time to let us know what you think to help inform our next five years. Goals are just dreams with deadlines, so let’s get some deadlines on the radar and make Giraffe Laugh even better and broader.

Thank you for your time. Happy St. Patrick’s Day and Happy spring!

Read more

The Importance of Investing in a Child

February is the month of love. One thing we love around here is our Brain Builders aka Teachers. Every day we as a community of teachers, parents, and citizens are building the brains of our little ones. We love the work we are able to do and encourage parents and citizens to understand the importance of the baby brain in those first five years.

When an infant is born, they have a fully functioning heart that lasts a lifetime (this is the month of love, after all, so we must include hearts) but their brains are only 25% developed. By the time they are three their brains are 80% developed and by five years old when they head off to school, their brains are 90% developed. We have an incredible opportunity to impact each child’s brain and their ultimate outcomes with our work and in our daily lives. 

Children are important. When we, at Giraffe Laugh, say, “We can see the future from here.” we truly mean it. Children are our future and they will be carrying us into a future someday that is unimaginable right now. I want the best for them and I know you do as well. 

Idaho is one of only four states that does not provide any funding for early education. As a result, we are also very low on the national level as a state that is succeeding in terms of education. Investments in early education return anywhere from a $7 to $17 return due to less remedial education, fewer scrapes with the law, drug abuse or alcohol dependency, better health, higher graduation rates, more go-on rates to other education, and less teen pregnancy. All of this contributes greatly to breaking the cycle of generational poverty. Education is key to accomplishing this for our future generations. 

I’ve included some resources to help the conversation keep going for those that wish to learn more. The first is a film about the developing brain and the second is a trailer and website on a film about early education in the United States. 

Thank you for your investment in early childhood in our state. You’re doing great things and with your help, we are all building great brains every day! For this alone, we love you and appreciate you beyond compare. 

Center on the Developing Child: http://developingchild.harvard.edu/  with a really cool video on brain development.

https://www.nosmallmatter.com/ No Small Matter is a movie that was recently shown at the Idaho State Capital about early childhood education in the United States. There will be other events, so please watch for opportunities to see it. We will also post on our social media sites about it. 

Read more

Kindness Matters

As we close out this decade and our 30th year of serving families we are anxious to look to the future with 20/20 vision. But for now, we’d like to bask in the kindness and generosity of strangers that are abundant this season. We had a wonderful luncheon with many generous donors, we have anxious families being “adopted” to make Christmas dreams come true, and we have hunger being abated with an abundance of food donated and packaged by loving people. All of these acts of kindness and giving makes me aware every year of what a wonderful community we live in.  I hope that your holidays are full of holiday miracles but if it’s not what you’d expected or hoped for, I hope that you find the kindness of strangers to be comforting and that you remember to be gentle with yourself. The holidays can come with so many expectations of joy and harmony when the reality is that it’s just another time of year for some.  The best present one can give is their presence so if you feel you have very little to give, give someone your time, a listening ear, a special phone call or a card.  I can’t express how grateful I am to all of you for changing lives that I get to see every day. We are truly honored by your generosity and kindness and we hope that you realize how important you are to our mission of ensuring school readiness, empowering families and building strong futures.  We are excited for the next 30 years, but for now, we will bask in the gentle glow of generosity that we find ourselves surrounded by during this holiday season. May your holiday be peaceful and full of as much happiness as we know you deserve. Thank you.
Read more

Holiday Cheers!

Thanksgiving is upon us, and with it comes the joy of the holidays and the promise they bring. For most of us, we approach this time of year with anticipation and images of our family gathering at the table with an abundance of food and fun. For some families though, the reality is there isn’t enough of either food or fun. The worry of wondering where the next meal will come from, nonetheless a special meal for Thanksgiving, Hanukah or Christmas weighs heavily on those who don’t have enough. With this in mind, Giraffe Laugh offers families a special holiday basket, once in November and once in December to take this concern away and make the holidays brighter. If you’d like to be a part of the solution, please click on November to help with Thanksgiving and on December to help with Hanukah or Christmas. For all those that attended the Futures Begin Here Luncheon this year, thank you! It was a roaring success, and you made some children’s futures so bright with your contributions and commitment to providing quality early care and education to as many children as possible in our community. Pictured are some Giraffe Laugh students, present and past who have futures so bright they’ve gotta wear shades! It’s never too late to get involved. If you weren’t able to make it we hope you’ll still help us make futures bright for cute kids like these. Join us in supporting with a year-end donation here. Happy holidays to all of you and know we are grateful for all of you and thankful that you’re in our lives and part of our work.  
Read more

Autumn Leaves and Pumpkins Please

Three distinct things happen in autumn that makes me love October. One, the weather cools and while I don’t like the shorter days, I do like the crisp mornings that require sweaters and fires in the hearth. The second sure sign of autumn is the changing of the leaves from a bright green to a burnished orange or red. When the trees are on fire with color my camera never stops clicking to capture the beauty and power of nature. The last thing is Halloween. I love to hear little ones planning what they will “be” and hearing adults get excited about haunted houses and forests, along with the smell of pumpkins being carved to scare the spirits away. If you’re surprised I didn’t say Pumpkin Spiced Latte’s then it might surprise you to know I’ve never had one, so I may not know what I’m missing. When I think about our 30 years with Giraffe Laugh, I do recall many falls and many a parade around Hyde Park, the neighboring areas near our Grand Ave. location and the fun we had with families and children trick or treating. Some of those little ones are now herding their own broods in the parades at Giraffe Laugh on Halloween and the cycle of memories and fun continues. Those days are some of my favorite moments and traditions. Last year was the second year of the Alsager/Yoest Haunted House to benefit Giraffe Laugh. Just like that, a new tradition was born and it’s stellar! For those out there that also love Halloween and all of the thrills it brings, this is for you. It is NOT for younger children and those under 14 need to be accompanied by an adult and prepared to calm some bad dreams that night. For those that are interested there is no charge to attend (and believe me it’s an event!) however, they request that you bring canned goods and/or make a monetary donation. So grab your friends and if you have a sitter that night or wish to brave the “show” with younger ones, drop by before the party you’ll be heading to and join us. There will be a fire in the cul de sac and fun times for all. Costumes are not required but highly accepted and add to the fun. You can find more information HERE or sign up to help at this event HERE. Happy autumn and happy Halloween everyone!
Read more

Playful Days and Warm Nights

Sack races, tag, and jump rope were the staple of my childhood summers. Sunscreen wasn’t a thing yet, so we smelled of fresh grass or sweat and sported pink cheeks as we panted through the heat. My mom made Kool-Aid which we’d gulp greedily on the back porch finding a sliver of shade to hide in. We’d capture tadpoles and observed as they transformed into frogs while the fields nearby grew long stalks of corn. The days were long and nightfall brought pesky mosquitos as twilight gently emerged. Our bodies grew, our minds were busy and the memories are mostly fond.  There was that baseball game when my brother hit me on my forehead, full backswing with a bat, while I was the catcher. My parents were going out to a much-deserved-time-alone-dinner, away from their five children, until they heard everyone screaming. My mom in her dress and heels and my dad in his sports jacket came running out to find me knocked out with a giant goose egg on my forehead. I don’t believe they went to dinner that night. A family cabin in Coeur d’ Alene is where we learned to work hard as my parents enlisted us children and built a cabin on the lake. Mosquito bites, rusty nails through our feet, too many hot dogs and marshmallows over the fire were common. We were occupied by swimming, fishing, and skiing behind a wooden boat. We were enchanted with the freedom and promise that summer brings, where everyone, children and parents, are relaxed and softened by the sun and warmth it brings to our lives. We were occupied by the immense amount of time we had to explore and find our happy. As summer heat soars and days begin shortening, it gives way to fall and school bells. Tanned, tired bodies, head off with pencils and lunchboxes to learn how much they’ve forgotten since early June unless of course, they’ve participated in a summer program in between. Only about 30% of Idaho children have access to programs during the summer months and we at Giraffe Laugh are proud to provide a quality, enriching summer program to children who might otherwise not have access.  Sending children into the world with the skills they need to be successful academically, socially and emotionally is our primary purpose. Doing this while holding onto the promise of a brighter future is our privilege to provide. We thank the teachers at our summer program that enriched the lives of so many and made it possible for 35 children to enter school ready, confident and with a bag full of memories to sustain them until next year. It will be here before we know it.
Read more