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


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Dreaming of a Day

Today Idaho had an opportunity to accept a $6M grant from the Federal Government that began last year during Trump’s administration (PDG B-5) to further explore what supports parents need in Idaho, House Bill 226. As a result of the first year’s grant, 16 collaboratives were formed throughout The State of Idaho to determine what voters want and what the actual needs are throughout the state. This grant received bipartisan support including Governor Little, Senator Mike Crapo, and Senator Jim Risch along with many other Idahoans. 

What the collaboratives discovered is there are childcare deserts all over our state including Boise and Garden City. This was before we were hit with a pandemic! With the recent closing of 100 centers and in-home providers since this January and an additional 121 closing since September of 2020, our industry is being decimated. The $6M would’ve brought another $2M per year for the next three years to implement some of the strategic plans each collaborative has designed in their own communities.

Giraffe Laugh is leading the Garden City Early Learning Collaborative and it is made up of people in Garden City representing business, education, healthcare, faith-based groups, government, city officials, and early education. By all working together toward a common goal of elevating the conversation of early education and increasing preschool opportunities for young children, we are buoyed by the response from our community to make that happen. We opened a preschool during the pandemic, and the results are phenomenal for the children in that program that put them on track to be reading on age level by 3rd grade.

Each collaborative is unique and community-driven so that each area of our state is building what works for them. It is not a prescribed curriculum or model. Plans are built completely on partnerships, knowing what employers, early educators, and especially parents want and need, then building that. They all look different, and they ALL have parents at the forefront as a child’s first teacher and children at the forefront with needs being met.

I’ll let you discover for yourself why the bill was voted down, but needless to say, this does not bode well for young children and families across Idaho. Click this link to hear other reasons the bill was rejected.

I know everyone reading this cares deeply about young children and their preparedness for kindergarten. I know all of you are passionate about seeing children succeed. 

I hope all of you will contact your representative and let them know what you think. 

March is Women’s History Month, and I hope we honor all women and the job of motherhood, no matter what form that takes, in the home and outside of it or both. Parents are a child’s first teacher, and we honor that at Giraffe Laugh. Our job is not to take theirs, but rather to complement it and provide support where needed while building on children’s emotional, social and academic strengths and skills.  

I dream of a day that every family has what they need to thrive and that all of their children are ready, prepared, and eager for school and life ahead. We are fortunate to take part in that journey and hope to be able to continue doing that for many years to come. 

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Renewed Hope

Do we dare look back too hard at 2020 as the promise of a new year is all we wish to look forward to? When I do reflect I am struck by how difficult last year was, but also how it gave me renewed hope for a world upended.

As we headed into spring to celebrate warmer weather and exit flu season, we were suddenly and dramatically thrust into an uncertain climate of fear for our health, our future, and our families. The centers all closed while we did our part to flatten a curve that was hardly elevated compared to where we are now. 

At that time we didn’t know if we’d ever reopen and if we did would we be risking the lives of our teachers, children, and parents? How would we survive if we didn’t and how could we live our mission in the meantime? Grab-and-go lunches, Facetime or Zoom circle times, and an open food pantry helped keep families going that truly needed some connection and basics.

When we reopened, we did so with a lot of trepidation, consideration, and hope that we were doing the right thing and that all would be well. New restrictions such as no parents inside have been difficult at best. No shoes inside and mask-wearing for everyone 3 and above ensued while we struggled through what it would look like if someone became infected. Daily temperature taking, increased cleaning, and extra hands to deliver children to classrooms all make for the safest environment possible. 

Massive support from Central District Health got us through our first closure and then another two after that. Short staffing at most centers has resulted in shortened hours and one more closure due to the number of teachers out for quarantine and there simply not being enough to cover the classrooms. All of our locations have been affected as have all of our families and teachers. 

The strength that our teachers have displayed is remarkable. They are truly front line workers who are also critical to our economic recovery while being one of the most essential workers on the planet, even before a pandemic. They have demonstrated resilience, humor, patience, and love toward their students and parents. They are the foundation of our organization and we will be honoring them next month during our Lovefest ski-a-thon and virtual auction if you’d like to join in.

Parents have also struggled with very little contact and communication with staff and each other and not being able to enter the center has felt isolating and difficult. The trust parents have had to place in us is incredible and worthy of mentioning. They’ve also stood by us through limited hours, closures, and teacher changes. They are a solid bunch and we are grateful to have their support. 

The children. We all know children are resilient and that they bounce back better than most of us. While this is true, they are feeling it too. Their drop off and pick up is not like it used to be where they could show their parent the turtle and the book they read that day. Their friends all have masks on and a new awareness of germs and cleaning routines are noted. Less children and teachers are around as some of their friends haven’t returned yet due to their parents being unemployed and/or working from home. Whatever their situation, children have noticed and are often feeling the stress of the adults in their life. Yet they continue to learn and thrive and grow in ways that are undeniable and having supportive adults in their life is what matters most. 

We can say we made it. Toilet paper shortages, temperature taking, masks, and drier hands than normal due to washing, washing, washing, and some of us getting Covid-    19 and recovering. We know January isn’t going to change where we are, but we do know we have tackled this now for several months and our hope is renewed each time we reflect on where we were and how far we’ve come. 

Here’s to a different 2021 where teachers are in Phase II to be vaccinated and hopefully we find an ending to what’s been a very unique and challenging year. Thanks for taking the journey with us and being a part of children’s lives in so many important ways.

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The Christmas Spirit

December brings so much excitement for our little folks but often involves stress for the adults in their lives. At Giraffe Laugh, we are fortunate to have so many incredible donors who “adopt” families for Christmas who cannot traditionally provide for their children during the holidays. Sometimes it’s a meal they need and sometimes it’s gifts to put under the tree or “Life Baskets” full of the things that in life we all need. Whatever it is, the generosity of those who give, make Christmas morning magical for adults and children alike. The spirit of Christmas is alive and well in our community, and that is something to celebrate.

We look forward to a more peaceful and less eventful 2021. I hope we can gather sometime in the New Year and have parents back into our centers. It’s the little things we all miss the most, and being together, even for brief moments, makes an impact on people’s day. The number of times someone has said, “This just feels normal” whatever the activity, is astonishing. We all take normal for granted, and I hope that we will treasure each moment that feels right and fondly recall how incredibly flexible we had to be in 2020. 

Take good care, and thank you for riding through the challenges with us to ensure that children and families in our community had their needs met and that Giraffe Laugh is still here to serve. Without all of you, this wouldn’t be possible. I hope your holidays are blessed and peaceful and filled with all the joy your heart can hold. Thank you for fulfilling big dreams right here in our valley on Christmas morning and beyond. 

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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. 

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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. 

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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.

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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.

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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!

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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:  with a really cool video on brain development. 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. 

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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.
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