Center on Culture, Race & Equity Helps Transform Early Childhood Practice in the Bronx

This past year, the Center on Culture, Race & Equity (CCRE) partnered with Highbridge Advisory Council, a Bronx-based community service organization, and BronxWorks, a human services organization and settlement house, to create the All Hands In Community Development Project, a community-based partnership designed to help improve educational outcomes for children in four pre-K settings across the Bronx. As a culmination of the year’s work, CCRE, Highbridge Advisory Council, and BronxWorks launched the All Hands In Interactive Resource Guide to help support authentic family engagement amongst parents, educators, and community leaders in the South Bronx pre-K settings and beyond.

CCRE, a Bank Street team dedicated to working with practitioners and communities to understand the impact of biases and help shift communities towards a culturally-responsive, strengths-based approach to teaching and learning, co-led planning and implementation of the year-long program, which included researching community needs and establishing a family and school partnerships to help support positive change.

Center for Culture, Race & Equity works with Bronx schools

“All Hands In is dedicated to creating safe environments for exploring issues of race, culture, and social class to help establish student-centered practices and policies that embrace each child’s unique cultural strengths. CCRE is pleased to partner with Highbridge and BronxWorks to help support a shift towards embracing students’ backgrounds, experiences, and knowledge to promote the learning and growth of children,” said Faith Lamb-Parker, Senior Research Scientist, Center on Culture, Race & Equity.

After observing the participating pre-K programs and interviewing staff and community members, the CCRE team convened a working group of over 30 early local childhood educators, social workers, parents, and community leaders to learn more about the strengths and challenges of educators, students, and families. Feedback from the sessions informed the design of a professional development workshop series held during the summer of 2017 to help participants address challenges in their communities and learn skills to better support the children they work with.

Over 60 participants from four school communities explored how microaggressions, stereotype-related threats, and implicit biases impact teaching and learning and how culturally-responsive practice can be used as a tool to support student learning and engagement at their sites.

“We wanted to design the professional development workshops in a way that would support anyone who is involved in the academic life of the child. Working together, we developed a list of activities and exercises that would help participants broaden their understanding of the intersection between culture, race, and learning and how teams can better leverage this knowledge at their sites,” said Jonayah Jackson, Project Associate, Center on Culture, Race & Equity.

As a result of the workshops, all participating sites reported increased knowledge and skills related to strengths-based, culturally-responsive practice.

“I feel positive that we will do a better job with our parents using this knowledge,” said one participating educator.

“My takeaway is that we should all be aware that there is so much [more] to a person than [just] what you see on the outside. We need to realize how much more we don’t see and to not just assume,” said another.

Following the professional development workshops, CCRE created the All Hands In Interactive Resource Guide to provide a carefully curated set of tools and supports for practitioners to use in their future work. Sample resources include a framework for Head Start centers to implement responsive strengths-based programming, a video clip on the impact of microaggressions and how to address them, strategies for infusing culture into classroom curricula, and tools for strengthening family engagement.

“The guide is designed to help provide effective strategies for creating culturally-supportive learning environments. For example, we know that inviting parents and families to act as partners in building a child’s sense of community within the classroom helps promote academic achievement. The guide includes tools to support authentic family-school partnerships to help ensure that a child’s culture and experiences are embraced to help strengthen learning and development,” said Veronica Benavides, Director, Center on Culture, Race & Equity.

The All Hands In Community Development Project is funded by a grant from the Flom Family Foundation and will continue in December 2017 with a new group of early childhood sites in the Bronx. Click here to learn more about CCRE or here to explore the All Hands In Interactive Resource Guide.