Online initiative receives high praise


Staff mix play and fun at the Lord Selkirk Park Child Care Centre using the Science of Early Child Development (SECD). SUPPLIED/ Adrienne Grapko

The Science of Early Child Development (SECD) from Red River College’s Notre Dame Campus is an online initiative working toward changing the education system for early childcare. Since its start more than 15 years ago, SECD has expanded across the world to teach educators about fostering child development through advanced science.

The project recently received the Lawson Foundation honour for innovation in ECD knowledge mobilization.

“Because brain research was emerging so quickly, it really seemed that publishing another book wasn’t the best way to share this information,” said Mia Elfenbaum, project lead for SECD. “Creating resources online allows for more flexibility because we can update them regularly and include new information as it emerges.”

SECD provides a resource database of information on early childhood development and “living textbooks,” bodies of text that are constantly updated to provide educators with the most advanced information available. Through videos, courses, and workshops, SECD provides engaging ways to educate those directly involved with children from the prenatal stage through to school age.

“What happens on early in life, prenatally and in the first few years of life … that really sets the stage, or foundation, for what the individual will do throughout his or her lifetime,” said Elfenbaum, who also works on SECD’s North American edition of the living textbook.

Several foundations, including the Lawson Foundation and the Aga Khan Foundation, have funded the project through grants. Through partnerships with the University of Toronto, and the Aga Khan Development Network, SECD has been used in more than 22 countries.

The recent award from the Lawson Foundation will primarily fund ongoing development and maintenance of the North American edition textbook.

“At Nunavut Arctic College, ECD faculty go off to remote locations to teach with no Wi-Fi, so we developed one of our resources into an iPad app for them to use,” said Elfenbaum.

The project’s future includes working with UNICEF China and the Brazilian government to provide better resources for their child education and home visiting programs.

“We are able to create customized resources by going through our database to curate content that is specific to the needs of different professionals who support children and families,” said Elfenbaum.

Jan Sanderson, research chair for RRC’s School of Health Sciences and Community Services, says this program could be the great equalizer in the future of childhood education.

“There will be fewer problems and more problem solvers if you maximize the potential in every child by helping them in their earliest years,” said Sanderson.

Available workshops on SECD include Focusing on Play, Why Brain Development Matters, and Positive Guidance.