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This project was a collaboration between the students in my Holistic Learning in Early Childhood Education course in the Mitch and Leslie Frazer Faculty of Education at Ontario Tech University and CityStudio Durham and the Regional Municipality of Durham’s Children’s Services Division in the Winter of 2023.  This collaboration enabled the students to work with partners to address real-world challenges in the Durham Region.

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The Project

 The goal of this project was to develop evidence-based prototypes, based on the Early Development Instrument (EDI) vulnerability scores. The EDI tool measures children’s ability to meet age-appropriate developmental expectations to determine school readiness. These prototypes were designed to improve the developmental outcomes of children in the early learning and childcare community. Working in small groups, the students proposed and then designed a prototype based on the EDI vulnerability scores. Each prototype was tailored to a specific EDI developmental domain. CityStudio staff introduced the students to the EDI dashboard and provided feedback on their initial prototype proposal.  Seventy-eight students in the course participated in the project. In addition to creating 16 prototypes, the students produced videos that synthesized what they had learned about the EDI domain, explained how this led to the creation of the prototype, and then described the prototype itself. Students shared their prototypes with CityStudio Durham and the Children’s Services Division and presented them at the CityStudio Hubbub, a major public event in Durham Region. The collaborative project continued in the Winter of 2024 with a new cohort of students.

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Educational Impact

This initiative had a tremendous educational impact on both students in the course and the families in Durham Region. It has benefitted students by providing experiential learning opportunities, as 83% of students surveyed by CityStudio Durham enjoyed working with real world data. One student said, “This will certainly have an effect on how I work in the education system in the future.” Another commented, “So [many] projects are theoretical applications and having a tangible target for the effort finally felt purposeful.” Moreover, 87% of students agreed that this learning experience was valuable, 76% said that the experience taught them new skills, and 78% agreed that it will help them in future academic and work endeavors.

The students were confident that their prototypes would benefit the community, with 94% believing that what they created would help children and their families in Durham Region. One group created an Emotion’s Calendar with the vision to “[provide] a product that helps children become aware and comfortable with their emotions before entering kindergarten.” Other prototypes included a physical health and well-being online game, a social competence board game, and a potty time video. One student stated, "I am passionate about creating awareness around social-emotional education and the importance of early intervention, and this was an amazing opportunity to try and create something that could really help parents and children in need." Another said, “I learnt about what children…were struggling with and even came up with something to help them...Loved it.” These prototypes are indeed making a difference to the developmental outcomes of vulnerable children in the Durham Region.

Children’s Services Division is developing and disseminating some of the prototypes for use in Durham’s early learning and childcare settings.

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