Saint Vincent-Harvard education partnership to focus on adult-child interactions
The Fred Rogers Center at Saint Vincent College is working with Harvard University’s Graduate School of Education to promote adult-child relationships in early learning.
The new three-year collaboration continues a partnership between Dana Winters, assistant professor of child and family studies at Saint Vincent, and Junlei Li, former co-director of the Fred Rogers Center. Li now is the Saul Zaentz Senior Lecturer in Early Education at Harvard.
At the Fred Rogers Center, Winters also is the director of Simple Interactions — an approach to early education initially developed by Li, the former Rita McGinley Professor of Early Learning and Children’s Media at Saint Vincent.
“We had been working well together for four years,” said Winters. “Simple Interactions has always been a collaboration, and we wanted to make sure it remained so.”
That educational approach has been used to assist teachers in kindergarten and pre-K classrooms at Ligonier Valley School District, Head Start classrooms throughout Westmoreland County and at early childhood learning providers in Greensburg, Latrobe, Ligonier and Irwin, Winters said.
One goal of the Fred Rogers Center for Early Learning and Children’s Media at Saint Vincent and the Saul Zaentz Early Education Initiative at Harvard is to create and use tools, videos and other materials related to Simple Interactions.
Simple Interactions builds on the day-to-day interactions among children and the adults who teach and care for them.
“We will go in with very small video cameras and film everyday interactions during class time,” Winters explained. “Then we bring the teachers together in a community and show those raw video clips and talk about the strengths we see.”
She said those strengths in teacher-child relations include: a sense of connection, reciprocity, a sense of belonging, and opportunities to grow through incremental challenges and support.
Winters and Li regularly travel across the country and abroad to teach and support the use of Simple Interactions. The collaboration will bring together students at Saint Vincent and Harvard for joint, reciprocal learning experiences.
The leadership teams of the Zaentz Initiative and the Fred Rogers Center intend to present joint events and to apply for joint project funding.
“Harvard’s professional and academic reach is global, and the legacy of Fred Rogers in early childhood in the United States is profound,” said Winters. “When you bring those things together, the reach of Harvard, the reach of the Fred Rogers Center, the depth of work in early childhood education, and the legacy of a trusted pioneer like Fred, it can be something very special all the way around.”
Jeff Himler is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Jeff at 724-836-6622, email@example.com or via Twitter .