Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Student Research Days: Early childhood education project garners real-world results

   From left: Inderprit Gandham, Brenna Thome and Sarah Henderson will see their research project put to work at a neighbourhood house in White Rock.

By Tamara Letkeman, doug Editor

The research done on early childhood development by three Nursing students is destined for far more than just a poster. It will actually be used in the field to educate parents on the vulnerability of their children and what they can do about it.

At the request of their community facilitator, third-year Nursing students Inderprit Gandham, Sarah Henderson and Brenna Thome took the findings of a UBC researcher on specific types of vulnerabilities within child populations in BC and compiled it, so the facilitator could use it as a tool in her parent education classes at a neighbourhood house in White Rock.

The facilitator was concerned that children in her area were found to be particularly vulnerable in the areas of emotional maturity and social competence.

“What they found was the average child was vulnerable at about 29 percent,” says Sarah, “and they want to be able to bring that down to 15 percent by 2015. This is the Smart Family policy that the BC government had made as their goal.”

If children are “vulnerable,” it means that they are on average more likely to be limited in their development than their peers. The five areas examined were physical health and well-being, communication skills, general knowledge, language and cognitive development, and emotional maturity and social competence.

“It was kind of surprising to see that it was emotional and social competence that was slow,” says Inderprit, “as a lot of pre-schools and nursery school-type settings were focused on the cognitive, communication and language skills, rather than social and emotional well-being.”

As Inderprit, Sarah and Brenna compiled their research, they also focused on the stages of social and emotional development that kids should be at, from birth to five years, and the importance of the role of parents. They provided specific examples of how parents can enhance their child’s emotional and social development.

“The purpose is so the facilitator can use it in her community, where she has access to a lot of community members who are parents,” says Brenna. “And then, hopefully, they’ll see a decrease in those types of vulnerabilities.”

“It’s about bringing that awareness to parents,” adds Sarah, “and that through this they’d also be able to seek out resources for themselves in their communities. It will start small but it will branch out. That’s one of the main goals.”

The three research partners agree that this project will influence the way they think once they graduate from college and begin working in the field of nursing.
“For me it was recognizing the five areas,” says Brenna. “I think a lot of people focus on academia and literacy, etc., but there are so many more components to it; people can be vulnerable in many areas of their lives, not just the ones that really stand out.”