Russell Child Development Center receives $7,000 AT&T grant




Russell Child Development Center has received a $7,000 grant from AT&T that will aid two ongoing programs in Garden City and southwest Kansas.

The Learn & Play program and Triple P Positive Parenting Program incorporate an evidenced-based approach that uses parental and community involvement. The program focuses on early cognitive development with targeted interventions to remove barriers to academic success.

"We are grateful for AT&T's long-standing support for our community and for our efforts aimed at enhancing educational opportunities for the children of western Kansas," said Deanna Berry, executive director of RCDC. "Their support will enable the Russell Child Development Center to continue to remove obstacles and increase the academic potential for rural children. In trying economic times, partnerships such as these make it possible to provide high-quality learning opportunities for families in western Kansas."

Jeanne Billings, Building Blocks coordinator at RCDC, said the funds will help the agency purchase parenting videos that parents can check out and watch as part of the organization's parenting program.

"The Positive Parenting Program provides seminars for parents to come and learn parenting behaviors," she said.

"It's intended to be preventative of poor behaviors. We have seminars for groups of parents, but we can also do individualized home visits," she said.

The grant will help RCDC buy 250 magnetic drawing boards that will be given to each family in the Learn & Play project. The drawing boards will help encourage fine motor skills, letter and shape recognition and creativity, as well as storytelling and engagement with an adult.

The money also will be used to purchase two science kits for each of the 28 sites located in 18 counties across western Kansas, as well as support parents directly impacting students in their communities.

Learn & Play groups are open to anyone with a child from birth to age 5 who lives in the following communities: Ashland, Minneola, Dodge City, Cimarron, Copeland, Ingalls, Montezuma, Ulysses, Tribune, Syracuse, Satanta, Sublette, Hanston, Jetmore, Fowler, Meade, Plains, Scott City, Hugoton, Deerfield, Elkhart, Garden City, Johnson City and Leoti. There is no charge to participate.

Amy McGrath, RCDC communications and multimedia specialist, said the Learn & Play program is a parent/child activity time that uses activities to support early childhood development focusing on literacy. Its goal is to improve learning outcomes through play activities using regular group sessions with children, parents and a facilitator.

"We partner with different schools, churches, health departments," McGrath said. "Project LAUNCH has an apartment rented on West Mary Street that we use that is our newest play group, and we try to hold those in each community once or twice a month."

McGrath said there are 28 different play groups going on in southwest Kansas. The types of activities offered vary.

"We might have sensory tables. We might do arts and crafts or reading a book, playing with balls or learning about different colors," she said. "It depends on what the facilitator has planned. There might be a theme for Mother's Day or other holidays and celebrations. They have different curriculum based on that."

McGrath said the Learn & Play sessions also provide an opportunity to screen children for possible developmental delays that then can be referred to early intervention services.

RCDC has been offering the program for nearly four years, and Garden City had its first one last week. The number of children in a session can range from five to 25, plus parents, grandparents or a care provider.

"It's wildly popular," McGrath said.

Groups meet from 60 to 90 minutes twice a month, and screenings are offered twice a year. For more information about Learn & Play, contact GeoReta Jones at (620) 275-0291.

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