In December 2010 Discovering West Edmonton was successful in its proposal for an Early Childhood Development Community Response Seed Grant and formed the Discovering West Edmonton Coalition in January 2011 in response to the Early Childhood Development Mapping Initiative. Funding for the grant was provided by Alberta Education. The grant provided us with an exciting opportunity to support the healthy development of our young children. The grants aim is to promote broad-based community supports and resources for young children (from birth to age five) and their families.
The intent of the Coalition is to help our west Edmonton community understand and respond to the research information that emerged from the Early Child Development Mapping Initiative. The Coalition nurtures assets and capacities with potential to enhance positive early development through micro-project support.
Community engagement is at the heart of the project. Engaged communities are a key to healthy child development and the communities in which children live have an enormous influence on their development. Studies show that children who have access to good early childhood supports and programs do better on developmental scales and are better prepared for school than those who don’t. Strong communities and quality, accessible resources can help to overcome the negative impact of poverty and other social risk factors, while building resiliency.Today the Early Childhood Coalitions of Alberta (ECCA), now represent the nearly 100 coalitions across Alberta. ECCA helps to build awareness, capacity and momentum at a provincial and community level to enhance children’s well-being and development through a community development approach. ECCA has a high level of engagement from communities and organizations across Alberta. While every Coalition has their own unique story to share, collectively we are creating connected, caring and informed communities. Each action, conversation and collaboration on behalf of children and families makes a difference in the provincial landscape.
Through community conversations, residents and organizations will identify the strength
in their communities and build on those strengths to create stronger,
healthier supports for preschool children and their readiness for learning.
“The first 2000 days of life shape a child’s future.
We inspire and support West Edmonton communities
to identify strengths and maximize opportunities for growth and development in the early years.”
Coalition Partner Websites
- Alta Care Resources
- Jasper Place Child and Family Resource Centre-West Edmonton Parent Link
- Edmonton Public Library
- Community Options
- City of Edmonton/Community Services
- West Meadows Baptist Church
- Community Member/United Nations of Canada
- Health for Two West Edmonton
- ECD Mapping Zone Coordinator
What does the EDI tell us about young children’s development in Edmonton West?
The following EDI results show how kindergarten children are developing in Edmonton West in each of the five main areas of development. In the pie charts, green identifies the percentage of children who are developing appropriately in each area of development, blue the children who are experiencing difficulty and orange the children who are experiencing great difficulty.
Did you know?
Although the majority of children in Edmonton West are developing appropriately, a large percentage are experiencing difficulty or great difficulty, particularly in communication skills and general knowledge (34.59 per cent) and emotional maturity (31.05 per cent).
The Edmonton West Early Childhood Development Community was one of the first to receive its Community Information Package (CIP) (as part of the former ECMap pilot/project) released to four communities in May 2011. The coalition was also one of the first to be approved for a $50,000 seed grant from Alberta Education.
Allen Balser, co-chair of the Discovering West Edmonton coalition, says it’s tempting to charge full steam ahead and start looking for concrete, measurable results, especially given the two-year deadline for the seed grant. But the coalition sees a benefit in taking the time to form a strong foundation before moving the project ahead. “The process may very well be the product,” he says.
Co-chair Adine Shuchuk has similar thoughts. “One of the biggest things for us is that in developing a coalition … we’re finding we really need to take our time and build our relationships. That’s what building community is all about. It also takes time to be able to work as a cohesive group.”
Edmonton West is diverse in its landscape and demographics. The community encompasses many of the city’s wealthiest neighbourhoods and those with some of the lowest incomes. It includes high-density highrises, blocks of multi-family walkups and single-family homes; tree-lined mature neighbourhoods and developer-built suburban communities; semi-rural settings and wide stretches of industrial zones.
Childhood development in the eight subcommunities varies dramatically. CIP results show 43 per cent of children experiencing great difficulty in at least one area of development in one subcommunity, and 5.93 per cent in another, for example.
The coalition hopes to address the diversity in several ways:
- It is using a large portion of its grant to encourage smaller groups in the community to develop micro-projects. Each group will define its needs. “We want to make sure we’re completely inclusive,” Shuchuk says.
- The coalition aims to function as a guiding group, or steering committee. Once groups come forward with micro-projects, they will be encouraged to participate in the steering group to broaden its scope.
- A subcommittee is developed a communications plan for presenting the CIP information to different audiences.
Edmonton West has the advantage of learning from a 2005 pilot project involving Lymburn, a neighbourhood southwest of West Edmonton Mall. Lymburn was one of 29 Edmonton neighbourhoods to participate in the Early Childhood Development Community Mapping Project. The Lymburn coalition had great success using Appreciative Inquiry, first developed in 1987 in the U.S. as a positive, asset-based approach to organizational development.
Balser says that asking residents to focus and build on their community’s strengths encourages more people to get involved and contributes to a more cohesive, connected community. Taking a positive approach to CIP results will spark a non-judgmental curiosity rather than defensiveness or reactivity.
“It’s very, very exciting to have something concrete in our hands that we can take forward,” Shuchuk adds. “Now we have something very strong that says, ‘Look at how important the early years are.’ ”
Source: Early Child Development Mapping Project, https://www.ecmap.ca/Community-Development/Community-Stories/Community-Stories-for-Central-Alberta/Edmonton-West/Pages/default.aspx, accessed July 2013.
Discovering West Edmonton visited the Callingwood Farmer’s Market in early July to hear how families in the west end of Edmonton are feeling about the early years. We asked them what was working for young families, and what is needed to continue to support them. We used the theme “Children are a Treasure” and promoted early learning by giving out bubbles to families interested in providing feedback. On the bubbles was the link to our website with some activities for families to do that enhance learning through bubble play! It was a huge success, with dozens of families interested in sharing their experiences raising small children in the west.
Here are the questions we asked…
- If you were to view your community through the eyes of your child, what would you see that excites them?
- What is it that challenges you the most as a parent of younger children?
- What I think would really help/support families with young children and toddlers would be…
- When I am out with my children, my favourite west Edmonton destination is…
- West Edmonton is a great place to raise small children because…
- When you were the parent of younger children, what challenged you the most?
West Edmonton Parent Link Centre
Public Health Centres
|West Jasper Place||9720 182 Street, Edmonton. Alberta, T5T 3T9|
Edmonton Public Libraries
|Jasper Place Library||9010 – 156 Street, Edmonton, Alberta T5R 5X7|
|Lois Hole Library||17650 69 Avenue, Edmonton, Alberta T5T 3X9|
|Woodcroft Library||13420-114 Avenue, Edmonton, Alberta T5M 2Y5|
If you would like more information about the project, or you would like to have a presentation about the data for your subcommunity at a group event or meeting, please leave a message here, or contact one of the Co-Chairs of the Discovering West Edmonton Coalition:
Tel: 780-489-2243 ext. 221
Tel: 780-451-6040 ext. 225