What began as a research project at Red River College to bridge the gap between current research in child development and to create educational tools and resources to support frontline workers, has now received a national award from the Canadian Association of Research Administrators (CARA) recognizing the global impact it has had around the world.
“This award is particularly exciting as our primary goal in developing the Science of Early Child Development (SECD) is to make the rapidly expanding science engaging and accessible to those who make a real difference in children’s lives,” said Jan Sanderson, research chair, School of Health Sciences and Community Services. “Our team has had the opportunity to work with many amazing committed partners around the world who are now using SECD to develop the next generation of champions for young children.”
As part of their work, researchers at Red River College were able to point to significant and emerging scientific evidence that spoke to the benefits of creating experiences that would support brain development in children starting in prenatal and carrying-on into the first years of a child’s life.
Prior to the work undertaken at Red River College, this emerging knowledge was not being widely disseminated to caregivers and frontline workers, especially in remote and low-income regions around the world.
It’s this evidence and lack of resources which was the driving force behind SECD and today, that global impact resulting from the project earned the inaugural Public Engagement and Advocacy Award from CARA an award that recognizes an individual, institution, team or project that established and maintained public engagement with research though an innovative approach.
CARA selected the SECD project for the award because of its tailor-made approach to addressing critical issues around early childhood development.
“The Public Engagement and Advocacy Award is new this year and we are thrilled to be recognizing the SECD project at Red River College,” said CARA President Deborah Zornes.
This initial SECD resource became a core “living text book” in multiple educational programs in Canada and led to the creation of an online SECD course that is widely accessible.
Since then the program has evolved into an international knowledge mobilization initiative, making current research engaging and accessible. In 2010 the team partnered with the Aga Khan Development Network (AKDN) to modify and contextualize the resource and course for low- and middle-income countries. Since then the AKDN has trained over 70 practitioners in SECD internationally, who in turn serve as tutors and instructors in their communities.
To date the resources are in use in over 43 countries with portions translated into Arabic, Bangla, Kiswahili, Mandarin, Portuguese, Tajik, and Russian.
Current projects involve partnering with the Manitoba First Nations Education Resource Centre and the Martin Family Initiative to support projects in First Nations communities in Canada. The research team is also developing online workshops to support a new national home-visiting program in Brazil.