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KU child research center wins $7.5M in grants to promote high-quality early education

Wednesday, July 12, 2017

KANSAS CITY, KANSAS — The Juniper Gardens Children’s Project (JGCP), located on the Children’s Campus of Kansas City in Kansas City, Kansas, has been awarded $7.5 million for four new research projects from the U.S. Department of Education Institute of Education Sciences. JGCP is one of the 13 affiliated research centers of the University of Kansas Life Span Institute. It is situated in and has been closely allied with the KCK community for more than 50 years.

In collaboration with preschool and head start programs in the Kansas City metropolitan area, Charles Greenwood, Alana Schnitz and Judith Carta will evaluate a preschool literacy intervention.

“One of ways children learn literacy skills in preschool is through interactions with their teachers,” Greenwood said. “Literacy 3D helps teachers increase these interactions threefold or more.”

The award for this project was $3.3 million. Carta is the interim director for JGCP and professor of special education and senior scientist. Greenwood is professor of applied behavioral sciences and senior scientist. Schnitz is postdoctoral fellow at JGCP.

Greenwood, Carta and Dwight Irvin, assistant research professor, will assist preschool teachers in adapting language and early literacy instruction for children who are unresponsive to instruction. The $1.4 million CIRCLE project (Validity Studies of the Classroom Code for Interactive Recording of Children’s Learning Environments) is based on prior work in the Kansas City, Kansas, community to improve educational results for young children.

Associate Research Professors Jay Buzhardt and Dale Walker, along with Irvin, are developing a data-based decision-making system that will help preschool educators promote the problem-solving skills of infants and toddlers.

“Cognitive problem-solving skills begin early and are critical to later academic achievement,” Walker said. “But early educators often lack the training and resources to identify and support children whose skills are not developing as expected.”

The web-based system will provide individualized guidance to early educators about which children may need additional support and the type of support they need. The researchers were awarded a $1.4 million grant.

The healthy social-emotional development of infants and toddlers is the focus of a $1.4 million project directed by Kathryn Bigelow, assistant research professor; Carta, Irvin and Schnitz at KU; and Mary Louise Hemmeter, professor of special education, at Vanderbilt Kennedy Center. The project will develop, test and refine a professional development program for early education teachers. The program will support teachers as they put into practice a three-tiered framework for addressing the social-emotional needs of young children, including universal teaching practices, practices for children at risk for delays and challenging behavior and intensive individualized practices for those children who continue to have problems. The project will be implemented at Kansas City and Nashville early childhood educational centers.  

Photos: Students receive instruction in these file photos from the Juniper Gardens Children’s Project. Photos by Guthrie Photography.